Firestone’s Market on Market in Frederick
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
A good pastrami sandwich is hard to find. I remember my father trekking across all five boroughs of New York in the late 1970s to find one that lived up to his standards. “The meat has to have good flavor and there has to be strong mustard on it,” he always told me. He instilled in me a deep love for the sandwich, but I’ve had less success finding stellar options here in Washington, except at Stachowski Market and Deli in Georgetown.
Then I walked into Firestone’s Market on Market in downtown Frederick -- a sister operation to Firestone’s Culinary Tavern next door -- where I discovered a pressed pastrami sandwich (all sandwiches are $4 for a half, $8 for a whole) that was well worth the nearly hour-long drive from the District. It’s the most popular item on the menu of this spot, which opened in 2006 but began serving sandwiches just last spring.
All the ingredients are made in the tavern’s kitchen, starting with the crusty Cuban-style white bread that creates sturdy bookends for the deeply flavorful meat. To make that killer filler, executive chef Jack Walker, 40, begins by corning brisket from Fells Point Wholesale Meats in Baltimore in brine spiced with toasted coriander and black pepper. The Middletown-based chef then smokes the meat for two hours and braises it for four more.
“Time is the secret to good pastrami,” he says. It is slightly marbled and generously cut.
The equation is completed with a spread of house-made mustard, some red onions and a layer of melted Swiss cheese that helps hold everything together.
The menu of pressed-to-order sandwiches -- which is available from open until close -- includes just three other choices. There’s the smoky pulled pork complemented by sweet cipollini onion marmalade and tangy celeriac-apple slaw, and an obligatory vegetarian option that’s overwhelmed by its strips of roasted red pepper.
The hoisin chicken salad tossed in a slightly sweet sauce concocted from coriander-and-cinnamon-spiced ketchup, molasses and soy sauce is another unexpected delight. It’s finished off with gingery pickles and a few fresh basil leaves.
In the few minutes it takes to sear your sandwich, browse the shelves of this packed-to-the-gills gourmet market. The compact space overflows with sea salts from faraway oceans, artisanal cookies, an extensive array of mustards, a case filled with cheese, and hostess gifts including napkins sporting gags such as, “We only serve fine wines. Did you bring any?”
In fact, there’s plenty of excellent vino to buy, as well as chilled beers and small-label sodas.