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Yes, we have no tomatoes

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Oh, the precious pomodori.

Maybe you've noticed the signs on the doors or the notes attached to the menus and ordering areas of your favorite eateries recently that say, in effect, "We have no tomatoes," or "We're low on tomatoes."

This past weekend I saw such a notice at the counter of a Subway shop. The note advised customers that there is a weather-related shortage of tomatoes and the restaurant might not be able to supply tomatoes for your sandwich. Despite the warning, though, the particular Subway I visited Sunday night had plenty of tomatoes on hand. Apparently Subway has changed the type of tomato they use and is also getting some from Mexico, instead of Florida, whose tomato growers were hit hard by bad weather this winter. But Mexico has also suffered from an unusual cold snap that has affected tomato-growing.

At Potbelly, I found a not affixed to a catering menu that explained "the recent cold weather across North America has had a severe impact on the availability, quality and cost of tomatoes. Due to these factors, we will temporarily cease to offer tomatoes on your sandwich. As soon as the tomato crop returns to normal we will add them back to your sandwiches."

From October to June, Florida produces about half the tomatoes consumed in the United States.

Of course, let's hope that for the sake of the people whose livelihoods depend upon growing and selling tomatoes the market returns to normal soon, but at the same time, is it really such a hardship if, not even a couple weeks after we were buried under a couple feet of snow and then suffered through below zero temperatures, we have to wait a little while longer or pay a bit more for a tomato?

Grahamwich opens: Bring cash

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The Grahamwich hysteria has crested.

Graham Elliot's much-anticipated sandwich shop at 615 N. State opened this morning, serving coffee and pastries from Fritz Pastry, 1408 W. Diversey. At 11 a.m., the sandwiches go live.

Most important thing to remember today (and for the forseeable future): It's cash only.

The Meatyballs Mobile is in business.

Phillip Foss' kosher meatball sandwich-dispensing truck officially hit the streets Saturday, after not much notice but for a few tweets. But then, this is kind of how Foss, who last month was canned as chef at Lockwood in the Palmer House Hilton, rolls, and we like it.

"This is so fly-by-night right now, I feel like an owl," Foss texted from the truck.

Foss has been talking food trucks for some time now. He tested the waters for one day on Matt Maroni's Gaztro-Wagon, and then again as a pop-up restaurant in Maroni's Edgewater storefront on a recent Sunday.

On today's Mobile menu: meatballs with marinara and mozzarella ($8); chicken curry with mango chutney ($7) and a cola-bourbon barbecue pork shoulder with apples ($8). Foss' secret to tender meatballs: good ol' fashioned Coca-Cola (which, as it happens, was the secret to the recipe he gave us for our story on helping your younguns develop global palates -- food truck foreshadowing!).

In other food truck news: The Gaztro-Wagon and three other Chicago trucks, All Fired Up, Flirty Cupcakes and Happy Bodega -- which launches tomorrow -- are contenders for the next season of the Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race," but you have to vote them in.

And the More Mobile, which is shaping up to be the Rolls-Royce of cupcake trucks, is aiming for a Sept. 15 launch.

Follow all of the above trucks on Twitter. Figuring out what to eat for lunch has never been so fun, or strategic.

In an attempt to sate your desire for even more sandwich-related tidbits (of the salmonella-free kind) after today's story on sandwiches, I turned to Harry Balzer of the market research firm NPD Group, the go-to person when it comes to what we, as a nation, eat.

The sandwich, Balzer says, has, for decades, been the No. 1 thing Americans eat. In a way, it's the last of its kind. "The sandwich requires your labor and assembly. And it in effect celebrates freshness and diversity," he says. "It's the No. 1 homemade dish in America."

Of course, that's changing. "At one point, 98 percent of all sandwiches eaten in our homes were prepared by someone in the home. Now that's about 90 percent," Balzer says. "Jimmy John's delivers."

And: Breakfast sandwiches have seen a sharp increase, too, he says.

Here's more, by the numbers.

Top 5 dinnertime entrees eaten at home:
1. Sandwich
2. Chicken
3. Beef
4. Italian
5. Homemade variety dish (casserole, etc.)

Top 5 most popular sandwiches at lunch:
1. Ham
2. PB&J
3. Turkey
4. Cheese
5. Hot dog

And the fastest declining sandwich in terms of consumption? The tuna sandwich -- for which Graham Elliot Bowles has graciously offered his recipe for the beaut below. If there's anyone who can bring the tuna sandwich back, it's this guy.

CHAPMAN SANDWICH 3.JPG

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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