Foodie Call #6 took place on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. After the last time they dined out together and ran up a sizable bill, this time Gary and Kate chose a place on the other end of the spectrum – Saltie, a sandwich joint in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Kate: Before I start making grand declarations like “Saltie sandwich shop (and beer) saved my life!” (which, admittedly, I am a bit tempted to), I should say a bit on where I was coming from the day I patroned Saltie on Foodie Call #6: Old and New In the Burg.
The week before was full of too much work and not enough fun which, accompanied by much existential angst, colored my mood. Darkly. When my day off finally came, I felt myself slide further into the dark side. I stared at my list of things to do without actually doing them and guiltily surfed the web. Finally accepting that it was a lost day, I made eggs and settled in for Oprah. Only it was 2:00. Oprah wasn’t on until 4:00. I couldn’t even get that right. What was I doing with my life!?
The next day of my weekend came and my mood wasn’t much better despite a full day of fun plans. My old and good friend A (who had recently become a mother—wow!) was to pick me up around 12:30 to go visit our friend D’s new baby. Then I had a facial scheduled in Williamsburg, conveniently located near Saltie sandwich shop, where I was to meet Gary after for our foodie call. I should have been looking forward to it all, but instead I was still feeling blah. I even briefly considered cancelling. Before I had a chance though, my ride pulled up (damn my punctual friends) and we were off.
D opened the door to us holding a perfect child if I’ve ever seen one, and at a month after giving birth, she was still thinner than me. We spent an afternoon holding the babies, looking at the babies, and talking about the babies. I bounced back and forth between marveling at the miracle of life and feeling like I was in the twilight zone. Just a year ago I was going out and drinking whiskey with these girls. Now they were trading tips on nipple cream.
Eventually A had to get back home and I had to get to my facial so our baby party broke up. I was off to get my little “spa treatment” while my friends would continue shaping the lives of miniature human beings. Huh.
Feeling refreshed and scrubbed clean from my facial, I ambled down Bedford Ave to meet Gary. The sun was shining, it was one of the first sunny days of spring, and life was looking a little sweeter. I felt grateful to have friends who were great moms, who didn’t mind me holding their babies and asking personal questions about birthing. But really, I was looking forward to this sandwich.
Gary was waiting outside under the cheerful Saltie sign and we chatted a bit about his dart match from the night before. The easy familiarity between us that has blossomed from our time spent eating and writing together lately further relaxed me. I think I even laughed a little. So now that my mood had improved, it was time to get down to business.
Gary: Uhhh, I was just happy Kate hadn’t taken out her anger on the little ones. Kidding aside, it’s always nice to be able to do these foodie calls in the middle of the day when everyone else is off toiling in their offices/cubes. Suck it, employed people!
Kate: The shop was clean, spare and small. There were only two handwritten menus at the counter to browse, and a few stools along the wall. I was glad that the plan was to take our sammies to a bar. Nothing wrong with the place, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable or inviting. Plus, there was no beer.
Gary: Yeah, it’s a tiny footprint – for some reason, when this place was a cupcake shop, I could have sworn the space was bigger but maybe it’s just a layout thing. Besides the stools on one wall and by the window, the only other spot to sit and eat was on the wall under the menu. Considering the hours this place has – opens at 10, closes at 6 – and its location in Williamsburg, it seems the traffic here would tend to be the kind where you grab and go, whether to work or elsewhere.
Kate: We checked out the short menu of sandwiches and for a moment I wavered. I had been planning on the “Scuttlebutt,” a kitchen sink sort of combination consisting of sweet potato, feta, olives, a hard boiled egg, beets, fresh herbs, and aioli on focaccia bread, which New York magazine had recently named the best vegetarian sandwich in the city. However another interesting veg option, the “Clean Slate” had just been added (apparently their menu changes seasonally), and the lentil hummus, pickles, and quinoa on naan, sounded tempting and sort of virtuous. I decided to stick to my guns and do the Scuttlebutt, and perused the beautiful looking baked goods while Gary made up his mind.
They made our sammies right there on the tiny little countertop space behind the register and we discussed perhaps picking up one of their lovely olive oil cakes or dark chocolate cookies and then decided against it. We would be getting our sugar from our beer. Next time, we decided.
Gary: There were a few tempting options on the menu but I was really in the mood for a nice scrambled egg sandwich. I’m an absolute sucker for eggs that are cooked perfectly. Also, it was vegetarian and I thought Kate might appreciate a taste of whatever I ate (I lie – that thought wasn’t primary but it certainly worked for the best). Once we got our sandwiches and, without beer, there was really no reason for us to stick around.
Kate: We took our loot down the street to Barcade, a bar in the burg that features craft ale and video games, hitting two geeky birds with one stone. We walked in and cavernous space was almost empty, it being a Tuesday afternoon at 5:15 (they open at 5). Being more beer geeks and less video game geeks, we sat right up to the bar so we would be close to the draught list. We each selected a pint to complement or sandwiches. I had the Climax helles lager– a delicious, lively and subtly floral session beer, and Gary ordered his seasonal favorite, the Troegs Nugget Nectar.
Gary: You know, at some point, I would’ve been more the video game geek than beer geek but that’s a long time ago (beer is cheap, video games not so much). Troegs Nugget Nectar is certainly my favorite spring seasonal beer but the reason why I always get it when I see it at a bar is because its presence on draft lists is shockingly sparse in New York City. Sure, I can get their Dreamweaver or their Hop Back at most places but finding Nugget Nectar is almost like discovering hidden treasure.
Kate: We unwrapped our goodies, snapped a couple pics and then got down to eating. Oh. My. Hawd. The Scuttlebutt. Nestled in a largish piece of focaccia bread slathered in sweet and flavorful aioli there existed, heaven on earth. Okay, maybe not heaven. But quirky deliciousness. The sweet potato, cut into thin slices sat on the bottom while the hard boiled egg (perfectly cooked and possibly organic and farm fresh–definitely very flavorful), feta, olives, capers, shredded beets, and fresh herbs were piled perilously on top. I read later in the New York Mag review not to attempt the thing without utensils. At this point, I had no choice, but it was a messy endeavor. I tore off a hunk for Gary who devoured it and declared the sandwich “had everything. It’s sweet, salty, briny, chewy…” I chewed and nodded happily.
Gary: Yeah, her sandwich looked cooler than mine and had more flavors. But my sandwich, the Ship’s Biscuit, had soft scrambled eggs! With ricotta mixed in! It was delicate and fluffy and everything I want a breakfast sandwich to be. The eggs could have used some more salt but the focaccia added plenty so it’s zero-sum at that point. The one constant among both our sandwiches were indeed the deliciously salty, crunchy, chewy focaccia – simply put, it’s what focaccia should be.
Kate: The hunk of the Ship’s Biscuit that Gary tore off was also delicious. Delicate and subtle– the perfect contrast to the sandwich that had everything. This one had almost nothing, just eggs and cheese, but its simplicity worked, especially with the flavorful, fresh, salty bread. We marveled at the bread and wondered where they got it. Surely they didn’t make it in house (we have since learned that they indeed do make all their bread there).
Still, I was the clear winner. It was a bit sad to see Gary enjoy his bite of mine so much and then go back to the lovely yet relative blandness of his egg and ricotta. The nice, Catholic girl pleaser almost took over as I considered offering to split sammies, (which truly would have been difficult for purely logistical reasons–the thing was messy as hell, we were sitting at a bar with no access to knives or forks or showers), when a memory of my birthday lunch at Del Posto flashed into my head: I remembered sitting across the white clothed table from Gary, eating my lukewarm soup, as he practically hummed a tune to himself and danced a jig under the table in sheer glee as he dug into his ravioli. Dipping each lovely chewy piece in grated parmesan before he popped it contentedly into his mouth. Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad about the tables being turned. It was my turn now, damnit! I pulled apart and finished my Scuttlebutt with unapologetic pleasure “is that? — yes I think it is! Fresh dill– wow!” Each bite of busyness went perfectly with each gulp of the cold clean lager. And when we were done with our sandwiches, it was time for more beer.
Gary: Fine, Kate – we’re even now. Happy?
Beer and Conversation
Kate: I was onto IPA. The Dogfish 60 Minute– and oldie but a goodie. It starts slightly malty and then finishes dry, making you want to immediately take another sip. Which I did. And did some more.
The beers slowly worked themselves down as the late afternoon turned into early evening and the talking continued easily and contentedly. I vented for a good hour about an issue on my mind while Gary listened in simultaneous amusement and sympathy. The bar filled up around us and I admired our bartender’s skill at handling a full bar while still being pleasant and efficient. (Being one myself, I really appreciate good bartending and find it less and less these days, so when I stumble upon it I get a special kick out of it).
Gary: Our final beer of the night was the Victory Storm King which is an absolute beast of a beer. A Russian Imperial Stout that’s nice and thick with some great coffee/chocolate roasty flavor (though, honestly, a lot of beers in this style can boast the same buzzwords). At 9.1% alcohol by volume, this was a no-brainer for our last beer – walking out of the bar was like floating out of there. It was amazing.
Kate: Nourished by friends, facials, sunshine, gourmet sandwiches, and beer, I walked out of Barcade and into the ‘Burg, renewed and ready to head back into my work week. What am I doing with my life? I guess I’m still not sure. For now I’m just working a job. Holding my friends’ babies and then handing them back. Writing a blog. Eating good food. Drinking good beer. Having comfortable three hour conversations on Tuesday afternoons with a good friend as the sun sets and my mind falls away from anxiety and comparisons to others, and into the experience of the present moment and all it has to offer. All of the sudden, my life didn’t seem so strange and pointless after all. It actually seemed kind of… awesome.
Gary: At $7 and up for their sandwiches, it may seem like a lot considering their size (not large) but if you actually have one, you might think otherwise. The two sandwiches we ate had differing amounts of fillings and flavors but both were executed perfectly. Execution is key because if you’re asking someone to pay $8 for an egg sandwich, those eggs better be cooked perfectly. Well, guess what – they absolutely were.
If you find yourself in Williamsburg all by your lonesome around lunch time on a weekday, you should definitely give Saltie a try. Order a sandwich, maybe a car bomb (non-Irish, sorry, but I’m told it’s good), take a seat at the window and eat in peace while gazing out at all those hipsters strolling by. If you happen to stop by later in the afternoon and you like beer, then taking your sandwiches to go to Barcade is your best bet.