The 2012 Grilled Cheese Invitational: Keeping It Cheesy
Executive judging LA’s annual Grilled Cheese Invitational is very akin to being tossed in a boxing ring with heavyweight opponents in every corner, simultaneously pounding you with cheese, butter and bread haymaker after cheese, butter and bread haymaker. Coupled with the 90 degree Pasadena heat, almost every blow lands with aplomb.
But, hey, someone’s got to do it, right?
And for the second year in a row I represented you fair Los Anjealenos in the city’s most decadent/delicious/stomach-churning eating festival. A whole afternoon dedicated to the celebration of all that is the wondrous combination of bread, butter and cheese (and, in many cases, pretty much anything else you could squeeze in between).
Like most competitions, when you get to the tenth such event, things start to get a little weird. Not to say the GCI wasn’t already rather odd – cheese haikus, anyone? However, to truly stick out in the 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational, Joe and Joan Homemaker and Chef Grilled Cheese from That Restaurant That Has an Awesome Grilled Cheese, really had to think outside the box to separate their gooey goodness from the crowd. This lead to some amazing grilled cheeses made of homemade pretzel bread, exotic cheeses, house-cured duck bacon, caviar and spicy macaroni & cheese. Someone even decided to include a candied $5 bill with their judges’ sandwiches!
Let it be known though: this judge could not be bought. After sampling over 50 grilled cheese masterpieces in my two assigned heats, there were some clear Los Anjealous favorites. I will tell you about them…
wait for it…
1. BLAME IT ON THE ALCOHOL
Bread: Homemade stout and oat bread
Cheeses: Gruyere, cheddar and American
Other Ingredients: Potato chips, tequila pickles, bourbon-glazed bacon, spiced rum and caramelized onion jam, white wine garlic mayo
2. PORQUE’ PIG DOES KENOSHA
Other Ingredients: Garlic, chorizo
Comments: The best chorizo-filled grilled cheese in a competition chock full of such entries.
3. EGG-LESS BENEDICT
Bread: Homemade bacon-cheddar
Cheeses/Ingredients: My bad – ate this sandwich too quickly to write down its ingredients.
Comments: The best egg-less benedict a man could dream of.
4. MY BIG FAT GRILLED CHEESE
Ingredients: Lemon herb lamb, tzatziki sauce
Comments: Greek for “awesome.”
5. PRETZ KING (THE BEERBARIAN)
Bread: Homemade pretzel bread (made with rye IPA)
Ingredents: Sausage slow-cooked in brown ale, carmelized onions
Dipping Sauces: IPA cheddar soup, ale mustard
Comments: They had me at “homemade pretzel bread” and basically made me faint at “IPA cheddar soup for dipping.”
[NOTE: Numbers are strictly for matching name to photos, not ranking the sammiches.]
Photos By Lindsay Flinn