Meera Pal, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Determining what makes a really good grilled cheese sandwich is like trying to determine which came first, the bread or the cheese.
It could be the type of bread, or maybe it's the type of cheese -- or cheeses -- used. Either way, grilled cheese sandwiches are one of the most popular comfort foods in the world.
In celebration of the crunchy, buttery, cheesy goodness, Thursday, April 12 is "National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day" and April is "National Grilled Cheese Month."
Charlotte Devilliers, manager of Cheesetique -- a specialty cheese shop in Del Ray and Shirlington -- says she doesn't know why April 12 was chosen, but it's the perfect month.
"There are days like today, where it's a little bit chillier and colder out and people want that comfort food," she says. "April, obviously, is known for April showers. Days like that anybody would want a grilled cheese. It's a very homey type of food."
Punchbowl.com says Ancient Romans were the first to make a cooked bread and cheese sandwich. But many cultures have adopted the sandwich and created their own spin on the classic.
In France, people enjoy a Croque Monsieur, which is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. In Switzerland, the custom calls for melting the cheese and toasting the bread separately before bringing them together.
Punchbowl.com reports the classic American grilled cheese came out in the 1920s when inexpensive cheese and affordable sliced bread became available.
Devilliers says it's hard to pin down just one thing that truly makes a great grilled cheese sandwich.
"It's definitely quality cheese to start," she says. "You want something that's a little bit tangier that kind of gives you a little bit of sharpness. Obviously, a cheese that melts well because not all cheeses melt well, contrary to popular belief."
"And, obviously a good bread. We use sourdough from Lyon Bakery from D.C. We get it fresh everyday," she says.
And, rather than use the traditional butter, Cheesetique brushes each sandwich with olive oil instead.
"I just creates a better crunch. It gives it that extra crispiness," Devilliers says.
Luckily, grilled cheese fans can find their beloved sandwiches at cafes, diners, school cafeterias and even at some of the finest restaurants around the world.
The Daily Mail reported in 2010 that a Michelin-starred chef created the world's most expensive grilled cheese sandwich, with a price tag of £110 -- this works out to roughly $175.49 U.S. dollars.
The sandwich, created by chef Martin Blunos, includes cheddar blended with white truffles, quail egg and 100-year-old balsamic vinegar. The entire thing is sprinkled with gold dust.
For more out-of-the-box grilled cheese sandwich ideas, the Wisconsin Cheese Board offers its Grilled Cheese Academy with a directory of 30 sandwiches.
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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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