Tuesday, June 8

The Second Best Sandwich in the Country

Another moment in Seattle: The day before we leave for Seattle, B calls out from the living room that there is this sandwich we’ve got to try while we’re there. It is on one of those Travel/Food Network shows, and Paseo’s Cuban Roast is in the number two slot of some ever popular top whatever list. We are a bit giddy to fulfill a silly goal: to travel to some place to eat what we saw on TV.

Saturday, May 15, turns out to be the day. Paseo’s has a couple locations, and we decide we’ll go to Fremont, a cool, artsy in the let’s-build-a-giant-troll-under-the-bridge-sort-of-way suburb. We know we’ve found the place not only by the blue dot on the Google map, but by the meandering line up the sidewalk. There is no sign. The place is clad in aluminum, has glass front doors and is about 10 feet wide. Okay, maybe 15. We take our place, jaw a bit with some other folks who are here on the same quest and play on our iPhones - the device that makes waiting completely painless. A sign informs us that due to the rising cost of corn a side of it will be extra instead of coming with the sandwich. B deducts that they put it with the sandwich for a reason so he orders two Cuban Roasts with corn. Once his name is called and a heavy bag of roast pork sandwiches is in hand, we head off to a park I located on the phone while we waited.

There are maybe six places to sit in tiny Paseo’s, and unless you enjoy wild-eyed, pork-leering people streaming past as you eat, I highly recommend taking your lunch to nearby Green Lake Park.

We park the rental, locate a spot at the edge of a tree’s shadow overlooking the pretty glacially-formed lake and open the bag. This sandwich is big like a sub on the tastiest crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bread. We both sit straddling the large white squares of meat-packing paper in which our sandwiches rest. The pork is tender and plain. This is not a saucy sandwich, but the juice makes it a drippy, sit-down meal. On top of the pork are super-thick onions. You know when you have a giant onion ring and the whole thing comes sliding out of the crust all in one piece? About 10 of those succulent monsters glisten on each sandwich. Finally, there’s a surprisingly light layer of mayonnaise dotted generously with sliced jalapeƱos. This pork-and-onion-loving, mayo-despising, might-shy-from-jalapeƱos gal absolutely loves it. We deem the Paseo Cuban Roast worthy of the wait in line to get it. Heck, it’s worthy of the flight.

We are in a happy stupor afterward, watching people bike, stroll, run and roll by on the paved loop. We do a lot of fun things this week in Seattle, but this is one of my favorite moments, laying back on raincoats for blankets in the grass, bellies full of yum and hearts full of happy as we lay side-by-side.

Since I know you are not content with that ending, still yearning to learn about America’s number one sandwich, I give you this.

Monday, June 7

Bruce and Brandon Six Feet From the Living

Another moment in Seattle: Bruce and Brandon Lee lay below our feet. It’s completely surreal. Way back in the day B and I loved martial arts and actually met in a class; we still enjoy watching Kung Fu movies as much as ever. Bruce’s stone looks just like I’ve seen in pictures, but we are surprised to find Brandon right next to him. Brandon’s stone is designed with a space sliced down its middle; I touch it and imagine when it rains that it pours out each side making two little fountains. I remember later that I didn’t touch Bruce’s stone. I have lived three years longer than this man, but he lived so much more intensely.

We took pause reading the too-true inscription on Brandon’s stone: “Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times. And a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seem limitless.” - For Brandon and Eliza, Ever Joined in True Love’s Beauty

Sunday, June 6

Top Pot

Intro: I’ve been meaning to put up a nice post about our May vacation in Seattle. Instead, I am going to write tiny posts of excellent moments B and I had over those glorious, rain-free seven days*.

I type Top Pot Doughnuts into my phone just to see if we’re close, and find we’re within a mile of one. It’s our last day in Seattle, and we’re spending it consulting our mishmash list of possible things to see and do. We’ve just left Bruce and Brandon Lee’s graves, and I tell B, “We’re just minutes away from Top Pot. Shall we go?” He says, “Sure," and makes the turn.

We’ve had no dinner and decide a doughnut will hold us over. This is vacation-think and wouldn’t happen in real life. Maybe it is partially inspired by the too true life-is-short sentiment on Brandon Lee’s grave.** We park on the side of street and stroll down to yet another establishment with an awesome neon sign. The Seattle area has a high-concentration of fantastic neon signs, but that is a post for another day.

In true vacationer style, we tell the fellow behind the counter that we’ve come here just to try these doughnuts and learn that we are standing in the original Top Pot without even trying. The Pink Feather Boa is not to be found in the glass case - which we’ve seen promoted in magazines - but coconut and frosting would not be my first choice anyway. I am ecstatic to see a glaze-free cruller and then ask Pleasant Counter Guy what his favorite is. At his mention, I look down and spot it: the fattest Bavarian cream donut I have every been in the presence of. I order one of each and a glazed blueberry for the next morning - fuel for our 6:00 a.m. flight home.***

It turns out Top Pot’s hand-forged cruller is just a fry cake with ridges - not the airy, eggy donut that I love. Undeterred, I cast the remains of it back into it’s cute little sack and bring out the Bavarian. O. M. G. At roughly 3” high, this is the thickest Bavarian cream donut I’ve ever held, and is there just a dollop of ooey goodness inside? No, it is a filled from edge to edge: yummy, puddin’ deliciousness in every bite with a light, sweet-but-not-too-sweet dough all around covered in delicious chocolate fudge - not that crusty, glazey ick you get at most chain donut stores. From the window counter seat, I sit looking at a strange van that has seen better days and probably many adventures. I lick my fingers and wonder if it belongs to Pleasant Counter Guy as I finish the best doughnut I have ever had.

*Also known as summer in Seattle.

**I’ll share this in another post, I promise.

***The later flight was hundreds more, and I squished my face in disgust as I chose the 6:00 a.m. return knowing that would mean a 3:30 a.m. wake time.