You didn’t think I quit did you?
I ended my sabbatical with a trip to Cheesewerks, 56 Bathurst Street. I have been having a pretty serious love affair with cheese for many years so naturally I figured myself and this newly opened spot would be a natural fit.
Cheesewerks promises artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches made from local ingredients and it’s true. The cheeses are from various farms in Ontario such as Fifth Town in Prince Edward County and the bread is baked at St. John’s Bakery in Toronto. Add some local craft beer, some VQA wines and this place is the perfect picture of Ontario. I’m surprised they are not handing out trilliums as you exit.
With such a tight vision and focused concept, I have to say I went in with high expectations. I came out smelling like smoke. Perhaps the hood fan hasn’t arrived yet because the room quickly fills with smoke once a sandwich hits the press. It stinks and I’m coughing. I’m kind of happy though. The room is airy with tall ceilings and its’ large store front windows let in a lot of light. The walls are orange and yellow (no brainer there) and it’s cheery and pleasant. Although the music is a bit of a downer; who the f listens to Paul Simon?
I’m crushed when the counter girl breaks it to me that they do not have their liquor licence yet. I end up with one of their “artisanal” sodas. I’m getting really sick of this word but their house made blueberry soda is good. It’s lightly carbonated, has the right amount of sweetness and I like the whole blueberries that float around at the bottom of the glass.
You order at the counter, they take your name, you pay and grab a seat. Sounds easy enough but something doesn’t seem right. It’s seems too casual, too thoughtless. I sit and wait about six minutes to hear someone yell my name. I get up but it’s clumsy because the guy meets me half way yet serves me my food anyway. Maybe being given a number on a one of those stands that you can then perch on your chosen table would be smoother. Maybe a mic or megaphone would at least have some humour to it. I can barely hear “Rita!” over Paul belting out his adult contemporary.
Cheesewerks needs to rethink their serving strategy.
My New York grilled cheese ($9.50) and side of cream of tomato soup ($5.00) arrive on a baking sheet – originally cute. One napkin is chintz but the parchment paper beneath the greasy sandwich works well to sop up the butter and oil. Where’s the ketchup? Oh you gotta pay 85 cents for it. They make a roasted garlic and red pepper or spicy sriracha ketchup. No one charges for ketchup. I don’t care if it’s “artisanal”, that’s just tight.
The New York is thinly shaved, spiced pastrami with Swiss, pickled purple cabbage and grainy mustard on whole grain rye. I’m doubting the amount of meat on this thing justifies its’ steep price tag. The cabbage is more braised than pickled which sadly almost ruins the whole thing. It lacks crunch or the bite of pickling that would have nicely complimented the pastrami and mustard. The bread is a little too dark and dense and as I leave it sits in my stomach like a piece of lead.
The music changes and it’s now some sort of spa meets Buddha on the beach in Ibiza – it’s awful. This is cheese not seaweed. Play some god dam rock.
Now what about the cheese? The star of the show? The name sake of this whole production? It was stringy and melty and yes, ooey gooey but it was bland. A stronger Swiss would
have fared better. The biggest issue however was its positioning. Everyone knows that you must place the cheese on both sides of a grilled cheese when you want to stuff other things into the middle of the sandwich. The cheese has to act like a glue and hold the whole thing together.
Well, this cheese was one sided so as you work your way through it, the sandwich begins to loosen and shift. Sigh.
And what’s about the grill? The ying to this yang? They use a Panini press which is fine but for
me it makes Cheesewerks more of a sandwich place rather than a grilled cheese emporium. There was no grill on my cheese.
The cream of tomato soup is perfect. The consistency is just right. It is pureed with a hint of cream and the crunchy herbed croutons are nicely spiked with sage. For a lack of ketchup, I dip my sandwich into the soup.
Cheesewerks is new and of course will need time to fine tune their details. I just hope with such creative concoctions such as gruyere and kimchi or jalapeno jack and braised beef brisket, that they don’t let operational or logistical oversights bring them down.
And for the love of god, can someone change the music?