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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Phony baloney

Those gourmet hamburgers in the Red Robin commercials always looked good -- until I found out they cost $10 each. That's insane, I think -- I'll stick with the Thickburger. Now, there's this:

Chef James Locascio, of Rittenhouse Square's Barclay Prime, created Philadelphia's "haute" cheesesteak, an upscale version of the sandwich that includes butter poached lobster and shaved truffles.

"It's every ingredient you want to try in a lifetime in one," said Locascio.

Still, that kind of lavishness doesn't come cheap. For one cheesesteak, expect to pay $100. That is nearly 15 times more than the original.

"We made sure we had the best beef we could find, the best lobster and the right cheese," explains Locascio.

If it's delivered right to my front door by a naked Elisha Cuthbert, maybe I'll go as high as $50. And what in the world are truffles and "butter poached lobster" doing on an honest American sandwich like the cheesesteak anyway? Yes, I'll have a bologna and cheese, please, and could you make the cheese camembert?


Bob G.
Fri, 05/16/2008 - 1:42pm

Personally, I'd hold out on that $50 burger for Scarlett Johannson (maybe), or that blonde cutey from the Tomkinson Dodge commercials (just to keep it local).

Hell, Leo...I can take you to Philly...go to either Pat's or Geno's and get 'ya fed a REAL cheesesteak...a MAN'S cheesesteak for about $5...with all the trimmings.
That's about as "haute" as one ever NEEDS to get.


(For $10, I better be getting a big chunk of DINNER...or TWO cheesesteaks)

Harl Delos
Fri, 05/16/2008 - 6:49pm

The poor eat better than the rich. Mario Batali was judged the best chef in America in, oh, 2005 or so. What's his favorite entree? Bone-in pork butt, cooked low and slow. Recipe at http://www.esquire.com/features/recipes-for-men/porkshoulder
As Esquire says, "Jews and Muslims, find a loophole. You've got to taste this."

Hard to find bone-in pork these days. Forget all the spices except salt and pepper, use boneless picnic instead of bone-in, and it's still wonderful. I cook this, and all the neighbors figure out a reason to knock on our door, such as returning tools I never loaned. The smell alone is worth the effort.

In any case, Pat's uses Cheez-Whiz, which wasn't introduced until 1952, and they claim to have invented the cheese steak in the 1930s. I don't think they are selling REAL cheesesteaks.

The best cheesesteaks here in Lancaster seem to be from the SteakOut, in downtown, or from Caruso's, which is a chain of about three stores. They use real cheese.

Being an effete snob, myself, (and using the original meaning of effete, it's my snobbery that's effete, not me), I prefer the Cali cheesesteak. Cali is short for California, and it means they put all kinds of vegetables on it, like maters, and lettuce.
But then, I'm a midwesterner. It's my wife that's the Philly girl.

And I'd swap you two cheesesteaks for one of those grilled veal tenderloin sandwiches I used to get at the Acme, on State near Crescent, with lettuce, mater, and miracle whip. It's not better, but it's equally good. It's just that cheesesteaks are easy to come by, but a great veal tenderloin is rare.

Leo Morris
Fri, 05/16/2008 - 9:14pm

Harl: Do you know lucky you are? You're now in the birthplace of the Philly Cheesesteak, but you came from the birthplace of the breaded tenderloin. http://openingarguments.wordpress.com/2006/05/31/the-hoosier-sandwich/

Harl Delos
Fri, 05/16/2008 - 9:52pm

Breaded tenderloins are OK, but I prefer Acme's grilled tenderloins instead.

So what's the birthplace of the Church Basement sandwich?

I've never experienced them anyplace except the Fort Wayne area. I think you will know what I'm talking about, when I describe them. They're get served at wedding receptions and anniversaries. You open canned beef (or other canned meat) and break up the meat until it's all strings, then add a little flour to thicken things up, and serve it on a bun, sometimes with a couple of hamburger dills.

Canned meat, itself, is pretty difficult to find except in the FW area. There used to be a Grabill brand at Maloley's (and presumably at the other FW supermarkets), but Ma Collis brand was a WHOLE lot better. We'd buy the Ma Collis stuff by the case at the cannery in Broughton, but the cannery's been closed for years now; Tom Colley always complained that the profits were pretty minimal.

I finally figured out that if I bought a packer brisket in cryovac at WalMart, I could cook it for 5-6 hours at 250 or 300F, then break up some of it into a stringy mass and add flour for a fairly close approximation of a Church Basement sandwich.

I could probably come even closer if I bought myself a pressure canner, but they're about $100, which is sorta expensive for a few sandwiches. Not to mention the static I'd get from my wife. But the churches and fire houses around here don't serve Church Basement sandwiches, they serve waffles and chicken. That's an interesting food, but it just doesn't take the place of Church Basement sandwiches.

tim zank
Sat, 05/17/2008 - 10:06am

Harl, the grilled AND the breaded at Acme were the best! They also had one if the best cheeseburgers around too. That couple block stretch of State Street had some of the best food,
ribs (Nick-Von), sausage rolls & grinders (Aroma), and of course The State Bar & Grill for cold beer and fun!

Ahhhhh, those were the days.....

Harl Delos
Sat, 05/17/2008 - 1:59pm

For what it's worth, you can't get 2 cheesesteaks for $10 at Pat's or at Geno's, either one. They're $6.75 now, according to a neighbor who went to Philadelphia today.

Lots of parking available today. The guy next door pointed to four houses, said all those folks are in Baltimore today for the race.

When I was little, Dad would stand along the fence at the fairgrounds horse track with all us kids, while Mom was working at the church tent. We'd each pick our favorite horse, then after the race, we'd see how much we'd won or lost. Eight races, that's $16 at $2 per race, and I'd always win $5-8, for a net loss of $8-11. The other kids were equally unsuccessful. If Dad had put down real money for himself, he would have doubled his money every night, but he figured anything more than a 5c bet was against the teachings of the church.

As an adult, I have continued to lose the money I pretend to bet, except on Smarty Jones. One of my neighbors works for Chapman Ford, and they were the horse's owners, so I had to overrule my bad judgment and pretend to back Smarty Jones instead.

So in another hour or so, I'll tune into WGAL so I can watch my favorite (Big Brown) lose.

I guess if you'd count up all the money I never lost, because they were mental bets, and all the cost of driving to the track, paying admission, buying souvenirs, etc., I'm a pretty big winner, simply by watching the races on TV, and only making pretend bets....

Bob G.
Mon, 05/19/2008 - 8:09am


Oh, the HUMANITY!!!!

I remember when they were UNDER $4.00 (with)!!!

And I left that for pork tenderloins...OY!

Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.
(thankfully,not by much)...LOL!

Still, there were the HOAGIES, Tastykakes, and Franks' Black Cherry Wishniak soda!