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Houston's Best Grilled Cheese

The best grilled cheese in Houston: This simple staple's become an upscale, foodie delight

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Hotel Derek inverted grilled cheese
And who and what won that challenge? Why it was Hotel Derek's chef Shannen Tune with his…wait for it…grilled cheese sandwich: An inverted version with Borsin, white cheddar and blue cheese, wrapped in bacon. Photo by © Julie Soefer
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Now that cooler weather has arrived, it’s time to turn to some fall foods: Soups, chili, hearty root vegetables, roasted meats, and, of course, that American staple, the grilled cheese sandwich.

Whose mom didn’t slap together a grilled cheese sandwich of processed yellow cheese slices and Wonder bread to serve to hungry kids with a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup?

But grilled cheese sandwiches go back long before they become popular in America in the 1960s. According to The Learning Channel, the history of this delight dates back to Ancient Rome and recipes for toasted cheese and bread have been around ever since in all kinds of countries.

 You may be nostalgic for the ones your mom made in your childhood but they really weren't that good. 

The French, of course, have their croque monsieurs and madams. And then there’s the Welsh rarebit, an open-face sandwich topped with melted cheese. The now-shuttered Feast used to do this dish wonderfully but I recently found a fine substitute on the Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen's bar bites menu. You should really check this place out Tuesdays through Fridays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., when it offers some great drinks, bar bites and a high tea.

So what happened to those hearty, wonderful cheese and bread dishes?

What happened was the invention of sliced bread (boring white bread) and Kraft singles. From the 1920s on, Americans wound up eating a pretty lame imitation of those golden oldies. Yes, you may be nostalgic for the ones your mom made in your childhood but they really weren't that good. Go on. Make one, I’ll wait. Use a skillet and spatula, a waffle press or even an iron.

Yeah, see?

But fear not, this simple sammie has now risen to new foodie heights. Witness the popularity of Pinewood Cafe in Hermann Park. Besides its location next to the picturesque McGovern Lake, this little eatery offers a build-your-own grilled cheese bar.

And it’s not the only spot in town to offer upscale grilled cheese.

But now there’s a new sheriff in town.

The Houston Texans recently honored lung and breast cancer survivors and the Johnathan Joseph Foundation and Kareem Jackson Foundation raised funds for the American Lung Association and Sister’s Network, Inc. at the Houston Texans Grille with the Inaugural Tailgating for a Cure.

Besides the wonderful cause, the event featured a Celebrity Chef Game Day Recipe Challenge with Greg Gaitlin, owner and pitmaster of Gatlin’s BBQ; executive chef Shannen Tune from Hotel Derek; and executive chef Jason Bayle from 17 Restaurant battling it out.

And who won the challenge? Why it was Tune with his . . . wait for it . . . grilled cheese sandwich. And inverted version with Boursin, white cheddar and blue cheese, wrapped in bacon.

Oh, hello deliciousness! Here’s the recipe for the winning food. You can thank me later.

Inverted Grilled Cheese
Shannen Tune from Hotel Derek

2 pieces of Texas toast
1 TBSP Pesto
1 oz. Boursin cheese
1 oz. blue cheese
1 slice white cheddar
6 pieces bacon
1 cup tomato bisque

Spread pesto on Texas toast. Place one portion of cheese on each piece of bread. Sandwich the bread and then push down on it to flatten a little. Place three pieces of bacon vertical on a cutting board close together. Wrap the sandwich making sure the ends of the bacon meet. Place three more pieces of bacon horizontal and wrap the sandwich making sure the ends meet. Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

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