Endless Road Trip: Collingswood Pop Shop

There is more to South Jersey than the Real Housewives: there is food. We were recently visiting  to celebrate my future sister-in-law”s birthday and went to the Pop Shop in Collingswood, NJ. The name “pop shop” insinuates great ice cream floats, milk shakes, and fountain soda. However, I noticed that every waiter was wearing shirts touting their love for cheese. The shop was featured on Food Network”s Throwdown with Bobby Flay for their grilled cheese. The menu features the sandwiches from the show so some of us got that, while future sister-in-law ordered the trophy of dessert breakfasts – s”mores french toast. Then of course, we all gorged ourselves with desserts. Enough chit chat – on to the food.

S”mores French Toast:

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Under the heading of “Fantastic French Toast Dreams,” you will find cinnamon bun french toast, banana”s foster, and even ham and cheese. But then you see the s”mores french toast on the menu and by chance see a waiter flaunting a pile of french toast, graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow on what has to be a silver platter. Clearly someone at the table is ordering the s”mores french toast. Sister-in-law ordered it with a small amount of persuasion from the table and offers to give up half of their sandwich for a bite of the gooey french toast.  Well I got my bite in a trade for some bacon and cheese fries. The bite included savory fresh french toast  soaked with chocolate sauce. Then the marshmallow sauce that glues the stack of french toast together hits you. Your bite must include a piece of the top of the stack, since that is where the crunch of the graham cracker comes from. While I would never be able to finish an entire dish of it, I would suggest someone at my table order it again.

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The Bourbon Grilled Cheese Sandwich of Etherus

Hey, guess who I bumped into the other day? Etherus. You know, the Santharian God of Excess. Not to brag but he’s a personal friend. Yeah, we go waaay back. He likes to drop by unexpectedly. Usually whenever I break out the bourbon. That’s a bad habit of his but what can I do? He just doesn’t take a hint. Like the other night while I was watching a football game and sipping on some sour mash when, sometime after the half, who shows up? The E-Man. It seems that E was hungry and thought that a grilled cheese sam’itch might hit the spot. Yeah, that might taste real good about now. But not just ANY grilled cheese. Oh, noooooo. Not for the G of E. He had a reputation to uphold. It was time to step it up! A little cheese between two hunks ‘a bread just wasn’t gonna cut it! It was all in and balls out! The following abomination is what he came up with.

The Bourbon Grilled Cheese Sandwich of Etherus

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Gangnam Style: Grilled Lobster Mac and Cheese

I don’t want to rush ahead, but as you know, November 3rd is National Sandwich day. So I was thinking about my favorite ‘Gangnam Style’ meal to celebrate this festive occasion. Gangnam Style is defined as “Dressing classy, but acting cheesy,” and what better sandwich represents this than my grilled lobster mac ‘n’ cheese?

A little prep goes a long way, and this dish is all about building the perfect lobster mac ‘n’ cheese and then grilling it to perfection between two pieces of your favorite bread. There’s a secret to the grilling process that is worth enduring my lame recipe directions, so hang in there. And besides, this is a great casserole dish without the bread, so you’re getting two recipes for the price of one. You did send me a check, didn’t you? Oh, it’s in the mail?….cool! Let’s do this!

Katt’s Kickin’ Lobster Mac ‘N Cheese

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Coachella, More Like Co-cheese-lla!

Everyone knows you go to state fairs for the food, and you go to music festivals for the music. These days, though, it seems that music festivals are jumping on the culinary bandwagon as well. I just returned from Weekend 1 of Coachella, and while I primarily attended for the jams, of course there was something else on my mind. A blog aptly entitled Food is the New Rock released a Coachella line-up poster with food trucks and menu items instead of musicians. FOOD! It is everywhere and everything. Would I do my best to abstain so I could perfect my desert hipster waif look at the festival? Or would I go for it and commit to total gluttony?

Obviously I opted for the latter! The most inappropriate thing I ate was this triple-grilled cheese sandwich from Mangler’s Meltdown, an LA-based food truck I have never before heard of and mysteriously has no website I can find. This freak of sandwich nature was a thick, buttery grilled cheese filled with more cheese, which enclosed the greatest gift of all: three perfectly-fried mozzarella sticks. Upon biting into this glory, one of my drunken festival friends exclaimed indignantly, “I mean it’s already a grilled cheese, WHY did they need to put MORE cheese inside?!” …uh, why not, am I right?

Besides this treasure chest of dairy, what else did I consume?

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Pimento Cheese, Sriracha, Bacon. Enough Said.

The folks at Noble Pig in Austin, Texas—home to one of Endless Simmer’s Best New Sandwiches of 2012—wrote in to let us know they’ve upped the ante for the 2013 race by creating a cheese sandwich that makes even our wildest grilled cheeses look downright tired.

Yep, it’s a pimento cheese sandwich, with, you guessed it…bacon. And they were kind enough to share the recipe for the sriracha-spiked pimento cheese that makes this thing golden.

Noble Pig’s Pimento Cheese

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America’s Best New Sandwiches — 2012

You want sandwiches? We got sandwiches. Last year, Endless Simmer’s post on America’s Top 10 New Sandwiches was our most-read story of 2011, and even helped turn The New Luther into a bit of a sell-out phenomenon. But America’s sandwich artisans haven’t stopped innovating, and we haven’t stopped salivating. So here we go, for your drooling-at-work pleasure, this year’s list of America’s top 10 craziest, loveliest, cheesiest, most creative new sandwiches.

10. The Noble Pig —  Noble Pig Sandwiches, Austin

Texas may be best known for its beef, but perhaps not for long, if chefs John Bates and Brandon Martinez have anything to say about it. Their year-and-a-half-old Noble Pig serves up a namesake sandwich that somehow combines everything that is beautiful about pork products on one truly outstanding sandwich. Tender pulled pork, spicy slivers of ham, and crispy bits of bacon are all mixed together, topped with provolone cheese, and served on toasted, house-baked bread, for a porky trifecta that hits all of the spots. (Photo: Marshall Wright)

9. Pane et Panelle — Bar Stuzzichini, New York

Chickpeas may get typecast as functioning only in falafel form, but it turns out balls aren’t all they can do. Panelle is actually an old Sicilian street food snack—chickpeas and flour formed into light, airy strips and fried in olive oil. Stuzzichini‘s sandwich revives that classic and perfects it, layering crispy strips of panelle on a sesame-studded bun, in between levels of soft ricotta and caciocavallo cheeses. The result is a light-but-addictive sandwich that will make you curse every overly dense falafel wrap that has crossed your lips.

8. Chicharrones Banh Mi — Ink Sack, Los Angeles

There are a million banh mis in American nowadays, but we were most swept away by this version from Top Chef champ Michael Voltaggio. At his new Ink Sack sandwich shop, tender slices of pork belly and pork butt are topped with pickled vegetables, plus the kicker — crispy chicharróne fried pork rinds, creating one incredible multi-culti pork bomb.

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