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The Weston Forum’s Patricia Gay is grilled cheese contest finalist

Out of more than 100 original recipes, Weston Forum Assistant Editor Patricia Gay was selected as one of six finalists in the second annual grilled cheese sandwich contest for Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro, an upscale restaurant in New York City.

Ms. Gay’s submission was her Three-Cheese Crisp Sandwich, which consists of baked parmesan cheese crisps tucked between layers of gruyere and fontina cheese on sourdough bread grilled in rosemary butter. (Click for recipe)

Her inspiration came from the parmesan cracker-like crisps she has made for years for parties. “Since I like parmesan crisps and French onion soup with melted gruyere and fontina, I thought I would combine all three cheeses into one sandwich,” she said.

Ms. Gay heard about the contest on Facebook in an announcement made by Artisanal stating it was holding a contest for original grilled cheese sandwiches in honor of April being National Grilled Cheese month.

Ms. Gay liked the fact that the winning sandwich would be featured on Artisanal’s menu and 10% of the proceeds from its sale would be donated to the charity of the winner’s choice.

For Ms. Gay, this meant an opportunity to help Neighborhood Studios, a Bridgeport-based non-profit organization that provides art education programs for underprivileged and special needs children.

Ms. Gay first learned about Neighborhood Studios when she attended a fund-raising gala for it featuring Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell. “I wrote a story about the gala for The Weston Forum because Dorothy Nevas Freedman of Weston is on the studio’s Board of Directors,” said Ms. Gay.

The final grilled cheese judging was held Wednesday, April 18, at Artisanal.

Artisanal’s chefs prepared the six sandwiches for a distinguished panel of food judges which featured Artisanal’s chef and co-proprietor Terrance Brennan; Helen Rosner, editor at Saveur.com; Alyssa Shelasky (Grub Street and New York Magazine); Ann Saxelby (Saxelby Cheesemongers); James Mulcahy, editor at Zagat.com blog; and Lauren Scala of NBC New York.

Judges rated the sandwiches on taste, quality of ingredients, and originality.

Ms. Gay’s Three-Cheese Crisp received unanimous praise from the panel. Ms. Rosner called the usage of parmesan crisps “ingenious,” and Mr. Brennan complimented the combination of cheeses and its texture.

The other sandwiches were Grilled Cheese with Crisp Pork Belly, Apple Chutney and Aged Cheddar; Grilled Cheddar with Indian Mango Pickle; Diana Rowell’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Pierre Robert, Barely Buzzed Cheddar, Gruyere and Apple; Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese; and “Drunken” Raclette Grilled Cheese.

Lizz Spano of New York was the winner for her “Drunken” Raclette Grilled Cheese, inspired by a classic Swiss dish, featuring raclette cheese on peasant bread, smashed red potato, Dijon mustard, cornichons, and onions caramelized in Irish whiskey.

Ms. Gay was happy for Ms. Spano and was not disappointed at all by the results. “While my grilled cheese did not take top honors it got many positive comments. Alyssa Shelasky said it was her favorite and she gave me a high five afterwards. I also really liked meeting the other contestants and Terrance Brennan,” she said.

Mr. Brennan presented each finalist with an autographed copy of his Artisanal Cooking cookbook and a sample menu with each finalist’s sandwich listed on it.

In the week leading up to the contest, Ms. Gay devised a “Plan B” to ensure Neighborhood Studios would benefit regardless of the contest’s outcome. She made platters of her grilled cheese for friends and co-workers to sample and asked for donations in return. At the end of the contest, she presented an envelope of donations to Don Rainone of Neighborhood Studios and Janet Freedman, daughter of Dorothy Nevas Freedman, who had stopped by to cheer her on.

“This experience was so much fun,” said Ms. Gay. I’m proud just to have been named a finalist. As the song goes, I had the time of my life,” she said.

Ms. Gay will hold a cooking demonstration for her Three Cheese Crisp on Saturday, May 5, at the Weston Farmer’s Market at Norfield Grange, 12 Goodhill Road.

For more information about Artisanal and the Grilled Cheese contest, including the recipes of all six finalists, visit artisanalbistro.com.

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