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For a long time, my sister-in-law, Liz, has espoused the theory that if you put two or even three foods together that you love, you will create something that tastes two or three times as good.
San Francisco, CA 94133
We agree to disagree on this point. While I was not the child who demanded to have her foodstuffs meticulously separated into compartments on her plate, I am also not the adult who can easily be convinced that pairing baba ghanouj with stuffing and Crystal hot sauce (a culinary epiphany of Liz's husband, Ted) will yield up anything besides indigestion.
But I'll grant you it's a notion with some basis in fact. Who could argue that chocolate and peanut butter combined into a Reese's peanut butter cup are not, in fact, "two great tastes that taste great together"?
Still, glass-half-empty girl that I am, I couldn't help thinking that this idea taken to its extreme (the place Americans seem regularly to take their ideas; witness Who's Your Daddy?, the TV show on which an adopted child has to guess which man is her real father) might create an edible monster.
And then my worst fears were realized. In an e-mail forwarded to me last week by the aforementioned sister-in-law, I learned that the population of Atlanta had embraced something called a Hamdog: a hot dog wrapped in a beef patty that's deep-fried, covered with chili, cheese, and onions, and served on a hoagie bun, then topped with a fried egg and french fries. Seriously. They're prying open my arteries with the Jaws of Life just thinking about it.
Lord knows San Francisco is not Atlanta, but we do get weak in the knees when it comes to new food crazes. So it was with apprehension and defibrillators that I walked into Giordano Bros. (303 Columbus, 397-BROS, www.giordanobros.com) to try its "famous all-in-one" sandwich. The new eatery started by Jeff and Allison Jordan brings the creation of the Primanti brothers, a three-course meat-and-potato extravaganza between two slices of Italian bread, all the way from Pittsburgh to North Beach. The idea back in the 1930s was to offer truckers on the go a full meal they could eat with one hand while steering with the other. The Jordans no doubt saw a similar quandary with San Franciscans and text-messaging.
The All-in-One (and one for all!) consists of the following: two hefty slabs of soft Italian bread, a layer of grilled meat (choices include Italian sausage, hot coppa, pastrami, and smoked turkey), a couple of slices of melted provolone, oil-and-vinegar coleslaw, and a pile of hand-cut french fries, served with a side of Crystal hot sauce and ketchup. Menu tag line (no extra charge): "Woah."
I opted for the hot coppa (hell, I was already so far down the road, why not finish the trip in an RV?).
Then the meat hit the grill and I knew I was lost. Peppery coppa, straight from Molinari's Deli down the street, provided the perfect counterpoint to the fresh, tangy coleslaw and the chewy, mild provolone. Big, thick slices of doughy bread (from the Italian-French Bakery off Washington Square) proved exactly the right thing for soaking up extraneous juices. And the french fries -- the potential meal-breaker for me -- turned out to be the best part: Square-cut and with skins still partially on, they turned the sandwich into an Italian-American version of shepherd's pie, only crisper, less heavy, and with a salad on the side. I was so smitten by the All-in-One, in fact, that I now feel obligated to try Ted's Cambozola and hot sauce omelet. Or not.
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