Picky, Picky

For those who live for the leftovers, the best roast-turkey sandwich

I come from a long line of pickers. Not the banjo-playing or nose-digging variety, mind you, but the people who reach across the table for a forkful of … well, whatever you're having (it doesn't really matter). We are the fingers-in-the-salad-bowl-when-there-are-only-a-few-dressing-soaked-leaves-left-clinging-to-the-bottom people. And the ones who fervently believe it tastes better if eaten later that night, or even the next day, preferably from the pan or pot it was cooked in. My mother is so notorious for her habit of adamantly refusing a portion of her own and then turning around and devouring 3/4 of yours that people who know her put aside a spare serving in anticipation.

So perhaps you can understand what Thanksgiving means to people like us. There is no holiday meal more sacred, no picking ground more fertile, than après Thanksgiving. In the waning hours of the feast, we can be found in the kitchen, dipping a piece of errant white meat in the slightly congealed drippings, or clandestinely shoving a spoonful of stuffing into our mouths, or eschewing a second piece of pie specifically so that we can sneak in an hour later and slice off several undetectable pencil-thin wedges to eat with our fingers.

We live for the leftovers, the side dishes, the morning-after sandwich and the week-after turkey hash. Which is why for years I've worshipped at the altar of Arguello Super Deli & Cafe, aka Arguello Market (782 Arguello at Cabrillo, 751-5121). For more than 20 years, this mom-and-pop shop has been cooking up turkeys and chickens year-round, studding them with garlic, basting them with pan juices, rotisserie roasting them to moist, juicy perfection, and then carving them in front of your eyes to be placed atop sourdough and Dutch crunch rolls. According to the menu (though I didn't know this choice was offered until I looked at the takeout list), you can even specify which kind of turkey you'd like the meat to be carved from: oven gold, Vermont maple honey, cracked pepper, or mesquite smoked.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that no one — and this includes your grandmother and your Aunt Millie — makes a better roast-turkey sandwich than Arguello. The white meat is so luscious, it's like the turkey breast had been hand-massaged for a hundred days before slaughter. Salt, pepper, mayonnaise infused with a hint of garlic, and Dijon mustard line the sides of the roll. Lettuce, tomato, thinly sliced cucumber, and purple onion are layered on top of the meat. And — the best part — it's still warm when you get it. Warm when you pull it out of the bag in the car on the way home. Warm when you pick the meat out of the middle and drop it into your mouth.

Oh, and there's another best part, especially for professional pickers such as myself. You can get all the sides (which are seasonal), all by themselves. You can literally make a meal out of a heaping scoop of stuffing, for instance, or a ladle of mashed potatoes and cranberry relish, or any combination thereof. For those who don't share my proclivity for this style of eating, there are whole birds for purchase, as well as full boxed lunches, offered with a vast array of salads — from Creole potato salad to pasta primavera — plus fresh pie (pumpkin, apple crumb, pecan), cut into traditional wedges, for dessert.

Fine and well, but you'll have to excuse me now. I'm pretty sure I saw a piece of pumpkin pie in the fridge whose edges need straightening out ….

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