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On Philly Cheese Steaks

by on April 4, 2015
 

Philadelphia is all about the cheese steak people. All about the cheese steak.

I vaguely remember Philly and its signature sandwich though but I’m reminded by everyone who knows I am headed to Philly to ‘Make sure you try Philly Cheese steak’. I suspect it has cheese and steak in it but I cant muster much more by way of remembrance till we arrive in Philly.

A cheesesteak, also known as a Philadelphia cheesesteak, Philly cheesesteak, cheesesteak sandwich, cheese steak, or steak and cheese, is a sandwich made from thinly-sliced pieces of steak and melted cheese in a long roll. A popular regional fast food, it has its roots in Philadelphia.[1]; Wikipedia

The funny thing is I expected to see Philadelphia cheese up and everywhere. Turns out that was not the case.

We had our first cheese steak the night we arrived at Jim’s, on South Street. I barely had time to collect myself before the order was ready – hot, chopped steak off the flat-top grill, with chopped onions.

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We watched as men sliced boxes of Amoroso rolls – it said on the box, as we went up the stairs to sit and eat, with our  drinks.

The Bread: One of the most important elements of the cheese steak. Yeah, it is the hold all for the pile of steak and onions and cheese that must go on – it must possess the capacity to do its job. So, locally produced by a local Italian baker – Amoroso rolls were what we saw in the two cheese steak establishments we visited.

The rolls are a cross between baguettes, hotdog buns and pizza dough :). Slightly longer, roughly 25cm, soft and somewhat chewy, I found the tops had a thin crisp coating which combined with the grain-crusted base crackled softly when bitten.

I didn’t expect this of the rolls – I thought they’d be more crunchy baguette type for a textural contrast as the meat is soft and juicy but … It worked out okay. Methinks but it isn’t the way I woulda constructed it.

I ordered one with provolone – I call it mozzarella on wings. I didn’t understand any of the other varieties – American or Cheese Whiz. Each roll sliced in half didn’t look a mountainous task…till we sat down. The first few bites were a lesson, a very awkward one – so much meat, how did one wolf this down? Eventually, I demolished it block by block – I would bite into the top, then finish from the side.

The first few bites were also ‘meh’. The only thing to salvage it was ketchup, and salt, and black pepper. I mean who puts unseasoned beef in a sandwich? Well, happens in Philly, appaz. Then the dripping began – oil in a steady stream. I believe it came from my cheese as none of cheeseless sarnies had the same problem. We ended up looking at each other like ‘This is it? Okay’, in a rather unimpressed fashion.

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The children loved the rolls so much so we purchased a number of them.

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And that was the end of the first day.

For breakfast on Day two, I had a Philly cheese steak omelette at our hotel, The Wyndham in the heart of the Historic district which was the redemption, albeit it ‘just redeemed’.

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The eggs were seasoned and fluffy, enclosing creamy cheese, sliced steak and sweet onions. I enjoyed it with ketchup, a side of skillet potatoes and a biscuit (scone to ye oh Brits).

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And then I decided to consult the internet – thank you Serious Eats for your epistle on the Philly cheese steak. I knew I wanted to try one more Philly cheese steak – not convinced that what I had at Jim’s was the standard.

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And in the end I narrowed it down to one – Sonny’s. 

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Barely redeemed to properly redeemed, the cheese steak at Sonny’s was seasoned, even if lightly. On the recommendation of Ed Levine, I went with cheese whiz. And Jalapenos, now that I’d learnt you had options to add in your sarnie.

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…that Cheez Whiz is the best cheese option for a steak, thanks to its “salty tang” and ability to “envelop each piece of meat in a layer of fatty flavor.”; Serious Eats

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Now I’m not sure if condiments are a standard for cheese steaks but we made ketchup mandatory. One daughter had a bacon cheese steak which stunned her into eating almost nothing but the roll. It was too much for her.

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I enjoyed mine with the fiery, fresh flavoured Jalapenos.

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In spite of liking it, I couldn’t finish the roll.

I fall into the ‘American food trap’ time and time again. I forget I’m in a country that serves up humongous portions and consistently over order food. Next time I go to Philly, we’ll be sharing rolls for sure.

Of the two experiences, Sonny’s was the winner for me.

There were other experiences we didn’t avail ourselves of though. Like street Philly cheese steaks.

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Or the Cheese steak pretzel.

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It was a great experience but I must confess I now have steak fatigue. In my mind, steak is always revered – and to see it commonplace as it is in Philly left me cold.

No more meat for a while, except maybe suya :).

Peace and love, fam. Tell me, have you had mind-blowing or numbing Philly cheese steak experiences? Do share.

Have a lovely Easter weekend. xxx