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After taking a trip to Chicago this winter, Taylor Gourmet co-owner Casey Patten wanted to create his own Italian beef sandwich for his budding Philly-in-exile empire. There was only one problem.
Patten’s version of the Second City staple “wasn’t very successful,” Patten recalls. “I didn’t like the way it turned out.”
So he turned away from the Italian sandwich tradition altogether and looked instead to Britain for inspiration for another classic bite: roast beef. He spent more than two months, off and on, working on his recipe for Taylor’s new “Cherry Street” sandwich, trying to determine the right combination of flavors that wouldn’t be dominated by the hearty, sesame-studded Sarcone’s roll that Taylor trucks in daily from Philly.
Patten tried a number of different cuts until he settled on choice-grade top round. He takes a knife and creates some deep wells in the meat, into which he stuffs at least 20 cloves of garlic, many buried deep within the muscle. He also drizzles a combination of olive and vegetable oils into those wells. After seasoning with salt and pepper and sprinkling with hot pepper flakes, Patten will roast the beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it emerges from the oven, the cut sports a rosy shade of pink in the interior. Patten calls it medium-rare or “just enough [red] not to scare people away.” (See the picture below.)
For toppings and condiments, Patten didn’t want to follow any well-worn path. He didn’t want horseradish sauce or Provolone cheese or Dijon mustard for his roast beef. Instead, for his cheese, Patten opted for a Normandy double cream brie, and then devised his own condiment, a roasted garlic spread that’s closer in spirit to his Italian sandwich concept than either horseradish or Dijon mustard.
The spread is a smooth, blended combination of roasted garlic, vegetable oil, olive oil, salt, hot cherry peppers, and some of the brine that the peppers are packed in. It’s sort of Patten’s answer to a common question at Taylor: Where’s the mayo?
The roasted-garlic spread is essential to balancing out the big fatty flavors of the roast beef and brie. The roll is already a lusty piece of bread, and when stuffed with layers of shaved beef and thick hunks of brie, it really needs something sharp to poke through all those low-rumbling bass notes of meat and cream. Taylor’s other sandwiches rely on sharp provolone or roasted red peppers or even sun-dried tomatoes to perform this task; the Cherry Street relies on its roasted garlic spread, with its warm, welcoming overtones of acidic hot pepper.
The first time I sampled the Cherry Street, I found the balance of flavors tilting too much toward the cow-end of the spectrum. The finishing drizzle of oil only intensified the sandwich’s feeling of heaviness. My second tasting, however, was spot on. Patten had added more of the spread and perhaps even a few more leaves of arugula to intensify its peppery bite. Sure, the sandwich oozed liquid now, but the extra toppings turned a decent roast beef sandwich into a terrific one.
The Cherry Street debuts today at Taylor Gourmet. It’ll run you $7.10 for a six-inch sandwich, and $9.10 for 12 inches.