Who Knew: Taking the Eight Sandwich Challenge

‘Who Knew?’ is sponsored by Walter Stewart’s Market. Once upon a time, men dressed like Cary Grant, and sandwiches were what people ate for lunch. From kindergarten classrooms to corporate boardrooms, one could observe people at midday consuming an ingeniously portable combination of ‘bread’ and ‘things.’ There was an order to life, and while I’m not suggesting that correlation is causation, it’s worth noting that, back when we all ate sandwiches, nobody wore Celtics jerseys on airplanes or flossed their teeth on the subway. 

Perhaps it’s a profusion of choice–granted, much of it positive and health-minded—that’s gotten us away from such norms. Kindergarteners, if Instagram is to be believed, now dine on elaborate bento boxes of hand-shelled edamame, hummus, and gluten-free, organic pretzels. Office folks can now Uber Eats an uninspired hexagonal tub from Sweetgreen, undertip the guy in the lobby, and sprint back to volley emails into oblivion. 

It’s also the sandwich’s fault, or at least the modern fast-casual incarnation of the sandwich’s fault, that our ardor for a handheld square of lunchtime bliss has cooled. Have you ever been to a Panera?

Who Knew, Cagematch Edition: Solé vs. Spiga

‘Who Knew?’ is sponsored by Walter Stewart’s Market. If the Shrimp Index is any indicator, we’re experiencing a boom time on the New Canaan restaurant scene. 

Let me explain this metric, because I invented it 30 seconds ago: the Shrimp Index is the number of ways in which you can have shrimp prepared and brought to your table on any given day. My data acquisition methods may be lazy, but it seems at first AI-assisted count that you can get at least 49 different shrimp dishes in town, unless it’s

Monday, in which case, you’re eating popcorn over the sink, my friend. But Tuesday through Sunday, this index is a handy quality-of-life metric, and if Zillow chooses to include the Shrimp Index on their future real estate listings alongside Walk Scores and School Grades, my earnest hope is to buy a boat with the residuals. When it comes to fine dining, we’re doing mighty fine. 

The answer is in the shrimp. 

But this isn’t an article about shrimp (note to self: write article about shrimp).

Who Knew: New Canaan Life Hacks

‘Who Knew?’ is sponsored by Walter Stewart’s Market. It’s summertime and, with all due apologies to Mr. Gershwin, the living’s not that easy. Metro-North has forsaken us, traffic is brutal, there’s been an uptick in actual ticks, and between recent bouts of record-breakingly bad air quality and blowout-destroying humidity, one might feel vaguely at odds with the elements this season. Or at least that one can no longer enjoy the kind of summer that Porgy, Bess, and later, Will Smith romanticized in song. 

To be clear: these are tongue-in-cheek problems of a most suburban variety. Yes, we live in a ZIP Code of smoothed-out edges and air-conditioned SUVs, and obviously, many places on the planet have it far worse.

Who Knew: The Best ‘Open House’ of the Year

‘Who Knew?’ is sponsored by Walter Stewart’s Market. “Week-end crowds have been blocking traffic on Ponus Ridge in this conservative old community of early colonial homes, with hundreds of residents turning out in holiday mood to inspect Philip C. Johnson’s all-glass house. While workmen put the finishing touches on the ‘private’ residence and the adjoining guest house, startled, uninvited visitors tramp about to view the results with mingled expressions of awe, wonder and indignation. They agree that nothing like it ever was seen in these parts.”

— The New York Times, December 1948

The first time I can recall hearing the words “New Canaan” was in an undergraduate survey class of modern architecture, in a hot, sleepy room lit only by images of Philip Johnson’s startlingly simple, rectilinear Glass House on a slide projector. I’d never seen a house so effectively magnify what was beautiful around it.

Who Knew? And Then, There Was Pizza

‘Who Knew?’ is sponsored by Walter Stewart’s Market. The worst pizza I ever had was in a former Eastern Bloc country where I was shooting a TV commercial. A miscommunication (my fault) with the friendly set caterer meant that my slice arrived with no sauce, a greasy slick of Edam cheese, and a single, uncut, lurid red hot dog.  It was undercooked, visually startling, and, if I’m being honest, not that bad. 

Even bad pizza is still pizza, which is, by definition, good. 

But, for a concept so patently indestructible, pizza is also subject to some 900-degree opinions. Variables in its production, like geography, water source, flour type, leavening, canned tomato brand, olive oil, mozzarella provenance, and oven fuel, each engender some intense debate, and millions upon millions of food journalism column inches have been dedicated to their impact. I’m not necessarily here to add more, as I’ve had pizza of all stripes, thicknesses, and levels of purism that have done the pizza trick at the right time.