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What’s in a name? Pastrami on rye

Sessions Public takes a stab at both, with surprising results

Who doesn’t love pastrami?
Who doesn’t love pastrami?
Place

Sessions Public

4204 Voltaire Street, San Diego

I’ve been seeing a lot of house-cured pastrami popping up around town — at Counterpoint, in the food truck New York on Rye, and at the Heart & Trotter butcher shop for example. I don’t always order it, but it’s always a close call.

I mean, who doesn’t love pastrami? Vegans and vegetarians shun the stuff through sheer force of will, and the Internet is littered with the recipes of people trying to emulate the cured beef with tofu, tempeh, seitan, and even beet. Crushed peppercorn, coriander, garlic, and onion are bound to make such ingredients taste better, but take away that brined beef and its clear those guys are chasing rainbows.

When I visited Point Loma’s Sessions Public, I thought I was going to order the fried chicken. But my eyes kept drifting back to the word “pastrami” on the menu. Then my waitress told me her favorite dish was the pastrami sandwich, or maybe the pastrami poutine. At some point during deliberations I realized: I’ve developed a Pavlovian response to the mere mention of pastrami. I was drooling into my beer — the first of three Fall Brewing IPAs I ordered from the restaurant’s reliably good tap list.

I ordered the sandwich. Now, as much as I adore pastrami, I’m not so much a fan of its most frequent breadmate: rye. I requested a substitution, which I was told would be an artisan country bread from Liberty Station bakery Con Pane. Fine by me. I sipped beer and nibbled on Sessions’ staple duck fat truffle fries while I waited. It was shaping out to be a fine evening.

For $15.50 The Eric sandwich comes with housemade pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, and spicy Thousand Island dressing. I dunno, I guess replacing Russian dressing with Thousand Island keeps it from being a Reuben? I’m not trying to stand on tradition, but given how close the two dressings are, I wasn’t seeing the need to rename a sandwich over it. Maybe if they didn’t default to rye?

However, they do, and my substitution didn’t go through. I got the rye, also baked by Con Pane. That the last bread I got at Con Pane didn’t thrill me makes what I’m about to say all the more surprising: it’s pretty great rye. Maybe hardcore rye enthusiasts would find fault, but it’s the first time I can remember rye bread contributing to the betterment of a sandwich. They only bake it on Mondays, so plan your rye visit accordingly.

The Swiss held up well in the sandwich as well — a generous serving of it, thick and melted and gooey. The bitterness of the bread, tanginess of the kraut, and mild spice of the sauce came together to make a fine sandwich. What kept it from being a fine Reuben was that pastrami.

Don’t get me wrong, that beef tasted fantastic. It just didn’t taste much like pastrami. It was savory, juicy, and flavorful but lacking that extra peppery seasoning that gets me salivating at the sound of a bell. It’s a semantic argument, really, one that might entertain any schadenfreude prone vegans out there. Not a great Reuben, but an outstanding Eric, and an excellent foil for this gastropub’s true siren song: their beer selection.

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Who doesn’t love pastrami?
Who doesn’t love pastrami?
Place

Sessions Public

4204 Voltaire Street, San Diego

I’ve been seeing a lot of house-cured pastrami popping up around town — at Counterpoint, in the food truck New York on Rye, and at the Heart & Trotter butcher shop for example. I don’t always order it, but it’s always a close call.

I mean, who doesn’t love pastrami? Vegans and vegetarians shun the stuff through sheer force of will, and the Internet is littered with the recipes of people trying to emulate the cured beef with tofu, tempeh, seitan, and even beet. Crushed peppercorn, coriander, garlic, and onion are bound to make such ingredients taste better, but take away that brined beef and its clear those guys are chasing rainbows.

When I visited Point Loma’s Sessions Public, I thought I was going to order the fried chicken. But my eyes kept drifting back to the word “pastrami” on the menu. Then my waitress told me her favorite dish was the pastrami sandwich, or maybe the pastrami poutine. At some point during deliberations I realized: I’ve developed a Pavlovian response to the mere mention of pastrami. I was drooling into my beer — the first of three Fall Brewing IPAs I ordered from the restaurant’s reliably good tap list.

I ordered the sandwich. Now, as much as I adore pastrami, I’m not so much a fan of its most frequent breadmate: rye. I requested a substitution, which I was told would be an artisan country bread from Liberty Station bakery Con Pane. Fine by me. I sipped beer and nibbled on Sessions’ staple duck fat truffle fries while I waited. It was shaping out to be a fine evening.

For $15.50 The Eric sandwich comes with housemade pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, and spicy Thousand Island dressing. I dunno, I guess replacing Russian dressing with Thousand Island keeps it from being a Reuben? I’m not trying to stand on tradition, but given how close the two dressings are, I wasn’t seeing the need to rename a sandwich over it. Maybe if they didn’t default to rye?

However, they do, and my substitution didn’t go through. I got the rye, also baked by Con Pane. That the last bread I got at Con Pane didn’t thrill me makes what I’m about to say all the more surprising: it’s pretty great rye. Maybe hardcore rye enthusiasts would find fault, but it’s the first time I can remember rye bread contributing to the betterment of a sandwich. They only bake it on Mondays, so plan your rye visit accordingly.

The Swiss held up well in the sandwich as well — a generous serving of it, thick and melted and gooey. The bitterness of the bread, tanginess of the kraut, and mild spice of the sauce came together to make a fine sandwich. What kept it from being a fine Reuben was that pastrami.

Don’t get me wrong, that beef tasted fantastic. It just didn’t taste much like pastrami. It was savory, juicy, and flavorful but lacking that extra peppery seasoning that gets me salivating at the sound of a bell. It’s a semantic argument, really, one that might entertain any schadenfreude prone vegans out there. Not a great Reuben, but an outstanding Eric, and an excellent foil for this gastropub’s true siren song: their beer selection.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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