For most of us, grilled cheese is synonymous with childhood — it reminds us of those cold winter days when mom would butter up thick slices of bread encasing gooey, melty cheese and serve it alongside a mug of creamy tomato soup. Eventually we grow up and our sandwiches start getting fancier (think a roasted turkey/brie/avocado/Dijon mustard situation!). The old-school grilled cheeses we ate as kids become a thing of the past, at best an occasional diner indulgence or preemptive snack before a long evening of drinking. Last Thursday at COOK, however, the wonderful Aimee Olexy of Talula’s Table and Talula’s Garden showed all of us just how versatile and sophisticated a simple thing like grilled cheese can really be!
Aimee has long been a fixture in the Philly food scene, starting with the accolades from her BYOB Django and then the massive praise for Talula’s Table, a unique gourmet market and unparalleled farmer’s table dining experience in Chester County. Much to the delight of her fans in the city, she returned to Philly last year to open the gorgeous Talula’s Garden in partnership with Stephen Starr. Throughout all her endeavors, the one thing that has remained constant for Aimee is her incredible love for cheese. Whether it’s a rare French cheese or an excellent local variety from Lancaster County, Olexy has experience with it all, and she shared her passion with us over a multi-course meal.
After telling us that her “desert island” cheese would be taleggio based on its versatility, Aimee jumped right into the food, starting with a simple homemade ricotta paired with a seasonal salad. Aimee broke down the process of making ricotta from scratch so clearly that everyone felt confident they could recreate it at home. Then it was onto the main event: grilled cheese time! We got a chance to try three very different sandwiches that were all delicious in their own way — a classic grilled cheese, a variation with lobster and brie and a meaty rendition with beef and blue cheese accented with beautiful beets. To finish? An amazing and creative dessert grilled cheese using gouda, maple syrup and shaved dark chocolate.
Want to learn more about cheese? Aimee is always at Talula’s Garden and is incredibly accessible and enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge of cheese with her guests. Grab a seat at the Garden’s cheese bar to taste through a board of your own, or inquire about the cheese happy hours she hosts regularly. The restaurant just started Sunday brunch, too, where you can taste through a hand-selected variety of cheeses on their beautiful outdoor patio.