As featured in Bay Area Bites, February 23, 2009.
The 2nd Annual NorCal Regional Grilled Cheese Invitational was held this past Saturday at Dolores Park.
Half-Naked Juggling Guy in Boxer Briefs was present with an African drum on his back. As was Chick in a Hot Dog Suit accompanied by Boy in a Banana Suit. All in all, just another day in the Mission.
Really, days like this make me love San Francisco for what it is: the most eclectic bunch of people in one city, all bonded by a shared appreciation for some tasty eats, a little entertainment, and a patch of grass to sit on.
The crowd at the Grilled Cheese Invitational was pumped up and full of exuberant cheering. The air was electric … and full of the intoxicating scent of sizzling butter and bread. The promise of melty cheese for the masses created a kind of aphrodisiacal nirvana that settled over our little corner of Dolores Park.
According to the official “Grilled Cheese Invitational Rules & Regulations” there were three categories of competition:
1) The Missionary Position: Standard bread, standard butter and standard cheese. No additional ingredients or flavorings allowed.
2) The Kama Sutra: Any kind of bread, any kind of butter, and any kind of cheese (or blend of cheeses) plus additional ingredients.
3) The Honey Pot: Any kind of bread, any kind of butter, any kind of cheese (or blend of cheeses), and any additional ingredients, but a sandwich that is sweet in flavor, or would best be served as dessert.
I was impressed with the creative license many contestants took with the “any kind of butter” option. I saw duck fat being used, pools of bacon grease and butter comingling in unhealthy heart happiness, and my favorite of the day – coconut oil.
The Honey Pot category produced some entries that just boggled my concept of the grilled cheese. Take this for example.
Nifer, a volunteer ballot-collector decked out in her finest grilled cheese bonnet, models a Mushroom-Banana Grilled Cheese topped with whipped cream.
She took a bite and declared, “It’s weird … but I kinda like it.”
Err … I’ll trust you on that, Nifer. Mushrooms and whipped cream may be just a little too risqué for my taste. I’ll save room for seasoned vets Laura Wiles and Katherine Scherbel’s Baklava Grilled Cheese.
Laura and Katherine took The Honey Pot category at last year’s Oakland Regional Grilled Cheese Invitational and I could see why. They cook for the people. Katherine divulged that their strategy was to create something that possessed a familiar flavor people could identify with. The result was a round honey bun, fried in fragrant coconut oil, and filled with a nutty mixture of pistachio, orange zest, and cinnamon, ricotta and mozzarella cheese, and drizzled with chocolate sauce.
Big thanks to the organizers of the Grilled Cheese Invitational. They just may have made the world (or at least San Francisco) a better, happier, more fulfilled place with this cookoff. Because it’s hard not to love life after spending your Saturday afternoon with over 500 of your fellow neighbors, paying homage to the almighty Grilled Cheese Sammich. The best sammich there ever was.