Mobile hugged us with grilled cheese...
A lot has gone on since the last post. The house in Houston has been emptied, the secure corporate job with the steady paycheck has been resigned from, the business license and permitting for the shop is moving right along and the most important of all activities - preparation for the First Annual Grilled Cheese Meltdown in Mobile was completed.
We had no idea what to expect.
We knew we needed cheese (duh), since we are The Cheese Cottage. People should expect cheese to be highlight of our entry. We decided to invest our potential award winning entry in aged Gouda, but not just any Gouda. Mareika Gouda produced from Penterman Farms in Wisconsin had to be the winner. Upon tasting, it has a mild start, with a stronger, back of the throat finish that would not be offensive to the less sophisticated pallet while appealing to the most experienced. Marieka Gouda was the obvious choice.
What else? Oh, the bread. What kind of bread should we use? Plain white? Fancy-smancy multigrain? The potential selections were endless. We experimented with a house-made Serrano pepper cornbread loaf. It was beautiful and grilled up nicely. There was a problem though. It was TOO good, if that is possible. The bread outshone the other elements of the sandwich. We couldn't have that - after all we are The Cheese Cottage, not The Cornbread Cottage. We ended up deciding on an unassuming sourdough. It stood up to the Gouda, but was not trying to steal the show.
Next, what should we use to make our sandwich memorable? The cheese is great, yes, but we are supposed to be providing an experience, right? To us, that means expanding people's minds of what can be paired with what. The question remained. What would allow the cheese to dance but be supported by a great partner?
We decided the best dance partner was bacon (I know what you are thinking - BACON!). You could put bacon on a turd and it would taste good. However, we weren't trying to make something that tasted bad, taste better. We needed a balance.
Then eureka! Bacon Jam. Yes, you heard me - JAM. Nothing goes better with a great cheese than a touch of sweet. We proceeded to source quality ingredients to build this masterpiece. Thick cut bacon, 18 year old balsamic vinegar and sweet Videla onions would be the foundation. Slow cooking all of these plus brown sugar, maple syrup and garlic would round it out. Voila! There it was...the perfect marriage. It will end up being a staple in our shop.
We submitted our entry to the judges, again focusing on getting 400 samples out of the front of the tent to the patiently waiting attendees.
So, there it was, while doing a cheese tasting of goat/cow Brie, coffee aged cheddar, and blue cheese to a group of wide-eyed children, I heard our name being announce over the loud speakers, "The Cheese Cottage". I finished the education of the little ones, (whom by the way didn't know that goats even could be milked), and asked why was our name called. Then, my lovely daughter-in-law, whom had worked all day in her 9-5 paying job and had just finished a three hour Iron Chef grilled cheese competition, said, "We won third place!".
We placed third! You may be saying, "Why are you so excited about third place?". Now we know why the bronze medal winner is ALWAYS the happiest! We had very low expectations. We have never professed that we will be a restaurant - think deli. We want to be about cheeseboards and cured meat plates and of course wine. We were up against some seasoned, quality, full-blown restaurants: The Battle House Hotel, Newk's, Moe's, Wedgies, etc. (check these places out!). We just wanted to give everyone a unique tasting experience and introduce ourselves to Mobile. And we may have succeeded.
So, thanks Mobile, for the warm welcome. Thanks for putting this event on as a platform to introduce ourselves. Thanks to everyone who attended and gave us a try. Thanks to the friends and family who battled the crowds to root us on. Thanks to the other competitors for being so gracious and friendly. And lastly, thanks for the confidence booster. Mobile is "hungry" and we are ready!
See bacon jam recipe:
* 2 lbs. Bacon (don't skimp here - quality is key)
* 4 Sweet Yellow Onions, sliced into thin ribbons
* 2 Tbsp Minced Garlic
* 1/2 C + 2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
* 3/4 C Brown Sugar
* 1/2 C Maple Syrup
* 2 tsp Kosher Salt
* 2 tsp Black Pepper
* Optional 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes if you like heat
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay the bacon slices out in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15minutes, or until the bacon is nice and crispy. Lay out on paper towels to drain and set aside, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.
2. Add the bacon grease to a large skillet and heat over medium, medium low heat, then add the onions and garlic and stir around to coat with the bacon grease. Allow to slowly cook for an hour, checking every ten minutes or so to stir and scrape up any black bits that form on the bottom of the pan.
3. Once the onions and garlic are a dark golden brown color, deglaze the pan with the 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, scraping the pan as the vinegar dissolves. Add the remaining balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper and stir until a thick glaze forms, around 5 minutes.
4. Add the onion mixture and bacon to a food processor and pulse until the desired consistency forms. Scoop the bacon jam into a jar and devour immediately, or refrigerate until future use. Use within one week.
Pairs well with any cheese.
Aged 10 months - our cheese of choice
Too good to use!
Get your bacon jam on!