Today we stop by Williamsburg’s sandwich and provisions shop Depanneur, in search of something good to eat. Managing partner Nichelina Mavros, whose innocent obsession with cheese led to a career in food, suggests a sandwich. A pastrami sandwich, to be exact, made with honey-brined, coriander-crusted smoked brisket from Brooklyn Cured, sweet and salty butter from Roberta’s, house-pickled shallots, and the pop-in-your-mouth caviar stylings of whole grain mustard from Tin Mustard…
OK Nichelina, what do we have today?
Well our sandwiches are pretty popular. We have a really nice selection of regional and European cheeses, and meats and breads, and all kinds of local goodies, really, so it seemed to make sense to take some of these great things we carry and use them to make sandwiches. [laughter.] So I think a sandwich would be a good place to start.
One of our special sandwiches features pastrami from Brooklyn Cured. We really love this pastrami. Scott Bridi grew up in Brooklyn and started Brooklyn Cured a few years ago after running Gramercy Tavern’s charcuterie program. He was a chef too, so he knows a lot about meat and a lot about flavors. He only works with local, pastured meats, and he makes all kinds of great things.
He makes the pastrami with this wonderfully fatty brisket. He brines it for days in honey and spices, then crusts it with coriander, peppercorns and mustard and smokes it. It is delicious. So flavorful, so good.
For the sandwich, we slice the brisket nice and thin, and serve it on a Pullman rye from Balthazar with sweet and salty butter from Roberta’s, some Tin Mustard, and pickled shallots. The Pullman rye is really kind of spectacularly soft and delicate. The butter from Roberta’s is amazing, of course – pretty much everything they do is. The Tin Mustard is another Brooklyn-made product. It’s a whole grain mustard – they don’t grind the seeds, so they kind of pop in your mouth like caviar when you eat it. And we pickle the shallots here.
So the rye bread and the butter and are both soft and creamy with hints of sweetness. The pastrami is really tender, and has that rich, smoky, meaty flavor combined with the sweetness of the honey brine and the spice of the coriander , mustard and peppercorn crust. The Tin Mustard carries the sweetness note too, along with that sharp tang and spice and that texture that kind of pops, and it works really nicely with the pickled shallot to cut the creamy, melt-in-your mouth fattiness of the butter and pastrami.
Some sandwiches are better when you heat them a bit – it can really bring out the flavors. Or if you toast the bread, to add some texture. We don’t heat this one or toast the bread or anything, because all the flavors and textures are so wonderful as they are that they don’t need any help. It’s a really great sandwich.
What would you pair it with?
Hmmm. You know what would go really beautifully with it? The Belvoir elderflower soda. It’s from England, actually. It’s made with freshly-picked elderflowers, a little lemon juice, and sparkling water from their local spring. That’s it. I love it. Its light, herbal and floral flavors and the bubbles would all counter and complement everything going on in the sandwich quite nicely, I think.
So Nichelina, how did you end up here?
I was born in New York, but I grew up mainly in Texas, where we ended up because of my dad’s work. I’ve been back here in the city for ten or eleven years, and I’ve been working in the food industry for most of that time.
It started with cheese. Cheese is kind of my passion. When I was in college, I found myself reading all these books about cheese rather than reading the books I was supposed to be reading. [laughter.] Right after college I worked the counter at Bedford Cheese, and then I was at Murray’s, working in wholesale for a while.
I thought I might like to cook, so I interned in the kitchen at Five Leaves in Greenpoint. I learned so much. It was really great. I love them there. But I realized that I really like working directly with customers. I like being in the front of the house.
So a few years ago a few friends and I decided to open this place. We opened just over two years ago. I’m the managing partner, so I get to do all the fun stuff, like picking the products and that sort of thing. But it also means I get to do the not fun stuff too, like the books. [laughter.]
Depanneur is located at 242 Wythe Avenue, at the corner of North 3rd, in Williamsburg.
Photography by Morgan Ione Yeager. All rights reserved.