Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Oaks Gourmet Market: My grilled cheese pinch-hitter

I am terrible at making grilled cheese.

The worst ever.

Complete rubbish, as someone with a British accent might say.

It's not that I don't know how to make grilled cheese. I know how to make a grilled cheese. The cheese should be grated -- not sliced -- so it achieves the proper, uniform melt. The bread, preferably a white, spongy entity, should be buttered prior to grilling -- one should never butter the pan instead. And once the sandwich does reach that hot, ungreased frying surface, it should be fried at a low temperature so the bread doesn't burn before the cheese inside has time to melt.

Nobody likes biting into an under-melted sandwich. It's almost as tragic as biting into a mushy apple, a cold slice of blueberry pie or a salad that doesn't contain quinoa.

Given my vast-ish knowledge of how to properly compose and sear a grilled cheese, I should be stunningly successful at the rather humble kitchen feat. I should be the opposite of rubbish at it -- I should be a treasure trove of skill with a spatula.

But, I'm not.

And never will be.

Because I don't use enough cheese or butter.

It's impossible to achieve grilled cheese perfection without using enough butter to coat the entire surface of the exposed bread slices and enough cheese to create the signature strings that ooze forth when the sandwich is sliced in half and pulled a part. Without an indecent amount of butter, the bread won't get crispy -- and without at least two-three ounces of cheese, it won't do much stringy action at all.

Even though I know all this, I have no intention of overcoming my inability to slather with abandon. While it's fiscally irresponsible of me, I'd much prefer leaving all that nonsense to "the experts" -- the ones who grease, smear and overload that malnourished bread in a kitchen (or truck) far far away from my eyes.

What I don't see won't hurt me, I tell myself.

Or at least it won't until I stop going to Bar Method -- or stop putting quinoa in my salads.

So tonight, to cure my craving for that slick sandwich that is, incidentally, taking center stage this Saturday, April 23rd, at the Grilled Cheese Invitational in Los Angeles, I turned my blind eyes to the Oaks Gourmet Market in Los Feliz. To gear up for the epic grilling battle, the stop-and-go neighborhood market's Chef Luke Reyes created a special sandwich featuring Tillamook Sharp Cheddar, Black Forest Bacon, Homemade Tomato Jam, and Sourdough Bread ($9.95). While the Oaks usually reserves such specialties for their Wednesday grilled cheese night, this sandwich is available every day this week.

For, you know, all of those freaks who desire to get their Tillamook Loaf Love on without having to actually see just how much love goes into it.

Though the grilled cheese arrived with tomato slices instead of the aforementioned tomato jam tonight, Reyes' creation is undoubtedly a fine representation of the sandwich I'm too wussy to make for myself. The entire surface of the sourdough bread is crisp -- not just the outer edges around the crust. The golden cheddar cheese is luxuriously applied, but not overbearing. The accompaniments -- the fresh tomato slices and sweet slabs of well-rendered Black Forest bacon -- are not lost within it.

It's a simple offering, but wholly satisfying courtesy of the exact execution that I will never ever be able to replicate at home.

I'm complete rubbish, I tell you.

Or at least I am until someone else lovingly prepares and gives me a blissfully buttery, ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich to eat.

The Oaks Gourmet Market
1915 North Bronson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068
(323) 871-8894


Esi said...

I'm going tonight! Pretty sure the Oaks is the best thing about living in my neighborhood.

Anne said...

OMG that grilled cheese looks perfect....! Drool-worthy.

Gastronomer said...

It's a good thing I've got The Astronomer around to make my grilled cheese sandwiches. You are right, it's better not to know exactly how much love goes into it ;-)

LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

i never make it to the Oaks for grilled cheese night but i've been wanting to for a while now! will i see you at the Grilled Cheese Invitational this weekend?

Kung Food Panda said...

This looks great. I actually love grilled cheese for some reason, but I don't have cheese or butter in my house. It's probably for the best... :)

Diana said...

Esi - Ohhh can't wait to hear about how the other grilled cheeses are there!

Anne - It was totally the quintessential grilled cheese!

Cathy - Exactly! Can I borrow the Astronomer some time so he can make me grilled cheese too?

Nastassia - I'm headed down to OC tomorrow for the Easter weekend, but hope we can catch up soon!

Danny - I think it's impossible not to like grilled cheese! Something about it just makes me smile!