“Sorry, we’re out of today’s special, it was Virginia ham and mutz,” the gent behind the counter said. The counter—in case you’re wondering—was located not in my home borough of Queens, but rather in Hoboken, N.J., birthplace of both Frank Sinatra and Fiore’s House of Quality.
As the sign in the window at Fiore’s says, the storied Italian deli has been making its famous mozzarella since 1913. (For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two years before Old Blue Eyes was born.) It’s also become famous over the years for its roast beef and mozzarella—or “mutz” as they call it here—and gravy sandwich, which is only available on Thursdays and Saturdays.
My pal and I found ourselves in Hoboken Monday evening so we were unable to get the shop’s most famous creation or the day’s special, so we went with that Italian deli standard, the Italian combo.
The guy at the counter rattled off the ingredients: pepper ham, salami, roast peppers and some others that I didn’t really catch because I was deliriously hungry. At Fiore’s one normally chooses the bread—either a skinny hoagie as long as your forearm or a roll—before approaching the counter. There’s no bread pawing during a pandemic so I asked the counterman for a whole sandwich to split. I almost ordered one for each of us, but I had a presentation to give later that night and didn’t want to fall prey to a food coma.
After cutting the loaf in half, my new friend began layering the ingredients—mutz, spiced ham, peppers etc.—so far so good. Then he picked up a knife and proceeded to cut it in half. When he raised the knife again I almost screamed in protest, but held my tongue.
“Geez, we’re lucky he didn’t cut the crust off,” I wisecracked to my friend as we made our way to the car. When we arrived at Frank Sinatra Park and unwrapped our feast, I soon realized why the guy at Fiore’s had quartered the our combo. One piece could barely fit in my hand. We ate it overlooking the Hudson. The combination of creamy mutz, garlicky roast peppers, and all that Italian salumi was almost better than the view. A quality sandwich for sure, I’ll be back for the roast beef.
Fiore’s House of Quality, 414 Adams St., Hoboken, N.J.
The Monger’s Table showcases the glories of cheese over a 10-course tasting.
With the exception of the dreaded Philadelphia roll, cheese and sushi are not usually mentioned in the same sentence, nor should they be. Leave it to Rachel Freier, cheese monger extraordinaire, of Murray’s Cheese Bar to link the two by creating a whimsical yet elegant cheese roll that owes as much to France as it does Japan. It’s part of The Monger’s Table—a new 10-course cheese dinner—an omakaise if you will, that Murray’s is rolling out this month. Not only is it an educational and gustatory journey into the world of cheese, it’s one of the more unusual tasting menus around.
Like many a tasting menu, The Monger’s Table begins with an amuse bouche, in this case a liquid one, a milk punch made with chamomile, sweet vermouth, and some hay from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm. “We went to Jasper Hill and sat on a hay bale inside a hay dryer just licking the air it smelled so good,” Freier recalled taking note that its fresh grass and hay that makes the creamery’s cheeses taste so good. I couldn’t help thinking of Sushi Nakazawa’s omakase as I inhaled the aroma of fresh hay. Next up was a dish called Salting the Curd that featured squeaky fresh curds, along with fried ones, which proved a good entry point for discussing cheese making. (more…)
Salty focacia plays nice with the duck and mozzarella.
Ever since it opened a few years ago I’ve been a fan of Francois Delano’s bakery La Boulangerie, It turns out the best baguettes in Queens as well as some killer croissants and other Viennoiserie. And with all that bread it’s inevitable that there’d be sandwiches. The croque-monsieur is quite lovely here, oozing Béchamel and topped with Gruyère. Recently Delano added a new sandwich to the menu, canard fumé, or smoked duck breast ($8). Thick slabs of the bakery’s salty focacia are layered with smoked duck breast, mozzarella, basil and tomatoes. It’s not a sandwich that will make you slap the table with epicurean glee, but it’s a pleasant change of pace in a somewhat lackluster food neighborhood. Consider it a mozzarella and tomato sandwich for French carnivores.
La Boulangerie, 109-01 72nd Rd., Forest Hills, 347-644-5606