Friday, January 13, 2012

<$5: The Tuck Shop - A $4 sausage roll that rocks PLUS It's Tim Tam Time!



Landing the most scrumptious sausage roll at the Tuck Shop NY



The Tuck Shop Revisited for Tim Tams, Mint Slice, and a runny meat pie

The Tuck Shop featured in my "Best Job In The World" application
The Tuck Shop? Never 'eard of it!

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HOW DO you make a sausage roll? Put it on a hill and push it.

That's the ├╝ber clean joke about this snack from my kindergarten days, when the local Aussie "tuck shop" or school canteen dispensed greasy, fatty pies, pasties and sausage rolls to a nutritionally unenlightened public.

Oh how we loved that flaky bakey crap.

The pie - something that has never taken off in the USA except in the form of a 'pot pie' - was a pastry case filled with drippy, peppery mince in a brown gravy strong on Worcestershire sauce. How did you eat it? Peel off the pastry lid and eat that first. The using your index fingers, scoop out the filling and suck it off your fingers, ouching at the temperature. Finally, hoe into the pastry base.

The pastie (pronounced parse-tee) - no doubt a Brit hangover from a convict heritage - resembled the modern empanada with a bland stew as a filling. The healthier of the three, due to the presence of a 1/4" cube each of carrot, potato and celery.

The sausage roll - not my favorite snack due to its unabashed greasiness - was basically a cylinder of salty, peppery pork mince wrapped in flaky pastry and served hot. To eat it, you peel off the pastry first, then eat the denuded pork cylinder.
The sausage roll that rocks - sage and flesh of ex-pig. Vegetarians look away - to the chick pea version.
Fast forward 30 years to my talk at the 5 Borough Bike Club in NY, and the organizer Barry Hartglass has sourced a platter of Aussie food (sans the Fosters) in honor of my Aussiedom. Where from? The Tuck Shop, a dingo burrow on the lower east side of Manhattan.

The pork and sage sausage rolls, a gourmet interpretation of the original log of saturated fat, left a taste in my mouth that had me salivating at the memory for a whole year before I was finally able to return to NY and visit the source. I think I scarfed three in quick succession before, during and after my talk. No wonder no one could understand what I was blathering let along decipher my accent. It was juicy and tender, light and fragrant, savory and scrumptious all at once.

And here I now stood, in the Tuck Shop itself, purse poised in anticipation.

But which roll? There was a chick pea one too, for those who refuse to eat the flesh of dead animal.

"I think you're after the original," said Neil, the Oirish co-owner who opened the business because "there was already enough Irish bars." The reprise did not disappoint. In a bulimic moment I also scarfed the chick pea version, then a lamb and vegetable pie ($5), then a vanilla slice ($4), all washed down with a perfect none-too-sweet home made ginger beer ($2). All shared - but not exactly half-half - with a friend.

The best part? A mere $3 investment for the signature dish. A couple of regulars sat at the bar, one brandishing the SPEND LESS edition of the New York Magazine.

"So how is the recession affecting the Tuck Shop?"

"Business is booming," said Neil, who is resisting raising the price of that nirvanic sausage roll in the name of lowering the nation's obesity level.

The Tim Tam run.

Later, I re-visited the store and stocked up on packets of Tim Tams and Mint Slice, the Aussie interpretation of a luxe, chocolate covered cookie. Called 'chocolate biscuits' Downunder, they bear no relation to the doughy, anaemic white flour biscuit Upover, and impress overseas guests to high heaven in the same way that packets of odd little Japanese wrapped sweets impress Gaijins.

Tim Tams are the King of Affordable Treats downunder. It's a chocolate cookie sandwich with a distinctive break an flavor that's evident from the moment your front incisors shatter the thin, chocolate shell, descend through the sublayers of crisp chocolate cookie before reaching the core, a thick layer that is at once truffle, fudge and ganache, yet none of these. The taste is distinctive - honey, chocolate, vanilla, burned sugar, yet not too sweet ... who knows what it is? It should absolutely be eaten from the refrigerator, to fully experience the unique 'break' (distinctly different from the ho-hum Oreo) and subdued sweetness that  chilling it affords.

I admit as an Aussie I was a little disturbed to see the American Pepperidge Farms logo on the packets, it being the new distributor in the USA. My first thought was, oh no, I bet they're now loaded with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat) or high fructose corn syrup, truly evil mainstays of most processed food in the USA. In Australia, we use plain old sugar - we grow a lot of it. But Niall assured me it was the original recipe, just re-branded.

But rather than have it stand like another soldier in the ranks of Pepperidge products, why not be clever and leave the USA branding off, promote it as an exotic downunder Aussie treat capitalizing on its heritage of addiction and rake in the cash. Why not take a leaf from another iconic Aussie treat, Homer Hudson ice cream. The brand imagery stayed folksy and funky when in reality, it was a big, bland Unilever stoking the freezers behind the scenes. If Pepperidge would pick the brains of Tim Tam's Antipodean Addicts downunder they would uncover a gold mine of marketing strategy.

Because Tim Tams are no ordinary cookie. They are that strange and elusive combination of a premium, yet affordable supermarket aisle product, and ironically something you never actually tire of, like fresh squeezed orange juice. It is well known that sitting down with a packet of Tim Tams in front of a television is dangerous - you will systematically demolish the entire packet then go looking for more. Just read some of the rapturous remarks about this Aussie diet destroyer on the Saatchi Lovemarks site.

I haven't ranted on about Mint Slice to the same degree, because they have a stronger, sweeter, richer taste - you simply can't eat as many and so rank lower on the addiction scale.

OK, back to the hot stuff.

So how do you make a sausage rock? Roll on to the Tuck Shop!

www.tuckshopnyc.com



Above: Owner Lincoln with my Bike Friday tikit - which slotted neatly under a bar stool ...

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