Sunday, April 24, 2011

We've Got to Go Where There's Cheeeeese.

It began as a thought as we were driving through the Arizona desert on our way to visit my sister. The car was oddly silent. Just the hum of the car engine, and the sound of Claire's thumbs tapping furiously away at her phone keyboard. The quiet was suddenly broken when Claire removed her ear phones and blurted out:

Justine says there is a grill cheese festival in L.A. in a couple of weeks. How cool is that!

There aren't many occassions where Claire and Justine are super excited about anything but shopping at the mall, or quoting Sponge Bob. I recognized an opportunity, and siezed it.

I turned on the radio, and casually replied We are so going to that.  You know how much I love grilled cheese!  Text Justine back and tell her to put in on her calandar.

Really? You'd really take us?  Claire sounded surprised, which in turn surprised me. She knows darn well I never turn down a chance to do something adventurous, even if it takes all day to get there. Wasn't I the person who took her to see the Zee-donk in Mona, Utah for heaven's sake. (In case you are wondering, it's a cross between a donkey and a zebra.  We saw it.  We did!)

So, Saturday I kept my promise. We picked up Justine, filled the tank with gas, and took off for an adventure in downtown L.A.

I had no idea what to expect at a grilled cheese fest, which is always kind of fun -- the unknown.  Except when you get to the heart of L.A. and remember that it's a driving nightmare.  I should warn all of you that if you ever venture anywhere near 5th street, plan to get lost for a good 30 minutes, so go to the bathroom first! Navigating this area requires the eyes of a hawk, and race car driver skill. The freeways twist and turn in every direction, and you have to use super hero concentration or you will miss your exit and end up in East L.A. or Little Tokyo, which is what happened to us. Twice.  

We finally had to make a pit stop, and pay three dollars just to park for 10 minutes.   But it was worth it when we saw a sign above the toilet in the bathroom that said "Please do not flush any toilet paper down the toilet!"  As if anyone is going to follow that rule. (I think they meant paper towels.)

We finally ended up on a strange corner with people walking up a steep hill. Justine said Smell that? Grill cheese. That's definitely grill cheese in the air. We are here!  Sure enough, just as she finished her sentence, a man dressed like a cheese grater came into view, and I too smelled the greasy goodness wafting through the smog.

We parked in a strange lop-sided parking lot and made our way towards the brightly colored tents. When we walked through the gates, we saw it -- grill cheese heaven.  Roach-coach after roach-coach formed a parked convoy around the parimeter of the festival. In the center was a stage where hopeful contestants tried their best to concocct the ultimate sandwich of the day.  Food Network was on hand to film the festivities.  Apparently, this is serious business.

Claire said Forget the cookoff, we want to eat cheese! So we picked a truck, and got in line with the rest of the masses, and spent the afternoon sampling sandwich after sandwich.

We met the good folks of Tillnook Cheddar -- makers of my favorite sharp cheese. I was tempted to steal their little orange cheese van.

 We got free Izzy sodas, pickles, potato chips, and best of all, I met Betty, a contestant on Season II of Top Chef. I didn't even recognize her until she handed me a grill cheese sandwich and a little cup of soup.

I said You look so familiar.  How do I know you??? Hey..... you are Betty!

And Betty said Yes. Yes, I am.
And she smiled. 

 Then I smiled and said I need your picture.  And Betty put her arm around me and said. Go for it!  I made her assistant stop serving cookies to snap a photo, which he graciously did.

I must say that Betty had some major cleavage going on. I didn't' want to burn the eyes of my pubescent son, so I had to photo shop it out. Sorry Betty. I hope you understand. You really did rock your golden tank top.  (Isn't she lovely.)

Any-whoo . . . after all was said and done, my favorite grilled cheese of the day was a toss up. There was a truck called Feast, that had a grilled cheese with strawberries and bacon, and instead of fries, they had deep fried cheese curds. Weird you say . . . it was all delicious. You need to try it one of these days.  Make it at home.  I double dog dare you.

Betty's grill cheese was amazing too. Simple, but soooo good. She made a regular grill cheese, and added Parmesan and dill to the butter she spread on the outside of the bread. And, she served it with a delicious cup of cream of tomato soup, which is the way I love to eat a grilled cheese, dunked in tomato soup. Yum. I really don't need to say much more than that.

Today, I'm still thinking about the soup, and the dill/Parmesan. I need to make that for my family.  Which brings me to the conclusion that Grub (Betty's restaurant) should take home the trophy.  If you can get someone to think about a simple sandwich a day later, that constitutes a winner in my book.

There came a point in the afternoon, when Justine, Claire and I hit the wall. We couldn't eat another bite.  All that cheese was sitting there like a brick in our stomachs, so we called it a day.  

As we waved farewell to the cheese grater man, we vowed to make this a yearly tradition. Even when Claire and Justine are married with kids of their own.

But next year, I am bringing a huge salad along. All that cheese . . . it's just more than we could stomach. (If you know what I mean. :)  Plus, we are going to enter the cook off.  I make a mean grilled cheese.

P.S.  Cami, if you are reading today, this is for you my Wallace & Gromit, cheese loving friend.

(Link) View more Wallace Quotes and Sound Clips and Peter Sallis Quotes and Sound Clips


Genevieve said...

That looks like so much fun! I love a good grilled cheese and cream of tomato soup! Cool Mom award goes to Crystal!

Bethany @ Organic Enchilada said...

So have you been downing the stool softeners? Cheese kinda binds you up, doesn't it? I love the idea of using dill and Parmesan on the outside of the sandwich! That's thinking outside the box!

Eve said...

Greg was so jealous when I read him your text Saturday. Apparently he had heard about it and didn't think it would be worth it with little kids. But I wonder after hearing that Food Network and that rad orange Tilmook bus were there if he would reconsider. Maybe we'll see you next time. ;)