Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Battle of the Italian Sandwiches in Seattle: Meat & Bread vs. Salumi - Modern/Hipster vs. Traditional/Classic

Hello all!

I know it's been a while but I've finally got back from Seattle to see the Anthony Bourdain show up there. Along with seeing my most favorite celebrity and actually meeting him, my accompanying friend and I went to Seattle to experience Seattle's amazing and unique restaurants once again. After dropping off our bags, we immediately went up to Capitol Hill to eat at Meat & Bread that's known for their Porchetta Sandwiches.

Meat & Bread has that "hipster" vibe when it comes to its food and mantra. The moment we've walked in the store within the trendy, hip neighborhood it's in, we've noticed the interior is very modern in order to portray a modern vibe to entice passerbys. We were well greeted politely by the hostess, the cook that took our order & prepared our sandwiches, and the cheerful cashier as well. There is no doubt that Meat & Bread has their service covered on their end. In addition before ordering our sandwiches, the cook did a great job of explaining the menu which certainly had my mouth watering.

When my Porchetta sandwich landed on the table, it certainly looked like a high quality $10 sandwich. However, the moment I ate it, the sandwich essentially had no flavor other than grease and slight hints from the Salsa Verde. Not only was there barely any flavor from the Porchetta, but it was ultimately disappointing that the Salsa Verde didn't contribute any countering acidity to the fattiness of the pork, let alone any other dimension of flavor. The sad part was that most of the flavors came from the dollop of mustard on the side.

The Chickpea Salad on the side was too equally as disappointing and bland.  When ordering, the description given by the cook certainly entranced me to order it as I'm usually a soup person. Chickpeas, Quinoa, Mint & Lemon Juice; it certainly sounded delicious! With all of that said, I've barely tasted the Mint & Lemon Juice that should have uplifted the Chickpeas, Quinoa, and the other greens (I'm not so sure what they were). The salad should have been very refreshing to counter the heaviness of the sandwiches served, but it failed in that regard as well.

What refreshingly washed down the bland, greasy travesty was the Semi Sweet Hard Cider from the Seattle Cider Co.. Seattle has lots of beer breweries that go along well with the food up there which is why I'm glad that there's a devoted brewery to cider as I'm also a cider fan when beer can seem too heavy at times. The Semi Sweet Hard Cider had crisp notes of apple that certainly was all natural and didn't scream of artificial flavorings which also says that the apple flavors weren't too aggressive as well.

Unfortunately, what really made it worse was that both of our stomachs felt nauseous as we kept burping out the greasy notes from the sandwich which made us worry if it would hinder our visit to Canlis later in the day. Although we were fine during our visit to Canlis, the next day I was literally on the toilet seat for hours as my intestines were certainly inflamed by the wrath of the greasy Porchetta Sandwich. I'm pretty sure my friend and I suffered through food poisoning as I don't think the ingredients of the food (I have a hunch it's from the meat) we had were stored or cooked properly (we've had different sandwiches but tried each others'). Certainly, they proved to be a blunder for our trip as no one wants to be stuck on the toilet throughout the whole day.

Let us fast forward to the near end of our trip. My friend and I were excited to try Salumi after our taste buds wanted redemption for Italian sandwiches. After hearing that there would be a line our the door (and they have a sign on their window saying where to form it), I've started the line as I was the first one there at 10:30 am (which is a great tip if you want to be the first one's served and not want to wait longer). Right before they opened, a very polite and sweet old man to which I assumed was Mario Batali's dad and the owner of the shop, Armandino, brought out the street sign on to the sidewalk listing the day's specials. The moment my iPhone read 11:00 am, the doors opened and Armandino greeted my friend and I and thanked us for waiting. The moment we looked at what sandwiches were available from the menu (there are even some that are unlisted as unavailable in the beginning of the day). As I was very full from my recent breakfast at The London Plane at the time, I had my friend order the hot Porchetta sandwich since he hadn't ate yet during the day. With that being said, I looked for a cold cut sandwich that can certainly endure a 2 hour flight back without going bad. Immediately, my mind made my eyes hunt down the words on the menu for "Prosciutto, Fig & Goat Cheese" in order to make sure of its availability. Once it did, I immediately called for it as the line behind us was ever growing. My friend however took a little bit more time in order to get another sandwich, preferably a cold cut, as we weren't going to be back for a while. Not only he went for the hot Porchetta sandwich, but he also went for the Salumi Salami.

All of the sandwiches ordered were served with their very delicious Ciabatta bread. The moment I took a piece of the Porchetta from his sandwich, it was certainly moist and rich with flavor unlike the Porchetta at Meat & Bread. The meat itself was certainly well-seasoned. When it came to my sandwich, unfortunately I didn't remember to take a photo of it (something foodies shoot themselves in the foot for). Although my Prosciutto, Fig & Goat Cheese didn't look near as impressive, the flavors were certainly the inverse of its looks: the prosciutto was well flavored without being overwhelmed with saltiness from its curing, the goat cheese added a sharp & pungent flavoring component to the sandwich, and the fig spread (I'm pretty sure there was some balsamic vinegar mixed in with it) added a refreshing counterbalance to the sandwich. Overall, the sandwiches at Salumi are solidly satisfying which sets the bar for the standards of Italian sandwiches in Seattle. You can immediately tell that each component (bread, cured meats, braised meats, spreads, etc.) was well made with tender care and focus.

The bottom line for the readers who are typically out-of-towners that love to visit cities solely for food (and this includes Seattleites): Just go to Salumi for Porchetta and other Italian cold cut sandwiches. Although you might want to check out Meat & Bread, if you had to choose one, go for Salumi in order to save yourself from disappointment and possibly from getting sick as well.

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