Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Grilled Cheese à la David

In Lieu of grilled cheese month, my fiance and I have had some ups and downs (grilled cheese speaking, that is). With the last event a bust (see past post) I had a fun thought. Why don't we each make our own unique grilled cheese sandwich? Not that we need to compete for the better grilled cheese master hat in the house, where the loser will be taunted and booed until my throat is sore - it seemed like a fun way to end our short adventure of grilled cheese goodness. (That was a simpsons quote if you didn't catch it).

I wanted something simple yet totally, not simple. An onion grilled cheese. Simple. BUT, with homemade challah bread, homemade ketchup, and three different cheeses. YES! First step was making the challah. I've been making this same loaf for years and knew what needed to be done, but instead of making a braid, I would need to make a loaf. It turned out pretty good - except it's a fragile bread (at least the recipe I make is - good thing I sliced the bread at 1/2" - as thick as anyone will recommend for grilled cheese).

To make my homemade ketchup, I wanted to make it even more unique. I used organic tomatoes with an heirloom tomato. And best of all, the heirloom tomato was grown outside (so it's truly homemade). I've made my own sauce before, so I figured to make my own ketchup I would just need to add more sugar with a touch of vinegar. It was a home run except that it could have been a little thicker - no problem though. As much as I like to lather my condiments, this was probably a good touch to make a taste of rather than a dollop.

Then came the onions - I used both sweet onions and green onions (white part only). These were sliced finely and sauteed in butter. BUT - not just any butter, homemade garlic butter (freshly pressed garlic sauteed in butter). Once the onions were done it was time to get down to business. I took out my three cheeses: goat, cheddar and muenster. Before I went to town, I slightly buttered the bread and cooked THE INSIDES of the sandwich. That's right - you read me right. I lightly grilled the inside of the sandwich first. So I then made the sandwich - two kinds of onions with three kinds of cheese. Low heat, covered, and melted to perfection.

How did it turn out? Pretty good! (Bonus - bright table mats for the childhood theme). Was it worth the long prep time to make such a simple sandwich? you bet.


I was excited to attend the grilled cheese international. A grilled cheese event? Seriously? AWESOME! Now, I didn't have a Homer Simpson style daydream expectation of what this would be like, so I was just excited for anything for the most part. We bought tickets in advance for $10 when we ate at the grilled cheese truck.(Not sure how much tickets at the door were). But anyways, tickets were only $10 so it's not like there was going to be stream trays of all you can eat goodies.

We arrived and it was mobbed. Any good event will be mobbed so I can't complain - but the fact it was mobbed on top of everything else was just poison icing on top of my stale, rotten cake. (Let's put some bleu cheese in there too). We luckily knew about a separate event at the international - judging! A few days prior, we filled out a form online and were immediately chosen as judges. This shot a mild flag in the back of my mind - anyone can do this? Why were we asked questions about fair juding if it didn't matter what we answered. Was there no limit to the number of judges? When we entered we headed straight for the judging quarters. With our print-out we got secret access to...another mobbed gathering of people! Again, the mob aspect was only a good sign, right? Well, maybe not since the more people there are...the less samples per person (if any).

The judging quarters consisted of a fence that separated the judges and the cooks. The cooks were only required to produce 10 sandwiches A DAY. Since there were 4 or 5 events, this meant that each vendor only had to make 2 sandwiches every 2 hours, giving away 4 small pieces each time. Luckily, we walked in 10 minutes prior to a cook-off. AWESOME! We waited and waited and waited. Nothing happened. By the look of the crowd around us, many were friends of the vendors they were standing by. This is interesting. A girl walked by with cheese samples - AWESOME - but then skipped me! She gave samples to her friends and then skipped me, giving the rest to her other friends. What the hell!? I decided this place was too mobbed and biased, so I had my fiance stay put while I voyaged to the far side where there were less people.

And less people indeed! The last vendor along the fence had far fewer people in line, so I waited there. 5 minutes later, the vendor was done cooking and handed two sandwiches to the first 2 people along the fence. Then they were done. The other 15 of us standing in company were sample-less. I walked away to a different vendor in hopes of food. What happened? I waited for the samples to come out, which were snatched by the people in front of me - once they received their sample, they stayed at the fence and ate their sample...they then snatched the next wave of samples that came by (since a different person brought out each new sample, who were they to know who has been waiting and who are ignorant fucks?)

What was this? Not that I expect a grilled cheese fantasia, but this was total anarchy. Each vendor could only give samples to 2-6 people every event and there was no order whatsoever. Hundreds of people for very few samples. The best part of it all was the voting. Because of the limited samples given, there was no consistency with the voting - your single (and non-balancing across other vendors) vote was compared again a different person's vote on a different sandwich. So this combined with the fact that a number of people were friends with the vendors, voting on their friend's food - how legit was this entire ordeal? I was now sample-less and lost from my fiance. All alone. Scared. I sat against a wall in the shade and waited for her to emerge with hopefully an empty plate from a sample of her own. Somehow, she was able to get a sample - amazing. I took a bite and it was a typical grilled cheese. Nothing special albeit tasty.

So we walked out of the judging area and into the international event. There were two sides, one side was a swarm of lines for food at a variety of food trucks. This was all well an good but these food trucks (while all amazing) are in the city every single night. Why would I be interested in paying $10 to attend an event to visit a food truck that is available anytime? And why would I want to stand in a line longer than any a normal visit? We walked to the other side to see what the last section of tents were: free samples! Thats right! Free samples! Stand in line for 15 minutes to get the following (only one per 15 minute line) 5oz cup of izzy soda, 5oz cup of vitamin water, small bag of plain potato chips, and last and maybe least, tillamook cheese cubes that you find at the grocery store.

Was this it? Was this seriously the grilled cheese international? A paid gathering of nothingness? Maybe if this was the first or second year I'd pass it off, but 8th? What a total bust. Put some order into the judging! Put a fee on judging or make a VIP judge something to pay for. At least a number cap. Jesus. Give out tickets for samples so it's not a corrupt mass of insanity. And the rest of the place, for all the regular folk? Hmmm - how could this be better? More tents? More companies? How about more interesting things - like a tent of grilled cheese books to buy! What about recipes and guest speakers? How about someone giving tips for making grilled cheese...while making their own sandwich!? Ever been to a TASTE OF [enter city here]? You buy tickets and use those tickets universally elsewhere at the event. Turn this into SOMETHING instead of a mess of lines of nothingness.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Behold, a Finger Lime!

The best part about having a gardening niche while living in Los Angeles is that you can grow just about anything. Nursuries have an endless variety of crazy flowers, vines, fruits and veggies - sometimes things you have never heard of. Searching online several years ago, I discovered a plant called the Australian Finger Lime. (Picture above is not my tree).

The problem with this tree is that it's nearly impossible to find (yes, it's legal). I couldn't find seeds to grow myself and all companies that sold and shipped actual trees were international-until I found Four Winds. I bought a 2-3 year old tree and had it shipped to me in July, 2009, making this tree anywhere from 3-4 years old (Maybe more, who knows).

To my amazement yesterday, I found my first ever finger lime! It's hard to tell by this picture, but it's smaller than a quarter, so it has plenty of growing to do. I may have to wait until next season to have a variety of fruits to create a massive collection like the one displayed below, but it just means I need to have enough crazy fruits to occupy my time with.