Le grand fromage: City restos have tasty contenders for grilled-cheese challenge
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/01/2015 (3064 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The votes (burp) are in.
Since 2012, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, under the guise of a faux foundation dubbed the Grilled Cheese Academy, has staged an annual competition aimed at uncovering the “tastiest and most sublime gourmet grilled cheese sandwich to ever grace plate or tempt palate.”
Amateur chefs from across North America submit their recipes to a panel of judges. Sandwiches that pass mustard, er, muster, are enshrined in a year-end cookbook.
Past winners include the Sergeant Pepper (cauliflower and caramelized onions paired with pepper jack and cheddar cheeses) and the lobster-heavy Kennebunkport, made with mascarpone and provolone. Those concoctions pale, however, when compared to the latest champ — the Limburger Leap. Created by a Green Bay Packers fan from Minnesota, the Limburger Leap boasts a fully-cooked bratwurst sausage, caramelized onions and a blend of Limburger and Swiss cheese wedged inside two slices of pretzel bread that have been slathered in a melange of melted butter and crystallized brown sugar.
“It’s kind of funny how gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches are a thing now, isn’t it?” says Jenny Yoon. Since 2010, Yoon’s family has operated Kay’s Delicatessen at 339 William Ave. And since 2010, the home-style deli has served up its take on the childhood classic.
Kay’s Delicatessen’s Triple Decker Grilled Cheese consists of two cheeses — provolone and cheddar — matched up with a house-made, garlic purée.
“When we first opened, two pieces of bread didn’t look impressive enough so that’s the reason we decided to add a third,” Yoon explains, noting the triple-decker comes on three varieties of bread — rye, sourdough or multigrain. “Grilled cheese is a comfort food, right? So it’s pretty popular with everybody who comes in for lunch, from (Red River) college students to business people.”
To toast the latest edition of the Grilled Cheese Academy’s Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown Book of Champions, which can now be downloaded for free at www.grilledcheeseacademy.com/freebies, we decided to search out other grilled-cheese sandwiches in Winnipeg that have set tongues wagging. Here’s a bit of what we turned up.
King + Bannaytne 100 King St.
King + Bannatyne opened in November. The funky, 42-seat locale specializes in slow-roasted meat sandwiches but owner Mike Del Buono thought it was important to include a vegetarian option on his menu, as well. Enter King + Bannatyne’s grilled cheese.
“Ours is a rotating recipe; we change it up every week or so,” Del Buono says, seated at a table overlooking Old Market Square. “Right now we’re offering one with maple-smoked cheddar and melted onions. Our last (sandwich) came with tomato jam and we’ve done another with brie and a side of roasted-clove apple sauce, for dipping.”
All sandwiches at King + Bannatyne are made with bread brought in daily from Lisbon Bakery, on Sargent Avenue.
410 Aberdeen Ave.
Eat at Luda’s Deli often enough and you might find your name preserved on owner Tracy Konopada’s old-fashioned letterboard. Already, the cosy, North End nook offers a Ronnie omelette, Wally-size fries and a Terry sandwich — each christened for a regular customer who liked his food just-so.
“The Robert grilled cheese sandwich is named for Robert Hand, who’s been coming here probably as long as we’ve been open,” says Konopada, who runs the 28-year-old deli in tandem with her daughter, Kristi. “It’s a grilled cheese sandwich with grilled salami, mayo, tomato and raw onion. That’s what he likes so that’s what we give him.”
532 Waterloo St.
The way Chew owner Kyle Lew figures, if you’re eating a grilled cheese sandwich in his establishment and you aren’t asking for an extra napkin or three, he hasn’t done his job properly.
“Hey, it’s a grilled cheese. It should be buttery on your fingers; there should be ooze!” he says with a laugh.
Chew’s grilled cheese sandwiches bear little resemblance to what most of us grew up with; you remember — a wedge of Velveeta tucked between two slices of Wonder Bread.
“No, we play around with ours a bit more than that,” says Lew, who runs Chew together with his wife, Kristen. “We’ve done it with lobster, with apple; right now we’re using three cheeses: triple-creamed brie, smoked Benedictine blue and applewood-smoked cheddar. We add stewed figs to give it a touch of sweet to go with the spicy, and some fresh arugula.”
Sandwiches at Chew are served on challah bread, which is baked on-site and available for take-out at the restaurant’s attached retail component, The Store Next Door.
White Star Diner
58 Albert St.
A few years ago, White Star Diner owner Bruce Smedts was watching the Food Network when a program about a grilled-cheese sandwich competition south of the border came on.
“One of the people on the show was doing one with pulled pork on it and I thought, ‘Hey, that’s not a bad idea,'” says Smedts, who has been operating the Exchange District hotspot since 2009. “A few days later, I put something similar on the menu as a special and immediately sold a ton.”
Nowadays, the White Star Diner dishes out three grilled cheese sandwiches: a traditional sort made with mozzarella and cheddar, the aforementioned pulled pork and another — the most popular of the bunch — that teams pulled pork with bacon. All come on rye bread.
271 Provencher Blvd.
PB&J might sound like an off-putting combo for a grilled cheese sandwich until you realize the kitchen at Chaise Café doesn’t stock peanut butter and jam on a routine basis. “PB&J is pear, brie and jambon, which is the French word for ham,” explains Shea Ritchie, the St. Boniface restaurant’s owner. (Chaise is a play on the possessive form of Ritchie’s given name.)
The menu at Chaise Café offers a choice of three “gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches”: PB&J, apple-bacon Swiss and a vegetarian alternative, which changes from week to week. Ritchie’s favourite version of the latter incorporates goat cheese, roasted red peppers, spinach and portobello mushrooms on sourdough bread.
“I got inspired to do gourmet grilled cheese during a trip to Italy,” Ritchie explains. “Everywhere I went I was seeing these delicious paninis, and to me, a grilled cheese sandwich is just an anglicized name for a panini.”
Fox & Hounds Tavern
1719 Portage Ave.
Last but not least, the Fox & Hounds Tavern is home to what is undoubtedly the most formidable grilled cheese sandwich in Winnipeg. Check that: grilled cheese sandwiches.
The English-style pub’s wolf hound burger features a six-ounce ground beef patty packed between two grilled cheese sandwiches — one made with Monterey jack cheese and the other loaded with bacon and cheddar. Throw in caramelized onions and a deep-fried pickle and all that’s missing from your plate is an EKG.
“I think the wolf hound has stimulated more impulse orders than anything else on our menu,” says manager Lee Poworoznik, noting it’s almost impossible for servers to parade through the room with one on their platter without a few customers stopping them in their tracks to ask, “Uh, what’s that?”
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.