Phoenix Grilled Cheese Showdown 2012

The day started off great, with my morning being completely fulfilled by the Farm to Table Brunch ,. I had just enough time to drive home, download the pictures and clear out my camera before heading off to the Phoenix Grilled Cheese Showdown 2012. Eight (instead of the originally planned ten) Valley Chef’s competing for the Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich; sounded like ooey, gooey, cheesy yumminess!!!

If you have ever had the pleasure of the Butter Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Devilicious, then you know what I am talking about: Grilled Cheese elevated for adults. And this event was sure to bring out the creativity of the Chef’s participating, and tantalize my pallet…or so I had thought.

The event itself was an utter disappointment; so much so that my husband and I could barely wait to leave. But, we did want to make sure we tried every single offering by the Chef’s and cast our vote for the People’s Choice. The best way I can describe this event would be to say it would have been a great singles mixer, and it felt as if the event as a whole was disorganized and poorly planned.

As if the venue being overcrowded, the Chef’s stations were hard to identify from vendor booths, signage regarding each selection was inconsistent (if even present), and maneuvering through people were not bad enough. This was compounded in general by grilled cheese sandwiches that lacked inspiration, elevation to adult worthy, and overall, terrible representations of a childhood classic.

With each grilled cheese sandwich, we were confident that it had to get better; and with each grilled cheese sandwich, we were even more disappointed that the one before it, with very little exception. The Chef’s seemed to take the concept of grilled cheese and applied the philosophy that utilizing a cheese other than classic Kraft American singles were enough to make it great. Some played with the fat to grill the sandwich, such as using duck fat instead of tried and true butter; even duck fat can’t make a bad sandwich good. Others played with the cheese selection, or the bread. One chef went so far as to create a sweet quesadilla (apples, pecans, blue cheese), then cover it with a spicy red sauce and call it grilled cheese. Some of them were such poor flavor combinations that I couldn’t even manage to swallow a small bite. Nearly all of them fell flat on my expectations; then again, I had already been tainted by grilled cheese excellence when I had my first one from Devilicious. There were only two exceptions: Café ZuZu’s Grilled Cheese (Fontina cheese, razz cherry jam, wild arugula, grilled with bacon-infused oil, and served with a bechemel sauce on toasted sourdough) and 5th & Wine’s Braised Shortrib Grilled Cheese.

The event was scheduled from 4:00PM – 7:00PM. We arrived about 15 minutes after the start, and quickly departed approximately an hour later. There was little seating and few tables to set down your plate. It was a young crowd, and as previously mentioned, felt like a singles mixer. Before the event, I was already looking forward to next year, but now I wouldn’t even dream of buying tickets again.

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