Since I amongst esteemed and well-palated bloggers, I did my best to bring on a worthy sandwich with a drink to match . . . only to get butterflies in my stomach when fellow grillers Anna (@BananaWonder) and Andy (@Windattack) disclosed that they made their own bread for the occasion (or had it shipped from artisan baker far far way, more on that later) making my Panera Honey Wheat seem like the big corporate GMO'd bread of the night.
Just like the last Andy hosted gathering I attended, it was one of those effortlessly elegant, classy-yet-casual affairs that just provokes all sorts of conversation, food geekery and hipstery snapshot taking. And in good hosty fashion, there were snackages of nuts, olives and tangerines to nibble on while we took our turns grilling our sandwiches.
Starting our cheesy lineup was Andy with his shipped-outta-Michigan Roadhouse Rye from Zingerman's. Like Connie (@conbon,) I was skeptical of the bread at first (since rye can go south really fast especially if it's overloaded with caraway seeds) but it turned out quite lovely when toasted up, with a soft crisp, a delicate crumbly texture and a touch of molassey sweetness. And no one complained about the absence of caraway.
The bread made for a wonderful sandwich foundation as it was layered with sauteed chanterelle mushrooms, taleggio & gruyere cheeses and capers--a well-balanced, gooey sensation with hearty, meaty 'shrooms and an occasional pop of brininess from the capers. Definitely a recipe EVERY vegetarian needs to have on file.
Thankfully, Nathan (@chocomeat) brought a dry French apple cider as a pairing, as recommended by Domaine LA, whose crisp lightness, slight acidity and mineral effervescence served as a nice contrast against the heavy dish.
After such a hefty sandwich, we were thankful that Anna's creation was on the lighter side (as far as grilled cheeses go, anyways.) Using her homemade olive oil Tsoureki bread that's as feathery as an angel food cake, it was stacked and grilled with manchego cheese and quince preserves for a simple but divine combo of sweet-and-savory plus fruity-and-nutty, making me giddy-and-happy.
Keeping with the contrasty theme of drinking pairing, the wine for this was a 2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon straight from the prestigious cellar of Anna's folks, who in turn got it from good ole' TJ's. Initially puckery tannic, the quince in the sandwich actually brought forth more fruit and cocoa notes in the wine while the wine's acidity helped offset some of the sweetness--possibly creating an exception to the "white wine with white foods" rule.
Moving on is probably the most kama sutra of grilled cheeses, with Andy's other-worldly take on the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup combo. It consisted of his homemade naan coated in coconut butter and stuffed with grilled paneer & onions, served a side of sassy homemade masala sauce with who knows how many ingredients (I lost track when I ran out of fingers to count as he named off the ingredients.)
This sandwich kicked some major ass with all sorts of textures and flavors one'd never expect to find in a grilled cheese, from the vibrant aromatics of the mildly-spicy masala, to the pillowy texture of the naan bread, the distinct ginger-garlic-cilantro flavor from the marinated paneer plus the whisper of a crunch from the marinated sliced onions. Even conbon, who pretty much vetos anything with a smidgen of cilantro/coriander, asked for extra masala to-go with her half-a-sandwich to take home!
To pair with this unusual naanwich, Andy served up an equally eccentric beer, Maui Brewing's Coconut Porter -- a brew that's coffee-ish in color and initial flavor, but gets more coconutty as we noshed on more of the grilled cheese & masala 'soup.'
With everyone feeling plenty stuffed from the three courses of grilled cheese, I decided to make my Granny Smith Fizz as an intermezzo of sorts while I got started on my desserty grilled cheese . . .
. . . of mascarpone, mesquite honey, blackcurrant jam and whole blackberries on honey wheat bread (yes, inspired by version @ Syrup Desserts in downtown.) It was a tasty sweet treat (think warm, molten berry cheesecake) but next time I'd definitely grill or toast the bread on its own first, since the bottom slices got sogged up from all the liquidy components. But a messy sandwich only means finger-lickin' fun, right?
With our bellies more-than-sufficiently full from pounds of cheese, bread, butter and beverages, we spent the remainder of the evening collectively cleaning up (ever-so-slowly, in true food coma fashion) while engaging in more fun chit-chats about food, music and fashion . . . eventually leading into Andy doing an impromptu bow-tying demonstration and Conbon and me tasting Maui's Pineapple-infused Mana Wheat beer before the magical night comes to its inevitable's end . . .
. . . at least until the next potlucky get-together, involving some beery recipes. Can't wait to get my culinary creative juices flowing for that one!
But in the meantime, read the grilled cheese reports (and gush at even more photos) from Andy, Nathan, Anna and Connie! And a few more photos on the flickr set here.