Monday, October 13, 2008

The mystery sandwich: A guest column

For the unfamiliar, Zingermans is a deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan where you can get a delicious sandwich for no less than $10. I have only had one of their sandwiches once. It was the best sandwich I have ever consumed, but I the interest from the small loan I took out to pay for it is killing me. Recently, my friend Travis proposed an ingenious plan: Write a guest entry about a FREE mystery sandwich from Zingermans. Here are the hummus-drenched fruits of his labor.

Pre-sandwich thoughts

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that my main motivation for writing this piece isn’t the fact that I’ll soon have a writing degree. I am not writing because I am trying to make this blog great, though this will almost certainly be a side effect of my presence here. My motivation, fair readers, is the prospect of getting to eat a very expensive sandwich for free.

I’ve often considered how great it must be to be a food critic. People hand you large sums of money to eat food and write about it. What a life! Granted, my food expertise extends only to those items you can order from inside a running vehicle, I’ve always thought I’d be a pretty good ‘food writer.’ Consider this a small manifestation of that dream. Or see it for what it is—a thinly veiled plot to get free food. Honestly,the last guest blogger spent, what, 89 cents writing his piece? A sandwich at Zingerman’s Delicatessen is like ten bucks. You think Nate foots the bill? Not a chance. Last time I got food with Nate, the cheap bastard found the one Taco Bell with a broken credit card machine and stuck everyone else with the bill. (Not my fault I can’t be troubled with petty cash – Nate).

Anyway, as I write this, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the sandwich in question. For this column, I asked friend and fellow guest blogger Dan Smith to create a mystery sandwich for me to consume and write about. It is my job to guess the contents. There may be a scoring system …Who knows? Predictably, Dan didn’t come through, so his co-worker (and my roommate) Justin “Admiral” Nelson took up the task. There are just two criteria for this sandwich:

  1. Must be vegetarian

  2. Must be relatively palatable

The rest is left up to Mr. Nelson, who describes himself as “Your friendly neighborhood stoner.” This could be good or bad. I mean, who better to deliver a creative, flavorful masterpiece than a person with chronic munchies? On the other hand, he could just forget what he was supposed to do altogether and bring me a pound of bacon between two pieces of roast beef. He really does smoke that much weed. In fact, he called just now to see if I like spicy food. This should be very interesting. Also, I’m pretty sure the fact he called breaks the secrecy rule of the challenge, but I’d expect nothing less from a pot head of his caliber.


Upon receiving the sandwich, I was fairly certain Justin had just wrapped a phone book in some Zingerman’s paper and doused it in sauce. It was so heavy … and sort of smelly. Fortunately, he hadn’t and my self-imposed I want to be really, really hungry when this sandwich gets here fasting was about to come to an end.

A cursory glance revealed what one would expect in a fancy vegetarian sandwich—tomato, spinach, onion, cheese, etc. Without much thought I dove right in. “Pretty tasty.” Second bite. “This is getting pretty spicy.” As I made my way though the sandwich, I began to wonder what the hell he did to the bread. It was toasted and reddish in color, so I assumed the heat was trapped in its toasted goodness. I really enjoy spicy food, and this was right at the boundary of what’s enjoyable and being a little too hot. Perhaps the heat didn’t mesh well with the rest of the sandwich, as I’ve never quite enjoyed the combination of raw mushrooms and fire before. All I can say is that something about the spiciness was unsettling. Moving on…

The cheese was phenomenal. I remember feeling intrigue at a friend (certified cheese expert, no less) telling me that a cheese exists that does not melt. This sandwich contained this wonderful cheese. (So did the infamous TACO SUB, apparently – Nate). It was a bit rubbery at first, but the flavor is more than good enough to allow this. I was told it’s called halloumi, but it tasted like an exceptionally thick, lukewarm chunk of mozzarella. That doesn’t sound incredibly appealing, but trust me. If I wore a monocle and drove an old-timey car I would eat halloumi everyday ($20/lb? Get out of here). The combination of the cheese and other ingredients somehow made for the perfect sandwich. It’s like all the imperfections I mentioned sort of banded together to give my tongue a giant rainbow hug.

All in all, I’d say the experience was a good one. While not eating until about 10PM sort of sucks, when you get a thirty-dollar (Justin’s estimate) sandwich out of the deal, it’s pretty worth it. Justin was supposed to reveal the contents of the sandwich to me after I ate and had a guess, but he never really got around to it. I guessed quite a few of the ingredients correctly based on sight, and I later learned the insane spiciness was the result of adding Clancy’s hot sauce to hummus. I guess the whole “I’m doing this for the free sandwich” thing came true, as I’ve never actually been told exactly what I ate. So long, suckers.

1 comment:

Amber said...

i can't decide what my favorite part of the post's either the chronic munchies pun or the rainbow hug. either way, it sounds like a delicious sandwich.