Whatever your critique of UK cuisine, I’ve always felt that the British do sandwiches really well.
Whether it be one of those roast beef on a bun jobs, wrapped in cling film (read: Ceran wrap) from a neighbourhood store, or a prepackaged egg/tomato/cress from Boots or Prêt, I’ve never felt that anywhere in North America can come close when it comes to the art of the simple sandwich.
Give me all the peameal buns, panini, bánh mì, hoagies, veal sandwiches, or subs you like, they simply can’t touch the good old British sarnie.
I’d say that horseradish has been a big part of my life since I went to university in London in the late 80’s. There, I learned to love the British favourite, the aforementioned roast beef sandwich. And it wasn’t a real roast beef sandwich experience unless it had lettuce, tomato, salt and pepper, and most essentially a big bloody great healthy kick of pungent, steam-out-yer-ears horseradish. Considering how much of the stuff I’ve consumed, I’m honestly surprised that my palate is in the still-sensitive state it is today.
Over my past 26 years or so in Canada, I’ve still picked up the odd jar of horseradish to satiate my needs, but to be truthful, most of it has been pretty crap, so I’ve always been on the lookout for something a little special. Now, Norfolk County’s Dennis’ Horseradish has been about since the 1960’s, so I’m surprised I hadn’t come across their products before, but the company has gone through a bit of a transformation as of late, with a change in ownership, sizeable investment in the manufacturing process, and a complete rework of both branding and packaging… but more about that packaging later.
Despite all of these changes, the owners have had the wisdom to retain Rick Hantz, the company’s master horseradish maker since 1977, and, according to press materials, “one of the architects behind the brand’s signature grind”, apparently a “well kept secret”. Well, whether that is all marketing spin or not (they also refer to a new “Horseradish Movement”), the final product sure does taste good, and I can see this being a brand that I actively seek out in the future.
In partnering with The Butcher Shoppe, Franco has created some fascinating themed selections of various meats, so not just steak. My personal favourite has been his homage to the Steakhouses of NYC: 2 x 24 oz U.S. Prime Ribeye Steak, inspired by the classic cut from Delmonico’s, 1 x 38 oz 30 Day Dry-Aged Porterhouse, inspired by the Porterhouse at Peter Luger, 1 x 16 oz Double Smoked Dry-Cured Bacon Slice, another Peter Luger classic, my personal favourite 1 x 24 oz Mutton Chop, made famous by Keen’s Steakhouse where it is their signature item, and a huge 1 x 32oz Colorado Rib Steak.
I’m seriously praying that these quarterly deliveries of vacuum packed deliciousness won’t be the death of me, as I can safely say that I have never eaten so much red meat; on the plus side, our son is acquiring quite the taste for speciality grilled meats.
Getting a seven-year-old to understand and enjoy horseradish, however, is another thing entirely, but I appear to have finally succeeded in my mission.
Having been scared off by Oysterboy‘s fresh horseradish and sushi’s “Spicy Avocado” (read: Wasabi/Japanese Horseradish), the very word has sent him scurrying under the dinner table for a good few years, but as he has slowly come to appreciate the pleasures of good steak cooked just so, he has gradually warmed to the earthy heat of prepared Ontario horseradish, and for this I must give my thanks to Dennis’. Now he loves the stuff, but as of yet I haven’t introduced him to the “hot” or “extra hot” varieties; I’m saving those for my roast beef sandwiches.
Now, as to the design… Upon inquiry I was to discover that the reasoning for the upside down packaging is to maintain the horseradish’s contact with the vinegar in order to keep it from drying out, a common issue with jarred horseradish. Now, I live with a partner and son, neither of whom are very good at putting the tops back on jars properly… cue some rather unfortunate messes on our wooden dining room table and inside the fridge; the air was utterly blue when I discovered the latter. However, this is a rather small gripe with something I feel is a really pretty damn good local product. Great stuff.
Edinburgh-born/Ontario-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, educator, and dad, Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Senior Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s rather taken by this concoction.