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Melt N’ Toast and Cheese

November 9, 2018

How is it Friday again? Where does the time go. There is more to share with you than I can possibly squeeze into one post. So some of the stories from this week are going to have to wait until next week.

What cannot wait is an update on the ticket giveaway for Troy’s annual grilled cheese festival. But since we’re on the subject of grilled cheese, it will also be a good opportunity to share a story from last week involving The Cheese Traveler.

But maybe we need to back up a bit and recall what happened in the judging of last year’s Melt N’ Toast.

Last year I had to do one of the hardest things ever in the world of food judging. I had to vote against my favorite grilled cheese sandwich in the Capital Region. To be fair, it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten one of the grilled cheese sandwiches from The Cheese Traveler, but I’ve long held these to be the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the Capital Region.

What makes them so great? Part of it is using full flavored, well crafted cheese. Part of it is the option to put in finely crafted meats, including the impossibly smokey Benton’s bacon. Part of it is the sturdy bread to hold the thing together. But a big part of it is the French butter used to fry the sandwich. Cultured French butter makes all the difference.

Except last year, at the Melt N’ Toast festival, the mobile unit wasn’t able to execute the sandwiches to the same standard as one can find in the shop.

So as one of the official judges, I had to vote against it. The sandwich that won, was a sandwich I wanted to hate. It used conventional supermarket bread, and even included the dreaded balsamic glaze. However, the whole thing just worked. And it was brilliant. Which meant I had to put my ideological biases behind, and award the best grilled cheese sandwich the top prize.

My hope is that The Cheese Traveler returns for the second year for a shot at redemption.

Once again, I’ll be judging the competition. But this year, I’ll be judging it alongside some hand picked members of the Yelp Elite Squad. Yelp is a media sponsor of the event. And as such, there is a pair of VIP tickets to the festival up for grabs right now!

Seriously, it’s a great giveaway, and you should enter. It would be fabulous to see some more FLB readers at the event this year. Here’s the link to the contest. The official rules are at the bottom of the page.

This year City Beer Hall, Albany Pump Station, and Soul Kitchen Albany have come on board. They didn’t compete in last year’s festival. But I love Dimitrios at CBH and Ian at APS. They are both super talented chefs, and I can’t wait to see them go toe-to-toe in a grilled cheese battle.

Sure, there will be wine, beer, and cider too. But I’m there for the cheese.

Speaking of cheese, the Yelp crew was just recently treated to a stellar event at The Cheese Traveler where the community had a chance to meet Mary Rizzo, who is the new owner. She demonstrated how to create cheese plates, by lavishing us with three different plates, each one grander than the next.

Along the way, we got to meet some of her favorite producers and partners, including the gang from fin who brought a couple oysters, Artisanal Brew Works who among other things brought a Belgian-style quad that paired beautifully with cheese, Yesfolk Tonics who sampled the stunning Yaupon, Cochran Farm 1790 with its beautiful Loire style goat cheeses, and Shelburne Farms who came with a delightfully fruity raw milk cheddar.

If you’re interested, you can see pictures from the event here.

It was the first time in a long time that I brought home a round of cheese to have with dinner. I selected Gwen’s St. Johnsville because I knew Mrs. Fussy would love it, and she did.

But I was also reminded of why I don’t buy more cheese. I bought the perfect quantity for four modest servings. However, while the kids tried this goat’s milk cheese, they just weren’t into it. Mrs. Fussy has a lot more restraint than I do. So I ended up eating about three portions of cheese with dinner.

It was a delicious and decadent treat. But I still haven’t figured out how to buy an appropriate amount of cheese for four people, if two of them may reject it after the first bite.

Alas. I’ll just have to keep going to The Cheese Traveler and having them put together a cheese plate for me to nibble on while I sit in the shop. It’s not the worst plan. I just wish I could do it more often.

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