Following 21 Boxes to the Perfect Egg Sandwich
Story and photos by Janet McCue
Springtime in the woods can be glorious, with ephemerals like trout lilies, trillium and Dutchman’s breeches dotting the trails. But it can also be mucky when vernal ponds, ditches and springs fill all the depressions along the route. When this happens, an urban walk is the fix.
Last year my hiking buddies and I did an architectural tour featuring Ithaca’s best known architect, William Henry Miller. The tour brochure which we picked up at The History Center took us to churches (Greek Orthodox, Unitarian), a school building (DeWitt Mall), residences (Boardman House, Calvin D. Stowell House which is now the William Henry Miller Inn) and up to the Cornell campus where Miller designed several fraternities, the A.D. White House, Sage Hall and that iconic building in the style of H.H. Richardson, the Uris Library. Miller’s own house (122 Eddy Street) was also a stop on our tour.
This year my sister and I took a different theme: the electric boxes tour. Supported by the Public Art Commission with funding by the Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund, 21 artists painted 21 murals on 21 electric boxes around Ithaca in 2012. The Commission unveiled another 21 in 2014. I’d driven by so many of them over the past few years and smiled at the colorful creativity transforming the utilitarian boxes. Sheila and I decided a closer inspection was needed. We enjoyed our meander about town via the 21 Boxes route. Some artists painted whimsical scenes, others offered commentary on environmental themes. At several stops along the way, we ran into friends who told us their favorite boxes (several voted for the Swiss cheese box on the SW corner of Dewitt Park; others liked the electrical boxing match between the inventors, Tesla and Edison). There is a self-guided tour of the 21 Boxes project on its Facebook page but the 2014 additions aren’t listed on that map.
Getting hungry? The Circus Truck (parked in the Ace Security parking lot at 720 West Green Street, near Ithaca Agway) wins my heart.
A recent New York Times article on breakfast sandwiches linked to an online fundraising project: “Saving The NYC Egg Sandwich.” The campaign, developed by Brooklyn-based reporter Joseph Checkler, pledges to “save the adequate-but-underachieving NYC egg sandwich” by delineating the qualities that make the best egg sandwiches and listing them in instructional pamphlets to be handed out to Midtown NYC delis.
According to my scientific sampling, the ‘Tianwich’ at the Circus Truck exceeds Checkler’s standards. Named after Christian, a friend of the Circus Truck owner and chef J.P. Vico, the ‘Tianwich’ is not even on the menu. This means that J.P. definitely does special requests (#8 on the manifesto). The two eggs (nicely seasoned and never dry or overcooked, #1 and #2), the handmade sausage patty (#4), and the slice of cheese (your choice, #3) cover the toasted (#7) roll which is fresh (#5) and never overpowers the ingredients—in the case of the ‘Tianwich,’ the pesto, fresh basil leaves and tomato–on the roll (#6). Although I can’t vouch for whether you’d be warned if turkey bacon were being substituted for pork bacon (#9), I do believe J.P. would wax eloquent about any of his ingredients. I overheard him describing his fresh ricotta from Snow Farms Creamery in Brooktondale and yearned to order a second meal. I left a tip (#10) in his aqua-blue plastic piggy bank and vowed that next time I would try to select something new on his menu. Four of the other diners who were sharing the picnic tables with me had ordered one of the specials of the day: “NY xtra sharp cheddar steak sandwich w sapsquatch maple syrup, caramelized onions, chili mayo, fresh cut basil.” J.P. cooks all his food to order–his eggs are from Interlaken, and his maple syrup, many of his cheeses and other ingredients are also locally sourced–and he entertains you with his banter, his flourishes (watch the fire flare as he cooks up a vodka sauce), and his passion for good ingredients.
Perhaps when the weather gets warmer and J.P. serves up a late-night menu on the weekend, I could stray over into sampling some of his daily specials. For now, I’ll stick to the perfect breakfast sandwich. What say you Edible readers: where is your favorite Egg Sandwich and does it meet Checkler’s criteria?
Janet McCue is an avid hiker who enjoys both the beauty and the bounty of the Finger Lakes. Her website follows her six-day culinary trek through the Finger Lakes, a journey that Edible Finger Lakes covered in its July/August 2014 issue (“Hike to Eat”).
For more of Janet’s work, click here.