The Prose and Condiments of the American Sandwich
Saratoga Springs, NY is known for a lot of things: their natural springs, their race track, their sparkling water in the big blue bottles. Even in the history of the American sandwich, Saratoga Springs represents something of a landmark, thanks in large part to the myth that the club sandwich may have had its origins there, alongside some early versions of the potato chip. While popular legends about the club sandwich and a crunchy potato sidekick prove difficult to verify, the city today remains a high-quality sandwich destination.
Putnam Market, at 435 Broadway, is home to perhaps the best turkey sandwich of all time. I speak from experience–I’ve been ordering that turkey sandwich since junior high school.
The High Rock is one of many specialty sandwiches named for local landmarks available at Putnam Market. It is comprised of house-roasted free range turkey breast, New York cheddar, cranberry mayonnaise, and fresh lettuce and tomato. While it can be assembled on any number of breads, it is best housed between the two halves of a fresh baguette.
For the sandwich crafters of Putnam Market, all trained in the practiced assembly of their sandwiches, a good sandwich with good mouthfeel and superior taste is all about the quality of the ingredients. Breads are delivered fresh from nearby Albany’s Bountiful Bread, tomatoes are sliced fresh, and lettuce arrives in whole heads, not bags. It’s all, as co-owner Catharine Hamilton says, “real food.”
Customers can taste the difference in the roasted free range turkey, and are disappointed when that juicy filling runs out and must be temporarily supplanted by ordinary cold cuts. The other secret to Putnam’s sandwiches, says Hamilton, is Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, combined with any number of flavorful additions, such as cranberry sauce, herbs, and pesto.
The High Rock is named for Saratoga’s High Rock Avenue, in turn named for the famous High Rock Spring. According to New York: A Guide to the Empire State (a product of the Writer’s Program of the Works Projects Administration during the 1940s) the spring and its medicinal benefits attracted many important figures to the area, mainly by way of exploitative business opportunities. The book points specifically to one instance in 1783 when George Washington attempted to buy the High Rock and several adjacent springs.
One hundred years later, the springs continued to attract those who were “health-bent,” while a blossoming “pleasure-bent” industry sprang up in the city around the nearby Canfield Casino, the very same casino where it is said that alongside the high-stakes gambling and flirtatious nightlife, the club sandwich was invented.
Check out Putnam Market here
and Albany’s Bountiful Bread here.