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Lobster Beats Turkey
by Natalie Villacorta | Aug 9, 2012 8:55 am
A Tale of Two Turkeys hit the big time Wednesday night, with a local crowd both biting in and turning in.
The crowd gathered at the Book Trader Café on Chapel Street to watch the latest episode of the Travel Channel’s “Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America” —in which Tale of Two Turkeys, a signature Book Trader dish, took a starring turn in a taste-off among New England favorites.
The sandwich didn’t end up winning the episode’s competition. But it won raves nonetheless both on air and off.
As the segment began, the speakers went silent on the Book Trader’s patio, where friends, family, staff, and loyal customers gathered around a big screen gasped: “No!” and shouted, “Come on!”
“Can anyone read lips?” someone asked.
After a heart-wrenching minute of noiseless shots of familiar bookshelves and faces, the sound was restored. The crowd erupted into cheers and whistles.
It was “Turkey Time,” as the pins on many of the guests’ shirts announced.
The crowd patiently watched show host Richman bite into a crunchy crab grilled cheese from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and then into a zesty lemon lobster roll from Maine. Richman raved about both. Then he returned to New Haven for the “sandwich near and dear to my heart…and my stomach.”
Richman owes the start of his career to the Book Trader, which paid him $140 for his textbooks after he graduated from Yale School of Drama in 2003. He was broke; the money paid for the gas to get him to Minneapolis where he had an internship.
As a student he was a regular at the Book Trader.
“For some reason, he has always loved that oven-roasted turkey sandwich,” recalled Book Trader owner David Duda,. “We think we have better sandwiches.”
The Book Trader’s bestsellers are the Tempesto, a ciabatta roll with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, and balsamic vinaigrette and the Jane Rare, a roast beef sandwich with field greens, horseradish mayo, and goat cheese. But A Tale of Two Turkeys is Duda’s baby. It’s the only sandwich on the menu that he, not a professional chef, created. “I just put everything I like on a sandwich and it came out good,” he said.
The sandwich is made on onion rye bread brought from New York City every morning. Inside is cole slaw made with both red and green cabbage and carrots, a slice of Swiss cheese, and a house-made Russian dressing containing a “secret spice blend.”
The most important ingredient, of course, is the thick-cut turkey that’s roasted in the Book Trader’s oven.
“That’s really special. You don’t find that in a lot of delis,” said head chef Jennifer Tift, who has worked at Book Trader for almost 10 years. She said the recording of the episode renewed her appreciation for the turkey sandwich. She “hadn’t tasted it in a couple years.”
The Tale is actually one of two turkey sandwiches the store makes. (Hence “Tale of Two Turkeys.”) The one featured on the show is oven roasted. The other is smoked, with orange-cranberry chutney and mesclun greens on sourdough bread
“You’re invited to my house any Thanksgiving you want,” Richman said to Tift on Wednesday night’s episode, as he watched her carve the buttery turkey.
As the show aired, the turkey sandwiches went fast in the cafe.
At the commercial break, right before the winner was announced, Judy Desphande, Duda’s girlfriend, cried out, “He’s a winner no matter what happens!” as Duda passed out small cups of champagne.
Eyes were glued to the screen as Richman prepared to announce the winner. Duda and Tift embraced in anticipation.
The verdict: The lobster defeated the turkey.
Some people booed. Others kept smiling—and not just from a post-turkey tryptophan rush.
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