Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Hometown Gem

Location: Redlands, CA
Date: Aug. 19, 2011

When it comes to frozen treats, I am undoubtedly an aficionado. Give me a nice deep bowl of softend ice cream with a spoon and I'm a happy guy. Hand me a tall thick shake and I'll keep drinking until a brain freeze stops me cold. Take me to a self-serve frozen yogurt site and I tend to lose all control. A little bit of this and a little bit of that turns into a whole lot of probiotic-rich frozen yogurt by the time I make it to the scale, and have to pay for every single ounce I unwittingly acquired. Yes, the probiotic emphasis does help me mentally justify spending close to $10 for one sitting's worth of frozen yogurt's fat free (see, I did it again) creamy goodness. However, despite my overly consistent cravings for soft frozen desserts, I had been deprived of one intriguing type of cool treat until recently.

I found it easy to blame the fact that I've never had frozen custard on my lifelong residency in Southern California. Fortunately, my frozen custard problem was remedied by a picturesque little brick building in Redlands, CA.

I don't know why I hadn't been to, or even heard of, this place before I decided to Google the best places to eat in the Inland Empire, hoping to find a local chow spot worth my time and money that I hadn't been to before. In fact, it doesn't matter because my previous ignorance is irrelevant now. Google led me straight to a hometown gem! Oh, and there was a bonus...

Theron's offers sandwiches too! This revelation only meant one thing: my sister and I would be making the 15 minute drive to try some sandwiches and frozen custard.

After a slight detour, we arrived at a small brick building unobtrusively positioned just off the street specifying its address. Two surprises greeted us after entering and ordering: there was no inside seating, and ordering a sandwich meant that you could also receive a kid-sized cup of custard. Perfect!

Chocolate and vanilla frozen custard
When asked if we wanted the custard before or after the sandwiches came, it didn't take long to answer, "Now!" Who doesn't want dessert first when given the opportunity? We took our pre-sandwich offerings outside and situated ourselves in the shade of one of many vibrantly green trees. I was responsible for the vanilla because it is my favorite ice cream (and now frozen custard) flavor ever. Vanilla is a flavor that never fails on its own, and effortlessly plays host to any variety of ice cream (or frozen custard) topping or mix-in imaginable, no matter how creative or farfetched your sweet culinary mind becomes. Custard is richer than ice cream thanks to a heightened egg incorporation accompanied by a decreased integration of air during the production process. Sitting in the heat of another summer day, the cool temperature of the custard was instantly inviting. However, any ice cream, frozen yogurt or smoothie, for that matter, would have provided the same heat relieving benefit at that time. What really did me in was the texture and authentic vanilla flavor. The extensively chilled custard was rich, creamy and smooth. Each bite warranted a pause as the custard gracefully melted, and released its refreshing army of vanilla flavors to coat the inside my mouth, as if tasked with the mission to invade and takeover each of my defenseless taste buds. Before the battle was over, however, our sandwiches arrived.

Nevada Street w/ ham
My sister's choice was first up. She order the Nevada Street sandwich, replacing roast beef for her favorite lunch meat, ham. White bread, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, red onions and cheddar cheese were all cast in supporting roles. Each ingredient is clearly identifiable, and, as strongly supported by the few scattered crumbs left behind in the picture below, successfully collaborated with one another to create a recipe for tasty triumph.

Pleasing the picky palate of my sister is not always easy, but Theron's seemed to have done so effortlessly.

Zanja Special
Now, this behemoth is my kind of sandwich! Known as the Zanja Special, this midday meal between scrumptiously supportive swirled rye bread features perfectly sliced, melt-in-your-mouth pastrami, a welcoming amount of vinegary mustard, deliciously sour sauerkraut, fresh and crisp red onions and, last, but certainly not least, wholesomely holey Swiss cheese. Typically, when I eat out, I order items not readily available at home. Swirled rye bread, pastrami and sauerkraut are all ingredients that I hardly ever have on hand, so I couldn't wait to try the Zanja Special. The first thing that impressed me was the bread-to-meat ratio. In the perfect sandwich, there should be enough meat to necessitate a slight press on either side of the sandwich in order to allow your mouth to wrap itself around all ingredients, but enough bread to prevent the I-need-a-fork-now-because-I've-ran-out-of-bread-with-three-bites-of-sandwich-insides-to-go-and-don't-feel-like-carnivorously-using-my-hands scenario. Theron's certainly delivered a sandwich meeting this arguably picking culinary requirement of mine. I couldn't fit my mouth around each bite without slightly squeezing each piece of bread together. The flavors took it from there. The pastrami was not in short supply, and possessed a desired saltiness without being overly fatty. The sauerkraut was, well, sour, but slightly sweet, thus played nicely with the pastrami's salty side. A pleasant texture was provided by the onions' crisp nature. The presence of the Swiss cheese helped tame the vibrant mustard so its vinegary bite never became overpowering. Finally, the swirled rye was hearty enough to accompany the strong flavors of the sandwich without every becoming too dry.

Halfway through the Zanja Special, I realized I still had frozen custard left. It was melting fast, leaving me with only one option. I finished it happily as its cool sweetness helped counterbalance the bold flavors of the sandwich. With a fresh palate, I was ready to enjoy the rest of my lunch, and did so with great contentment.

Image courtesy of Ally Schmitz
Great food in a quaint setting is sure to give anybody that coveted, "Ahh!" feeling feverishly sought after during any culinary adventure. Whether its for a more flamboyant custard offering with mix-ins galore, or another satisfying sandwich, I'm sure I'll return to Theron's for another escapade at some point because its flavorsome offerings are minutes away from my own backyard.

What's your favorite noteworthy hometown gem? Share below and let the whole world know, or at least the small portion of the whole world taking advantage of the great opportunity to read this blog.

Interested to learn more about Theron's Frozen Custard? Check out their website here.

As always, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. I love frozen yogurt and frozen custard. And those sandwiches look amazing. If only this place was closer!