Sunday, March 23, 2014

Childhood favorites grow up big time

You used to be a little kid. There is better than average chance that as a kid you ate a grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe you still do? Well folks......if you're still sustaining yourself with American cheese singles on plain white bread, things are about to get reeeeally exciting around here.

Something really wonderful is happening for my very good friend Todd Buffington. Todd and his friends Ryan Elson and Chris Hartman brainstormed, pooled resources, raised the startup funds, stayed up late nights writing business plans and budgets and menus and recipes and finally get their much deserved launch of their new business- Melts Without Borders.

Todd Buffington, left, and The Chef

Let me tell you a little about this Melts Without Borders deal. This mobile food cart is equipped to cook and serve hungry customers anywhere. Des Moines has been very slow to jump on the food truck trend but food carts are a different kind of animal. More portable, very versatile and easier to handle for a 3 man team. Besides the food cart they also have a prep kitchen and handbuilt smokehouse. In that smokehouse the guys, known as Ketchup, Mustard and Relish on their website, made handcrafted sausages and cured meats. Bologna that is NOT made from weird parts. Blackstrap molasses bacon smoked over apple wood. Sausages of all kinds. Condiments are special too. Secret recipe spicy tomato jam makes an appearance on the menu and some others are still being developed. 

A sampling of the housemade charcuterie. 
Now about the menu- not just a list of sandwiches. As the name implies, they serve melts without borders- and each sandwich not only carries a regional name but a regional twist on ingredients. Vegetarian sandwiches start off the menu with the classic grilled cheese built for a grown up, to French, Mediterranean, to Asian influenced flavors- you get a TON of flavor with no meat.

But if you're a carnivore- fear not. You will not be disappointed. The home cured bacon is a special favorite, along with classics like pulled pork and Canadian bacon. A few surprises make their appearance as well, and the menu can only expand as the charcuterie options grow. The bread choices are pretty impressive as well. From Texas toast to rustic artisan breads, loads of variety.

Todd mans the grill while Chris takes orders in the background
What did we eat? Well I got to have a little bit of 4 different sandwiches. My son in law Randy had the Mason Dixon- pulled pork, Memphis BBQ sauce and pepperjack cheese on Texas toast. Oh. My. Goodness. The pulled pork was tender and juicy, the barbeque sauce was absolutely delicious and the pepperjack cheese brought it all together. My daughter Debbee had the Toast Hawaii- house-cured Canadian bacon, pineapple and white cheddar, grilled on rustic crusty bread. The Canadian bacon was the best I have ever had. Tender and perfectly seasoned, the pineapple was the perfect accompaniment. 

The Chef had the Mount Vesuvius. I knew he'd pick that one. This sandwich is an Italian chef's dream. Locally made Graziano's Italian sausage, white and yellow American cheese and a jalapeno, onion and tomato hash on Texas toast- this sandwich......... I just have no words. One of the best sandwiches I have EVER had EVER. Seriously. I chose the 'Merica F**k Yea with Andi's tomato jam added. Buttery crunchy Texas toast, American cheese, crispy house-cured bacon and that sweet and spicy tomato jam that I love so much. That was just four sandwiches off the menu. You better believe I WILL be trying them all before long.

Then wash your awesome sandwich down with some home brewed beer or homemade soda. The guys are very active in the Iowa Brewers' Union and have some incredible craft brews. At tonight's launch I was able to try the Milk Stout. If you're a fan of dark beers, oh man, you will LOVE this one. Super dark and rich, this beer was so smooth and creamy and had lots of coffee undertones. I say creamy because it had such a luxurious mouthfeel and such a complex flavors. Excellent brew. I'm thinking that could make some killer mustard. 

Talking with Todd this evening about the brewing process was very interesting. Very scientific and we all agreed- brewing beer requires quite a bit of skill and knowledge of ingredients. Compared to winemaking, brewing beer is a totally different experience. Who knows, maybe The Chef will pick up a new hobby!

The guys at Melts Without Borders are serious about bringing GOOD food and GOOD drink to Des Moines and you better believe, they mean business !!

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