GRILLED CHEESES ALL AROUND AS ‘THE BIG CHEESY’ RETURNS | Local Bozo
There is perhaps no other comfort food best suited for the cold weather months than the simple yet satisfying grilled cheese sandwich. With snowfall kicking off this weekend, it was only appropriate that Nolita pop-up spaceOpenhouse Gallery would host two full days pitting six New York City sandwich purveyors against each other in a competition of culinary styles. It was with great anticipation that the 2015 edition of The Big Cheesy returned to Manhattan.
Presented by Time Out New York, each hour long session would welcome roughly two hundred hungry eaters into the clean space- the entrance of which was immediately overpowered by the sizzling aroma of piping hot bread and cheese. Each participant creatively utilized different ingredients to allow their entry to stand out from the fray. And with two beers included in the cost of admission courtesy of Goose Island, attendees were able to quickly wash down each mouthwatering bite.
With orange ping pong balls in hand- used to tally votes for the eventual winner- we grabbed bottles of “India Pale Ale” and headed out to begin an afternoon of eating. Our first stop was Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen where jack-of-all-trades Ron Johnson was plating “The Shroom Melt.” Mixing a spicy onion bacon jam with a touch of truffle oil, the combination of mozzarella and sauteed mushrooms was a big hit sandwiched between slices of thick Pullman bread. Sons of Essex meanwhile took a slightly meatier approach with hunks of slow roasted pulled pork and crisp Virginia ham as the focal point for their “La Cubana” offering. With the subtle fire of jalapeno chips and the contrast of gooey Swiss cheese, the sample from the Sons team was one of the day’s most buzzed about sandwiches early on.
Speaking of the hole-laden cheese, Fame by Alex Mitow was doling out “The Taylor Swiss.” Replete with a duck liver mousse, walnut pesto and baked apples, the mixture of gruyere, Swiss and fontina cheeses was utterly lip-smacking- so delicious in fact that we couldn’t just ‘Shake It Off.’ We had to return for seconds. Though not as cleverly named, the “Mexican Grilled Cheese” by Eggs Travaganza was equally as delicious with a smattering of bacon bits, chorizo and a smoked jalapeno. We would have preferred the cheese to be a bit more melted here, but the combination of elements was quite tasty.
At the end of the competition, two purveyors were in the running to be crowned champion of The Big Cheesy. The ladies from Twist and Smash’d made the contest a close one to call as their sandwich was overstuffed with bacon, chili and mac and cheese. Three different cheeses saturated the “Grilled Mac N Chili,” a deadly combination of decadent flavors. Hudson Common though was the day’s winner. Their remarkable “French Toast Grilled Cheese” offered up a dollop of maple drizzle, thick toasted bread and a blend of seven different cheeses. Rich in taste and slightly sweet, the Hell’s Kitchen eatery quickly earned our vote, reinforced by each memorable bite. Gooey and delectable. Just like a perfect grilled cheese sandwich should be.