But more about grilled cheese later. I’m truly thrilled about something that goes hand-in-hand with this glorious feast. Imagine, if you will, a hand-held cheese board, cloaked in crustini and drenched in Irish butter, and you have but one thing to pair it with; a formidable wine.
Recently, I was thrilled to find 90+ Brand wines back on the shelf; they’ve been missing as of late, but I have seen them in more than one shop this month. If you are not “in the know,” you shall be no longer. You see, there was a quagmire in the wine industry in 2008 corresponding to the housing market crash, abysmal stock market, recession and other worldly financial woes.
Wineries – and we’re talking some of the best in the world – were sitting on untold barrels of juice that they simply could not sell at $60 per bottle, let alone $200. Along came a group of anonymous negociants in the wine industry who figured out an evil plot to benefit us, the amateur aficionados, and the wineries who otherwise had little idea what to do with their surplus.
The idea was simple: Approach a world-class winery and buy their wines that were rated at 90 or more points (hence the moniker). Then, they would be blended with relatively similar wines and bottled under the 90+ brand name and sold at less than $10 per bottle.
Henceforward, if you see this brand on the shelves, buy it. You will never know if it was a Chilean Carmenere or a priceless Napa cabernet. It will only cost you eight bucks. It’s hard to argue that, and as I sit here enjoying the pinot grigio adorned with this magnificent label, I realize that it might be a good thing to write about.
I already had the picture of a grilled cheese that I had made a few nights ago, and two things struck me. One, I need to make another one as the Double Gloucester (a British cheese that is equal in my eyes to the best cheddar you will find) is still in my icebox. And two, this pinot grigio will be a perfect match for this melted mound of munchable magnificence. I would apologize for my pre-Christmas alliteration, but I’m struck by the frivolous nuances that it leaves behind on my tongue as I read it aloud.
And speaking of Christmastime, is there ever a better time to make a grilled cheese sandwich? We’re chilled to the bone (not quite acclimated to Old Man Winter as it was 66 degrees last week), we’re tired from shopping, school parties, doctors’ visits, house-cleaning and the like, and we suddenly feel as though we want to be kids again, void of responsibility and care.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, speaks to the heart of the inner child in all of us more than a grilled cheese sandwich. I can just imagine the Wonder Bread bags adorning my feet before shoving them in the rubber boots that we used to wear in the 70s. We would play in the snow for hours and return home with soaking wet feet. I’m pretty sure that the bread bags were just a ploy to get us out of the house for a little while.
Either way, we had fun, and after a few hours of near-death experiences on the Kalmbach’s sled trail – it was treacherous as hell as they would spray it down at night and roll it over with an old-fashioned paver – we would come home to this beautiful feast, battle-bruised and tested by the fence posts in the Kozel’s yard that you would try to avoid, do what you could.
The sandwich was and is simple, demure and soothing, bringing color back into our blue lips and peaked fingertips. In hindsight, I still don’t understand how we wouldn’t start shivering until we were inside that warm house again, steam rising from our clothing as we stood by the wood-burning stove or the fireplace. Kids … they amaze me.
As does this sandwich.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
2 slices Pumpkin or Sunflower seed bread
2 reasonable slices of Double Gloucester
a slathering of Irish grass-fed butter
Truffle salt, as needed
Make sure that you have enough cheese to cover each slice of bread
Butter each slice of bread liberally (or conservatively if you are a sissy) and top with a slice of cheese
Heat a cast iron skillet until it is medium-hot
Add the 2 slices of cheesed-bread butter-side down and cook until you see the steam from the butter starting to melt the Gloucester
Carefully flip one piece of bread onto the other one and quickly check to ensure that the bread on the bottom is not burning
Turn until the bread is golden, butter is sizzling and cheese is properly melted
Serve with a crisp Pinot Grigio or, even better, a Sauvignon Blanc. The crisp and cool nature of these wines will stand up well to the fat and robust nature of this uber-simple sandwich