Saturday, February 18, 2006

Say Cheese!

Not too long ago a certain James Beard Award-winning writer wrote an article about food blogs in Food & Wine Magazine. And then all hell broke loose.

The dust has settled and most of us food bloggers have chosen to respond with what we know best: food. In particular we're featuring a certain type of food that the writer took as symbol of bad food blogging, the cheese sandwich. This gave me the perfect opportunity to try a local shop that I keep walking past and telling myself to go try it.

Say Cheese! has been a Hell's Kitchen spot for the last several years and it bills itself as the "Home of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich."

The shop is filled with just a few tables and chairs in primary colors against a natural brick wall on one side and simple long white wall running back to the counter, above which hangs a blackboard listing the different sandwich and smoothie options.

The menu features a number of melts and flats filled with everything from pesto to artichokes. I decided to go a bit more traditional and ordered "The Big Cheese", a three cheese (muenster, provolone, wiss) sandwich with roasted red peppers, garlic and red onions on olive bread.

The crunchy and gooey combination are what make grilled cheese sandwiches so delicious for me. But the sweetness of the peppers was an unwanted contrast to the salty melted cheese and it interrupted my moment with with Mr. Crunch and Mr. Goo. My first bites were also rather messy as I fought valiantly with the pepper bits and onions when they tried to slide out of the sandwich; I would try to ram them back in, but I lost that battle and they ended up spread all over my tin foil covered basket. The bread was decent, but its crunch could almost be defined as "jaw-breaking." I yearned for Wonder Bread.

Maybe its my not-so-refined palate or that I just like to reminisce about the simple versions I ate during childhood, but I think I prefer a plain grilled cheese sandwich on that Wonder Bread, even ones with *gack!* Kraft singles. Yes, the orange hue is unnatural (and probably terrible for you, too), but there is something so strangely comforting in that color. I connect happy moments in my youth to that bright orange-as-Halloween cheese sandwiches.

Reflecting on this particular cheese sandwich, I probably would've been better choosing a funky version with some odd combination of ingredients. Well, at least I had my say and my cheese for food blogging.

Say Cheese!
649 9th Ave,
NY, NY 10036
Between 45th and 46th Street


Blogger Kalyn said...

The sandwich does sound delicious, but I am with you, I hate things that are hard to eat. I don't mind a bit of dripping, but when the whole thing starts to fall apart on you they lose me there. Love your take on it.

12:33 PM  
Blogger MeBeth said...

I confess - I make my grilled cheese sandwiches with kraft singles. There is something so comforting about that fakey yellow cheese.

12:05 AM  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

I ran a photo of Velveeta singles on my blog, and a whole bunch of otherwise very food-sophisticated people confessed to adoring Kraft Singles. (No one liked the Velveeta "slices," including me.)

1:07 AM  
Blogger Mona said...

Great post Rose :)
I love that picture and the store, how perfect for this cheesy occasion.
That looks great.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Rose said...

Kalyn:Dripping food is only fun when your five and without a care in the world. When you pay your own way and really like your clothing, food that falls apart is no fun anymore

beth:I think there are a lot of foodies who use kraft singles and would never in a million admit it :-)

cookiecrumb:I read that entry and it actually got me thinking about kraft singles (even though it was Velveeta) before I had even gone over to Say Cheese! I've never had the Velveeta, but I think I'm going to steer clear of it.

mona:I had so much fun writing this post. One of my favorites so far. I can't believe I've been blogging for almost 10 months!

6:45 PM  
Blogger Seize the 'Que said...

Rose, Sorry I'm been remiss in my blog reading (and posting) recently. I like the post of Spring Festival treats. I must amdit I did nothing for the holiday, but I've been rather Scroggie with my holidays this year.

I do not like Kraft singles and never had. I remember the first time I had them--yicky. They were one of the few things I was not allowed as a child that I never tried to sneak at a friend's house (fruit roll-ups though, I would sneak a whole box).


8:21 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

Slippery vegetables, nooo! I hate that! :( It's something that contributes to my disike for tomatoes.

Some of my classmates talked about this place last year. It's a bit out of my way Jaw-breaking bread? I like chewiness, but not the kind that breaks body parts. :P

My favorite cheese sandwich growing up was with Muenster cheese. For whatever reason it was one of the only cheeses my family bought and...I really liked it (it doesn't have much taste though). I got a bit disgusted with Kraft singles after a while, not that they taste, they're in their own category of food. ;D Over my childhood I think we may have had one pack of Kraft singles in my house.

Kraft singles reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Homer eats an entire pack of them, unwrapping them into the night. Now THAT'S disturbing.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up in China makes it easy for me to be a little biased about cheese sandwich I confess. To me that was just two pieces of bread plus a slice of cheese! What's so special about that?! Until I read your post on 18th this month, I admit that does sound mouth-watering and I am going to try make it myself this evening! Well-done Rose, the power of words.... and the picture! - Jing

7:53 PM  
Blogger Rose said...

Jennifer:A lot of folks are not kraft singles fans. I'm actually not a fan of it eating it solo--it's more just a great grilled cheese sandwich filling. To each his own :-)

robyn:I love how the simpson writers take such mundane aspects of the american lifestyle and turn them into humorous, subtle social critiques. I'm sure we could find a "food" picked at in each episode.

Jing:Thanks so much for commenting!!! for those who grew up outside of western societies, I can see how enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich could be seen as rather silly...really, it is just two pieces of bread and cheese. But it's also one of those dishes in american food culture that have transcended time. It's as american as a roast turkey at thanksgiving.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that you had a bad experience. A friend introduced me to Say Cheese! recently and I love it! The pesto sandwich is fantastic .. granted some of the pesto drips out but that's what makes eating a sandwich so great - especially eating a good sandwich. I'll take a Say Cheese! sandwich with a side of tomato soup and some character.

Say Cheese! and bring me an extra napkin..

10:28 AM  

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