How does a Carne Asada grilled cheese sound? Complete with poblano pepper, homemade onion jam, and – naturally – gooey, dripping American cheese?
If that combination has your mouth watering you are not alone – nearly 300 voters at last week’s first-ever Grilled Cheese Battle thought the same, and they voted the culinary concoction by the food truckers at Mojo Loco the champ sandwich of this year’s inaugural griddledown.
The Delaware Park event drew hundreds of hungry attendees who came out to judge the offerings of 11 talented chefs and their sizzling spins on America’s greatest comfort food. With all that beautiful, buttery toasted bread and oozing melted cheese, cocktail napkins – and even the occasional wetwipe – were in high demand.
This was the most egalitarian of food contests – no celebrity foodies passing judgment here. Every attendee received three red tickets as ballots – their votes were limited although their appetites were not. On offer were an eclectic variety of tasty sandwiches from restaurants around the state such as Delaware Park Chef Josh Keeting’s sweet concoction – toasted cinnamon raisin bread, Brie cheese, candied bacon, drizzled with black garlic honey – and The Stone Balloon Ale House’s Chef Robbie Jester with a cave-aged cheddar and mozzarella cheese with pecan smoked shoulder bacon on a pretzel bun. Metro Pub & Grill Middletown entered a caprese grilled cheese (tomato, basil and mozzarella) that many seemed to enjoy a great deal.
But at night’s end, after all of the votes were cast, it was Mojo Loco – a food truck specializing in tacos – that received the most votes and the top prize for their Carne creation. Mojo Loco lead chef Antwan Reid remarked, “We just let the steak and the poblano onion jam to do all of the talking.” When asked if his team toyed around with lots of grilled cheese ideas, Reid said that actually, this was the only recipe they considered. “When I get home after a long day’s work, this is the very same grilled cheese sandwich I make for my family. It’s easy, and they love it every time.”
Event organizer JulieAnne Cross also founded the popular Delaware Burger Battle, now in its seventh year, but she’d been hankering to host a grilled cheese showdown. “I was always confident the grilled cheese concept would be a hit, and the response from attendees and participating restaurants has been fantastic,” she said.
After first conceiving of the event, within days of posting a Grilled Cheese Battle Facebook event page, Cross had reached 1,600 RSVPs – with zero advertising.
Ironically, the 2017 Delaware Burger Battle winner had a similar theme. Maiale Deli & Salumeria’s “Mexicano Burger” was stuffed with roasted poblano peppers.
2018 Grilled Cheese Battlers included:
Home Grown Cafe
The Green Room at HOTEL DU PONT
Lefty’s Alley & Eats
Maiale Deli & Salumeria
Metro Pub & Grill
Stone Balloon Ale House
Cross said one inspiration for the cheesy chowdown was the appeal to vegetarians who couldn’t partake in the Burger Battle bacchanalia. “I was able to confirm that half the samples were or could be made vegetarian. But there was a lot of meat still involved – bacon of all varieties and sausage,” she said.
Cross has received lots of helpful feedback from attendees and participants who are looking forward to next year’s event – one recommendation that will likely have broad appeal is positioning beer stations in more strategic and convenient locations. “Generally, people were just full and happy, and people are always interested in how their personal favorites fared in the competition.”