Friday, July 27, 2012

Cassiopeia, Epic Systems 1979 Milky Way, Verona, WI

Known to some as the conceited Queen Cassiopeia, known to many more as that one constellation that you find using the Big Dipper, and known to all as my workplace's celestial cafeteria, Cassiopeia has become as commonplace in our culture as Cab Calloway or Khloe Kardashian. The day is July 10th when the stars of this stupidly-shaped constellation align in what this cheesesteak connoisseur has since dubbed, “my birthday.” I turn 22 this day, and the coincidences are hard to ignore. It may be a simple convenience that 22 is the exact number obtained when you subtract the year of my birth from the current year. It may be a simple convenience that Philadelphia was ranked the 22nd most dangerous city in the US in terms of crime, or that 22 is the percentage of Philadelphian females householders with no husband present. It may be a simple convenience that 22 is the sum of 5 (number of stars in Cassiopeia), 6 (for 6th President and Philly-lover, John Quincy Adams), and 11 (sum of the digits in 9/11). Overlooking all this, one would be elated when, come lunchtime, the Epic cafeteria is serving the 22nd most-requested Subway sandwich, The Philadelphia Cheesesteak. Unlike other sandwiches, which must glom the demonym of entire countries to achieve brand recognition (see: French Dip (1)), the Philly Cheesesteak is championed in cafeterias across the nation.

Bread [5/10]:

In this cruel world, it is not easy to find high-quality, mass-produced hoagie buns. This is one of the facts of life that torments the thoughtful Philly-ologist inside all of us, and the tender Philly-ologist inside of me is no exception. The buns surrounding the hearty meat on my cookie-cutter cafeteria tray were just another barbed whip to the back of my inner Philly-phile. Plain and airy, this sandwich's money-maker was hardly shaking. The only thing these buns did right was stay out of the way and that's enough for a failing grade of 5 out of 10.

Steak [9/10]:

Beyond the bun, my taste-buds are disoriented in a whole new world of unexpected flavor. As the always-effervescent Ayn Rand would say, “Bad steak is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.” The second part of that quote seems to have gotten away from her a bit, but the crux of it is this: a steak mistake can make or break a lunch break. On the day when this phrase faced its greatest barricade, my cake day, the steak came through in spades (2). One point must be taken off for the meat eventually cooling to room temperature as I ate, an issue which needs addressing. The basic laws of thermodynamics are against us fellow Philly-philes, do not bend to their will!

Cheese [3/10]:

Here at the Philly Cheesesteak Review International Headquarters, or PhChRIHq, our expansive team of consults rewards risk-taking. Sure, the luddite Cheesesteak reactionaries will criticize us endlessly for pushing the boundaries of sandwich-making, but we don't exist to please those Liberty Bell-riding, brother-loving chalk-biters. We have a vision where all cheesesteaks can unite in a glorious hoagie parade that spans the globe. Oh, what's that? Your bread is a little soggy? Join the parade brother! Oh, your beef is organically raised? March on comrade! But as with every parade, a line must be drawn, and here at PhChRIHq we mark that line in processed dairy. This starry-eyed sandwich wants to join the parade, but it is clearly made with (brace yourselves) shredded cheese. How do I know this? The cheese wasn't even melted! The criminal record on this cheddar is longer than a cheesesteak parade (which can be literally yards long). The mildly parmesan-esque shreds did little in comparison to the bold seasoning of the meat and called to mind images of the stale bags of shredded cheese in my refrigerator at home.

Sandwich [8/10]:

At this point you must be wondering, how can this smorgasbord of lack-luster ingredients coalesce into a sandwich deserving of 8 points? Patience, my friends, you have much to learn. What carried this sandwich 7/8ths of the way was that deliciously tender meat. The bread served as a blank canvas, allowing the meat to go all Jackson Pollock on its bitch-ass with flavor. So, where does the extra point come in, completing this unholy octet? You careful observers may already know. That's right, it's those perfectly sauteed vegetables, filling out the food pyramid perfectly. Onions and green peppers and red peppers, oh my! What perfect accomplices for this delectable escapade. Two points were lost for the lack of cheese in this choice combo.

Miscellaneous [10/10]:

  • Presentation [2/2]: 

I can't fault consistency, and there is unwavering consistency with the paperboard food-boat in which Epic serves all of their sandwiches. It's nothing fancy, just a beautiful sandwich against a red and white checkered pattern, classic. If that doesn't scream Philly to you, I'd bet you've never even visited the place.

  • Value [2/2]: 
At $4.75, this sandwich clocks in as the cheapest Philly Cheesesteak I've eaten to date. Then, I saw that the Smoked Salmon Plate with Caper Mayonnaise, Grilled Lemon and Rye Crisps was only $4.00, and I was a bit taken aback. That was, until I realized that Epic's values are in the right place. They know, as do I, that even a finely smoked seafood delicacy with accoutrements can't hold a candle to Philadelphia's finest. Recommendation: double the price next time, to really show the salmon who's boss.

  • Atmosphere [2/2]: 
When it comes to cafeterias, you can't beat Cassiopeia's stellar style (lol). The entire Epic campus is outstanding and yes ladies, the nerds are nerdly. Swish! It's a two-pointer!

  • Sides [2/2]: 
To be honest, this sandwich would have gone great with a side of fries. Now, I know they have fries, but that's only if I am willing to shell out the extra bucks and I am NOT willing. That being said, I did get a card and a box of fancy chocolates, which is more than Arbys gave for all my birthdays combined (take your beef n cheddar and shove it), so I'll have to give them at least one point. Oh right, and they offer free milk all day. All right fine, you got me, 2 points.

  • The Extra Mile [2/2]: 
They gave me a job there.

The Grand Total: 35/50 – An Average Cheesesteak
Calling this an average cheesesteak was a tough pill to swallow, but I did it and the effects are kicking in. On one hand, 35 is the highest score ever given, out of all the sandwiches I've reviewed (the other ones were 33 and 34). That is quite an achievement and I expect to read all about the proud team of chefs responsible for this tasty sandwich, in next month's newsletter. On the other hand, it was my birthday, and I had high hopes for, “An admirable cheesesteak,” or even, “A titillating cheesesteak.” This letdown is my burden to bear until the next cheesesteak comes my way. And no, it won't be Subway, stop with the emails people.

“Now all I gotta say to you wannabe, gonnabe, pussy-eatin' cock-suckin' pranksters, when the shit jumps off what the fuck you gonna do. Damn it feels good to eat a sandwich.”
- Geto Boys

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