Sometimes food inspiration just strikes, and sometimes you have to go searching for it. If you’re going to go searching, there’s no better place to go than San Francisco.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are my kryptonite, but goodness I’ve been boring about them lately. Every day, the same. Two slices of whole-grain Bread Alone bread. Some Cabot sharp cheddar. On one forgetful day, I was out of butter and fried my grilled cheese in olive oil. That was the most excitement my sandwiches have seen this summer.
At Tartine, the baked goods beckon, but I needed lunch. I ordered a toasted sandwich, and Alex’s step-sister, Lissa Ivy, ordered one too. I liked hers better, but I’ll get to that.
We sat in Dolores Park, which I gather is the thing to do, and unpacked our yield from Tartine and Bi-Rite. Four sandwiches. One gougère. An almond croissant. Two meringues. A Mast Brother chocolate bar, all the way from Brooklyn – like us. Cherries. Cherry tomatoes. A copy of Edible San Francisco, with pages of pictures of berries taken by my friend and fellow Saveur best blog nominee, Kimberly from The Year in Food.
Tartine sandwiches are so huge they’re cut into three pieces instead of just halved. I had fontina, broccoli rabe and soppresseta pressed between two heavily buttered, crisp pieces of sourdough bread that must have been cut from the most massive loaves in existence. Lissa Ivy had a sandwich of fresh mozzarella and olive tapenade that just hit the briny-rich flavor nail on the head. Mine was good, but hers was better. We traded thirds–when you have a sandwich that big there’s no need to be stingy–and, mozzarella-olive sandwich in hand, my moment of food envy passed.
Before I even unpacked at home I made this sandwich. That’s not saying much, since it took me five days to unpack my stupid suitcase. I didn’t do anything too monumentally different with it than Tartine’s chefs did, though I did add extra anchovy so the grilled cheese acquired a fierce New York edge.
Food inspiration aside, I’m so happy to be back in Brooklyn I’m finally going to get my act together and post about my favorite neighborhood eats–which, if we’re being loyal to our cities now, are doubly as inspiring as San Francisco cuisine. With the exception of that incredible California produce. But who’s counting?
Thanks for all those who gave me San Fran tips on twitter! We had a great time.
More grilled cheese:
Golden Zucchini Sandwich from Big Girls, Small Kitchen
French Onion Grilled Cheese from Big Girls, Small Kitchen
Sautéed Chard and Gruyere Grilled Cheese from Sprouted Kitchen
Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Tastespotting
And, my beloved Grilled Cheese Pinboard…
Grilled Mozzarella Sandwich with Anchovy-Olive Tapenade
Makes 1 sandwich
For the tapenade
1/2 small garlic clove
Pinch of kosher salt
1/3 cup olives – about half niçoise and half meaty/wrinkled black olives, like Nyon, pitted
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
For the rest of the sandwich
1 sprig’s worth of fresh oregano leaves
3 thick slices fresh mozzarella
2 slices good bread, preferably something sourdough-y
2 tablespoons butter
Mince the garlic. Add the salt and keep mincing until the garlic forms a paste. Place the olives and anchovy on your cutting board and coarsely chop them all together until fine but not completely paste-like. Transfer to a small bowl and add the lemon juice and olive oil.
On one side of the bread, place the mozzarella. Sprinkle with oregano. On the other, mound most the tapenade–the amount depends on the size of your bread and your appetite for olives. Melt half the butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Place the sandwich in the pan with a weight on top for best results. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until the bread is golden and the cheese starts to melt. Lift the sandwich up, add the rest of the butter, flip the sandwich, and cook about 5 minutes on the second side.
Cut in half and serve.