@ Jack In The Box

“Pastrami Grilled Sandwich:” pastrami, melted swiss, and pickle strips on grilled artisan bread. (No mustard, please.) In the fast food landscape, there aren’t too many grilled sandwiches that can be enjoyed from the comfort of one’s car. (Sadly, a quick glance at their location map reveals a midwest, bare.)  This was an awfully tasty alternative to what surely would have been another disappointing late night drive thru misadventure. If you can look past how fatty this pastrami is, it’s pretty salty and scrumptious. In addition to being a pretty good-sized sandwich, the bread was actually good. Despite the bonus points scored by the pickle strips, it clearly needs more cheese – which is why I had to give it a  7/10.  ($4.65)

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@ Cafe 440, in Eugene

Although simply called, “Grilled Cheese Sandwich,” this was anything but ordinary: White American, Tillamook cheddar and Havarti cheeses with roasted garlic aioli on grilled sourdough bread.  First, I must talk about this bread. Apparently sourced locally, (as all their ingredients, I’m told) from a place called the Bread Stop, it is unequivocally the best fucking sourdough bread I’ve ever eaten. Thickly sliced, dense, moist, and perfectly grilled. The cheese and garlic aioli were creamy and delicious in a way that makes your eyes roll back in your head. If there had been more of it in there, I wouldn’t have complained. That said, I cannot award a 9 to a sandwich that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about in the 24 hours since I ate it, can I? 10/10   ($7.50)

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@ Tillamook Cheese factory, in Tillamook

“The Centennial Grilled Cheese:” (created for their 100th anniversary in ’09) Tillamook sharp cheddar and vintage white medium cheddar on sourdough bread. You probably can’t tell from the photo, but this was a beast of a sandwich. I did not finish. (Although, since rehydrating from the night before took precedence over eating, I had a belly full of pepsi before I even started.) The cheeses were delicious. The combination of cheddars were a sharp and buttery mess of awesome. Grilling was just right, and the bread was huge and decent.  I immediately bought two blocks of the vintage white to take home with me. I gave it an 8. ($6.99)

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Visit to the Tillamook Cheese Factory

The Tillamook cheese factory is a thing of beauty. When we arrived, my pants were still soaked with saltwater from my first meeting with an ocean since 2004….so I was gleeful. Being from Wisconsin, you’d think I’d have already had a big cheese factory experience – but I’m not sure we have a cheese mecca such as this. (If we do, please advise.) We were told by the lady in the gift shop that this place sees almost 3,000 visitors per day.  The free cheese samples alone would have made this a destination, so you can imagine my wonderment:

That’s right folks, all cheddar. As it turns out, Oregon seems to know a few things about cheese. (Wisconsinites, I look forward to your emails.) I was elated to discover their cafe served a grilled cheese.  Being that I’m used to there being only one on a menu, when I saw the words, “grilled cheese,” I read no further. (Sadly, had I read on, I would have seen that there were, in fact, seven.) As it turned out, I was quite pleased with the one I ordered, but tragically bummed that I missed an opportunity to try a grilled cheese called “The Pacific,” made with Tillamook cheddar and shrimp. And before you ask, no: there was no way I could have eaten another bite. (Although I still managed to make room for free cheese samples and three scoops of ice cream.) The drive east was uncomfortable.

Review to follow.

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@ The Grilled Cheese Grill, in Portland

“The Jaime:” Mascarpone, nutella, and grilled banana on cinnamon swirl bread. We obviously saved (my first) dessert (grilled cheese) for last. It was delicious, naturally, but somehow very reminiscent of these:

The guts of the thing were super scrumptious. I wish, though, that the bread would have been a little less processed. Something local and fresh would have really made this something mind-blowing. If you’re listening, GCG: go get a little old lady to make you some homemade cinnamon bread. Charge us more for it, we will pay. I gave it a 8/10.  ($5.50)

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@ The Grilled Cheese Grill, in Portland

“The Jalapeno Popper:” Roasted jalapenos, colby, cream cheese, and corn chips on sourdough. This wouldn’t normally be something that would jump off a menu for me – but as I was doing my research, it kept coming up, again and again. I was a little apprehensive about the cream cheese, only because historically, I’ve never really been a fan of hot cream cheese. (i.e. crab rangoons.) However, being that it was such a staple, I felt I had an obligation. It wasn’t bad. I admit, I immediately loved the corn chips. Same as with the “Gabby,” the bread was good and grilling was just right. I really wanted to love it, but ultimately found it to be a little dry. To be fair, I did say “easy on the cream cheese” when I ordered, so that may have been my own doing. Regardless, it definitely needed another cheese to hold it together, probably a processed one. I also probably could have done with less jalapenos, but that’s just personal preference. (My accomplice notes: they [the jalepenos] were making my face “all blotchy.”) In the end, I gave it 6/10….which I admit is a little unfair, as it clearly just wasn’t my thing. It got me to thinking, though: there is serious potential here. Grilled Cheese Grill, if you’re reading this, hear me out: “It’s Nacho Grilled Cheese” sandwich: sharp cheddar, fritos, diced jalepenos, and american / velveeta on artisan bread. Maybe with salsa served on this side. It could be epic. Just sayin. ($5)

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@ The Grilled Cheese Grill, in Portland

“The Gabby:” cheddar, swiss, colby jack, mozzarella, pickles, and potato chips on sourdough. Before I first perused their menu, it would not have occurred to me to put chips on a grilled cheese. That said, the more I thought about it, the more sure I was of how awesome it was going to be. (Further, after the rotten success of the  Husdon’s “Ultimate” experiment,  I’m fighting an urge to put pickles on all of them.) It was the first one I grabbed when our “Fromage a trois” arrived. (Their fun-to-say, three sandwich combo.)  It was fantastically cheesy, and easily the favorite of the three we sampled. Good bread, perfectly grilled and greasy, and the potato chips provided a most-delightful crunch. I awarded it a (delightful) 9/10.   ($5)

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