Tag: grilled cheese

Two Absolute Must-Read Food Related Articles

just wanted to pass along two of the best food-related articles i’ve read in a very long time. they’re both fascinating for VERY different reasons and i highly recommend reading.

first off, the fantastic blog obama foodorama covers michelle obama’s amazingly enlightened, proactive, honest, and progressive stance on food justice, food policies, school lunches, gardening, nutrition, health, and the dangers of processed and fast food. she even talks about food deserts, a really important issue not given nearly enough attention. so glad that someone prominent, visible, and well-liked is discussing these topics.  and she does it without sounding preachy or elitist, just as someone concerned about all these important issues that happen to be inextricably interrelated. obama foodorama calls her ‘the new leader of america’s food movement’ and i’m psyched about it. so obsessed with her…

secondly, you must read this article from my hometown boston globe on…[grilled cheese]. just do it. then read the comments. all 300+ of them. seriously. chris and i spent at least two hours doing so last week, and i laughed, cried, ranted, railed, and generally just shook my head in amazement at the ingenuity/hilarity/stupidity of humankind.

once you read that, you’ll know why i’m slightly disturbed to have made grilled cheese for money, and for my whole office:)

a crowning achievement in sandwiches and a hot cheese avalanche from kappacasein

toasted cheese sandwich from kappa casein

you’re looking at what i feel quite comfortable saying is one of the best sandwiches on the planet. behold the toasted cheese sandwich from kappacasein, a small stall with a big reputation in london’s famous borough market.  regard the oozy, gooey mix of montgomery cheddar, keen’s cheddar, and ogleshield cheeses that i kind of want to rub all over my face, or perhaps bathe in, if that weren’t socially unacceptable. feast your eyes on the impeccably browned poilane sourdough bread and note the subtle purple and green glints, hinting at powerful flavors, of five types of onions. these nine ingredients, assembled in a short stack and quickly toasted in a hot  press, form a warm and crunchy slab of  toasted cheese perfection.  OH MY GOD SO GOOD. truly, this is a crowning achievement in sandwiches.

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a night of slow roasted perfection, a grilled cheese winner, and hybrid broccoflower bearcats

if you saw any of the photos from the recent iron chef bacon smackdown, you’d know that my friend kwame is a redonkulously good cook.  he possesses a unique and extremely rewarding combination of an all-consuming love for food, a willingness to experiment, a natural curiosity for processes and flavors, a desire to search for the best ingredients, and the commitment  to wake up at 7am to check on his slow-roasting oxtail when he went to bed drunk at 3am. now that is some serious dedication, and some crazy good luck for those of us fortunate enough to attend the four course dinner extravaganza at his place last night.

i really enjoy kwame’s style of cooking – he’s focused and clearly following a grand plan in his head, but simultaneously manages to be laidback, engaging, and a great host. he’ll have five burners going while he sticks two pans in the oven and juggles a cheese grater and a juicer and dude still looks relaxed.

this lovely bowl of upland cress (the spicier, more pungent cousin of watercress), butter lettuce, mint, and sage sitting in a few inches of water signaled that there would be some delicious fresh ingredients coming our way.

cress-butter-lettuce-and-mint

last week, i went on a shopping trip to the produce heaven berkeley bowl with kwame, jess, and annie. i bet it’s the first time the butcher has had anyone buy him out of oxtail, which is why it is nonstop entertainment to roll with kwame at grocery stores. he turned this ginormous bag o’tail into a phenomenal saffron risotto with slow-roasted oxtail, topped by a sprinkle of pecorino and parmesan cheese. BOOYAH.

saffron-risotto-and-table-setting1

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short ribs. braised in chimay. piled onto grilled cheese. daaaaaaamn.

i almost forgot: the austin grilled cheese invitational is taking place this weekend! i’m hoping to go for a replay of the grilled cheesey wonder of the dolores park san francisco invitational, but clearly we‘ll be pretty busy rolling around the streets of austin with the RVIP Lounge and Karaoke Cabaret. yes folks, it’s a shiny happy karaoke and rock band party on wheels.

in case i can’t make it to the competition, i’m happy knowing i had one of the best grilled cheeses of my life last night: kwame’s slow roasted short rib and cave-aged gruyere masterpiece.  as clayton said, it was a serious mouthful of oral orgasm. more on kwame’s four courses of amazing later,  plane taking off (we were downed with a medical emergency in the industrial wasteland of lubbock, tx), but i’ll give you some food porn to enjoy for now…

short-ribs-and-gruyere

establishing a high-performance culture of innovative grilled cheese practices

to whom it may concern:

as president and executive producer of corporate grilled cheese innovations, i would like to introduce our newest offering: the carefully architected grilled cheese production lunch hour. should you be interested in exploring the comprehensive and exhaustively researched grilled cheese initiative,  the resulting achievement of stated business objectives may resemble the following:

grilled-cheese-one

(okay, i’m not really opening a corporate grilled cheese business. although that would be kind of excellent, i am already moving to london to start this business. but i did have a fantastic morning of  semi-professional grilled cheese making at a financial district office, thanks to the invitation of my lovely friend julie, co-delicious food eater and co-conspirator at the grilled cheese invitational a few weeks ago. it was fantastic meeting her super cool and hilariously funny co-workers and grilling sandwiches on an empty desk in the middle of a trading floor. thanks guys!)

however,  should i ever decide to should i ever decide to solidify my role as corporate facilitator of inter-departmental grilled cheesery, i’d like to offer a potential scenario of how i plan to achieve an operationally effective grilled cheese vision.

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grilled cheese inspirations and a super fast tomato-chipotle soup

inspired by saturday’s grilled cheese invitational, my coworkers and i decided to make our own grilled cheese masterpieces at our today’s morning go game meeting.  one quick supermarket trip and one go game amex later, we had all the fixin’s for killer grilled cheeses and an easy sort-of-homemade tomato soup.

ok, rant warning:  i keep wanting to use the phrase ’semi-homemade’ but that conjures unpleasant visions of food network star and stepford-wife-clone-with-a-disturbingly-immobile-forehead sandra lee.  check out her website for some frightening recipes like this one for macaroni and cheese, which is essentially ‘make sponsored processed food item. add two more processed food items.  enjoy the chemicals!’.  every single recipe includes ’specially selected food items’ and ‘ready-made product’ brand names, which explains why she is launching a magazine when amazing ones like domino are shutting their doors. it’s because she is clearly choosing ingredients based on the corporate food conglomerate sponsors rather than what is healthy or tastes good. i appreciate the fact that she encourages people to cook rather than buy fast food, and that she encourages shortcuts to make people’s lives easier, but there are better ways to cook quick, easy, and cheap meals that are healthier for eaters, animals, producers, and the environment.  i’m certainly not perfect in this regard (see bright orange awesomeness below), but i try to make good choices when confronted by certain purchasing decisions, like in making the tomato-chipotle soup. i’ll try to give suggestions throughout this blog for how to avoid highly processed packaged foods in favor of fresher, healthier options, and i’d love to hear anyone else’s suggestions as well. alright, rant over.

wooo, got sidetracked there. back to grilled cheeeeeeese. erin and i brainstormed on our walk to the supermarket and then picked up more ideas based on what we saw at the store. sliced portobello mushrooms, avocados, tomatoes, and fresh basil for greenery. boursin spreadable cheese (secret ingredient of my friend kellin’s kickass GC) and orange cheddar for classic GC steez. grace baking olive bread and sourdough with wheat germ.  and a shitton of butter. we’re lucky that the 23rd and south van ness DeLano’s market has a good selection of organic foods and artisanal bread and everything except the ginormous brick of orange cheese (which had no ingredient list but was super cheap and nostalgically neon) was preservative free. partial ingredient lineup here:

ingredient-lineup

mmm you can practically see the ‘yellow 5 natural coloring’ reflecting back lovingly into your five-year-old eyes. as for the accompanying soup,  i actually had a huge can of classic campbell’s tomato in my basket when i decided to avoid its high fructose corn syrupiness if at all possible. so instead i picked up organic vegetable broth in a carton, a can of organic diced tomatoes, a can of tomato paste (ingredients: tomatoes!) and my new best friend, a can of chipotles in adobo. yes, it was more expensive, but nice to make your own, and hey, office supplies are deductible, right lisa? i tossed in the ends of the sliced tomatoes for texture and some of the fresh basil and it turned out pretty tastilicious. the veggie-riffic version of the sandwich below.

tggrilledcheese

respect to all the GCI competitors from this weekend – i knew their job was hard but straddling the delicate melt-yo-cheese-but-don’t-burn-yo-bread line is tough under pressure. but still…can’t leave cheese unmelted. thanks to erin for co-shopping and sous-cheffing, alli for dishwashing, lisa for okaying the above purchases, and finn, zach, and ian for eating. yay office lunches!

CHEESE-US Christ Superstar

i just got back from the kickass grilled cheese invitational in dolores park. this spectacular event featured sixty competitors divided into three heats, each producing grilled cheese creations for the ravenous and excited crowd to devour, ponder, and vote by ballot for their favorites.  i bet they never imagined they’d be doling out their grilled cheeses to a screaming crowd of super-psyched sammich fanatics/judges yelling like preteen girls at a justin timberlake concert.  here’s how it worked, as far as i could tell. competitors submitted a sandwich for one of four precisely defined categories: ‘the missionary position’ for a straightup white bread/cheddar stand GC, ’spoons’ for your choice of bread, cheese, and butter,’the kama sutra’ for spoons PLUS any extra ingredients (but must remain 60% cheese) and finally, ‘the honeypot’ for sweet dessert grilled cheese. mmm. let the cheesiness begin.

as expected, there was a pretty massive crowd. san francisco + foodie people + dolores park saturdays + chance to dress up like food items + opportunity to stuff your face with grilled cheese = PEOPLE ROLLING MAD DEEP.  here’s a view of the crowd from up the hill:

crowd21

the old-school-drive-thru-line-cook-behatted competitors brought their own ingredients and set up their cooking station at a bunch of burners in lines at a few folding tables.

competitors

these tables were surrounded by an outer ring of tables to fend off the eager onlookers. once a competitor finished preparing a sandwich, they’d scan the eager outstretched hands, pump up the crowd with a ‘WHO WANTS BOURBON AND CHEESE?’ and then hand it over to a lucky winner on a paper plate with an attached ballot. not only was the sandwich making competition intense, but so was the sandwich receiving. see for yourself:

callingforcheese

i got there a little after the start time of 1pm, and missed the handout of orange wristbands that marked you as a judge and therefore entitled you to plates of sandwiches. this wasn’t explained too well on the website (some dude admitted they were a bit disorganized) but the vibe was great and people were giving out taster sandwiches anyway, you just couldn’t vote. then people started leaving and giving up their wristbands, and then competitors started handing out the plates to anyone, so we ended up with a pretty fantastic selection. free hint for future grilled cheese invitational attendees: you’re more likely to nab sandwiches if you scream a lot, wave your hands, and generally act you’re fourteen and robert pattinson is offering you a chance to touch his greasy hair. our method was chanting CHEESE-US, CHEESE-US, CHEESE-US, which led to all kinds of jesus quotations like cheese-us is our lord and savior, cheese-us christ superstar, and cheese-us is a friend of mine (seriously, please watch). i guess i worship at the altar of pan-fried buttery toast surrounding oozy gooey salty cheese as much as anything else.

julie

my friend julie might just be the best person to ever accompany you to a grilled cheese invitational. she’ll bellow ‘I WANT SHIITAKE’ over and over again to score a wedge of sauteed mushroom glory, but then will promptly hand over all sandwiches for your tasting pleasure because she can’t eat gluten. angelo and i were forced to endure the tragically unfortunate burden of eating our share as well as  julie’s.

meiangelo1

the sandwiches, while generally quite delicious, were all over the place in so many ways. cheesiness scale ranged from unmelted cheese (gasp!) to it’s-not-a-grilled-cheese-if-you-can’t-taste-the-cheese to deliciously drippy gorgonzola cheddar mouthfuls.  the insanity scale went off the charts with a questionable combination of mushrooms and a huge pile of whipped cream. some sweet combos really worked – strawberries and ricotta – while others involving a dry and overly bitter dark chocolate didn’t. a photo selection including a hungry ballot box monster!:

sandwich-compoilation1

the ballots asked you to score the sandwich on a scale in the categories of taste, presentation, wessonality, and spaz. and yeah there was some seriously entertaining and hilarious spaz going on.

ballot

once you filled out your ballot, you’d hand it over to a ballot collector like this lady. i wish i was grilled cheese headpiece awesome like her:

cheese-lady

drool over this chocolate covered doozy of a honeypot:

other-cohoclate-one

here are the few of the awesome competitors. our first contestant is showcasing the bourbon honey dripper, with bourbon pears, and honey wrapped in a thin pancake. totally delicious, but more like a sweet crepe than a grilled cheese.  our second contestant is blowing a grilled cheese kiss. i didn’t get to try his creation, but i’m pretty sure he was the one in a hula skirt handing out dixie cup shots of maker’s mark. our third and final contestant is holding what turned out to be my favorite sandwich, the ‘menage a fromage’ with strawberries, almonds, ricotta, aged balsamic, and honey in a griddled croissant. also comes with magnum condom, ’cause it’s so good you’re gonna wanna fuck afterwards.’ i’ll have to add grilled cheese to my list of powerful aphrodisiacs.

competitors-three

overall, it was a fantastic event with so many excited people, so much creativity, so many awesome outfits, and mostly, so much cheesy deliciousness. bravo to all the organizers, all the competitors, all the people there, and especially the couple below. you know you’re in san francisco when even the banana costumes are certified organic.

organicbanana