Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The quest for a halfway decent reuben sammich.

A reuben sandwich is fairly simple. Rye bread, usually corned beef, swiss cheese, sourkraut, and thousand island or russian dressing. Its a flavor unlike any other, and when you crave one there is NO substitute whatesoever.

So about a year ago I got a craving. So i did what any normal human being would do - I went out on the hunt. You would think I could go to nearly any deli counter on the planet and find one... and you WILL find something called a reuben on most sandwich shops, but a reuben is not what you get when you order.

The first one I ordered after the arrival of my craving required two hands, both of which were quickly covered in a slimy mess of what i can only assume was hot lard. The bread became a collapsing paste and stuck to the floppy corned beef like fresh plaster, and the kraut tumbled out of the pathetic excuse for a sandwich until i was left with little more than a pile of soggy meat in my slimey hands. Reuben Failed.

My desire was not quenched. If anything, I was more determined to locate some sort of satiation. So, the hunt continued.

A few failed sandwiches later I happened upon another doozie. While this one was admittedly less slimey, the biggest issue was the corned beef itself. The slab of meat was so tough and chewy that my first bite pulled the whole slab out of the slippery sandwich. I ended up having to take the whole thing apart and cut it into pieces small enough to eat. This was not just a failed Reuben, this was a failed sandwich. Gaaaaaross!

All of the other contenders suffered similar, albeit not as horrible, faults. It became habit upon receiving an ordered reuben to immediately turn the sandwich over so that the grease doesnt make the bottom slice of bread soggy. Forget this step once and you'll never forget again. yuck.

Well yesterday for lunch i went to a little place called the Rockford in downtown Raleigh. One of those places where you can't find it unless you already know where it is. There's no big sign, theres no awning, just a door between a barbershop and a clothing boutique. Its one of Raleigh's best kept secrets.

You go in the door and straight up the stairs to an eclectic american restaurant. Classy with a touch of grunge and some talented abstract photography canvases on the walls. They offer some traditional burgers and sandwiches, as well as some vegetarian options and sides with a very chef-like twist (pimiento cheese mashed potatos, feta and herb couscous) The most impressive hole-in-a-wall I've ever had the fortune to visit. All fresh. All seasonal.

Well I sat down and began reading the lunch menu, and my eyes were immediately drawn to the traditional Reuben. Can I put my heart on the line again? Can I afford another disappointment? It's worth a shot, right?

Well the plate was laid in front of me and I see two halves of a very reasonable looking sandwich. Marbled rye, about a third of an inch thich sat on either side of thinly sliced lean corned beef, a thin layer of kraut, perfectly melted cheese and a smear of thousand island dressing. Could it be real?

So, I picked up the first half of the sandwich and I left the second half alone. Thats right - I intentionally skipped the flipping step. I need to know if this can survive the most grueling of tests. Therefore, I risked eating a soggy sandwhich for the greater good of reuben eaters everywhere. You. Are. Welcome.

This was the best reuben I have ever eaten.
I took a bite and only one bite came off. The bread was evenly toasted and obviously fresh, not the least bit soggy. The kraut to meat ratio was perfect, and the dressing was just enough to add a little punch of flavor and moisture. The flavor was EXACTLY what i'd been searching for.

So I survived the first half of the sandwich with no complaints. I am satisfied, but atmittedly skeptical. I carefully eye the second half on the plate in front of me. It doesnt seem to have changed significantly from the moment I recieved the plate to begin with. It had not been engulfed in slime and grease. It had not fallen apart. It had not turned into a pile of mushy bread. Still, I can't help being gunshy.

I picked up the triangle and my heart skipped a beat. The second half of the sandwich was just as good as the first. The perfect balance, the perfect flavor, the perfect temperature, and the perfect texture. The bottom was not mush. That's right guys and gals, at the Rockford in Raleigh, I ate the PERFECT REUBEN. Delightfully undisgusting!

Alas, I had assumed that my hunger would be satisfied when I found such a wonderful specimen, and I was wrong. After filling myself to the gills with a delightful sandwich, I couldn't help but consider changing my dinner plans so that I could return for another. Now that I'm blogging about it, I'm trying to also devise a plan to build a reuben vault in my back yard that I can swim in every day. It might happen.

So clearly this couldn't get any better than it already is, right? Wrong.
My lunch colleague ordered the asian tilapia wrap. He raved about it. Stuffed with actual fish, not filler. With a sweet chili sauce for dipping. Top of the line.
Apparently this place also homemakes their deserts. Chocolate peanut butter ganache cake?
yes. please.