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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grandpa, The BLT, and Caprese

Sandwich People,

My grandfather really liked to grow tomatoes.  He wasn't a farmer or anything.  He probably dumped mountains of industrial fertilizer in the arid soil of San Bernadino, California.  Grandpa also grew snow peas, and these wicked hot Filipino Peppers.  And Grandma turned those peppers and tomatoes into blister inducing salsa she would generously give out to unsuspecting friends and neighbors.  That was pretty much it.  Same produce each year.

Weird, white on white European lineage... and two of the things Grandma made, fiery salsa from secret caspin loaded tiny peppers, and Pancit, the traditional Filipino noodle dish, that is where the snow peas went.  In my medium length life to date, I have never eaten Pancit anywhere except Grandma's House and from a subpar food truck vendor.  The number of times I have seen Pancit on a menu is, from that same food truck vendor.  I would wager Grandma and Grandpa never even met a Filipino (but she did get the secret peppers they grew from somewhere, so I bet this is wrong).  Pre Internet, she wasn't an exploratory cook... how the hell did she start making Pancit?

But I digress.  The real story here is Grandpa's Tomatoes.  He would have at least 15 plants.  And the tomatoes were big, and plentiful.  His favorite way to eat them, besides chomping them apple-wise, was in a sandwich.  When I finally got to like tomatoes... probably by the age of 17, I realized the beauty of Grandpa's tomato sandwich simplicity.

It goes like this.  White bread.  Lots of Best Foods Mayo.  Fat slices of homegrown tomatoes.  Fat teardrop inducing slices of yellow onions.  Pepper.  Salt.  Done.  Maybe the ratio of tomato to onion is... 2 to 1?  No cheese to muddle the flavor.  No herbs to distract the taste buds.  No bacon, no lettuce, and the onion, Jesus, it really really opened the eyes and nose.  That Summer sandwich was the best.

The first Summer of GRAZE, we tried to serve Grandpa's sandwich.  HaHa.  Not many takers.  So we started adding things.  Eventually we just gave up and went to the BLT.  Now our BLT is pretty damn good.  And our Caprese Panini is also excellent.  And I eat lots of them all Summer.  But sometimes I wish we didn't serve either, stuck to our guns, and let Grandpa's Sandwich stand alone.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

OK, (Ted) you were right.

I apologize.  We the people of Graze apologize.  We did something bad, and some of you got mad, or at the minimum were slightly miffed, and some of you went to the worst place... extreme disappointment.

Here is what we did: we stopped serving our signature pastrami sandwich on a hoagie roll and switched to rye bread.  Greater crimes have been committed that have received less condemnation.

Here is the backstory sandwich reader.  It takes us a week to make our special pastrami, with all the brining, and seasoning, and roasting.  It takes a couple of weeks to make our house fermented sauerkraut.  The russian dressing takes like ten minutes.  And we purchased the hoagie rolls from a local bread producer.  That hoagie was really good, and myself, and Graze, and customers were happy.

We care a lot about the pastrami.  It is our baby.  It has been on the menu since day one.  I think it is the best pastrami I have ever had in Washington State, and its a toss up with Kenny and Zukes from Portland Oregon.  Even if stylistically they are distinctly different.

Late 2015 we ditched our bread producer to make our own torta bread, and wheat bread, and while we were at it we also started making our own hoagie roll.  The torta was a big improvement, better quality, house made, it saved us lots of money.  The wheat bread was awesome, better quality, house made, it saved us a little money.  But the hoagies... worse quality, house made, saved us a tiny bit of money, and a total pain in the hind quarters to make.

So we switched the hoagies from our producer to in house.  Customers didn't notice.  Customers didn't complain.  But the Graze version was clearly not as good as the producer version.  We tweaked the recipe, for like the 20th time, and that was after countless variations prior to making the switch.  I bitched and moaned about the differences.  Our Graze hoagie was in my mind clearly inferior to the producer version.

And guess what?  No customer complaints.  Zero.  Not even a customer recognition that the hoagie was different.  It bugged the shit out of me.  If something is wrong, typically the word gets back to me pretty quick.  I knew something was wrong, or I believed something was wrong, yet nobody was sending that message.

So I sent our production team on a mission to make a rye loaf.  It was good.  Not amazing, but a very solid rye.  It was easier than the hoagies for the cooks.  It cost less.  The quality was good and always consistent.  I ate a number of test pastramis.  It was delicious, same pastrami, same kraut, same russian dressing, only the bread was different.

And guess what?  Lots of complaints.  One very regular customer and pastrami loyalist, gave me a stern and disappointed talking to.  He refused to eat it.  Even created a special pastrami on sourdough version to get his fix.  We got a couple of bad reviews online.  The poor counter people had to live with unhappy customers.

So we switched back.  Hoagies are back! (like six weeks ago) To do this we also had to make me happy.  So the cooks went back to work, testing hoagie versions again and again.  We finally got it right, or at least close enough to right.  The hoagies are good.  The pastrami sandwich is back to its former glory.

We are sorry, (Ted) you were right.  Thanks for eating sandwiches.