Growing up in Charlottesville, Mason Hereford (Col ’08) wasn’t a fan of the bologna sandwich his mother used to make. It consisted of a couple of slices of bologna with yellow mustard and potato chips on white bread. “I thought it was gross,” Hereford says. “Something about it just really threw me off.”
On the other hand, Hereford couldn’t get enough of the turkey and cranberry relish sandwich—known as the Jefferson—made at the Market at Bellair on Ivy Road.
Today the grandson of former UVA President Frank Hereford (Col ’43, Grad ’47) is putting his spin on both subs at Turkey and the Wolf—his New Orleans sandwich shop, which was named America’s Best New Restaurant of 2017 by Bon Appétit. We talked with Hereford about Charlottesville and sandwiches, and asked him to share a couple of his favorite recipes.
Virginia Magazine: Did you always want to open your own place?
Three years before we opened, I started talking about how I wanted to open a sandwich shop. I think I chose a sandwich shop because of how many sandwiches I grew up eating in Charlottesville. I told people, “One day I’m going to have a sandwich shop called Turkey and the Wolf.” In 2014, I posted a photo on Instagram of the Jefferson saying, “This was the sandwich that started it all” and that Turkey and the Wolf was coming in 2016. I actually guessed the year for the restaurant opening, which was pretty funny considering it was still a couple years out.
How did you come up with the name of the restaurant?
I was dating a girl at the time who was really into wolves. I think she once said it was her spirit animal. We actually opened the restaurant together, and she’s still a good friend of mine. The turkey came because my old man, whenever we were acting up, he would say, “You’re a turkey.”
Where are some of your favorite spots to eat in Charlottesville?
I’m one of those people who think Bodo’s [Bagels] is the best. I really like El Puerto. Riverside [Lunch] is like my favorite food in the world. Dragon Lady Chinese food isn’t there anymore, but it was like the best Chinese food I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve compared everything to it since.
How do you come up with your unique dishes? Were there failures along the way?
Oh, yeah, sometimes you’ll work on a dish for a couple weeks before you realize it’s coming off a little bit forced. Ideally, the end product feels natural. Sometimes you get so excited about an ingredient or technique you’ve discovered that it just comes off as heavy-handed and bizarre, and the flavors don’t really come together. One time, instead of veal parmigiana, we tried to do a tater tot parmigiana. It was cool, but in the end it turned out to be way more work than it was delicious, so we scrapped it.
How do you remember your grandfather?
He was a cool grandfather, for sure. I remember when we were kids we painted “Happy Birthday, Pappy!” on the Beta Bridge and stuff like that. That’s what we called him—Pappy. We were always related to UVA through him. ■
The Collard Green Melt
(Makes 4 sandwiches)
For the collard greens:
10 cups of de-stemmed, washed, chopped-up collard greens (from about 4 bunches)
6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning (Zatarain’s recommended)
1 teaspoon Korean red pepper powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the coleslaw:
2 cups, packed, thinly sliced green cabbage
1/4 shaved white onion
1/3 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s highly recommended)
2 tablespoon white vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the pickled cherry pepper Russian dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s highly recommended)
1 teaspoon ketchup
1/4 cup roughly chopped hot pickled cherry peppers
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Korean red pepper powder
Dash of smoked paprika
Kosher salt to taste
For the sandwiches:
12 slices seeded rye bread (seeded with caraway, that is), sliced pretty thin; 8 thick-cut slices of Swiss cheese; room temperature unsalted butter for the toast
To cook the collard greens:
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant and cooked through. Add the remaining ingredients except the collards, and cook for 10 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld and develop. Add the collard greens. You may need to do this in batches, waiting a few minutes for the greens to begin to break down in the pot likker, depending on the size of your pot. Allow to cook over low to medium heat for 2–3 hours. Check to make sure you’ve achieved your desired texture and that the greens have an agreeable amount of salt, spice and acid. Let the collards cool in their pot likker and reserve until ready to prepare your sandwich. This can be done a day or more ahead of time. When it comes time to make yourself a sandwich, you can grab a tong full of the collards and a spoon full of pot likker and heat it all up in a sauté pan.
To prepare the coleslaw:
In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients. Wearing gloves, mix with your hands, massaging the cabbage to break it down in the mayonnaise. It should yield less than a quarter of the original volume when it’s all said and done. Taste to make sure you have enough salt and vinegar. Reserve in the refrigerator, as it tastes best on the sandwich as a cold component. This can be done up to a day ahead of time.
To prepare the Russian dressing:
Get a bowl and mix it up.
To make the sandwiches:
Brush some butter on both sides of each slice of rye bread and toast on both sides on a nonstick griddle or in a large nonstick sauté pan. Place a slice of Swiss cheese on two slices of bread for each sandwich and allow to melt fully (covering the pan or putting a dome over the bread will facilitate the melting process).
Meanwhile heat the greens in a sauté pan. To build each sandwich, place a handful of coleslaw on a cheesy slice of rye bread. Place the other cheesy slice of rye on top of that. Spoon your collard greens on top of that slice, being careful not to bring too much of the pot likker with them, as this will make the sandwich soggy. Dress the third slice of rye with a liberal slather of the Russian dressing, and place it face down on top of the collards. Cut it in half and eat it.
A spin on an Americano cocktail crossed with a Caipirinha cocktail, producing a refreshing, “grassy” quality.
1/4 ounce cane syrup
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce Campari
1 ounce Novo Fogo Cachaça Silver
1 1/2 ounce Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino
Add contents to shaker tin.
Shake contents with ice, strain into 12-ounce Collins glass, and add ice and club soda to top (roughly 3 ounces). Garnish with lime wheel.