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.

Phil.jpg

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.

tips

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.

Luno Life.jpg

leadership cropped

Grill Nude

anthony

blowtorch 2

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

Bren School 2.jpg

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

big cheesy

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

Gourmet Girls 2

Peoples’ Choice: Alpha Resource Center, Pesto So Gouda

Pesto so gouda

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

champions

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.

Danny and Neil

“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

Apple Cider Donuts

Makes: A dozen
Time: 35 mins
Listen to: Rock the Holidays Playlist
Recipe from: Daisy, Copy Editor & Donut Enthusiast

Every year on Christmas morning we spike our coffee, settle into our respective couch/chair/floor positions, and dig into heaps of homemade Apple Cider Donuts. It’s a tradition that goes back to my Pennsylvania roots – where my grandmother proudly made her OWN apple cider in the fall and these donuts were her way of reminding us of the feat well into winter. We’ve since relocated to Southern California and substituted grandma’s homemade apple cider for the local farmer’s, but the tradition – and sugar rush – are still going strong.

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup apple cider, organic or local is best

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350° and lightly grease two 6-doughnut pans (or a 12-cup muffin tin). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or a bowl with some serious elbow grease), cream 10 tablespoons butter (or 1¼ sticks), brown sugar and ¼ cup granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy ( about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time mixing until well after each egg, scrape the bowl as necessary. Beat in vanilla extract. Switch to low speed and add the flour mixture. Keep the mixer running and add the apple cider in a slow, steady stream. Scrape the bowl to make sure all the batter is mixed thoroughly – no weird bumps!

Spoon (or pipe) the batter into doughnut pans, filling them about 2/3 of the way full. For Donuts: Bake 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until evenly golden brown. For Muffins: Bake 15-20 minutes, rotating halfway through ,until evenly golden brown. (For both, do the toothpick test: insert pick into the center to see if it comes out clean. If not, cook for a few more minutes).

While the doughnuts bake, whisk together the remaining ½ cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. In a separate small bowl, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Let the doughnuts cool for 5 minutes after baking, then pop them out of the pan, brush with melted butter, and dunk in cinnamon sugar – all while they’re still warm.

Serve immediately with spiked coffee and holiday tunes.

TOAD & CO FALL WINTER 2018

Need PJs? We got you covered for dudes and dudettes.

Camp Kitchen: Pesto Halibut

Words by Kaleigh Wood; photos by Gretchen Powers of Powers Provisions and Johnie Gall of Dirtbag Darling

Aluminum pouches are your best friend when it comes to a camp kitchen. You can prep, season and seal everything before heading out (or bring foil and make your pouches onsite). I grew up hunting and fishing in the Lower 48 and have really enjoyed harvesting my own food in Kodiak, AK this year. (And a major perk of living in Kodiak is receiving wild fish and game from friends.) When transfer season rolls around in the Coast Guard, everyone gifts you the leftover food when they clean out their freezers. With lots of halibut in our freezer and friends coming to visit, our recent camp menu was a no brainer.

The morning we left to go camping, I threw the frozen fish and a jar of pesto in the cooler. I prepped the veggies, hit them with a healthy dose of EVOO, salt and pepper, and sealed them in an aluminum pouch. I grabbed a couple bags of instant rice for an easy starch to round it out. You know, just for the hal-i-but.

IMG_6256

Pesto Halibut with Veggies 

2 Large Halibut Filets
4 TBSP Basil Pesto (make it from scratch if you’ve got fresh herbs)
3 Carrots, 1 Red Bell Pepper,1 Zucchini, 2 Shallots – julienned
2 Bags of Boil in Bag Rice
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO, affectionately)
Salt
Pepper
Fresh Basil

Get your grill going then crack a beer or make a whiskey as your charcoal gets going. Take halibut, pat dry, season with salt and pepper, then lay flat on foil that has a touch of EVOO so your fish doesn’t stick. Top fish with a healthy dollop of pesto and seal in a foil pouch. Bring water to a slow boil and add rice bags to jet boil or pot of water. Once grill is ready, place your veggie pouch and fish pouch and let the steam do the work. Take a peek in 10 mins or try a sample to ensure everything is cooked. Plate it up: scoop of rice, scoop of veggies, piece of halibut, topped with fresh basil on top. YUM.

 

 

Easy Oysters Rockefeller

Despite what you’ve heard, oysters are always in season. As long as you’re slurping oysters that come from healthy waters (like the ones from Tomales Bay), and they’ve been properly refrigerated, you can shuck from New Year to New Year. Hone your chops with this Oysters Rockefeller recipe from the Tomales Bay Oyster Company.

Oyster Rockefeller Recipe
24 Pacific Oysters, shucked
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp each of celery, parsley, green onions diced
2 tablespoons anise liqueur (optional)
cayenne, salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat, add garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Mix half of the garlic butter into breadcrumbs. Add spinach, green onion and celery to the pan, cook until the spinach wilts. Add anise liqueur, deglaze the pan and allow most of the liquid to evaporate and remove from heat before seasoning with cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. Mix parsley and parmesan into the breadcrumbs. Place heaping teaspoon of the mixture on each oyster then breadcrumbs. Bake at 450°F until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Serve with cold beer and crusty bread. Cheers, mate. 

Save Water, Drink Tequila

 

Drought conditions are no joke (trust us, we’re headquartered in Southern California). We’ve become experts in reducing water consumption and one of the best ways is by offsetting the difference with tequila. You don’t even have to run the tap to whip up the Cucumber Margarita: a slow sipping, cucumber breeze that elevates your senses and carries you away to warmer places and friendly faces. Just don’t forget to hydrate (with real H2O, not tequila, please).

Sweet Chili Rim Salt

1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp coarse kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Swirl together on a plate until completely mixed. Easy peasy.

Cucumber Margarita

4 oz tequila
2 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp agave
1 cucumber, sliced thick
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

In a blender, add tequila, lime juice, agave, orange juice, and cucumber – pulse for 1 minute. Strain liquid into a cocktail shaker, add jalapeno slices, muddle. Shake with ice enthusiastically, then strain into serving glasses rimmed with sweet chili salt and filled with ice. Top with slices of cucumber or jalapeno to kick it up a notch. Olé!

Day 20 Advent: Crowd Pleasin’ Pie Recipes

 

Sure, cherry pies get all the glory at summer BBQs, but the undisputed Pie Season is winter. (In fact, we’re part of a formal petition to officially change the name of Winter to “Pie Season”, but that’s neither here nor there.) We love Pie Season because there’s no limit to what you can do – savory, sweet, 24 blackbirds, maybe it doesn’t even have a pie crust at all! The choice is yours. For Day 20 of our 25 Days of Toad Advent Calendar, here are just a few of our favorite recipes for Pie Season.

 

From Bon Appetit, Gentl & Hyers
From Bon Appetit, Gentl & Hyers

Cock-a-Leekie Pie

Think of this as Thanksgiving dinner in pie form. Bacon, leeks, chicken, thyme, prune and butter. Lots and lots of butter. Aren’t you hungry just thinking about it? Get the recipe here.

Frito Pie

Some people will tell you that a Frito Pie isn’t a real pie. Well those people are missing out on one of the BEST pies around. Just image you’re eating a pie straight from a pie tin and then it all makes sense. Crack open a pack of Frito lays, then dump in cheddar cheese, homemade chili, more cheese and serve. What it lacks in formalities in makes up for in pure tailgate bliss. Your inner 10 year old will thank you.

Cornbread and Beef Skillet Pie

Again, traditionalists will balk at the skillet pie, but true aficionados will embrace the inverted pie. With the meat and potatoes (literally) baked on the bottom, the cornbread “crust” bakes on the top, soaking in all the delicious flavors. The best part about this recipe? Fry up an egg and serve some breakfast pie in the morning.

Lobster Shepherd Pies

Since we’ve got roots in Freeport, ME, we’d be remiss if we skipped out on the Lobster Shepard Pies. Just ask Ponch, our flagship store manager for the last 15 years, there’s nothing better than potatoey, buttery lobster. Who needs pie crust when you have this?

Wild Mushroom Pie

Equal parts mushroom and more mushroom, this pie brings it home with a parmesan crust. Yes, a cheesy, perfect, flaky joyous parm crust. This recipe also features a handy guide for egg washes. Wanna make your pie shiny with soft crust? Brush with an egg and milk. Want more of a deep color? Just milk. Check it out here.

Mile High Apple Pie 

And for the true pie purists, go big or go home. This recipe for apple pie puts all other apple pies to shame. Ok, maybe not shame, but when this pie intimidates even the eagerest of pie eaters (that would be our marketing manager, Steve), you can bet that it’s doing something right. Featuring 6 pounds of apples and as much butter as you can stomach, the Mile High Apple Pie is a real crowd pleaser.

The Mariposa Margarita

Grapefruit+Cocktail+Recipe

Butterflies are to caterpillars what tequila is to agave plants: a magical transformation resulting in pure delight! In honor of National Tequila Day on July 24, we’re whipping up the Mariposa Margarita. Modified from our friend’s at Lily the Wandering Gypsy, the Mariposa Margarita (mariposa means butterfly in Spanish) is equal parts sweet, tart and pure delight. ¡Salud!

The Mariposa Margarita 

1 part grapefruit juice (fresh squeezed is best)
1 part club soda
1 oz. tequila (we like Hornitos blanco)
1 tsp. organic agave nectar
Organic cane sugar for rim

To sugar the rim, rub the rim with a slice of grapefruit and dip the glass in a plate of sugar. The sugar complements the tart perfectly.

Fill your glass half full with ice. Now order is important: Pour in the grapefruit juice, tequila, agave nectar and top off with club soda. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit and viva la fiesta!

One Mint Julep…

“… was the cause of it all!” Trust The Clovers on this one, these summer staples can get you into trouble if you aren’t careful. But when it’s just too damn hot, slip off your shoes, hit the record player and pour yourself a cold one. We’ll provide the seersucker, you provide the bourbon. Here’s our favorite Mistake Makin’ Mint Julep recipe recipe from our friend Katherine at Lily the Wandering gypsy:

10 organic mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
1 1/2 tsps organic cane sugar
Water
Crushed ice
2 1/2 oz Kentucky bourbon

Place the mint leaves in the bottom of a mason jar and top with the sugar. Muddle these together until the leaves begin to break down. Add a splash of filtered or seltzer water, fill the glass 3/4 full with crushed ice, and add the bourbon. Top with another splash of seltzer, stir, and garnish with a sprig of mint. Serve with some old-school jams and a wide brim hat.

Mint+Julep+Recipe
imgpsh_fullsize

Men's Women's Fletch Print Swerve Canal Hat Muse

Men’s Fletch Print Shirt & Swerve Short , Women’s Muse Dress & Canal Hat

The Dynamo of Dixie

“Whiskey to the People.” That’s what the Chattanooga Whiskey Co. likes to remind you. In a town who’s whiskey taps ran dry for so long, Chattanooga Whiskey re-wrote century old laws to keep a local tradition alive. Located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, across from the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo, the Tennessee Stillhouse micro-distillery opened in 2015 to whip up the first legal whiskey distilled in Chattanooga since prohibition. And boy, is it tasty. Genteel or not, you can share in a great Southern tradition – just add a squeeze of citrus and some good company.

dynamodixieThe Dynamo of Dixie

2 oz. Chattanooga Whiskey Co. 1816 Reserve

2 oz. Tonic

1 oz. Fresh lemonade

Mint

Fill a glass with ice. Pour in lemonade, then whiskey, then tonic. Stir gently. Add mint sprig. Enjoy tall drinks with tall tales.

 

For more information on where to go and what to see in Chattanooga, check out our guide to the Scenic City.

Pomegranate Ginger Sangria

Pomegranate Ginger Sangria Recipe - Riunite Lambrusco Sweet Red Wine - Luci's Morsels -- LA Lifestyle Blog-5Everybody knows that hot toddy’s and mulled wine are essential to a cozy night in or walking around chilly outdoor holiday markets. But what about the times you’re sweating through your ugly Christmas sweater or singing carols in a very crowded living room? That’s when a nice cold sangria is just the ticket. Our gal Luci at Luci’s Morsels came up with a fizzy and festive sangria that’s easy to whip up and even easier to send down the hatch.

Pomegranate Ginger Sangria
(yields 6 servings)
1 1/2 Cups pomegranate juice
1 1/2 Cups ginger beer
1/2 Cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 lemon, seeded and sliced
1 bottle sweet, sparkling red wine*
*Luci uses Riunite Lambrusco Wine – A general guideline is that the sweeter the fruit, the drier the wine you want to use. Because pomegranate and ginger are tart, Riunite Lambrusco is a sweet, sparkling Italian wine and perfect to mix in

Combine all ingredients in pitcher. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Stir before serving.