Have you ever eaten something and it just makes you sad? The flavors empty. The mouthfeel lacking any type of passion. I have. And most recently, it was this past Saturday at the market . I was starving! I know better than to leave without eating at least one of my granola bars or a protein shake – but I didn’t this day. I had 2 cups of coffee and was out the door, after a night of mediocre drinking. My herbal vitamins helped with what was at one point a severe headache. I was now hungry on the bus heading to downtown Portland. I was meeting my best friend and I knew we’d eat soon, besides the noises my stomach was making made me feel more thin 🙂
We met up and decided to go ahead and get some lunch & decided to be daring & try the vendors that are not directly on the waterfront. I wish I had stuck to good ‘ol reliable & gotten a vegetarian burrito across from the soap vendor I love!
So, here’s the sandwich and sure it looks like it is going to be an decent ‘steak and then after the performance… I mean, when we were watching the girl make the sandwich for the prior customers, It was when I saw this huge cloud of luscious’ness coming from the grill. I was sold. The bun was soft in her gloved hand – a light bit of steam escaped from the container which it was being held, and it was set aside on the clean slick side of the hot plate. The meat was lean & pre-portioned in its paper container and sizzled loudly when introduced with the heat. When the sliced onions hit the same griddle they danced together in harmony and the aroma was definitely a score of 10. When I thought it couldn’t get any better, she laid TWO slices of cheese down and covered the concoction with a metal lid – like you get at the hospital or cafeteria. I was drooling. Seriously, my friend pointed it out. My chubby cheeks blushed & I blamed it on the prior evenings IPA’s that left me a hungry grizzly bear, ready to attack the first food cart I saw. The girl takes the almost forgotten bun in one hand, lifts & sets asides the lid with other. The luscious steam cloud escapes and from the corner of my eye I see the next customer now stuck in the ‘Cheesesteak Headlights’. She now take spatula and flips the now perfectly melted meat mound onto the soft hoagie roll. Does a quick wrap of a sheet of foil and hands it too me. I bet I looked like a power puff girl when she handed it to me & part of me wished we weren’t splitting one.
My friend and I looked so happy. We found the perfect spot to enjoy our mid afternoon lunch and enjoy some more of this gorgeous sunshine while munching on an East Coast lovers favorite treat. After a few moment, I took the first bite – the bread was exactly as it looked. Soft, steamy and dry (not gloped with a lot of butter or grease), clean and needed on my empty stomach. The first bite was mostly bread and I was okay with that under the circumstances, another bite and this time the cheese did a rodeo show and roped my chin in a thick white mozzarella cheese circle, we giggled. The onion was perfect texture and would have made the world’s best onion ring with that crisp bite, and a tad of sweetness at the end. However, I only felt the texture of the onion. The taste was. Gone. I assumed it was my palette from being hung over. Again, I take a bite the meat is just meat. It’s lifeless. (I understand the irony of this statement, but being in culinary school & the industry for more than a few years now – I know what this statement truly means.) sigh. Even typing about it is making me ‘sad’. I look at my friend and she looks just as disappointed as I do. By now, there is one bite each left and we look down see three, that’s 3, green peppers. On this classic ‘original’ sandwich, there is only 3 peppers, never enough going on the grill to catch my detail oriented eyes. The “cheese” I am now convinced is imitation cheese melt. The meat is I don’t know what, and even though its Portland, I should have realized when the plastic banner that displayed the menu was generic and lacking any type of personality, that this was the ‘no go’ cart. Nothing about it showed any love. We throw away the rest of the sandwich. I felt so guilty, but I had to save those calories for ice cream.