Photography by Karina Ramirez
Pineapple Mint Chia Water
I’m tired of alcohol. Summer has been too long. It’s time to ease into autumn. But without summer mojitos, refreshment seems limited to cheap sodas, fructose-engorged smoothies and fruit juices that effulge in their variegated colors like racks of paint samples. I need something that still has a touch of acidity. Maybe even vinegar. Yes, that’s exactly what I want, a Fresh Fruit Shrub Soda ($4) from PublicUs. It has two parts, the soda water and the flavor, or in this case the “Shrub”: fresh fruit (with rotating options like blackberry, strawberry and basil, raspberry and vanilla) macerated in cane sugar, strained and balanced with apple-cider vinegar. Left to sit a few days the vinegar and sugar blend, stripping away overwhelming sweetness, killing the vinegar’s kick, dissolving the sugar granules. As the aged shrub is poured over the freshly carbonated water, its dark syrup dances and twists through the ice, bobbing up and down with soda bubbles. All that’s left is a simple garnish, a strawberry or floating vanilla pod, and the drink is complete, ready to offer reprieve from summer’s still lingering heat.
To me sub sandwiches hardly merit any association with submarines. Dry stacks of meat and bread just aren’t fit for seafaring. But originating from Guadalajara, Mexico is a truly submersible sandwich, the torta ahogada ($8.50). Refried beans and a mound of shredded pork find their way on a savory bolillo, a baguette baked so crispy that just looking at it you’ll hear its crust flaking and cracking as steam rises from the pork into the bread’s chewy interior. Why such a thick crust? Because it’s going to take a tough structure for this thing to stay intact once the sauce, a brilliant-orange mixture of tomato and chile de arbol, cascades over the sandwich, sinking through layer after layer of bread and tender shredded pork. When the last bubble has risen through the crust, the torta rests in the center of the plate like an island in an orange ocean. It’s almost too orange, so we stuff in rings of pink pickled onions, white radish and shredded cabbage. The sauce begins to erode the bread. We better eat this soon, before it falls apart. The sauce, as thick and comforting as mom’s tomato soup, runs down our cheeks. Drops splash into the ocean on our plates. Our fingers punch holes through the bread as our teeth devour the meat, and, as the last bite goes down, a warmth overtakes us. Picking the last pieces of pork from our plate, we begin to understand the meaning of ahogada (drowned). The torta (sandwich) is drowned in sauce.