Tagged: cheese

Arise, you prisoners of cheese depirvation

What is the alternative to the alternative?  Is it the same old thing?  Well, after making such a fuss last week about a breakfast sandwich from the crepe truck, my bluff was called on Friday by the presence of the Grilled Cheese Nation truck.  If they can’t make a knock your socks off cheese sandwich, who can?

I’m still looking for the answer to that one.  A great grilled cheese sandwich is not necessarily a great cheese sandwich. I ordered mine with bacon, about $7 with a bottle of water.  (A relative bargain in food truck terms, but I suspect many will be left hungry after just one such sandwich.)  GCN clearly has their basics down.  It’s grilled just right, buttery on the outside, pressed enough to hold together, cheese melty and gooey but not scalding, lots of options both classic and nouveau.  The cheese?  The menu calls it “Aged Mild Vermont Cheddar”, but it’s so mild as to be almost invisible, and in stingy amounts, it’s Davis Square all over again.  GCN delivers a really nice classic grilled cheese sandwich but they just don’t deliver the cheese experience I’m seeking.

Viva l'alternative!

You know that guy who orders the fish at a steak place, or the burger at a pizza place?  I am not that guy.  I like the odd things on the menu just fine, but I like to go for the core competencies most of the time.  Checking out the falafel truck?  I get the falafel. Given this, there is no earthly reason why I would order a sandwich off the breakfast menu from the crepe truck at lunchtime.  But I did.  And they screwed it up.  And it was amazing.  And I will order it again.

The sandwich – the only one on Paris Crepe’s menu although it’s not on their website menu – is called l’alternative, which I suppose makes sense at a crepe joint.  It’s sharp cheddar, a fried egg, arugula, and bacon on some kind of rustic white bread. More or less a breakfast sandwich, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  It was well-toasted but it had gotten a little soggy on the bottom.  They left off the bacon, and the other ingredients were spilling over the edges of the bread.  It was a hot mess.

Lots of cheese sandwiches talk about sharp cheddar.  Most of them are faking it. This sandwich is serious as the heart attack that it could ultimately cause.  The cheddar is sharp and tangy like a macbook air that’s been in a barn and melted like a mixtape on a sunny dashboard.  It’s not even officially a cheese sandwich and it’s the best cheese sandwich I’ve had in a long time.  The arugula is a nice touch, offsetting the salty greasy nature of the egg and cheese, but not too much.  The bread is crusty and just thick enough, not over-buttered or too crunchy to enjoy.

I’ve heard there are whole trucks devoted to the art of the grilled cheese sandwich.  I dare them to come down to City Hall Plaza and best l’alternative.

The worst best cheese sandwich in Davis Square

Since the Davis Square cheese sandwich quest became a semi-regular feature back in May, I’ve been aware of Deli-icious but for whatever reason never checked out their cheese sandwich.  Until this week.

Yelpsters seem generally bullish on the place, and Chowhound offers an interesting bit of navistalgia around the former occupant of the space and the price of sandwiches.

I ordered the grilled cheese with bacon and tomato on sourdough.  About as traditional and comforting as you can get on a winters day.  They asked if I wanted American cheese, I asked for cheddar.

So almost perfect and yet a miss.

The bread was good sourdough, buttered and griddled just right.  The bacon was crispy and not overbearing.  The tomato was good, maybe a bit too thickly sliced.  But the cheese… the cheese was that bland deli loaf cheese that breaks my heart.  How hard would it be for them to stock a sharp vermont cheddar?

I recommend this grilled cheese sandwich for anybody looking for a nostalgic comfort experience, but not for anybody who really loves cheese.  The quest goes on.

Davis Square cheese sandwich quest: The Ploughman's Lunch

The cheese sandwich quest continues.  Following up on a tip from Brian, I ordered up the Ploughman’s Lunch at The Burren here in Davis.  It came with excellent chips (fries) but the cheese was less than it might have been.  Apologies for the sub-par cameraphone shot, I was caught out without my Ricoh.

The menu describes it thusly: “Ploughman’s Lunch – $5.95 – open faced sandwich on french bread with choice of swiss or cheddar with  lettuce, tomato & onion, accompanied with branston pickle

I opted for cheddar, which was of decent quality but a little stingy in quantity, just one square slice per half sandwich.  The sandwich wasn’t actually open-faced, but I suppose I could have ditched half the bread.  I’m not sure how authentic this is, but it was an inexpensive and filling sandwich.  A perfect cheese sandwich, perhaps not.  Next stop, Deli-icous?

Davis square cheese sandwich quandary: twice the space, half the cheese

Blue Shirt Cafe recently expanded Eastward into the space between them and Snappy Sushi, probably doubling their total square footage while increasing the dining seating perhaps fivefold. But there’s still not that much cheese in their cheese sandwiches.

I had the Little Italy, with tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pesto, provolone and balsamic on focaccia. I know, it’s not actually billed as a cheese sandwich, but a single slice of provolone isn’t much, and it’s one of the mildest cheeses out there. The tomatoes and peppers were plentiful, maybe even overly generous, and the pesto was mild.  The focaccia was well-grilled but could have been oiled a little more.  An all-around nice sandwich, but nothing super-special, and certainly not the cheese sandwich experience I’ve been seeking.

On the plus side, Blue Shirt is now offering free wifi. Until a worthier cheese sandwich makes itself known, this is a afwully good lunchtime blogging hideaway. And they have their own private label orange soda.  How cool is that?

PS, In other insufficiently cheesy news, I’ve just become aware of Jeff Cutler‘s blog and podcast Bowl of Cheese which I’m sorry to report is not hardly about cheese at all.  But it’s still worth a look and a listen.  And I’m not just saying that because Jeff gave me a USB coffee warmer from the cyberposeurs at the Cyberposium.

Davis square cheese sandwich smackdown keeps smacking

The great Davis Square Cheese Sandwich battle got a little more interesting this week as second-place finisher Blue Shirt Cafe struck back at weakened champion Diesel Cafe.  Diesel had won handily with the Branch Trio, but then took it off their menu, retiring undefeated as it were.  But if you were persistent and lucky, you could still get a Branch Duo.  Now, at Blue Shirt, which by the way is about to expand and double their space, I have discovered a new contender:  Lili’s Lunch.

Officially, Lili’s Lunch is avocado, swiss, cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, and sundried tomato spread
grilled on your choice of bread.  I chose whole wheat and substituted cheddar.  I give Lili high marks for grilling the sandwich and for tomatoes and the salty sundried spread.  In the minus column goes the feeble bright orange cheddar (maybe I should have stuck with the swiss) and as with Granny & Jack, the too-thick sliced cucumbers, which make the whole sandwich difficult to eat.  Blue Shirt also wins on price, with Lili’s Lunch weighing in at under $6 compared to $7.50 or more at Diesel.

Given the difficult circumstances of comparing a sandwich you can get with one that you can’t, I have to call this one a tie for now.  Clearly, more research is required.

Red sauce season

What the Fluff? was postponed due to rain, so naturally we headed off to East Boston to a red sauce joint we’d never visited before, Rino’s place.  Wouldn’t you?  The party was joined by several members of the Josephine crew, Chef J (whose issues with red sauce are well documented), professor J and probably somebody I’m neglecting, for which I apologize.  If you don’t have a limeduck epithet, contact me right away to get one.

I’m not really sure how we selected Rino’s, but it certainly wasn’t the website, which claims, among other things, “RINO’S IS KNOWN FOR IT’S WONDERFUL RED SAUCE, THIN CUT OF VEAL AND FISTS SIZE RAVIOLIS MADE TO ORDER.” yowza.  They do a swift business in carryout as well as dine in.  We upped our party from six to seven at the last minute and had to wait in the rain another hour for it.

Foolishly, we ordered appetizers (and some underwhelming red wine), including a monstrous but super-fresh caprese salad and some delicious and tender baby octopus in a deep red sauce.  When ordering the apps, we were asked to confirm if we wanted app or entree size.  God help us if we had ordered entree size.  I needed a wide-angle adapter just to get the plate all in the frame.

For mains, just about everybody had pasta, most of it red, from the bolognese to the (pictured left) rabbit ragu with papardelle.  (That was me of course, since I’m on a rabbit and duck kick these days.  The rabbit was tender and complemented by some diced carrots, celery and onion for an autumnal feeling, and the papardelle were al dente.) Also exceptional were the fusili with chicken and broccoli and the eggplant wrapped around ricotta.  Brave C ordered the much-bragged-about fist-sized ravioli, pictured right.  I wish I had a ruler to add to the picture for scale.  Each one must have been more than a quarter pound.  Report is that they were delicious.

Only one of our party actually finished the main – clean plate clubber and gracious chauffeur M.  We left with six clamshell takeaway boxes, each filled with at least one more meal.  In retrospect, we have to question the economics of a restaurant that can serve up such enormous portions – including some with meats and seafood – for $16 or less, and have a wine list that tops out at $50 with most bottles at $18.  Go figure.  But as long as they do, and as long as you can find your way there (and back), I can think of few better places for giant plates of quality red sauce.

Cheesed off in Davis Square

Right on the heels of the terrible cheese/chocolate choice, I find that somebody has made an important cheese choice for me. I went to Diesel Cafe for lunch as I often do and ordered the Branch Trio as I often do – in fact, it was the winner of the Davis Square cheese-off back in May – but found that they had dropped it from the menu as part of a general refresh done this month. The nice lady offered to cobble together a “Branch Duo” since they had only two kinds of cheese – cheddar and jack.

Only two kinds of cheese? There are a dozen sandwiches on the menu and only two kinds of cheese in the whole shop? This is starting to sound dangerously like that Monty Python sketch. To be fair, there is also fresh mozzarella and cream cheese, but those never really belonged on the Branch Trio.

Interestingly, the improvised Branch Duo, while lacking one cheese and some sprouts, featured toasted bread and for some reason cost $2 less than any of the official sandwiches on the menu.

I understand the need for a business to control food costs, and how this can lead to the elimination of a favorite item or ingredient.  (If you don’t, you might need to hire a restaurant consultant.) We’ve all seen sandwich prices rise on account of the price of tomatoes, for example. I guess this is how its going to be. Unless the next president can muster the guts to open the national cheese reserves, it might be a good idea to begin hoarding cheese and maybe also buying cheese futures as a hedge (wedge?) against future cheese inflation.