A few years ago I discovered Bunk Sandwiches in Portland and it changed my life. Now I know that might sound a bit intense, but in a way it kind of did. My experience there really kick-started my decision to start this very blog and start doing my part spreading the word about the very best sandwiches (and craft beer) around. I can honestly say that since that decision was made, I have met some of the best people, had some of the best times in my life and got to do some of the coolest things too!
During my recent trip down to Portland for one of those cool things Feast Portland, I reached out to Bunk Sandwiches and was lucky to get a chance to sit down and have a sandwich, a beer and a chat with Bunk co-chef/co-owner Tommy Habetz. Sitting down with Tommy at Bunk Bar was such a treat, we chatted about his background, his beginnings as a chef, his cooking philosophy, music and of course sandwiches.One sandwich on their menu that we talked about at length and decided to pair up with a beer was the Pork Belly Cubano. Cubano’s are a favourite of mine and as I learned while talking to Tommy, became a favourite of his while he was living down in Boca Raton, Florida cooking under Chef Drew Nieporent. At the time the food scene down there was lacking to say the least which led him to seek out Cuban diners and little places doing Cuban sandwiches, Yucca Frita, Beans and Rice and other Cuban classics. Tommy and I seem to share in the belief that best way to travel as a food lover is to just go and see what the “people” do best.Bunk’s version of the Cuban sandwich is tweaked a bit but still holds the essence of the original. The Pork Belly Cubano comes with both pork belly and shoulder, pit-smoked ham, pickles, swiss cheese and mustard. Tommy said that using the pork belly with the shoulder as the roast pork element was really important to him. The technique they use to roast the pork is a bit different, almost like a reverse porchetta, by butterflying the shoulder and wrapping it around the belly. This allows for the flavourful fat from the belly to render in to the shoulder rather than out altogether and keeps the shoulder nice and moist at the same time. The pit-smoked ham they use comes from a spot in eastern Oregon, this adds a nice element to the sandwich without being overly smokey. Those two main elements are accented nicely by the briny pickles, a healthy amount of sharp yellow mustard, a tiny bit of mayo and little hot sauce to round things out. All that is then pressed and toasted for a nice crunchy texture on the bread. This sandwich makes me real happy, and being able to enjoy it while its creator told me all about it was just awesome. Oh, and Tommy threw in an order of their awesome Mole Tater Tots too just for good measure, which I ate about an 1\8 of because they were enormous.When it came to pairing a great craft beer with the Cubano, it seemed that Tommy and I were on the same page here too. We both felt that the best beer would be something refreshing and palate cleansing, without too many bold flavours that would compete with the sandwich. Two beers they had on tap seemed like they would fit the bill, the Daily Bread Common Ale from Everybody’s Brewing based in White Salmon, WA and the Kolsch from Double Mountain Brewing in Hood River, OR. These are great beers and would both make a nice pairing to the Cubano, but I found the Kolsch to be just a little more fitting.Double Mountain’s Kolsch is a really nice beer, it has a subtle fruitiness that paired nicely with the more acidic elements in the sandwich and its rounded sweetness from the malts sat nicely with the saltiness from both the roast pork and pit-smoked ham. This Kolsch is a bit more generously hopped that its German cousin from Cologne, which was a good thing as it finished nice and clean leaving the mouth ready for that next bite of deliciously fatty pork belly.So if you’re looking for a perfectly tweaked take on a Cubano paired with a Kolsch with a Pacific-Northwest spin then head to Bunk Sandwiches (Bar) in Portland for This Sandwich and That Beer.Head to www.bunksandwiches.com and www.doublemountainbrewery.com for more info. Follow them both on Twitter @bunksandwiches and @DoubleMountain and follow me @TSTB_blog. Also look for the Double Mountain Brewing Kolsch as well as some others at Legacy Liqour Store in Vancouver.
Listen for my monthly feature Saturday Oct 25th on Just Here For The Beer radio on Team 1410AM in Vancouver at 12pm . Also look for my column in the BC Craft Beer News at your local craft beer focused private liquor store.
Thanks again to Tommy for the great lunch!