It was getting close to noon on a Saturday in Little Italy. I was cranky, partly because I was walking with a limp. Not because I am old, but my right knee is. (Meniscus, who needs it?) My girlfriend and I were hungry and confused, surrounded by foodstuffs beckoning to us from booths at the Mercato on Cedar Street, San Diego's best weekly Farmer's Market. There were a hundred hunger solutions. Fresh sea urchins. Crepes. Panini. Ceviche. Beef Jerky. Hummus. Cheesecake. Peanut brittle.
That's when we spotted...the booth. My gal Jules and I looked at each other. In tandem, we both looked over at the booth. We swung our glances back, locked eyes, nodded and whispered "cheese" in unison.
Jules skipped and I hobbled over. The booth belonged to The Cheese Store of San Diego. The guy doling out samples was wearing dark shades. He was friendly, passing us half a dozen cheeses, as well as salami for me. Jules is a vegetarian.
We'd overstayed our welcome, but I had my eye on one more cheese—an unusual looking red-tinged piece. Red dragon cheese, it turns out, is buttery and spicy. It's Welsh cheddar with wholegrain mustard seeds and contains Welsh ale.
I tasted it, made a num-num noise and probably rolled my eyes.
"Oh yeah, that cheese really tastes great with turkey," the booth guy said. At that point, it's possible the skies opened, angels sang and the sun formed a spotlight there on the red dragon samples.
A sandwich? With turkey and this heavenly cheese? Where could that possibly be available?, I wondered.
"We sell that sandwich at our store just up the street," the booth guy said. I looked at him like I was a six-year-old and he'd just pulled a quarter out of my ear.
It didn't matter that my femur and tibia were scraping bone on bone. We were going to The Cheese Store.
I told the lady behind the counter at The Cheese Store (1980 Kettner Blvd.) that the Mercata booth guy tipped us to the Holy Grail of turkey-and-cheese sammies.
She smiled. It turns out he's not just a booth guy. That's her husband. Marci and Aaron Flores married in June 2014 and signed a lease for the store the same month.
Jules and I sat down at a wooden table inside the pristine white store. Marci brought Jules a mixed green salad with stracciatella, a soft, fresh cheese best known as the center of a burrata. This treasure-filled salad came with colorful rainbow radishes, avocado, strawberries, walnuts and a meyer lemon vinaigrette.
The sandwich is called The Turk. The Diestel turkey breast is served warm. Diestel turkeys are humanely raised, are fed a 100-percent vegetarian diet and have no nitrates. Along with the red dragon there are pickled onions, avocado and aioli, served compactly between a pretzel-bread roll. This perfectly warmed combination melted in my mouth. What a densely delicious find. I was so excited I took a bite before taking a photo (note chewed sandwich photo).
Walking out of The Cheese Store there was a renewed skip in my step. It was as if the red dragon had made a beeline to my achy knee and was temporarily acting as cartilage.