Monday, August 6, 2007
Should Heston Blumenthal be planning a sequel to "In Search of Perfection," he doesn't have to crisscross the world in search of the perfect hoagie. It exists, as it has for 53 years, at a tiny storefront in Ocean City, New Jersey.
Usually I welcome culinary debate. Are the macarons better at Pierre Herme or Laduree? Which crab meat is sweeter: West Coast Dungeness or East Coast blue? Is Humboldt Fog one of the five top cheeses of the world or does it only rank in the top 10? I have my opinions, but well-reasoned arguments and numerous comparative tastings might sway them.
But my Hoagie Manifesto is carved in granite. Until you have tried the Basic Italian -- with hot peppers -- at Voltaco's, you simply have not sampled the Platonic Ideal of hoagies.
There's been plenty of twaddle printed in Mid-Atlantic newspapers and magazines as to what determines hoagie quality, with most articles including quasi-mystic references to the bread -- in particular, the water used to make the bread dough. Balderdash. As the attractive young woman I spoke to across the counter a few days ago said, "We use the best quality ingredients, more meat and cheese than most other shops and make the sandwiches only to order."
So, if you ever find yourself anywhere near Ocean City, proceed directly to 975 West Avenue, order the largest size hoagie and refuse to share it with anyone. And if you should run into Heston Blumenthal, expect to see an enormous grin of delight on his face.