Blog: The 2013 Big Cheesy
What do you get when you combine eleven sold out hour long sessions, an estimated 1,500 guests, and some of New York City’s most notable sandwich shops preparing inventive takes on a time tested taste of Americana? You get “The Big Cheesy” 2013, a grilled cheese competition hosted at Nolita pop-up space OpenHouse Gallery bringing in seven different purveyors in a battle for satiating supremacy. And with all-you-can-eat tickets priced at just $25 (which includes a can of Sixpoint beer), “The Big Cheesy” delivered as much value as it did gooey goodness to those of us in attendance.
LocalBozo.com dropped by the noon session on what was a sunny Sunday afternoon, which saw guests arriving promptly for its commencement. After grabbing a Sixpoint or alternatively a Coco Water, attendees looked down toward the Space’s wide open setting, with each restaurant’s table and staff lining the surrounding walls of the bright white room. Perhaps what’s most fun about “The Big Cheesy” is the fact that the winners are selected by the guests themselves and votes are tallied via ping pong balls collected by each participating restaurant. Therefore, the power was truly in our hands.
With that in mind, we set out toward the Upper West Side’s Say Cheese, whose lively interaction with tasters and chanting staff members certainly garnered them a great deal of immediate attention. Their sweet and savory takes on grilled cheese brought out a “s’more” filled with creamy mascarpone, Nutella, and a syringe filled with thick, sweet chocolate syrup between halves of fresh brioche as well as a “French Onion” inspired option, bringing together Swiss and Grueye cheeses, garlic butter, and hunks of French onion soup compote on a toasted sourdough loaf. Candidly, Say Cheese was our immediate favorite and failed to be outdone by any of the other participants, earning our orange ping pong ball from the get go.
That’s not to say however that the battle for confectionary supremacy at “The Big Cheesy” wasn’t at least debatable. Lower East Side hotspot Sons of Essex was in the house with a “Truffle Grilled Cheese” loaded with gruyere, goat cheese, parmigiano reggiano, and sautéed mushrooms and their “Bowery Bacon Crusted Melt” topped with sweet Manischewitz shallot jam. We went similarly wild for the eventual People’s Choice winner and defending champions from The Melt Shop, who brought an aged cheddar, Nueske’s bacon, and a cranberry union chutney on a rustic bread for a savory meets sweet pairing that was as good as advertised, from the grilled cheese experts.
Despite the competitive nature of “The Big Cheesy”, the real winners are the guests, who enjoy a smattering of comfort foods prepared by some of Manhattan’s most foremost authorities on all things grilled cheese. Although the people selected an outright winner, the submissions by Lucy’s Whey, ‘Wichcraft, Milk Truck, and Murray’s Cheese Bar were all outstanding in their own right, from the more classic takes to the more inventive ones. The competition was hot and heavy at this year’s 2013 run. But hey- nobody ever said it was easy, bein’ cheesy.
- Jane Van Arsdale