The smell of warm, intoxicating cheese permeates the air the second you walk into The Big Cheesy, a grilled cheese showdown among seven of New York City’s grilled cheese connoisseurs, hosted at pop-up event space Openhouse Gallery. I had my work cut out for me — tasting one amazing grilled cheese sandwich after the next. But only one shop would win and become the ultimate Grilled Cheese Champ.
Tartinery’s Croque Madame (pictured above) scored points for being the most avant garde. Gruyere and ham formed a crispy, meaty coating on poliane bread with a fried egg on top. Although it was definitely a bit rich, it tasted exactly like a Croque Madame from Paris.
The classic grilled cheese from Lucy’s Whey earned the Chelsea Market shop third place. Prairie Breeze cheddar, sea salt and olive oil with a touch of fig jam on Amy’s Bread was both simple and delicious. The cheese—a.k.a the best part—was really the star.
Murray’s Cheese Shop presented an “Atomic Bomb” of braised short rib and taleggio with caramelized onions, spicy relish and jalapeno peppers that tasted even better dipped in mazi piri piri hot sauce.
Little Muenster’s rounded grilled cheeses served with tomato soup were a bite-size delight. The guyere, tallegio and fontina cheeses with membrillo, a fruit paste, and prosciutto on organic peasant bread came in second place.
Casellula Cheese and Wine Cafe’s mix of Scharfer Max, gruyere and Emmenthaler Swiss cheeses with pickled pepper relish had just the right amount of kick.
The most decadent grilled cheese was definitely Big Daddy’s. Between two slices of Orwasher’s bread was macaroni with a Parmesan crust and six different types of cheese, plus bacon, tomato and truffle oil. If you love mac and cheese, this sandwich is for you.
The winner was Melt Shop with a sandwich trio. Sharp cheddar and pulled pork with homemade BBQ sauce on sourdough bread; blue and cheddar cheese with bacon and cranberry pepper jam on sourdough; goat cheese and fontina with roasted wild mushrooms and parsley pesto. Although it’s unclear whether presenting three sandwiches could be considered cheating, all three were equally delicious.
Now that you’re drooling, try one of these Cooking Channel recipes at home: