Sunday, July 1, 2012

Has This Happened to You?

You are on vacation and early in your stay you visit a restaurant with food that you really enjoyed. What do you do now? Do you return to this place and miss trying others? Or do you go for new experiences and sacrifice what you really enjoyed? This was our dilemma after our first lunch at West Main Market (left entrance, green building) in Luray, VA.

Our decision? To return to West Main, not just once, but three more times.

On our second visit, I was prepared to order one sandwich (the ham, brie, and asparagus panini) but had a change of game plan. When I saw that one of the day’s soups was chicken curry, I knew that I had to try some and chose a sandwich that seemed to coordinate with that choice. The chicken curry soup contained rice, celery, and white chicken in a creamy base that was lightly seasoned with curry. My soup is shown below with Chuck’s side of West Main’s marvelous potato salad and a bag of Route 11 Lightly Salted Potato Chips.
Our gold standard for potato chips has been Zapp’s out of Gramercy, LA. These have now been replaced by Route 11, which are made in Mount Jackson, VA—just a half hour’s drive from Luray.

Time for a road trip to the factory store where we purchased two three-pound boxes. One is almost gone already.

The other soup selection that day was mushroom barley and as much as I love mushrooms, I dislike barley. I think that goes back to traumatic experiences in my youth. My mother loved Campbell’s Scotch Broth that contained mutton broth, carrots, barley, water, potatoes, and cooked lamb. If she opened a can for lunch, I was expected to eat some. Have you ever tasted mutton broth? Thus, and to this day, I have had a visceral dislike of barley.

To go with my chicken curry soup, my sandwich choice was the Asiago Chicken Panini with prosciutto and jerk-mango mayo on rustic sourdough bread. The sandwich contained what looked to be a flattened chicken breast that had either been poached or roasted. However it was cooked, it remained tender and moist.
Asiago has a sharp and somewhat salty taste and the salty flavor of the cheese and prosciutto were balanced by the jerk-mango mayo.

Chuck ordered the Cuban Pork Panini which was one of the best interpretations of this sandwich to date. The sandwich contained juicy house-roasted pork with sliced ham, havarti cheese, pickles, and whole grain mustard on a toasted “sub” roll. To me, this Cuban
had a better balance of ingredients than others we have ordered, and I think the secret lay in the succulent roasted pork.

We were back a few days later and made this trip “Philadelphia-Style Sandwich Day,” splitting one Steak and Cheese and one Italian Cold Cut sandwich. West Main’s menu didn’t claim that the Steak and Cheese was a Philly Cheesesteak—and it wasn’t. But it contained the same thin sliced beef that appeared on my Roast Beef and Blue Cheese sandwich on our first visit. On this occasion it was heated and smothered in melted gooey provolone cheese, which coated
the sautéed green peppers and onions. While there were a few too many sautéed onions for Chuck’s taste, this was easily solved by removing some.

The Italian Cold Cut sandwich contained Genoa salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onions on a toasted sub roll and came the closest to copying a Philadelphia Italian Hoagie that we have seen since leaving Pennsylvania.

His side of choice that day was the Sesame Noodle Salad (below, righ) that, in addition to the noodles, contained some chopped tomato dressed with sesame oil and Chinese chile paste with garlic. We received our sides when we placed our sandwich orders and by the time the sandwiches arrived at the table, he had devoured the entire salad.

My side was the cole slaw (above, left) which was fresh and crisp. Just as I have decided that any person wanting to operate a restaurant should be required to travel to Louisiana to learn to make a proper onion ring, that same person needs to come to Southwest Virginia to learn to make proper cole slaw.

On our fourth and final visit, Chuck chose the Turkey and Havarti sandwich that included a mound of sliced deli turkey, havarti cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on whole grain bread. Nothing
complicated here but this sandwich is testament to how important fresh and high quality ingredients can be. And, of course, since this was our last visit, he had to have a side of potato salad.

There were so many sandwiches that I wanted to try and so little time. So I asked for a favor. Could I get a half of two different ones? No problem.

So I ordered a half Smoked Turkey and Avocado Panini and a half Ham and Brie Cheese Panini. Both were delicious and there is something so good about a sandwich with melty cheese and crisp grilled bread that is so satisfying.

In order to leave no salad unsampled, on that day I ordered the Pesto Pasta Salad. As much as I love basil, I have never been a fan of pesto. But here just a small amount of pesto had been mixed into the Duke’s mayo so that it hinted of basil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese rather than being swamped by those ingredients.

Chuck often jokes that in so many of the smaller towns we have visited, if you go to a restaurant twice you become a regular. And that’s how we felt at West Main Market. We felt as if were walking into a room full of friends and will always remember the hospitality shown by Bill and Lisa. If you find yourself in Luray, VA, stop in for some 5.0 Addie eats.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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