Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Cheese Traveler

For whatever reason, growing up in Canada the only kind of cheese that was around my house were wedges of Laughing Cow cheese spread. My parents didn't grow up with cheese products in Vietnam nor did they ever develop a taste for it here.  It wasn't until we moved Stateside that I got a taste for grilled cheese sandwiches.  As a kid I marveled at the grilled cheese of my friends' childhoods: gooey bright orange slices of Kraft singles melted between buttered slices of Wonderbread. I've since graduated from American cheese and have discovered grown-up variations. 

There's something magical about perfectly toasted bread and melty cheese. Add gourmet ingredients and grilled cheese is taken to a whole new level. After this weekend, I'm pretty sure J and I have found the grilled cheese sandwiches of our dreams at The Cheese Traveler. We're no cheese connoiseurs but you don't need to be to stop by here. The staff are very knowledgeable about their products and happy to educate you about the nuances and origins of the various cheeses. As purveyors of all things delicious, it's no surprise that you'll find a quality grilled cheese sandwich here. All the ingredients are found right in the store. Here you'll find the finest of ingredients from bread to cheese, to charcuterie and even fruit spreads and chocolate bars. 

There are two grilled cheese menus at The Cheese Traveler: the front board is reserved for the day's specials while just around the corner, you'll find the full regular menu overlooking the olive bar and case of cured meats. Anything with duck confit usually calls our name so we got one sandwich from the daily menu (a duck confit and rippleton cheese with cider jelly) and one from the regular menu (The Spicy & Smoky). It's not just the bread or just the cheese that makes each and every one of these grilled cheese sandwiches special but the unique pairing of ingredients. 

The Cheese Traveler seems to have a very good understanding of layering complementary flavors. As rich as duck confit can be, the fattiness and gaminess of the meat paired wonderfully with the sweet and sourness of the cider jelly. The Rippleton, a sheep milk's cheese produced in Cazenovia (NY), provided a nice nutty flavor. On a side note, come to find out, the rind is uniquely washed in a non-alcoholic IPA. All the sandwiches come on Bonfiglio bread from Hudson. Thick slices of the seed loaf for this particular sandwich served as the perfect foundation for the elements above. A quality crusty yet chewy bread really makes a difference between an average and great grilled cheese. In this case, it was mind-blowingly great. 

The Spicy and Smoky grilled cheese was just as well-balanced. I've always wanted to try nduja, described to us as a prosciutto spread. It reminded me more of chorizo and tasted just as delicious. The cheese here was a dante, another sheep milk's cheese, that was also a good melty cheese akin to gouda. The baguette in this sandwich absorbed a good amount of the sausage fat, in a good way, like awesome meat butter. This too was a packed sandwich but the accompanying grilled artichokes and onions offset the salty, smokey, and spiciness of the nduja, bringing a fresh and bright element. Each sandwich comes with a sour pickle, giving you a break from all the salt and fat so you can come back for more bites with a clean palette. Taking advantage of other quality products from the storefront, we paired our sandwiches with a Fentiman's soda, a fermented beverage with unique flavors like rose lemonade and dandelion and burdock. 

Our only gripe was that there was no soup available that day to accompany our grilled cheeses. That just gives us another reason to come back. A Cheese Traveler gourmet grilled cheese sandwich was just about the best lunch we've had in awhile. There really is an art to making a grilled cheese and it's been perfected here. There's no looking back at a Kraft grilled cheese; bring on the grown-up versions.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. Drove up the hill at lunchtime from work at the Corning Tower to enjoy and grilled cheese sandwich with an awesome pickle. It doesn't matter what kind it was, they are all tempting, gooey, flavorful, creative, and different than the happy little salad I had brought from home. Thanks for the yum, Eric and team!