When Master of Ceremonies Kyle Cherek (Wisconsin Foodie) announced “Spatulas Up,” competitors in yesterday’s Third Annual Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Competition had 15 minutes to make their sandwiches. Three of the 120 competitors were Mineral Pointers Lauren Powers, Lisa Hay (me) and Dave Lawson.
Queen Mother – Lauren Powers
Lauren deserves an award just for showing up at the competition Sunday morning. The night before, Lauren’s sweet daughter Elise was crowned Mineral Point Junior Prom Queen.
In addition to all the excitement, Lauren chaperoned a post-prom party at the bowling alley until 3 a.m.. Understandably, Lauren was thinking of skipping the Grilled Cheese competition, but the newly crowned Elise told Lauren “you signed up for this, you should do it.”
And do it she did! In a competitive 20-person heat, Lauren took 3rd place for Amateur Classic. And she did it with a Mineral Point classic – Hook’s 5-year cheddar. Lauren was assisted by her sister, shown below photo-bombing this photo of Lauren and Kyle Cherek.
Obviously, everyone was having fun. Kyle gets points for wearing a cheese colored pocket square.
Third Time Not The Charm – Lisa Hay
If there’s such a thing as a losing streak, I am certainly on one. I thought that if I competed in three categories I would increase my odds of winning.
Wrong! Instead I was overwhelmed. Not only did I need to pack a cooler to make 18 sandwiches, but the experimentation phase leading up to the competition was unpleasant. Let’s just say Pop Rocks do not really work in a grilled cheese.
Frank Beaman (one of many Pointers in attendance) captured the moment when my assistant, Don (who may need a bigger hat) took a phone call in the middle of the competition.
Actually, Don, the real cook in our family, was very supportive throughout this fiasco. And hearing Point Five play throughout the afternoon was a source of comfort.
Life of the Party – Dave Lawson
In his first, but certainly not his last competition, Dave Lawson put forth a valiant effort.
Dave competed in the “Extras” category which allows for unlimited ingredients. After much thoughtful experimentation, Dave went with his Thanksgiving sandwich, which involved him roasting a turkey and making bread from scratch. Although Dave didn’t place this year, he clearly had a good time and he learned for next year. Dave says he needs to focus more on the cheese and “make it the star.”
Most of you are probably wondering, “who won?” and “what did he make?” Interestingly, a guy named John Christiansen, won first place in all four amateur categories (one was a tie for first). Throughout the competition he used compound butters and a digital-laser thermometer to gauge the inner-cheese temperature. Here are his recipes as found on the event website:
“Classic” – mushroom compound butter & Carr Valley Black Sheep Truffle Cheese;
“Plus-One” – Sendick’s Muenster, parsnip, pomegranate glaze, and grated Carr Valley Cave Aged Mellage (on top);
“Classic Plus Extras” – bacon compound butter; Dofino Creamy Havarti, andouille sausage, mettwurst, bratwurst, Italian bacon, seasonings, onions, celery, garlic, peppers, cayenne, and pepper;
“Dessert” – Carr Valley Sweet Cordona, butter, powdered sugar, Craisins marinated in cream sherry, vanilla beans, chocolate syrup and raspberries.
Whoa! He deserves an award just for thinking up these recipes. My ham and cheese sandwich didn’t stand a chance. (Here’s a link to Carr Valley Cheese – which is a beautiful 1-hour+ drive from Mineral Point.)
In the professional category, The Gouda Girls dominated, as they did last year. If you’re fortunate to see their Grilled Cheese Truck somewhere, you are in for a treat!
All in all, it was an exhausting but uniquely Wisconsin experience. As Wisconsin Foodie, Kyle Cherek pointed out, Wisconsin is one of few places where making grilled cheese is a spectator sport.
– Contributed by the Lisa Hay