Wine and (Grilled) Cheese: The Perfect Pairing

by Bob Wyman
Print Email

mark-peel-at-3-twentyChildhood fantasy: Coming home from school on a cold day and having a grilled American cheese sandwich with a bit of tomato soup. Adulthood fantasy: A prosciutto, manchego and mint pesto pear grilled cheese sandwich paired with a glass of Hirsh Pinot Noir. Who says that childhood fantasies are better?

Last Thursday, Peggy and I went to 3 Twenty Wine Lounge, our favorite wine bar, for the return of Campanile's grilled cheese night. Campanile was one of the great Los Angeles restaurants that for many years set the mark for food and style for dining in L.A. It original owners, Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton, were the foodie "it" couple. Reservations were impossible, food was incredible and the venue, once belonging to Charlie Chaplin, was gorgeous. Sadly, like many great restaurants, it ran its time and recently closed.

Of the many innovations that came from Chefs Peel and Silverton was the elevation of the grilled cheese sandwich to an art form. Many chefs today are making amazing grilled cheese – Celebrity Chef Eric Greenspan having twice won trophies at the international grilled cheese competition – but it was Peel and Silverton who started it all. They introduced a grilled cheese night at Campanile that was packed for years. It was the original. It still is the standard.

With the closing of Campanile, we thought grilled cheese night was gone forever, so we were thrilled when we learned that Edgar Poureshagh of 3 Twenty Wine Lounge had invited Mark Peel for four Thursdays for the return of grilled cheese night. Sadly we missed the first two, but we made it last night and booked our reservation for next week (the final week) before we even finished with dinner. For us, it turns out that Campanile's grilled cheese and 3Twenty Wine Lounge is a perfect pairing.

the-classic3Twenty South is a small wine bar/restaurant with about 40 wines by the glass and about as many seats. Because of its size, Mark Peel was front and center making his grilled cheese. I had been to Campanile many times over the years and had met Mark when he sometimes made the rounds, but to have him creating his amazing sandwiches in the middle of the room was a treat. He was so enthusiastic about what he was making, talking to all of the diners, explaining his dishes and what made them great.

Peggy and I got a close up lesson on how to toss pears in mint pesto. The secret (in addition to an amazing pesto to start) is adding just three drops of lemon juice. "Most people put in too much and instead of getting a hint of acid for balance, you end up drinking the juice" he instructed. "If a little bit of something tastes good, then more is terrible." Mark Peel's cooking words to live by.

In addition to having Mark front and center, making and explaining the sandwiches, Edgar was there to pair them with the prefect wines. Edgar is a sommelier with a truly deep knowledge of wine and a fantastic palate. His wines are from all over the world. We gladly put ourselves in his very capable hands.

After a butter lettuce, apple, hazelnut and blue cheese salad that we had with a German dry Riesling, it was time for the main event. Peggy ordered the "classic" grilled cheese sandwich with marinated onions and whole grain mustard. I ordered the prosciutto, pear and manchego sandwich with the mint pesto. Sadly we were too full to have the Rubin, made with house cured pastrami. Next time.

wineOnce the sandwiches arrived, Edgar then went to work. He was pretty confident about my paring and picked a dark rich Pinot Noir that worked both with the salty fat of the prosciutto and the sweetness of the pears. He had a little more work to do to pair the "classic" because of the strength of the mustard, but this only worked to our benefit as he brought out a Marche Rosso from Italy, then a Rioja from Spain before settling on a Rose from Germany. We were happy with each, but in the end it was the Rose that really cleansed the palate for the next dreamy, creamy, crunchy bite of classic grilled cheese.

The perfect food and wine paring makes each taste better. The perfect restaurant paring elevates both as well. Campanile's grilled cheese with 3 Twenty's wine did just that.

3Twenty South Wine Lounge: 320 South La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036 / (323) 932-9500

Bob Wyman practices entertainment law as a partner in the firm of Wyman & Isaacs, LLP, but spends much of his time eating and drinking in L.A.

Comments   

+1 #1 richard steingard 2013-04-01 17:01
Bob
Bruce sent me your article on grilled cheese and it struck a deep chord. For about the past maybe 10 years, my daughter Jordy and I went there for grilled cheese night. Just father and daughter; my wife and son were not allowed (although we once got a GC to go for Amy). I think we started when Jordy was in the 3d or 4th grade, and continued right up until the restaurant closed. We didn‘t go too often, maybe every 3-4 months, which made it more of an event. Some of my fondest memories are the people we met there – like the drunk nutty lady at the next table who told 10 year old Jordy that she had an “old soul” – and our unbelievably great conversations. I would ask these open ended questions and just listen as she told me all the things we couldn’t drag out of her at home. Then the food: the GC (always the classic), fries and that remarkable salad, and we’d slowly start eating, savoring the first few bites and swearing there was nothing better. We ate till we were stuffed, I don’t ever remember ordering dessert. Finally, I’d get an absurd bill for 2 sandwiches and think it was money well spent.
This may be more info than you wanted, but my point is, I loved your article, albeit for my own reasons.
Richard
PS GC’s at LAX?? Check out http://www.campanilerestaurant.com/

Comments have been closed for this piece.

 

restaurant news

The River Cafe
London - British Isles
by Michael Elias

rivercafe.jpg The good thing about having a sister who owns a restaurant – and The River Café is a great one in my opinion – is that when she’s cooking my son is allowed to order ‘off the menu’. In his case...

Read more...
Appetizers as a Meal
Mid-West
by Sue Doeden

altHave you noticed how easy it is to make a meal of just appetizers at a restaurant? On a trip to the Twin Cities last week, my husband and I paid our first visit to 112 Eatery. Located in the...

Read more...
Letter from Palm Beach: Renato's
Florida
by Nancy Ellison

el_mirasol.jpgPalm Beach is different from other tidy resort cities that line the Florida Coast. While remarkably tidy, it is also both eccentric and pretty, and I do believe it has its own wacky, elegant soul.

... Read more...
The Golden State
Los Angeles
by Sara Mohazzebi

goldenstatelogo.jpgTwo years ago, I made a decision that forever changed my dining experience. I stopped being friends with anyone who doesn’t like to eat. Living in Los Angeles, the city of beautiful people, this...

Read more...