i just got back from the kickass grilled cheese invitational in dolores park. this spectacular event featured sixty competitors divided into three heats, each producing grilled cheese creations for the ravenous and excited crowd to devour, ponder, and vote by ballot for their favorites. i bet they never imagined they’d be doling out their grilled cheeses to a screaming crowd of super-psyched sammich fanatics/judges yelling like preteen girls at a justin timberlake concert. here’s how it worked, as far as i could tell. competitors submitted a sandwich for one of four precisely defined categories: ‘the missionary position’ for a straightup white bread/cheddar stand GC, ‘spoons’ for your choice of bread, cheese, and butter,’the kama sutra’ for spoons PLUS any extra ingredients (but must remain 60% cheese) and finally, ‘the honeypot’ for sweet dessert grilled cheese. mmm. let the cheesiness begin.
as expected, there was a pretty massive crowd. san francisco + foodie people + dolores park saturdays + chance to dress up like food items + opportunity to stuff your face with grilled cheese = PEOPLE ROLLING MAD DEEP. here’s a view of the crowd from up the hill:
the old-school-drive-thru-line-cook-behatted competitors brought their own ingredients and set up their cooking station at a bunch of burners in lines at a few folding tables.
these tables were surrounded by an outer ring of tables to fend off the eager onlookers. once a competitor finished preparing a sandwich, they’d scan the eager outstretched hands, pump up the crowd with a ‘WHO WANTS BOURBON AND CHEESE?’ and then hand it over to a lucky winner on a paper plate with an attached ballot. not only was the sandwich making competition intense, but so was the sandwich receiving. see for yourself:
i got there a little after the start time of 1pm, and missed the handout of orange wristbands that marked you as a judge and therefore entitled you to plates of sandwiches. this wasn’t explained too well on the website (some dude admitted they were a bit disorganized) but the vibe was great and people were giving out taster sandwiches anyway, you just couldn’t vote. then people started leaving and giving up their wristbands, and then competitors started handing out the plates to anyone, so we ended up with a pretty fantastic selection. free hint for future grilled cheese invitational attendees: you’re more likely to nab sandwiches if you scream a lot, wave your hands, and generally act you’re fourteen and robert pattinson is offering you a chance to touch his greasy hair. our method was chanting CHEESE-US, CHEESE-US, CHEESE-US, which led to all kinds of jesus quotations like cheese-us is our lord and savior, cheese-us christ superstar, and cheese-us is a friend of mine (seriously, please watch). i guess i worship at the altar of pan-fried buttery toast surrounding oozy gooey salty cheese as much as anything else.
my friend julie might just be the best person to ever accompany you to a grilled cheese invitational. she’ll bellow ‘I WANT SHIITAKE’ over and over again to score a wedge of sauteed mushroom glory, but then will promptly hand over all sandwiches for your tasting pleasure because she can’t eat gluten. angelo and i were forced to endure the tragically unfortunate burden of eating our share as well as julie’s.
the sandwiches, while generally quite delicious, were all over the place in so many ways. cheesiness scale ranged from unmelted cheese (gasp!) to it’s-not-a-grilled-cheese-if-you-can’t-taste-the-cheese to deliciously drippy gorgonzola cheddar mouthfuls. the insanity scale went off the charts with a questionable combination of mushrooms and a huge pile of whipped cream. some sweet combos really worked – strawberries and ricotta – while others involving a dry and overly bitter dark chocolate didn’t. a photo selection including a hungry ballot box monster!:
the ballots asked you to score the sandwich on a scale in the categories of taste, presentation, wessonality, and spaz. and yeah there was some seriously entertaining and hilarious spaz going on.
once you filled out your ballot, you’d hand it over to a ballot collector like this lady. i wish i was grilled cheese headpiece awesome like her:
drool over this chocolate covered doozy of a honeypot:
here are the few of the awesome competitors. our first contestant is showcasing the bourbon honey dripper, with bourbon pears, and honey wrapped in a thin pancake. totally delicious, but more like a sweet crepe than a grilled cheese. our second contestant is blowing a grilled cheese kiss. i didn’t get to try his creation, but i’m pretty sure he was the one in a hula skirt handing out dixie cup shots of maker’s mark. our third and final contestant is holding what turned out to be my favorite sandwich, the ‘menage a fromage’ with strawberries, almonds, ricotta, aged balsamic, and honey in a griddled croissant. also comes with magnum condom, ’cause it’s so good you’re gonna wanna fuck afterwards.’ i’ll have to add grilled cheese to my list of powerful aphrodisiacs.
overall, it was a fantastic event with so many excited people, so much creativity, so many awesome outfits, and mostly, so much cheesy deliciousness. bravo to all the organizers, all the competitors, all the people there, and especially the couple below. you know you’re in san francisco when even the banana costumes are certified organic.