Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Off to Cuba -- Fill 'r Up

Fast Gourmet's Cuban Sandwich with Eggplant fries

Fall is my is my favorite time of year to travel.  Mild temperatures with just a hint of crispness abound and the tourist crowds are minimal.  As I look back over entries from past autumns, I realize how fortunate I am--two years ago I was getting ready for a culinary adventure through Paris, Beaune, and Lyon; last year, I was preparing for a Napa Valley wine journey (complete with a reservation at The French Laundry).  But this year is a bit different--B and I are headed to... Cuba. 

We were lucky enough to get a spot on the Harvard Alumni Association's 35 person tour-- centered on architecture, art, and music--under one of the "people to people" licenses for travel to Cuba that the Obama Administration began to expand the issuance of last spring.  Perhaps graduate school is finally paying off!  And although this tour is not singularly focused on food, the itinerary includes historic dining spots and dinners at family-operated paladares.  So, upon my return next week, I will bring you a special Food Field Trip Cuba edition.  But until then, I have a Cuba-related teaser for you to chew on...

I have never viewed a gas station as anything other than a place for a fuel fill up, a bathroom stop, or maybe, just maybe a place for a Diet Coke and if hunger is really setting in a prepackaged, processed snack.  But in DC just north of U Street, Fast Gourmet is transforming a functioning gas station into a culinary destination.

You first pass the fuel pumps and then walk into the station past the gas cashier (safely isolated behind bullet proof glass) and head to the counter up back.  Just follow your nose.  It is here, that you find a bustling open kitchen, dishing out hearty fare. 

We both went for what else, but the Cuban sandwich. Now before you send in the comments, I understand this is an American-concocted creation.  So we ordered, and then took a seat at a counter overlooking the gas station and, on this particular evening, an intersection where a traffic stop was being conducted by some half dozen local police.  Only in DC do you get this type of people watching, while indulging in some truly excellent casual fare.  The sandwich was massive, filled with succulent and juicy roasted pork, savory ham, gooey cheese, yellow and whole grain mustard, and of course, pickles.  It was quite simply the best sandwich I have had in DC all year.  And that is to say nothing of the eggplant fries.  These fries, golden eggplant freshly battered, literally melted in your mouth.

Almost everything on this menu is under $10 and available for eat-in or pick-up.  Drinks are limited to the carbonated, non-alcoholic variety and the atmosphere, is well, that of a gas station.  So if your stomach is on empty, this made to order gourmet gas station fare is worth the trip!


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