When Jared and I first started dating — way back in 2000 (I KNOW) — neither of us were all that handy in the kitchen. We both knew enough to, like, keep ourselves fed, but beyond steaming some veggies and making sure the chicken was cooked enough to avoid food poisoning … well, I think we ordered a lot of takeout.
However, there was one meal we both claimed to be great at making, so we decided to make it a competition — a Grilled Cheese-Off, if you will. If you ask him, he clearly remembers winning, and I have fond memories of walking away victorious as well, so the only thing that’s really clear at this point is that we had a really delicious dinner that night.
Oh, and also? That grilled cheese is basically always awesome, even if the cooks in question are semi-unskilled.
You might’ve picked up on the fact that some of us around here really like beer, too, so when I had a chance to check out an advance copy of Grilled Cheese and Beer: Recipes for the Finer Things in Life by Kevin VanBlarcum and James Edward Davis, I was quick to reply with a, “Yes, please!” Because if plain old grilled cheese made by a couple of clueless kids is good, then gourmet grilled cheese paired with tasty craft brew was sure to be an experience.
First off, these guys love puns. (No, I don’t think that’s cheesy at all — obviously.) And it features some gorgeous food photography, sure to make any lovers of toasty bread and melty cheese drool. But it’s not just eye candy — it has brief guides to beer and cheese in the front, and many of the recipes (and their suggested pairings) are definitely outside of what I’d think of on my own (think: tart cherry jam, pineapple rings, a sprig of rosemary, broccoli, maple syrup …). Plus it shares reasons why the beers suggested make good pairings, so you can take that knowledge and roll with it (although, of course, we’ve kind of covered that in the past, you know).
Here’s what the authors had to say about the book!
Fit Bottomed Eats: What inspired you to take grilled cheese and beer and go full-on next level with it?
James Edward Davis (“Eddie”): After Kevin came to me with the idea, I just wanted to see how far we could go with a sandwich.
Kevin VanBlarcum (“Kevin”): Eddie and I would always make hypothetical and cleverly named sandwiches when we would hang out, all for the fictional menu at our still-totally-possible restaurant “Cheesy Beerds”. The natural progression was to start recording them and trying them out. And for my piece, a well-paired beer can make just about anything better. So it made perfect sense to us.
FBE: What would you consider the most surprising ingredient or pairing from your book?
Eddie: “Most surprising” is a tough question. I want every sandwich to be surprising, but since I got the weirdest looks from telling people I was using Spam, I guess I’d say the Maui Wowi (a Hawaiian roll with Havarti, Spam and pineapple).
Kevin: There’s a lot of crazy ingredients in this book. Eggs, asparagus, artichoke, and tons of other fruits and veggies. But for me the Sweet Treat is the most unexpected. A “dessert” grilled cheese made with sweetened cream cheese, a medley of berries and chocolate chips — it’s pretty crazy to say the least. And paired with a dark flavorful vanilla stout, the combo is perfectly decadent.
FBE: Is the perfect grilled cheese more about ingredients or technique?
Eddie: The perfect grilled cheese is about having fun and enjoying yourself. Can’t take it too seriously. Remember, you gotta eat it!
Kevin: I would say it’s about technique. Quality ingredients are key, but for me I can make a great grilled cheese with whatever’s lying around. It probably drives my wife crazy, but I would say patience is key for getting the perfect melty cheese to toasty bread ratio. Low and slow, baby.
FBE: Do you have any pairing tips you’d like to offer?
Eddie: My tip, besides working with a partner who really knows his beer like Kevin, would be: don’t be afraid to mess up or make something that doesn’t taste perfect.
Kevin: Sometimes simpler is better. Really complex sandwiches sometimes just need a simple beer so all of those ingredients can shine.
Have you ever had a surprisingly amazing grilled cheese? I remember the first time I ordered my grilled cheese “sexy” at a local restaurant in Gainesville. They added a tomato. It was fantastic. —Kristen