An ode to a Cuban sandwich

An ode to a Cuban sandwich
The great Cuban sandwich from Annel & Drew’s Kitchen is taking a hiatus from the restaurant’s menu. Photo by David Boylan

The timing of this column is somewhat ironic given the recent normalization of relations with Cuba and the passing of Fidel Castro, but that’s about as political as Lick the Plate is going to get. This is about one of their many exports, the Cuban sandwich and the recent loss of a local favorite.

I’ve waxed poetic many times in LTP about the Cuban sandwich from Annel & Drew’s Kitchen at the Leucadia Farmers Market.  My first infatuated gushing love letter was a 2010 column devoted primarily to this newfound love. It really was like a new romance, albeit one that was limited to a weekly Sunday morning fling. That fling soon developed into a full-on obsession and as odd as a Cuban sandwich for Sunday brunch may sound, it was the beginning of a long-term affair.

One of the great pleasures I derive from Lick the Plate is sharing new discoveries and I spread the word about this amazing sandwich every opportunity I had. My son Quinn was one of the early converts and our mutual appreciation turned into a Sunday morning tradition over the New York Times and a Mexican Coke that, looking back was one of our true bonding experiences.

As the Leucadia Farmer’s Market grew, so did the other delicious prepared food temptations. All of a sudden there was wood fired pizza, stuffed potatoes, gourmet sausage, noodles and much more.  I stayed loyal for as long as I could, but there were moments of weakness and it was always somewhat awkward walking by Annel & Drew’s Kitchen with a pizza in hand, so I took to taking the long walk around the market to avoid the scornful looks from Annel and Drew. I jest of course but that’s what it felt like to me.

During this time, Annel and Drew expanded their menu to include other temptations like their amazing breakfast sandwich and always amazing salads and Spiedie’s, which have been there since the beginning as well. I had a hunch that the general market-going public did not share my obsession with the Cuban and sure enough, over the past few months there were Sundays where it was missing from the menu.

My initial reaction was denial, and I was creating scenarios in my head that we were just taking a break, and the Cuban would surprise me, popping back into my life when I least expected it.  All would be good and we would renew the relationship fresh, with no distractions.  That false hope was further squashed when my son Quinn, who now works with Annel and Drew at the Sunday market started hinting that this break could be permanent.

I scoffed at that idea, still rejecting the possibility that it might be over.

I finally mustered up the nerve to ask Drew flat out what was going on with the Cuban.  His response was firm and direct, as it should be in situations like this, “Cubans are gone, will let you know of any cameos in the future.”

That’s it, a clean break, and as much as it killed me, I appreciated his straightforwardness. He did elaborate a bit by saying that they never sold that well in Leucadia and that there were a handful of fanatics that shared my feelings of loss.

So, now it’s time to move on. I’m thinking I should probably give it some time before I begin my search for a replacement, a time for healing so to speak. Sure there are other Cubans out there, but they all seem to have some kind of twist or gourmet take on the original. I can appreciate that effort, but sometimes simple is best and if any of you local delis or sandwich shops decide to go there, please let me know.

I’ll close with my description of Annel & Drew’s Cuban and a brief history from the 2010 column and thank them for the years of pleasure they provided:

The combination of pork shoulder roasted with garlic, citrus & herbs, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and lime aioli melted on fresh baked semolina bread is as good as I’ve had anywhere. It was originally created by Cuban workers in the late 1800s and later on, Cuban immigrants and expatriates brought it to Miami where it is still very popular. They are usually pressed on a Panini press or similar device that melts all the ingredients together wonderfully. Take my word for it, if you are a sandwich fan, this is as good as it gets.

Check out Annel & Drew’s Kitchen and all their fabulous food weekly at the Leucadia Farmer’s Market and on Facebook.

David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at david@artichoke-creative.com or (858) 395-6905.

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