26 February 2010

Reubens & Cubans: Atwater's plus more!

Reubens & Cubans is a column I've been wanting to start ever since I've been on my most recent culinary kick: sandwiches. This column will exclude burgers as I consider them in a realm all their own. A realm ruled by dragons... and robots. No wait, robotic cyborg-dragons! Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. And ninjas. You know I love me some burgers so they'll have posts solely dedicated to them. See what I do for you, burgers? You'd better put out when I'm in the mood... for meat. Big honkin' heaps of meat.

Since I've become a "foodie" I've gone through various phases of being obsessed with cooking/eating certain dishes or cuisines. From memory my phases of obsession went something like curries, then tex-mex, chili, barbecue, fish tacos, burgers, and now straight up sandwiches. My newest infatuation is the reuben, hence the title of this column. This is a prime example of how my tastes have done a complete 180 since I was a kid. Growing up I hated sauerkraut, rye, and swiss! Now I'm completely entranced by the marriage of flavors encased in a reuben sandwich. But I digress this post doesn't involve a reuben (although there will be one in the very near future). This is about Atwater's with a bonus review of the awesomeness that is the Pennsylvania Dutch Market in Cockeysville. So let's get to the meat of this (sandwich) post!

Mrs. Micro loves Atwaters. I'm not entirely sure why but I've never really been keen on to-go or drive-thru places so I've passed on eating there more than once. I just don't like dining in my car, doubly so if said feasting is going to be messy or hard to handle. Luckily, this time we were dining in at the shops at Kenilworth location.

I perused the menu and asked the waitress for a suggestion on my soup choice. I went with a cup of sweet potato, mushroom, and shrimp soup featuring barley and shiitakes and the ham & chutney cheddar sandwich. The Mrs went with her standard grilled three cheese and bacon and a side salad.

The soup was wonderful and a great way to start the meal. I appreciated the big hunk 'o bread on the side but honestly could've done without it. This soup was hearty without being heavy and hit the perfect balance of spicy, sweet, and savory with ample amounts of barley and shrimp.

The happy little shrimp were ultra tender, the texture bringing to mind perfectly executed scallops or langoustine. There was also a wonderfully pleasant bright green fan-shaped herb I was unable to identify that really popped. I can't even think of how to describe the flavor. It was just really bright and green-tasting. Food writing at it's best, folks! My wife's side salad came out with my soup and it was, well, it was a salad. Not much else to say. But here's a pretty picture of it:

Now this is where I have to point out that sometimes I can be a little slow. Dumb, really. There are those who call me a half-wit. But I got reel perty teef. Yes, we all have our moments but for me these moments occur on above average frequency. For whatever reason when I chose this sandwich I had in my head a grilled ham and cheese sandwich but failed to notice that #1 it didn't have the word GRILLED in the title and #2 it had lettuce on it. Too late I realized my mistake, so I sucked it up and tried to remain optimistic as the waitress dropped a big plate of disappointment in front of me. Unfortunately, optimism couldn't save this sandwich...

After the great soup I was uber excited for the sandwich to complete this two-stage power lunch. The bread reminded me of cibatta which I don't really care for. It tasted great but it made my jaw work just a tad to hard to chew. This sandwich should be called Apple Chutney Dijon on ciabatta because that was all I could taste. The heavy cinnamon flavor of the chutney overpowered everything else on the sandwich. On the occasional bite the flavor of the dijon and lettuce would poke through, but if you fed this to a blind man and asked him what it was, his response would most likely be "...an apple chutney sandwich?"

You can dress up the ingredients all you want, but if you can't taste them then what's the point? Nueske's Ham? Carr Valley Smoked Cheddar? It could've been Oscar Meyer and manufacted individually wrapped yellow cheese product for all I knew. My tastebuds refused to acknowledge the presence of these items on my sandwich. A pity. Would the three (housemade?) pickle slices served on the side be the buzzer-beating half-court shot to redeem this disappointing sandwich experience? Alas, they were not. They also suffered from severe lack of flavor. There was a slight spicy end note to them, but they were in serious need of a vinegary kick in the trousers.

I still retain a positive perspective of Atwater's, I simply chalk this experience up to one bad sandwich. I tasted the wife's Three Cheese and Bacon (pictured above) and almost fell out of my chair. I can see why it's her go-to sandwich. The stringy cheese that clung on for dear life as I pulled away my sole bite were reminiscent of a freshly baked NY slice. And the bacon was crunchy and salty, everything bacon should be. Luckily, the next stop on our little day-trip would completely wipe away any ill-feelings I had and skyrocket me into pure bliss as we crossed the gates into an unexpected culinary wonderland.

Navigating the titanic mounds of snow cluttering the parking lot we managed to find a space and walked up to what I can only describe as foodie Xanadu although this wasn't some Chinese province, this was my first experience of what an Amish market is all about. We first noticed the stand to the left of the entrance selling freshly made doughnuts. We vowed to stop by on our way out the door.

Our goal was a short stop here for a sweet treat after our lunch and then onto Wegman's to shop for our Valentine's day meal. Little did we know that this place had all we would need to make our dinner, and so much more. We walked the halls and while the Mrs isn't quite as infatuated with food as I am, I dumbly stumbled along, eyes glazed over, mouth agape at all the treasures held within. They had everything from candies and fudge, cheese and dairy, fresh spices, beautiful cuts of meat at astoundingly low prices, and the most extensive array of baked goods I have yet to witness in my 28 years on this planet.

The candy shop had some childhood favorites that I hadn't seen in years such as Big League Chew...

...Pop Rocks...

...and of course the classic we all know and love: Gummi Chicken Feet!


If today's youth were down with Big League Chew then my fears for our world's future would be quelled. Big League Chew puts asses in the seats, you dig? I usually abhor impulse buying and quickly quell those urges, but here I was positive I would be getting a quality product so I acted upon almost every impulse. Almost. The wife grabbed a freshly made pretzel from Lancaster County Soft Pretzels and it just snowballed from there.

I didn't break the seal until I saw some fantastic looking hand-ground nut butters (tee-hee). They had peanut, cashew, and almond. I chose a small container of almond butter. When I got to Aunt Erma's bakery this is when the real culinary boner started. I immediately banished the idea of making our Valentine's dessert from scratch when I noticed this wall of pure evil...

I immediately snatched up a huge chunk of triple chocolate peanut butter cake. Booyah! I then spied a loaf of cinnamon twirl bread that I thought would be perfect for bread pudding or french toast or just stuffing into my trap.

I made my way to the register, loaf in hand. I went to pay for my big sexy loaf when there staring me square in the face, taunting me, I saw a huge baking tray covered in some sort of baked gooey chocolatey concoction. A closer inspection revealed a sign reading 'delicous Crunch Bars--yellow cake, chocolate chip, peanut butter, marshmallow, rice krispies--$1.95' "I'll take one of those too" I told the cashier. I didn't even think about it, the words just jumped out of my face. I must investigate whether or not this place is in fact run by the devil.

We finally made our way back to the door, picking up a fantastic cut of NY strip on the way, to finally nab our doughnuts and get out before this place leached any more money from our rapidly thinning wallets. I noticed the daily special was a particularly sexy strawberry chocolate doughnut with strawberry glaze filling so that's what I went with.

I can easily say that this was the best doughnut I've had outside of NYC. Sweet cheesy jesus this thing was good.

I almost wrecked my car wolfing this thing down. Just look at the FILLING!!

NOM NOM NOM. Do you think my mood was improved? Yer damn right it was! I was a tra-la-la-ing dandy boy returning home from the fair with a shiny new lolly. And I liked it.

I was going to end this already too long post here but I feel obligated to show you what all of these lovely ingredients ended up becoming after I had my dirty way with them. Valentine's dinner consisted of steak au poivre with rosemary garlic potatoes and sauteed asparagus:

And for dinner later that week, I whipped up some fantastic (say it with me now) Frosted Flake Crusted Almond Butter, Banana, and Bacon Stuffed Cinnamon Twirl French Toast Sandwiches!!

I hope you're spent cuz I sure am. I'm gonna go towel off. Thanks for reading.

Atwater's on Urbanspoon
Pennsylvania Dutch Market on Urbanspoon

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theminx said...

"There was a slight spicy end note to them, but they were in serious need of a vinegary kick in the trousers." - LOL

Funny post. I hope you bought a bag of those chicken feet for Dara. :)

Erin said...

Aaaand I'm dead. An amazing journey through your disappointing lunch to the culinary heaven of the Amish market. The Amish: they love their snacks, don't they?? V-day dinner and that french toast looked superb, and that cross-section of the donut will haunt me...GREAT post, my man.

Xani said...

I, too, died reading this.

Kyle said...

Thank you very much for the compliments. Baltimore Bloggers represent! I'm very proud of this post. It might just be my favorite post to date.

Sorry my post killed you. I hope it was at the very least a delicious death.

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