On a cool and breezy Saturday night at the Ryder Cup Bar at the northern end of Kiawah Island, I was sitting there with a terrific glass of wine and trying to decide what to have for dinner. Anything on the menu was bound to be good, because we were sitting outside on a small deck that wrapped around the bar, overlooking the 18h Fairway and final hole of the Ocean Course golf course where the 2012 PGA Championship had been played…and just beyond was the Atlantic Ocean.
To set the tone, here's a shot of the view:
Anyway, the server said, hands-down, the best sandwich (“to die for”) was the pimento cheese. Now, I have bought pimento cheese from the Harris Teeter and Whole Foods, which are okay. I have had it made by the chef at the 42ndStreet Oyster Bar, which is really good. And I like pimento cheese. So, I said yes.
Have you ever had one of those moments when you put a bite of food in your mouth and the rest of the world and its worries melt away? I had one that night. It was the best sandwich I thought God had ever allowed to be made.
So this past weekend, I decided to see if I could recreate it myself. Shouldn’t be too hard, except that I didn't know what was in the sandwich. That turned out to be easy to fix, as I could just find the menu from the Ryder Cup Bar online and read all about the sandwich there.
I should add that I have some experience in this as I once made some really gooey chocolate dessert for a customer at the Border Café in Raleigh when he ordered it and everyone in the kitchen had gone home. I just read the description of the dessert from the menu, put a lot of chocolate on some vanilla ice cream, topped it with whipped cream and a cherry, and I was home free. But I digress.
So I started reading… "fried green tomatoes, goat cheese pimento cheese, thin sliced country ham and put between two slices of jalapeno bread".
Where to start – since I live so close to Harris Teeter, I went there first on Saturday morning, looking for green tomatoes. I found the person I always see there in the produce section and asked him. "Where are the green tomatoes?"
"We don’t carry green tomatoes…never have, nor does any place I have ever worked."
"But how do you make fried green tomatoes?"
"I don’t know," he said, looking at me with this sad grin.
I went over to the deli section… This very nice lady said “yes, we have country ham that we can slice thin, we do it a lot over holidays."
I told her about Kiawah, and that I wanted to make this sandwich. She smiled, sliced a piece and said to me, "try this with that coffee you are drinking while I slice the rest for you. And be sure to tell me how the sandwich comes out."
"Have you ever heard of jalapeno bread?"
"Yes, we have some right here."
After getting the pimento and cheeses, I went to the checkout counter, and the lady ringing me up, said to me "you must be making a great sandwich."
"I sure am," I told her with satisfaction and proceeded to tell her about my Kiawah sandwich. She smiled, probably glad that she was done with me, and wished me luck.
I was in business, but still no green tomatoes. So I went to Fresh Market and Whole Foods, and just so you know, they don’t have them either.
"Why not?" I asked the man at Whole Foods.
"Because they just wind up turning into red ones by the time they are sold, and it just doesn’t work for us."
"Any idea where I can get some?"
"Only place I know is the Farmers’ Market."
"That’s a long haul. I may pass on that."
I decided to sleep on this -- so, on Sunday morning, I decided to try again. I am such a regular at the Farmers’ Market, I got distracted in the rows. But then I found some -- a whole basket of field green tomatoes at $1.99 per pound. I got three and gave the lady my card, as I had no cash.
"I’m sorry; we have a $10.00 minimum for cards. Do you want some watermelon to help get you to $10.00?"
"No, I don’t think so", and walked slowly away.
It was just not meant to be.
Then, two hours later I was back with cash, made my purchase and went home to make the greatest sandwich I had ever had. I put everything into it I could and used pretty much the same ingredients.
I had spent two days thinking and obsessing about this sandwich. I was so excited.
But you know, my kitchen, as nice as it is, doesn’t overlook the final hole of Ocean Course and the Atlantic Ocean. So while, it looked very good, I was afraid it would not live up to the experience that Kiawah’s sandwich had been.
But never underestimate what two days of obsessing can do. The pimento cheese sandwich this past Sunday was… simply amazing!
You can go home again!