Wednesday, September 22, 2010

As I’ve Frequently Said, . . .

the quality of the bread or roll can make or break a sandwich. Such was our experience at Fiori’s Butcher Shoppe in Lodi, CA.

“Joe and Barbara Fiori founded The Butcher Shoppe in 1983 when ordering a side of beef, pork, or lamb in a conventional meat market was common. At that time, Joe cured his own pastrami and corned beef, smoked salmon and home-made bratwurst, as well as making his own Chinese pork and beef jerky…Eventually, Fiori’s began receiving requests for sandwiches made from their wide selection of deli lunch meats and cheeses…The sandwich menu was rounded out with soups and chili, box lunches and delivery options, and eventually fresh green salads and a wide range of espresso drinks” (from Fiori’s web site).

Fiori’s combines a sit down (but order at the counter) restaurant with a brisk take-out business with a specialty meat market

with a wine store. We arrived well after what most would consider the lunch hour and found all of the outdoor seats occupied along with about eighty percent of the inside seats.

Immediately inside the door is a refrigerator case containing a variety of pre-made tossed salads along with potato salad, slaw, and macaroni salad. Just past the sandwich counter is a pastry case that contained brownies, cookies, bar cookies, cupcakes, and other goodies.

On the day of our visit, the soup choices were clam chowder, minestrone, and chile. The quiche of the day contained ham, onion, and green chilis. And all sandwiches can be made with Dutch crunch bread, genova rolls, soft French rolls, croissants, marbled rye, sliced sourdough, or sliced wheat. But, while there are menu alternatives, here the sandwich reigns supreme with forty choices.

Someone must be a 49’ers fan. On the sandwich list here were the Jerry Rice (roasted turkey, creamy havarti cheese, Bruno’s peppers, red onions, romaine); the Joe Montana (smoked turkey, smoked gouda, sprouts, and tomatoes); and the Steve Young (chicken breast, smoked mozzarella, red onions, tomato, romaine). But, having no fan allegiance to the 49’ers, we went in another direction.

Chuck selected the Grape Stomp made with the house pastrami, Monterey jack cheese, tomato, lettuce, and spicy Mendocino mustard. The woman at the counter recommen-ded the marble rye for the choice of bread. This rye wouldn’t pass muster at an East Coast Jewish deli--too soft and the crust not sufficiently chewy--but it was still good bread. The pastrami was properly aromatic from the curing spices and was (to use a time worn cliché) melt in your mouth tender. Not an authentic Jewish deli sandwich, but a very good sandwich nonetheless.

I chose the Finucci Brothers made with house roast beef, garlic roasted Portobello mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato, and romaine on fresh baked herb focaccia. The beef was less rare than I like (I prefer blood red), but still good. It was the bread that was a disappoint-ment. The focaccia was nicely “herby” but was heavy and doughy. This was a decent sandwich made almost inedible by bad bread. In fact, I ate the last third sans bread, and it was much better that way.

I should note that a few days later we found ourselves at home for the day, and I had neither the makings for nor the inclination to cook. So Chuck went back to Fiori’s for take-out and this was much more successful. He repeated his Grape Stomp, but I ordered the Ianni Pastrami with house pastrami, roasted turkey, mustard, Bruno’s peppers, tomato, spinach, sprouts, Italian vinaigrette, Fiori’s seasoning (a salt, pepper, garlic powder blend) on the marble rye. No photos were taken but take a look at Chuck’s sandwich above and picture sprouts and spinach peeking out from the bread.

The less than ideal focaccia had a major impact on this rating, and I can’t award Fiori’s Butcher Shoppe more than a 2.5 Addie score.

During our stay in Lodi, CA, we had the opportunity to visit some relatives in the area. One visit found Kate, my cousin Barbara, and I traveling to Paradise to see my aunt Martha and one of her sons, Steve. Martha is a very up-beat person who is involved with several groups and projects. We were in the area for about two weeks, and she had plans for many of those days, including about three or four days devoted to baking pies for one of the organizations for which she does volunteer work.

We all shared travel experiences and family up-dates, all while Martha was preparing and then serving a fine dinner of beef barbecue sandwiches and sweet corn.

Another family gathering was held at Barbara's home. It was especially good to see my uncle Hank and aunt Phyllis, since they both had been in the hospital recently with some serious medical problems. But they were both doing much better and had recently traveled to Sun City to celebrate my Aunt Margaret's 97th birthday.

Their daughter, Jane, had driven them from their home in Brentwood to Sun City and to Barbara's for dinner. We gathered in Barbara's backyard for this photo with the Sacramento River in the background.

Barbara showed one of her quilts she had recently finished. I can appreciate her selection of colors and the pattern, but I'm sure the effort that goes into the final product is far more complex than I could imagine.

We then enjoyed a dinner of chicken with lemon, asparagus with a parmesan cheese, sugar snap peas salad, potatoes (pommes anna), and a lemon pie and pecan pie for dessert.

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