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Thursday, October 6,2011

The great grilled cheese debate

By Blair Madole

As the leaves turn red, the air becomes crisp, and the politicians go in for that final pre-election teeth whitening, the bears aren’t the only ones concentrating on fattening up before winter hits.

Moms all over the country are pulling out the ingredients for beef stew, meat loaf, mashed potatoes and the classic American comfort food: grilled cheese. Unfortunately, many moms may be confused about how to properly make this delightfully melted concoction.

The confusion stems from the ever-important, life-changing debate surrounding the quintessential sandwich.

That’s right Boulder, there is a debate about what constitutes a grilled cheese.

An unofficial poll conducted by Boulder Weekly reveals that the people are split — about half argue it is simply bread, cheese and lots of butter, but the rest believe additions of meat, veggies or condiments still count it as a grilled cheese. Fortunately, local experts have put forth their opinions to help Boulderites decide on this weighty matter.

The Old-Timer

This is the classic grilled cheese your mom made for you when you were young and was typically paired with Campbell’s Tomato Soup. The Old- Timer often coincides with warm, fuzzy feelings and reminiscing about those cold days when the smells of butter and cheddar wafted from the stove.

Samm White, co-owner of Cheese Importers in Longmont, describes grilled cheese as “cheese made from milk [not processed], squished between two slices of crusty toasted bread and grilled until melted in a most glorious, ooey and gooey, dirty way.”

Will Frischkorn, co-owner of Cured in Boulder, agrees with White.

“A grilled cheese sandwich should be just that — amazing bread, a flavorful melting cheese, like a clothbound cheddar, and very little else,” Frischkorn says. “Childhood memories always pop up in my mind when thinking of grilled cheese. My mom’s homemade bread with good cheddar and a fresh bowl of tomato soup, buttered pan still on the stove, is a hard one to top.”

Though Kelly Kingsford, executive chef at Mateo and a new mom, has enjoyed several grilled cheeses that included extras like roasted jalapeños or braised beef short ribs, she plans on sticking to tradition once her newborn daughter is older.

“I will make grilled cheese for Olivea Gray the exact way that my mother made this culinary delight for me: the classic white bread, sliced cheddar and butter with tomato soup for dipping,” Kingsford says. “Nothing is better.”

The Grown-Up

This is similar to the warm, cheesy sandwich kids are so fond of, but wearing a power suit with a cocktail in hand. In this category, grilled cheeses are hidden behind names like “baked brie and pear sandwich” and “aged cheddar, apple and pork shoulder melt.” These are the Michelin-starred counterparts to the melts found at the local diner.

Supporters of this beefed-up grilled cheese argue that although there are additions to the classic sandwich, it is still considered a grilled cheese as long as the extras do not overshadow the dairy base.

Coral Ferguson, co-owner of Cured, says “a grilled cheese must be between two slices of bread — no open-faced, panini-esque healthy nonsense — with no more than two other ingredients that cannot weigh more than the cheese itself. It should be cooked in a frying pan or press with copious amounts of butter and served immediately.”

Though kids may question the use of truffles or pork belly combined with a fancy-sounding cheese like Gruyere or Tallegio, these gourmet grilled cheeses are a great fit for grown-ups.

“The beauty of grilled cheese is that it harks back to childhood and comfort food,” Ferguson says, “yet as grown-ups we are able to innovate and play, add bacon jam or serve alongside a Bloody Mary rather than tomato soup.”

The Consensus

Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery on Pearl Street serves as the swing voter in this debate by supporting all types of proponents of the American classic with a “build your own grilled cheese” option on their menu. Customers can order a basic grilled cheese or can choose from an array of toppings like mushrooms, onions, bacon and pesto.

We at the Boulder Weekly, however, believe in being decisive. Though we have fond memories of mom making us a grilled cheese on the stove with lots of cheese and even more butter, then heating up a can of tomato soup, we have to support the Grown- Up.

There is something empowering about taking the sandwich that was so lovingly prepared for us and adding our own flair. It is kind of like being a teenager and bedazzling your iPod, but with way better-tasting results.

As long as the cheese is the main component of the sandwich and the additions are merely complementary, we vote for the adult grilled cheese.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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