Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen's "Craft Beer & Grilled Cheese" Dinners

cheesy couple          

        This is a small painting I did of Heidi Gibson and Nate Pollack, the cheesiest couple I know.  Both are co-owners of The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, one of our favorite restaurants, especially since my dear Mr.Phi is a grilled cheese fanatic. Lucky us have been blessed not once, not twice, but THREE times with their Craft Beer and Grilled Cheese Dinners. So you're saying... wellllll why have you not posted about them before. And its totally cause I'm selfish and worried tickets will become even harder to get. I already buy them 2 months in advance! Buttttttt, I finally decided I just have to write about one of these dinners! They are just too amazing not to share with others.

  Spring 2012 Grilled Cheese (Back)

The First one we went to was for SF Beer Week in 2011 featuring a Firestone Walker and Grilled Cheese Pairing. Death nearly happened that dinner, because we could not pace ourselves. We tried to eat every grilled cheese, Mr.Phi attempted to drink his weight in beer....so many rookie mistakes! I actually don't have the menu for that one, because they wanted to keep it for my sketches. The second dinner was in Fall of 2011 with Shmaltz Brewing Company and we brought good friends H&J to share the glory.(You can view that menu here)  The most shocking part the second time around was it was just as good, if not better! All the sandwiches that night seemed to be odes to different breakfast flavors and I got to try Wise Sons Pastrami for the first time. Countless swoons happened during that dinner!.  Sooooo of course we went to their Firestone Walker Part2 Dinner this past February for the 2012 SF Beer Week!(see menu above) Our friends H&J joined us again and we were all giddy with expectation!1

Mini FondueHeady House Saison 
For the first time they served an appetizer for a welcome round. A "Herbed Chevre Fondue with Pink Lady Apples" The Fondue was not as warm as I would of liked, but that doesn't mean we didn't keep it with us to dip our crusts in for later courses after the apple slices ran out. Heady House was a surprise beer guest just like in 2011 and paired their Saison with the tasty Fondue app. I was sad there were no Beer Cocktails like 2011, but that may of been because of how many people went stumbling out that night hah.

My favorite grilled cheese of night
FireStone Walker Pale 31
 So gooeylish 
Our mouths were watering with anticipation as the first Grilled Cheese appeared among us. "Bellwether Farms Carmody, Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold, and Redwood Hills Goat Cheddar on Acme Pain De Mie." Squeeallll, I always find myself falling in love with the first sandwich of the night, because it's just a simple grilled cheese. I'm a big fan of simplicity in food and just letting the ingredients shine. So of course, this was my fave of the night, especially with such an amazing combo of California cheeses.2 I could not help but eat all of it IMMEDIATELY, and was happy to wash it down with a Pale 31, the first Firestone Walker of the night!

Potato/RoastBeef Grilled CheeseFirestone Walker DBA 
At this point in the dinner everyone is certainly cheery. The anticipation of the first course is gone and everyone has settled in for a great meal. The second grilled cheese to arrive was a "Jasper Hill Cabot Cheddar Clothbound Cheddar, Golden Gates Meats Roast Beef, roasted Yukon Golds, Garlic-chive butter and Horseradish cream on Pinkie's Bakery Levain." Holy Moly, shi8t just got real. Potatoes on a Sandwich, that is definitely going after a Texan gal's heart. I love the commitment here to using local butchers and bakeries. I never knew of Golden Gate or Pinkie, until these dinners and now I love to visit each. Mr.Phi experienced a slight wave of jealousy as I proclaimed "This sandwich is my boyfriend." I guess it was too manly with all that savoridelishiness! Paired with FireStone Walkers DBA and after taking a few sips of that beer, Mr.Phi forgot all about my 5 minute epic love affair.

"Breakfast in Bed" Mini-Biscuits #1Firestone Walker's Reserve Robust Porter
 Usually the third course for me can be a lil disappointing for me...BECAUSE, I realize we're in the middle and the end is looming around the corner. Wah!  But American Grilled Cheese has fixed this by serving a mini-biscuit. I'm a complete sucker for biscuits, so I feel like they belong to a whole other elite category for me.3  And I have to proclaim that The American produces some of the most prolific biscuits EVER!  These were called "Breakfast in Bed" mini biscuits-"Beehive Cheese Co's Barely Buzzed and Tumalo Farms Fenacho topped with a fried quail egg"....can I get a hallehujiah ehhhhhh! Nate Pollak was really kind and made it rain biscuits at our table. Giving us a few to take home as well as he noticed my tears of joy as I shoved them with glee in my mouth. Paired with FireStoneWalker's Reserve Robust Porter..... life got too good to bare for a few minutes.

 Jalapeno Grilled CheeseFireStone Walker Union Jack
 Now for the bittersweet part of dinner, the final grilled cheese....le sigh. But, this is the one Mr.Phi always waits in giddy expectation for because it is S-P-I-C-E-Y!!  The secret to the extreme spiciness at The American is they use raw jalapenos and I must agree, it is amazing. A "Pondhopper Cheese, Laura Chenel Chevre, Zoe's bacon and freshly cut jalapenos on Artisan Sourdough" This is the one that makes Mr.Phi cry, not for its hawtness, but because the last bite signifies the end until the next grilled cheese dinner. Luckily it was paired with FireStone Walker's Union Jack, so we had an amazing beer to drown all our sorrows.

Chocolate Stout CakeFireStone Walker Velvet Merlin
 Of course, the sorrow is fleeting when Heidi's Stout Chocolate Cake is laid in front of us.4  This is no-joke, one of my top 5 chocolate cakes ever, maybe even #1. Our friend J commented that every time he took a bite he could hear Barry White singing. Seriously, the cake is so rich, moist,deleshious....ooooh baby!   There is just so much love packed in the cake, it just knocks all the wah out of you.  Heidi uses the Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin to make the cake, so of course it pairs unbelievably when you have a glass of the beer with it.

 So that was the night in February and it was unbelievable as usual. On a small side note, Heidi Gibson was a super trooper and came in even though her leg was in cast. Not to diss the kitchen at all, because the food was amazing... BUT, I could tell having eaten at the previous 2 dinners that there was something missing from the food with her not being present in the kitchen. Does she sprinkle magic cheese dust or something, because the food is epic when she's in charge?! I guess that's why she was a Grilled Cheese Champion for so long!
 To close up, what I love about these dinners, besides the amazing food and beer, is the camaraderie of the evening.  From everyone in the kitchen, to the brew masters who give great talks, to the waitstaff who put so much effort into making sure you have a grand evening... you can just tell this is a big labor of love.  Hope to continue our lucky streak of attending these amazingly cheesy dinners and wish to share one with you in the future!

1. The space is small at The American, so I would say party of four at most.
2.  California Cheeses are always unbelievable.  What is up with this and why am I so lucky to live here?!
3.  If there is a biscuit involved with any meal I have, it is always my favorite part! No matter what is served with is...fancy meats, intricate dishes.. its all about the biscuit! Texan 4Life...
4. I still need that recipe, Heidi! ;D

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Olympic Provisions Salame

 Finding a good salami isn't as easy as you think it would be.....Once you taste a really good one, its all over.  No cheap charcuterie can satisfy you now!  So you're usually left sadly wandering the meat department at your local grocery store, checking under that pile of laughing cow cheese....looking for one that may resemble that delicious piece you had.   But it's never there.....

That's what I felt like. A sad salami-less soul 2....  

I had my first great salami at the Beverly Hills Cheese Shop (Canadian brand which they said they can't receive because of some new change in customs?)and now I'm always on the look out.  Around the Bay area I usually find good pieces from restaurants that do their own charcuterie in house.  But most of them do not sell to the public.  And Fatted Calf has some amazing complex ones, but sometimes I just crave a small one to enjoy at home.  Last year, I stumbled across Olympic Provisions "Saucisson Sec" at the Good Food Awards in 2011.  Was so tasty, fatty and I love the smell.  Like a bakery that just bakes savory pork buns.  Plus, it's a great deal at $10/salami.  You can easily get their Salami at Bi-Rite or order their Salami of the Month Club.  Can't wait to visit them on our next trip to Portland!  

Olympic Provisions

1.  This post sounds super filthy to me now that I'm reading it back....
2.  I couldn't resist....