I had never been to Paso Fino Restaurant, Bar & Lounge before this shoot. But, I can say with certainty that I will be back! The Jibarito de Pernil was something new I had never seen or tried before. It was delicious, authentic and I can already here it calling my name again!
When I receive an assignment I always read the story before my shoot. This gives me the opportunity to visualize an image to accompany the story before I even know what the dish/person/house looks like. It helps to inform my desicions on what photographs to create and which to avoid. The only problem with reading the story before I shoot is that by the end I HAVE to eat the dish!
Just try to read Jason’s story below and not want to try this dish!
By Jason Frye
I thought I was getting plantains on my sandwich. Was I ever wrong.
There are two groups of people reading this right now. One group is asking, “What the hell is a plantain?” The other group is asking, “Why the hell would you get a plantain on a sandwich?”
To answer the first question: A plantain is like a giant banana. You’ve probably seen them in the grocery store and said, “Look at that giant banana going bad.” That’s a plantain. It’s a little heartier than a banana, a little starchier, and less sweet. Most of the time when you see them on the menu at some Central American or Caribbean restaurant they’re pan-fried or mashed, sometimes made into a chip. I like them pan-fried.
In answer to the second question: because they’re delicious, that’s why.
But as it turns out, I didn’t get plantains on my sandwich, my sandwich was plantains. Or, rather, the bread was a plantain. Maybe it was two plantains. Either way, my sandwich was not made with bread, it was made with two pieces of smooshed flat, slightly under-ripe plantain into which a phenomenal sandwich had been made.
No one warned me; the waitress didn’t raise an eyebrow when this güero ordered Jibarito de Pernil, a sandwich the menu very clearly states is “made with flattened plantains instead of bread.” I just got what looked good and this looked good.
Roasted pork. Mayo. A little cheese. Lettuce. Tomato. And plantains. I envisioned a big round sandwich on that awesome Mexican bread, like a torta piled high with carnitas, a smear of mayo on one side of the bun, a smear of almost caramelized plantain on the other bun, all coming together in the sandwich of sandwiches.
But no. What I got resembled a foot-long sub on a strangely curved piece of yellow bread. I could see the pork and the lettuce, but no bread, just this, this, this plantain-wich. I was genuinely perplexed.
For a long moment I studied my plate, turning it this way and that, taking pictures for Instagram and trying to get a feel for how to start eating this thing. I decided I should eat it like a sandwich, so I grabbed the “sandwich.”
I expected to find the plantain mushy or greasy or somehow unpleasant to touch, but it felt solid and hearty, like a good piece of bread. It was fried, but not greasy; crispy, but not burned. Most importantly, it passed the taste test.
Most bread is unremarkable and on a sandwich really serves only one purpose: to keep you from eating peanut butter and jelly off your fingers like a savage or a preschooler — but this plantain, it added a dimension, flavor, texture. It improved the sandwich. Where the pork was rich and just a little greasy (as good roast pork should be), the plantain offered a little starch to balance it out. Where the lettuce was cool and crisp, the plantain was a little warm and, though the outside was a little crispy, the inside was creamier in texture. The tartness of the mayo was tempered by the mild sweetness of the plantain. It was perfect, the ideal bread for this breadless sandwich, a total surprise, and now a new favorite in my sandwich rotation.
You’ll find this sandwich at: Paso Fino Restaurant, Bar & Lounge, 29 Van Campen Boulevard, Suite 109, Wilmington (beside the Walmart and Cracker Barrel). Info: pasofinobarandlounge.com
Jason Frye is a travel writer and author of Moon North Carolina and Moon NC Coast. He’s a barbecue judge, he rarely naps, and he’s always on the road. Keep up with his travels at tarheeltourist.com.
Find the story on Salt Magazines website here: http://www.saltmagazinenc.com/?page_id=5043