Idaho – 12375 Miles Driven.
Grilled cheese is to America what cheese on toast is to England, an iconic comfort food that everyone has his or her own unique way of preparing. Idaho even has a restaurant dedicated to this cheesy national treasure, Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese.
Meltz is the brainchild of Joe McCarthy, a trained and seasoned chef who saw grilled cheese featured on a TV show and realised it was something he could do too, only better. He loves the grilled cheese concept for the nostalgia it brings people, and that cheese seems to work well with just about everything. It’s only been a few years since Meltz has been open but already it’s picked up a whole host of national grilled cheese awards. Yes, America actually has national grilled cheese competitions.
The basic components of a grilled cheese are sliced and buttered bread, and of course cheese. On face value it’s a simple sounding creation, but not to Joe. He knew that if he was going to make a successful business out of grilled cheese, he would need to offer customers something that they couldn’t just as easily make themselves. With the help of General Manager Lori ‘Lou’ Davey, Joe has created the ultimate grilled cheese, and it’s anything but simple.
It starts with two thick slices of either sourdough or wheat bread, spread with a combination of butter, mayonnaise and other seasonings, a process also referred to as ‘schmearing’, and integral to which is the ‘schmearomatic’ machine. Heated on a large flat iron, the sandwich is only ready when the filling and cheese loaded bread is golden, crisp but not too crisp, and with the all-important frico; a crispy layer of cheese that spills out from the sandwich edges.
Customers can either choose to play it safe with a classic grilled cheese, or if they’re feeling more adventurous opt for something a little more exotic. Choices include Pork Belly Banh Mi, Cubano, and Wingz Twist. On Joe’s recommendation I opted for the award winning Potsticker Meltz on sourdough, well half of one, which as well as two different types of cheese has an impressive 10 additional ingredients listed. I love Asian food and was a little skeptical about the thought of eating it sandwiched between bread and a whole lot of cheese. Though I needn’t have worried because the result was fantastic. The fragrant potsticker style minced pork was full of flavour, the fried wontons added just the right amount of crunch, and the rich and melted cheese actually worked really well. Even the soy based potsticker dipping sauce was a perfect accompaniment. Joe was right; cheese really does go with everything.
Idaho’s official state vegetable is the potato, bizarrely there’s even a museum dedicated to it. In homage to the Idaho Russet, I ordered a portion of Meltz’s freshly fried potato chips, complete with a homemade artichoke dip. The thickly sliced potatoes had been coated in a buttermilk powder mix and the resulting fried chips, or chips to us Brits, were delicious. My meal was washed down with a glass of Lou’s huckleberry, lemongrass, and ginger lemonade. I’d never heard of a huckleberry before, I now know it to be similar to the blueberry, and I suspect the drink had its fair share of added sugar but regardless, it was really tasty.
When Joe originally started Meltz he branded it as such so it would lend itself perfectly to franchising. As successful as Meltz appears to be, it would appear Joe’s not quite ready to hand over his baby just yet. Which is a shame, I’ve really come round to the idea of having my meals sandwiched between bread and a whole lot of grilled cheese.
Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese is located at; 1735 E Kathleen Ave. Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815. Telephone; +1 (208) 664 1717.