GBD Paradise

I didn't expect that I would find myself coming back so soon. Not like it's right around the corner or anything, and it's only grilled cheese. Oh, but that word, "only," is so unflattering. Particularly because it does not belong here; improper usage, I would say. Between the scent of buttery toasting bread in the air and the unbelievably wholesome and delicious ingredients used, this is more than just a grilled cheese. And here, "just" has no place either.

Once again, I sing the praises of GBD, the place for grilled cheese around these parts and located in the middle of the Point Reyes Farmers Market. There you will find the thoughtful creations of Christian Caiazzo, a talented chef with a bicoastal resume including such spots as Union Square Café (in NYC) and Twenty Four, Globe, and Postrio (all in SF). Currently the proprietor of Toby's Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station and fostering a handful of other projects, it's a wonder he finds the time to do what he does.

On this visit, I found the same fantastic three I tried on my last visit and one more to boot: The Paradise. This sandwich layers Brickmaiden sourdough bread with gorgeous, vibrant and sweet summer squash, thin sliced and lightly grilled, with a chiffonade of basil and Gruyère cheese. Simply delicious, this sandwich; a tribute to the vegetables that filled it, a salute to summertime.

Oh, how quickly I am falling for the GBD, it's more than just bread, butter, and cheese. Such a dangerous habit, but I can't wait to see what comes next.


A Most Delicious Cheddar

There's something old-fashioned feeling about Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Maybe it's the fact that they have a hand on every part of the cheesemaking process, from the cows to the foil wrapping around their Original Blue. Maybe it's the old milk can on the label, or perhaps because they pour all of their efforts into only one cheese.

But recently, I discovered an addition to the family, the extraordinary Vintage White Cheddar. There I was, at the Point Reyes Farmers Market, standing in front of a young lady offering only a few selections from both Cowgirl Creamery and Point Reyes. While the cheddar was the last thing I tried, it was by far my favorite; quite possibly one of the most delicious cheddars I have ever tasted.

While it crumbles a bit when sliced, it is incredibly moist and creamy. Rich, milky taste with an amazing sharp tang that lingers well after the last bit has melted from your tongue, this cheese has the flavor characteristics of a long aged cheddar but the texture of a near youngin'. Yet again, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. has shown us that they know simplicity at it's very finest.

Though it may not be easy to find nearby, it is available through their website, paired with a wedge of Original Blue, and a "knock your socks off" macaroni and cheese recipe. But this cheese is well worth the hunt. And by the way, if you haven't tried their Original Blue, it turns even the "I don't eat blue cheese" crowd into believers.


Down wit' GBD

This is new to me, this GBD. Apparently I'm out of the loop, not hip. But golden, brown and delicious? Now you're talkin'.

And GBD around these parts is more than just an abbreviation, it's a destination. Point Reyes Farmer's Market is home to one heck of a grilled cheese haven, the GBD stand. It's a little secret, I think, to those outside of the Point Reyes area; I wouldn't have known about it myself if not for a friendly, though anonymous, comment. Thank you, anonymous, I was made very happy today.

From what I can gather, of the three creations on GBD's menu, one is a regular (The Breakfast Bobby), one is regular (as in, a plain grilled cheese, though I use plain in the most thoughtful way), and one draws on the pleasures of the Farmer's Market that surrounds it. All sandwiches are served on generously buttered (hello, Strauss Creamery) and crisp Brickmaiden Breads. Hint, hint: the warm, fresh, crusty breads themselves may be yours to take home if you get to the market early enough, for the Brickmaiden sells out quickly.

First, "The Gianni," contained Mezzo Secco Jack from Vella Cheese and Cave Aged Gruyere. I am a huge fan of Gruyere, especially in grilled cheese sandwiches. And the Mezzo Secco? Well, Vella Cheese is one of the few producers of the simply delicious Dry Monterey Jack, a firm, extra aged, seriously nutty Jack cheese; Mezzo Secco is just a less-dry version of the same. These cheeses made quite a team. A bit of pungent ripe Gruyere balanced by a smooth-melting salty Jack. And in the argument for the use of grated cheese: little toasted cheese crispies clinging to the buttery crust. There is no debating it, that's the best part.

Then, "The Lunny Link." This one I wasn't prepared to fall in love with, but I did. Organic grass fed hot link sausage (that's a mouthful), Dijon mustard, caramelized onion, and cheese. I didn't ask what the "cheese" was, and for that, I give myself a slap on the wrist. No matter, it was not the star here; this sandwich was a complete package. It had everything it needed and nothing it didn't. Thin slices of sausage from The Lunny Ranch (part of Drakes Bay Family Farms, also hosting a booth at the market) mounds of soft, sweet onion, a few swathes of tangy Dijon, and just enough gooey cheese to hold it all together. This one's a keeper.

And finally, "The Breakfast Bobby," the sandwich with a golden center. Yes, the intense yellow you see here is that of a pasture raised Marin Sun Farms chicken egg, blanketed with Bravo Farms Cheddar. The perfect hand-held breakfast, wrapped in a brown paper envelope, ready for the go.

Though truly, for these, you ought to take a seat. And yes, it's worth the drive.


Grilled Cheese, 3rd Gen

And now for something completely different. Thin sliced New York Rye from Acme Bread, Istara Ossau-Iraty, unsalted butter and Kosher salt (makes for a great salted butter substitute) and luscious, red-ripe tomato slices.

I remember the first time I ever heard of a grilled cheese with sliced tomato. It was on the menu, with three cheeses to boot, at Katz's ("Never Kloses") Deli in Austin. Quite frankly, I was shocked and appalled. It would take a couple of years more and a friend who loved the joint ("The fried pickles are awesome," she proclaimed) before trying the contemptible concoction, with a side of fried pickles, no less.

To my surprise, a perfect marriage. Juicy, tart tomatoes, warmed over by mellow, nutty cheeses sandwiched between crispy toasted bread slices. Oh yes. According to my previous convictions, adding something to a grilled cheese, creates something different altogether (i.e. grilled ham and cheese, or any variety of the "melt"), but in this case, the something different was just a fantastic version of one of my favorites.

I haven't had that sandwich in years, and I've never made it myself. I don't remember the three cheeses (Swiss, Muenster, and provolone?), and the bread was nothing special, really. But I did have have the perfect tomato, and as we all know the perfect tomato must be savored quickly, its life is short and sweet.

And as for the cheese, Istara Ossau-Iraty is a sheep's milk cheese from the French Pyrénées. Ossau-Iraty (oh-soh ee-RAH-tee) in general is a firm, mellow, ivory colored cheese with the gentle tang of sheep milk complimented by a robust nuttiness. Perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich, if you ask me.

This has proved to be one of my greatest attempts at the grilled cheese, if I may say. The thin sliced bread crisped beautifully and held up well to the juicy tomato. And the cheese, oh man, so good for this sandwich. I can't say that it is bold enough for the classic, but in this combination, it was everything it needed to be: lightly sharp, salty, and melty.

If you don't know how it's done, a grilled cheese should be cooked so slowly on the first side that the cheese is nearly melted, and upon the turn over, it takes only a quick browning on the other side to melt the whole lot of cheese throughout with little, if any, oozing its way out of the sandwich. The trick here is to add the tomato just to the sandwich just before flipping; this way, you don't have a falling-apart overcooked tomatoes on your hands (literally) and you haven't had to disturb any delicious melted cheese to get those slices in there. It really can't get much better.

And by the way, fried pickles, delicious. Could use a side, right about now.


Not So Long Distance

No, we're not breaking up. I know I haven't been around, but I'm here now. I'm sorry I've been so distant. I just needed some time. Give me another chance. I have some grilled cheese(s) planned for us, and maybe even a pasta dish (National Macaroni Day is next month), oh, and have you tried Halloumi? Please, don't go. We have so much in common. CHEESE.


Sweet, Sweet Burrata

It is the stuff that your cheese-filled dreams are made of, burrata. Though a (somewhat) distant cousin of mozzarella, it is just so much more than that. And this particular burrata, is as good as it gets. I first had the opportunity to enjoy this gift to the dairy world years ago, paired with uber ripe heirloom tomatoes, the juiciest of watermelon, and bright green shags of basil.

Amazing. Where had this been, why hadn't I had this before?

Inside a paper thin skin of mozzarella lies creamy, soft, unstretched curds of the same. It's like no other. This is one of the very things that inspired me to experiment with cheesemaking, albeit I have not yet done so, with burrata specifically, anyway. I simply must study it further before such an attempt. Unfortunately for my schooling in this subject, it is seasonal and highly perishable. On the upside, now is the season and as for perishability? A non-issue once within my grasp. (Technically, it is available year round, but is not so easily procured outside of the summer months.)

And the dear one responsible for bring this creation to this side of the pond: Vito Girardi of Gioia Cheese Co. located in Southern California. Oh Vito, ahem, Signore Girardi, thank you, thank you, thank you.


Grilled Cheese v 2.0

Yes, back to the drawing board, I haven't won anything yet. But if you remember, I'm planning on it. While my last attempt was enterprising, I decided to take a few steps back to the basics.

As a kid, grilled cheese often meant real cheddar cheese and wheat bread. What's a kid gotta do to get some Wonder bread and a processed cheese slice? Little did I know I would one day look to that lesser-appreciated sandwich for guidance. (Though I gotta say, a girl still loves her grilled white bread, bright-yellow-cheese sandwich with the soggy pickle slice, uh-huh.)

But, nothing toasts up like wheat bread. That crispy sheet on the outside that yields to toothsome bread on the inside, oozing with gooey melty cheese. Mmmm. My ultimate goal would be to find a white-flour bread that could replicate this feature, but until then, I'll stick with a nutty wheat slice. This time I chose a sprouted wheat bread for that extra crispy crunch.

Now for the cheese. They say shred it. I say, "Why?" Don't get me wrong, I understand the concept, but I'm not sure that it really has any true benefit. I think I've gotta chalk this one up to personal preference. And, being low maintenance (lazy), myself, I think I'd go with sliced in the future. Maybe.

I did have two types of cheese going this time, and since they were of different color, I think shredding was beneficial to the aesthetic. Another plus, you can play with the ratios of different cheeses, especially when they are difficult to slice. Case in point: I used sharp cheddar (not hard to slice) and Raclette (pretty hard to slice), so shredding worked beautifully.

As you may recall, I've used sharp cheddar before. Yeah, definitely hung up on sharp (or extra sharp!) cheddar. It is precisely the "sharp" that is the cornerstone of a killer (traditional) grilled cheese sandwich. The only problem with this kind of cheese is its gooey-ness or lack thereof. It melts, sure, but in a stringy (which is good), greasy (not so good) kind of way. I need a gooey melting cheese (i.e. little to no fat separation) to make this a great sammie. Enter Raclette. I chose Raclette for its melting qualities, and while I do love the flavor, unfortunately, it took away from the cheddary goodness of this sandwich.
But, getting closer...

So, yes, back to the drawing board. Can't complain, though, I do love the research.