Good Eats 2011
Foodie News

The great grilled cheese-off at Pinewood Café: New patio spot becomes a showdown site

The great grilled cheese-off at Pinewood Café: New patio spot becomes a showdown site

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BYO grilled cheese at Pinewood Café: Ham, tomato and brie on a sweet sourdough bread. Photo by Sarah Rufca
News_Pinewood Cafe_grilled cheese sandwich
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Just to be clear, there is more on the menu at the new Pinewood Café inside Hermann Park than just grilled cheese. There are fresh salads with shaved meats and housemade dressings, filling wraps (I like the Americanized take on a banh mi) and even a decent burger at this patio and pup-friendly spot.

But there's something about a menu just for grilled cheese sandwiches — sandwiches that start at $4, I should add — that's just irresistible. Especially when owner Olivia Blair told me that she and another staffer, Amanda Uinn, were engaged in a battle over whose grilled cheese creation is better.

How better to make use of my extensive food-judging experience? To put it simply, it was on.

Uinn swears by a grilled cheese featuring brie, ham and tomato on sweet sourdough bread, which made it the early favorite as that combo would have been almost my exact order. It was a slightly gooey, more than slightly sweet version of the classic — subtle, yet elegant, and with the ham it tasted a little bit like a modified croque monsieur. The sweet sourdough is the same bread used as the burger bun, which is perhaps a better fit, since the sweetness, though nice, tended to push the other mild flavors around.

 How better to make use of my extensive food-judging experience? To put it simply, it was on. 

Blair's grilled cheese creation took a totally different path. Going for bold flavors, she started with a jalepeño cheddar bread and added chicken, pico de gallo, pepper jack and cheddar cheese. Gone was the sweetness, replaced with a cheesy mix of light spice that was more similar to a quesadilla. (Yes, I am versed in every culture's version of grilled cheese.) It was savory and delicious, with just enough heat and texture in the bread.

I'll probably still be putting brie in my sandwiches, but for this contest I had to give the edge to Blair and her savory, spicy, chicken grilled cheese. I'm curious to see if anyone can come up with some recipes with the more unexpected proteins — what kind of cheese goes with salmon?

Gruyére? Fontina? What's your perfect sandwich combination?