7th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

Melted, gooey cheese. Golden toasty bread. Maybe some roasted jalapeño, a healthy heap of pork belly, a fig jam spread, perfectly crisped bacon. Yes, we’re talking about the grilled cheese sandwich and yes, the possibilities are endless.

There’s no better place to show off the versatility of this practically-perfect-in-every-way sandwich than at our annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown – a battle among Toads, family, friends, and community members for the coveted Golden Spatula Award.

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This year at our seventh annual, competition was tougher than ever. Here’s how it works: Everyone gathers in the Toad office backyard to watch our competing teams duke it out by whipping up their tastiest recipes. First sandwich off the grill goes to the judging table and the rest go to the salivating crowd (there’s a Peoples’ Choice Award too, so feeding the audience is equally as important!). If you can’t wait for the chefs’ creations, you can tide yourself over at the Make-Your-Own-GC station. And because nothing pairs with a grilled cheese like tomato soup and a cold one (or two, or three), we’re lucky that longtime partners Organic Soup Kitchen always show up with the soup and local fave Topa Topa was there to keep the beer flowing.

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This year’s lineup consisted of 4 Toad teams, plus teams from our friends at Alpha Resource Center, Luno Life, Los Padres Forest Watch, Ontraport, Topa Topa, The Sandbox, SB Fire Department, and UCSB Bren School. A few masterpieces included “You Are Bacon Me Crazy,” “The Hogfather,” and “The Cubano.” Mouth watering yet? Us too.

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When the sun sets, and panini presses are turned off, there can only be one Golden Spatula winner (OK, and a few runners up because we love to spread the celebrations). Congrats to the following teams!

All That Jazz: UCSB Bren School, Kimcheeze for Sheezy

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Best Solo Act: Toad’s Ian, The Big Cheesy

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Most Balanced: Los Padres Forest Watch, Gourmet Girls on Fire Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Peoples’ Choice: Alpha Resource Center, Pesto So Gouda

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Golden Spatula (Best Overall): Toad’s Guin and Helena, Frankenfromage 

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AND we asked realllyyy nicely and got Guin and Helena to share their mouthwatering secret recipe with us. Get your aprons ready (and fair warning, this is some seriously gourmet stuff)!

What you’ll need:

  • -Equal parts Gouda and Gruyere
  • -Parmesan
  • -5 sweet white onions (we used Vidalia)
  • -Beef stock
  • -Sherry
  • -White wine (mostly for the cooks)
  • -Kerrygold butter (It’s the fancy-pants kind and so worth it)
  • -Milk
  • -Half and half (or cream)
  • -Flour
  • -Bay leaf
  • -Fresh thyme
  • -Fresh flat leaf parsley
  • -French bread

 

Chop, and then caramelize the heck outta the onions in a pot. Simmer 2 hours, de-glaze with 1/2 cup sherry and 1/2 cup white wine (the rest is for drinking, remember?). Cook down for 2 minutes, add a splash of beef stock, and a few thyme springs. Remove 2/3 of cooked onions (should be super brown for maximum tastiness), add to blender, and blend into a puree. Set aside.

Pour remaining beef stock into onion pot, add bay leaf, leave to reduce and simmer for a good long while. Salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile –

Grate all that cheese. Make a roux out of 1/2 stick butter and 1/2 cup flour, slowly add milk and half and half, (3 parts milk x 1 part half and half) until your reach nappe consistency. Teamwork really helps here—one whisking furiously while the other adds ingredients. Next, a handful at a time, add grated cheese until incorporated. Keep whisking until creamy and salt to taste. Add onion puree to cheese mixture. Once combined, pour mixture into a loaf pan lined with parchment. Allow to cool then toss in the refrigerator until solidified (most likely overnight).

Next, chop parsley. Slice bread (we like the slices thick), butter the outside like there’s no tomorrow, crust outside of bread with parmesan, cook parm-side down on in a buttered pan using low heat. Remove chilled cheese loaf from fridge, slice 1/2 inch thick, place on top of bread, and sprinkle with parsley. Top with a second slice of parm-crusted bread and wait until it gets super golden brown and tasty tasty looking on both sides. Don’t flip it too early. Here’s how you’ll know it’s done: It should be a rich brown color, and if you tap the bread and it makes a low hollow noise, you’re good to go.

Remember the beef stock we set aside? Pour into cute little bowls and use as au jus for your cheese masterpiece!

And while we’ve got you in that grilled cheese spirit, we asked two of our esteemed Toad judges for their favorite full belly-approved Toad items to wear while chowing down on the good stuff.

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“I’m a big fan of the Mission Ridge Lean Pant. They’re so comfortable you’ll think you’re eating your grilled cheese at home on the couch. And if I’m grilled cheesing it up in the summertime, I’m all about the Lounge-Out Cord Short—because classics like cords and a tasty grilled cheese were meant for each other. And also, stretchy draw-cord waist. Enough said.” – Danny, Sr. Sales Ops

“Nothing screams summertime grilled cheeses like some 4-way stretch shorts, so the Cetacean Block Board Short is my go-to. I like to keep it classy on top with the Mattock II Short Sleeve Shirt, which also looks surprisingly good with a napkin bib.” -Neil, Sr. Ops Manager

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month: Q&A with Artist Jazmin Harms

There’s no such thing as a “disability” when it comes to creativity or work ethic. A sense of purpose runs through all of us, and that force is strong with Jazmin Harms. Jazmin is a resident artist at the SlingShot Art Studio and Gallery in our hometown of Santa Barbara.

We’re big fans of SlingShot since it’s not your typical gallery: The art on the walls is created by 40 in-house artists with intellectual disabilities. A branch of the mission-driven Alpha Resource Center, SlingShot provides a sunny, open studio space to encourage creative expression and a modern gallery for artists to sell their art in the heart of downtown.

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Jazmin Harms is this month’s featured artist at SlingShot’s latest gallery show, ROAR. Her use of graphite on paper brings life to the animals she loves. SlingShot Teaching Artist Mike Blaha sat down with Jazmin to ask her about some of her favorite things.

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Where is your favorite place in nature?

Jelly Bowl in Carpenteria. I walk to the Beach. It takes about 20+ minutes but I like the journey to the beach. I bring my phone to take pictures. My favorite subject is the sunset. I look for the “golden hour” when the sun just disappears and there are dolphins. 

What kind of art do you create?

I draw only animals all the time. I pick pictures that I can depict honestly and are true to their forms. Big predatory animals are the most interesting and big cats are my favorite. 

What medium do you use?

I use graphite because I like the way the shades of graphite renders the animals. 

What time of year is your favorite? 

I like summer evenings the best because I can stay at the beach for longer. I time my arrival to catch the “golden hour.”

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Taking photographs of the sunset seems challenging, how do you do it? 

I like using foreground objects like rocks, driftwood and surf to accentuate the sunsets. I love seeing whales and dolphins. My favorite colors are the oranges and yellows. 

What else do you like about the beach? 

I like to go alone to feel a strong sense of nature. I hike up and down the beach to collect sea glass. Finding blue is my favorite. I have quite a large collection of sea glass. I get a calming effect that lasts the rest of the evening. I go as often as I can.

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To see Jazmin’s amazing work, check out the ROAR show at the SlingShot Studio. We held a pop-up fundraiser for March First Thursday (which is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, btw), and we can say firsthand that all the art is stellar!

For more on our mission to create and support opportunities for people with disabilities, check out this letter from our CEO. A portion of every Toad&Co purchase directly contributes to our mission.

Winning Recipe from the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

What do Picasso, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt all have in common? All three of these famous creatives were able to produce stunning artwork from relatively simple materials. The magic lies in the artist’s ability to create something greater than the sum of their materials, and this philosophy is exactly what propelled UCSB’s Bren School to victory at the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown. For those unfamiliar, the Grilled Cheese Smackdown is the biggest cooking competition west of Paris, and draws some of the world’s best chefs and artisan sandwich makers (that we know of).

With stiff competition and numerous competitors duking it out for the coveted Golden Spatula trophy, recipes are often kept secret. After all, why would you divulge such confidential and fame-inducing information? But this reserved mindset is not shared by all, especially the team from UCSB’s Bren School. They were generous enough to share the recipe to their winning sandwich, The Vampire Slayer, so everyone can enjoy their marvelous creation. Recreating the greatest grilled cheese sandwich of the year may be difficult, but rest assured, with enough time and dedication, you’ll surely be able to turn out a sandwich capable of slaying vampires!

The Vampire Slayer by UCSB’s Bren School

Ingredients

1 loaf of sourdough bread (The winning bread was from Helena Ave Bakery.)
Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar Cheese (Try some from Face Rock creamery.)
Dubliner Irish Cheddar Cheese (The one from Kerrygold is a good bet.)
Garlic Parsley Butter (1 stick of butter, 4 cloves of mashed garlic, liberal pinch of parsley.)
Homemade Marinara Sauce.

Instructions

For one sandwich, allocate enough Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar Cheese slices to cover an entire piece of sourdough bread.
Top the Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar cheese with a few slices of Dubliner Irish Cheddar Cheese.
Liberally apply garlic parsley butter to the outsides of both pieces of sourdough bread.
After the garlic butter has been applied to the bread, garnish the outsides with parmesan cheese for a toasted parmesan crust.
Place the sandwich on an already hot griddle, and toast until the bread has a light brown color, and a crispy texture.
Now you are ready to experience The Vampire Slayer!

DSC02027.JPGThe best team of the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown, UCSB’s Bren School!

5th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

 

Over the course of human history, food has taken on different meanings for different people. For some, food is simply the fuel that drives the body. For others, food is an art, creatively crafted to please all of the senses. And for an even smaller group, food is the centerpiece of a competition that knows no cosmic limits. A competition so vast that it’s been said that contestants prepare for weeks, fine tuning their creations, testing daring new recipes and sometimes even the limits of science itself… Born out of bread, cheese and boldness, the Toad&Co Grilled Cheese Smackdown is a culmination of visionary chefs, experimental ingredients and the desire to create one grilled cheese to rule them all.

The Competitors Table: A place of battle waged with bread and cheese.

Now in it’s 5th year, the Toad&Co Grilled Cheese Smackdown started in 2011 as a modest competition between Toads and friends. The goal? To create the greatest grilled cheese sandwich in the known universe. Over the years the competition has grown, just like our bellies on the night of competition. In its second year, the Smackdown escalated with the addition of the Golden Spatula, the highly coveted trophy awarded by an elite team of judges. The Smackdown grew considerably through its third and fourth years, but nothing could have prepared us for the epic clash of carbs and dairy that was the 5th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown held at Toad HQ in the early days of April 2017. 

The real winners in this competition? Whoever got to eat this.

Undoubtedly, the best part of the Smackdown (besides the heaps of cheese consumed) is the support from our Santa Barbara Community. This year teams representing Alpha Resource Center, Santa Barbara Fire Department, Salty Girl Seafood, UCSB’s Bren School, Ontraport, and Visit Santa Barbara joined the competition. Toad&Co represented with three teams including past winners Nina and Ian. The judges had their mouths full this year with two 30-minute heats and 9 grilled cheeses comin’ in hot! And as much as taste will win over a judge, presentation turned out to be just as important this year. Contestants plating their sandwiches on everything from fine china to polished wood platters, and many sandwiches were accompanied by a specialty cocktail. In the case of SB Fire Department, a straight shot of tequila was the perfect garnish. Because getting the judges a little liquored up is surely a good way to win them over. 

Team Santa Barbara Fire Deptartment bringing the heat with their spicy grilled cheese dubbed En Fuego.

As contestants crafted their delicacies, onlookers drank in a delicious pale ale from local Telegraph Brewing and fought off the evening chill with Tuscan Tomato Soup from non-profit Organic Soup Kitchen. As sandwiches began to take shape, hungry masses gathered round to snap up samples and compare notes. Even though the esteemed judges award the Golden Spatula, the crowd was tasked with picking the People’s Choice Grilled Cheese by the end of the night.

As attendees mingled around sampling the various specialty grilled cheese sandwiches, one sandwich began to emerge as the crowd favorite. Pure Cheese,  a delicious combination of pepper jack and cheddar cheese, spinach and mushrooms, created by Alpha Resource Center, quickly racked up votes for this year’s People’s Choice Award.  More than just a killer grilled cheese team, Alpha Resource Center is a shining star in our community – they’re a multi-faceted service center providing support and information for families of persons with developmental disabilities . Part if our mission is to empower adults with disabilities, so we couldn’t be more appreciative of all the great work Alpha Resource Center is doing to empower and integrate adults with disabilities in our community. Grilled cheese smackdowns, local park maintenance, rock bands, community volunteering – there’s nothing the Alpha folks CAN’T do! 

Organic Soup Kitchen kept everyone full with their delicious Tomato Soup.
For those of us with a more traditional palette, the make-your-own grilled cheese station was a hit!

As an evening breeze began to whisper through the trees, the judges huddled around more for warmth than secrecy. Choosing between all of the cheesy goodness must have been a challenge, but a winner had to be crowned. In third place, Phil and Billy from Santa Barbara Fire Department  Got the “Overall Hottest Award” for their spicy En Fuego sandwich. In second place, Toad’s  Nina and Ian got accolades for their tres chic, artisanal sandwich, The French Onion. With second and third place announced,  a hushed silence fell over the crowd (minus our Ops Manager Neil who was far more interested in finishing off the keg). Weeks of experimenting with recipes and cooking methods had led up to this moment: The Golden Spatula went to Natalie and Danielle from Visit Santa Barbara for their exquisite and entirely local-sourced Fromage de la Riviera! 

3rd Place – Phil and Billy representing Santa Barbara Fire Department. Living up to their “Overall Hottest” Award, indeed.
Previous winners Ian and Nina ended up in second place this year. From the looks of it, they will be back with vengeance!
1st place – Natalie and Danielle representing Visit Santa Barbara. You go girls!

For anyone who’s ever been to the Toad&Co Grilled Cheese Smackdown, you know grilled cheese sandwiches are more than just food. They are shining effigies of the two greatest things on earth: bread and cheese. And when those most perfect things meet in the holy confines of a griddle, it’s pure magic. The 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown will be here before you know it, so everyone better start practicing now. Practice makes perfect, and that means lots of test-runs eating sample grilled cheeses. You know, in the name of science. 

Friends, grilled cheese, and beer – good times guaranteed.

The En Fuego Grilled Cheese

 

For those unfamiliar with 5th Annual Toad&C0 Grilled Cheese Smackdown, it’s the biggest cooking competition west of Paris and it happens at Toad HQ. With competitors prepping and practicing grilled cheese creations for weeks before the competition, it’s the finest iteration of bread and cheese in the known universe. This year the Santa Barbara Fire Department let the fire burn with their sandwich, aptly named En Fuego! A combination of spicy peppers, two types of cheese, and tequila-buttered sourdough (yes, tequila butter), the only thing hotter than the sandwich was the firefighters themselves! Spice things up but proceed with caution – this delicious combination of bread, cheese, and peppers is highly flammable!

The En Fuego by Santa Barbara Fire Department

Ingredients:
Tequila-lime-cilantro butter
Sourdough bread (fresh made is best)
Homemade guacamole
Fire roasted pasilla chiles, red peppers and green jalapeño peppers
Queso fresco
Mexican cheese blend
Jalapeño mustard

Instructions:

  1. Combine 1 shot of tequila, 1 stick of melted butter, and finely diced cilantro. Whisk together and let sit until butter firms up.
  2. Liberally apply butter to two pieces of sourdough bread.
  3. On the non-buttered side of bread, evenly apply a moderate amount of jalapeno mustard
  4. On top of the jalapeno mustard, liberally apply homemade guacamole.  
  5. Press fire roasted pasilla peppers and jalapenos into the guacamole.
  6. Add queso fresco and mexican cheese blend to the top of the guacamole.
  7. Gently sandwich two pieces of bread together.
  8. Grill until cheese is melted and bread is crispy. Ole! 

 

Backyard Collective 2015

It’s springtime, which means it’s Spring-cleaning-time, which means the annual Backyard Collective! The Backyard Collective is the day we close our doors and clean up the public lands in our own backyard with other like-minded companies who support the Conservation Alliance. In it’s 6th year, the BYC partnered with Ventura Hillsides Conservancy for the third time to continue work on the Ventura River Restoration Project.

It was another hard working day, joining forces with local volunteers from Patagonia, Deckers, Elemental Herbs & REI. We got our hands dirty, garnered a few scrapes, removed trash, and spent the better half of a day eradicating the invasive plant species, Arundo Donax, from the Ventura River habitat.

Just a stone’s throw away in our backyard, the Ventura River supplies Ventura County, CA with much of it’s drinking water and much of it flows directly to the ocean. It’s a pivotal habitat to the vitality of Ventura County and especially important during this severe drought. Through the Conservation Alliance and other social and environmental “imunipacts”, the Ventura Hillside Conservancy  has received over $1 million in grants to keep the river habitat clean and thriving. And when paired with a little bit of elbow grease, those efforts go a long way. Since phase 1 of this project, volunteers  have chopped 7 acres of Arundo, removed 3 tons of trash and fostered regrowth of native species.

Be sure to check out the great things the Conservation Alliance is doing nation-wide and learn more about the amazing regional work Ventura Hillside Conservancy is doing too!

 

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3rd Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

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We’re generally a pretty laid back bunch, but we take our grilled cheese very seriously. It all started in 2011 as a modest celebration for National Grilled Cheese Month when a handful of Toads claimed they could make the best grilled cheese. The results were downright delicious!

With a fire in our bellies and a hunger for more (and let’s face it, any excuse for a party), we decided to kick it up a notch: We forged the Golden Spatula Award – the highest honor to be bestowed upon a gourmand – and invited local businesses and non–profits to show us what they were cookin’ with. Boy, did they bring the heat. From Mac n’ Cheese filled ciabattas, to waffle ironed Monte Cristos, to a sandwich who’s popularity was only eclipsed by some very scandalous aprons, we’ve seen some serious chops displayed at the GCSD over the years.

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And like a fine cheddar, the Grilled Cheese Smackdown is just getting better with age. This year’s 3rd Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown was the best yet: Our friends at The Organic Soup Kitchen set up a grilled cheese and tomato soup station, we whet our whistles with beer from our favorite local brewery, Telegraph Brewing Companyand we gathered around to watch 10 local teams throw down their gooiest, cheesiest, tastiest grilled cheeses in the battle for the coveted Golden Spatula.

Outside under the twinkle lights, friends popped from station to station sampling the award winning sammies, picking up tips and leaving high fives, while our team of esteemed judges had their hands (and mouths) full tasting creations from return competitors and a handful of rookies:

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For the third year in a row our friends at LoaTree came dressed to the nines and ready for a smackdow. LoaTree is a lifestyle company that profiles changemakers, builds community and inspires action through unique storytelling.
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Like most academics, the folks from UCSB’s Bren School have a scientific approach to the perfect grilled cheese. The Bren School is a graduate program focused on research, teaching, and community service related to solving environmental problems.
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Throwing their hat in the ring for the first time was the Direct Relief team who’s sammie, “Deliver a World of Gouda” was a crowd pleaser. Direct Relief is a medical aid organization that works to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty.
Rick and Kimberly, our trusty Dealer Services Manaager at Toad, went for Ricky's tried and true "Hot N'Sticky". The secret? mixing sriracha sauce INTO butter!
Rick and Kimberly, our trusty Dealer Services Manaager at Toad, went for Ricky’s tried and true “Hot N’Sticky”. The secret? mixing sriracha sauce INTO butter!
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C’est Cheese, our Year 1 champs came back to reclaim the crown with a killer breakfast grilled cheese. A family-run cheese shop and cafe in downtown Santa Barbara, these guys bring a whole new level of credibility to the Smackdown.
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They might be rookies to the GCSD, but the Deckers team made a veal grilled cheese that smacked of old school expertise! Deckers Outdoor Corporation designs, manufactures and markets innovative, function-oriented footwear developed for high-performance outdoor, sports and recreational activities.
Our neighbors, the Ontraport Team, had all the late night munchies in their "Dude, Where's My Grilled Cheese?" (Hot Cheetos, bacon, siracha, BBQ chips, gold fish crackers…). Ontraport supports entrepreneurs in delivering their value to the world by removing the burden of technology and automating their business.
Our neighbors, the Ontraport Team, had all the late night munchies in their “Dude, Where’s My Grilled Cheese?” (Hot Cheetos, bacon, siracha, BBQ chips, gold fish crackers…). Ontraport supports entrepreneurs in delivering their value to the world by removing the burden of technology and automating their business.
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The guys from Union Bank showed up with backup… Union Bank is dedicated to providing unparalleled service to customers, colleagues and communities. Grilled cheese included upon request.
Ian and Nina go together like bread and butter. Competing for Toad for the last three years, these two headed into Year 3 as the reigning champs.
Ian and Nina go together like bread and butter. Competing for Toad for the last three years, these two headed into Year 3 as the reigning champs!
Isabel and Daisy, the Toad copy writer, rounded out the Toad teams. Their Indian inspired "Dharcheesling" enlightened our tastebuds.
Isabel and Daisy, the Toad copy writer, rounded out the Toad teams. Their Indian inspired “Dharcheesling” enlightened our tastebuds.

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All said, it was a battle of epic proportions of cheese, pitting mozzarella vs. Munster, goat vs. Gouda, provolone vs. parmesan. Teams wowed with home grown veggies and perfectly golden crust, and we saw the most multicultural selection of grilled cheeses yet (Indian grilled cheese, anyone?). The competition was fierce but in the end there could only be one winner… reigning champs, Ian and Nina’s appropriately named El Jefe Chees-urito!  Let’s see if they’ll make it a three-peat at the 4th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown, or will a new victor be crowned?

Thanks to all the participants, judges, and spectators who made this year’s Smackdown such a success – we can’t wait for next year! In the meantime, here are a few recipes to tide you over…

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C’est Cheese’s Breakfast Grilled Cheese – The “Fancy Pants Award” 
Makes 1 sandwich:
1 grilled ancho chile cut in strips
Thin sliced ham
Aged white cheddar
Mild cheddar
2 slices sourdough bread
1 egg
Arugula
Butter

1. Butter the outside and inside of the bread. On the inside of one slice, layer ham and ancho chile strips (the more the spicier!)
2. Add one layer of mild cheddar then a layer of aged white cheddar. Top with other slice of bread and grill until cheese is melted. Meanwhile, poach an egg in boiling water.
3. Top perfectly grilled sandwich with a small handful of arugula and place poached egg in a nest of arugula. Yum!

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Ian & Nina’s El Jefe Chees-urito – The “Two Time Champ” Award 
Makes 5 sandwiches:
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 lb marinated Carne asada, cooked
1 cup of Dubliner cheese, shredded
1 cup of Irish cheddar
1 cup of jalapeño jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1/4 carmelized onions
1 can red enchilada sauce
1/4 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
sliced radishes soaked in an ice bath
sourdough bread, sliced
1 jar pickled carrots*
2 cups avocado whip**
1 bag cantina style tortilla chips
Limes cut in quarters

*To make Pickled Carrots: 5 carrots – peeled and sliced diagonally, 1.5 cups rice wine vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of ginger, cumin, garlic powder and salt. Mix in a bowl, cover and let sit overnight.
** To make Avocado Whip: 3 avocados, 3 cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt. Toss into a food processor and mix until it’s light and airy.

1. Mix butter, caramelized onions, parmesan and chopped garlic. Slather the butter mixture on the outside of the sourdough bread slices.
2. On the bottom slice stack a handful of the dubliner, the cheddar and the jack. Next a layer of the Carne asada,then another handful of all three cheeses on top of that and top with about 5 crispy chips. Add the top slice of bread with the buttered side up.
3. Stick the sandwich in the back of a panini press and leave for about 6 minutes or until the bread is nice and crispy without being burned.
4. Let cool for two minutes and then cut in half diagonally. Drizzle with red enchilada sauce and top with cotija cheese. Serve with extra chips, avacado whip, pickled carrots, radishes and a lime wedge. Muy bien!

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Direct Relief’s Deliver a World of Gouda – The “Best Use of Branding Award”
Makes 4 sandwiches:
4 brioche rolls
1 cup cilantro butter**
1 cup BBQ Sauce (your favorite or homemade)
Smoked gouda cheese, sliced
2 cups BBQ Pulled Pork, cooked
1 jar Hooper’s Chili-Style Pickles
4 Direct Relief mozzeralla logos**
4 small square slices of Extra Sharp Cheddar
4 small square slices of Sharp Cheddar
4 small square slices of Gouda

*To make cilantro butter, combine in a food processor: 1 stick softened unsalted butter, 6 cloves chopped garlic, 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, 2 tbsp fresh lime juice, a pinch of salt and pepper.
**On a wide, thin slice of mozzarella, cut out the Direct Relief caduceus logo with a sharp knife (just be careful!)

1. Slice brioche rolls in half and coat the whole thing with cilantro butter.
2. Liberally Lather the bottom piece with BBQ sauce, then a layer of sliced gouda, then a handful of pulled pork, then a layer of sliced pickles, then another layer of gouda, and top with other half of the bun. Press in griddle until cheese is melted.
3. On the top of each grilled cheese, make the Direct Relief logo: A square of extra sharp cheddar in the top left, a square of sharp cheddar in the top right, a square of gouda in the bottom right, a square of sharp cheddar in the bottom left, and lay the mozzarella caduceus right in the middle. Hover the grill over the sandwich to broil the cheese until it melts!

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Daisy & Isabel’s The Darcheesling – The “New Age Award” 
Makes 2 sandwiches:
Fresh mozzarella log, sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
2 cups spinach
1 sweet onion, sliced
4 slices of naan bread
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 jar masala sauce
1 jar mango chutney
1 jar spicy mint sauce*

To make spicy mint sauce, place in a food processor: 2 handfuls of mint, 2 handfuls of cilantro, juice from 2 limes, 3 serrano peppers, a pinch of salt for taste, and if it seems thick add a splash of water to loosen it up.

1. Mix the melted bunter and chopped garlic and spread on both sides of two pieces of naan bread.
2. In a skillet, saute onions and spinach with a splash of masala sauce.
3. on the inside of one naan, spread a layer of spicy mint sauce, then layer all the sautéed veggies. Top with a layer of mozzarella.
4. On the inside of the other naan spread a liberal amount of mango chutney. Place on top of the mozzarella and panini press until naan is crispy.
5. Warm up the masala sauce and pour into a ramekin. Pour remaining mango chutney and masala into ramekins. Cut sandwich in half and serve with the three dipping sauces.

Botanic Gardens

On a recent February day Team Toad spent a sunny morning pulling non-native plants at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden as part of our Do The Right Thing initiative. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is just a skip up the hill from our headquarters, nestled amongst the Santa Ynez mountains and home to 10 unique gardens, a Native American creek dam, and one very impressive wildflower meadow.

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As many as 6,550 species and varieties of plants (collectively referred to as taxa), are believed to be native to the state of California. Of that, 2,270 taxa are found no where else in the world and 1,120 species are considered endangered. Invasive plant species, or weeds, pose a major threat to these endangered native species.

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Invasive species are characterized by their adaptability to new environments and aggressive growth within those environments. Without nature’s checks and balance system (like seasonal weather or hungry insects), one small weed can turn into a big problem. Especially in California where water is a hot (or cool) commodity, weeds are taking over prime soil real estate and pushing native species to the brink.

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Although they can look like lovely wildflowers or clovers to the untrained eye, weeds can do some serious damage. Without a thriving native plant population, other wildlife that depends on native plants may migrate or die out, leaving a big imbalance in a fragile ecosystem. So when invasive plants become too unruly for mother nature, that’s when a little bit of man power goes a long way.

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After a hours of weeding and a few trips to the compost bin, there was only one thing left to do: Enjoy the gardens. Ok, there were lots of things left to do – it’s a ravenous invasive species, after all… To learn more about the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens and California’s native plant species, visit www.sbbg.org. If you’re not in California contact your regional botanic garden or arboretum about volunteer opportunities. Trust us, you’ll benefit just as much from a morning pulling weeds as the garden will!

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