Kevin Vanblarcum is a brewer for Kingston Ales in Kingston, NY. His co-author, James Edward Davis, otherwise identified as “Eddie,” is a chef who has cooked from Brooklyn to the Catskills, according to Grilled Cheese & Beer’s back cover.
Their book is subtitled “Recipes for the Finer Things in Life.” Is the comment self-deprecating humor or is it to be taken literally? One suspects it’s a bit of both. The boys play with words. Sometimes their recipes have titles like Muenster Mash, The Nature Boy Ricotta Flair and Gooey Lewis and the Blues, which give at least a hint as to ingredients and bring a smile, if not a guffaw, to your reviewer. At other times their sandwiches are given murkier identities like The Bruce Leroy and Oakley’s Bar and Grilled Cheese (the latter apparently an homage to a local water hole favored by the brewer and chef). Are they reaching too hard? Well maybe, but the overall impression is that the recipes and beer pairings are brought to you by a couple of young men who’re having fun—people you might want to sit down and have a beer with. Or even a beer and a cheese sandwich.
After just a few pages of basic beer and cheese lore, Grilled Cheese & Beer moves right into the recipes, which are catalogued into three separate sections: The Basics, Advanced and Expert. As you might suspect, these categories become progressively more complex. But, after all, it’s still sandwiches. How hard can it be? There’s a bit of cooking involved in this, but the making of any sandwich is mostly assembly of ingredients.
Nearly all the recipes are illustrated with full-color photos of sandwiches in their completed state. Preparations are clear and straight-forward with a one page display of ingredients, numbered steps for the sandwich-maker to take and a recommended beer pairing, including photo of the bottle. Each time the reviewer has opened the book, he’s gotten hungry. The photos are excellent and the presentation of the sandwich and beer explanations are perhaps deceptively simple. Making stuff look easy usually isn’t. It takes understanding of the subject. These guys know what they’re doing.
--reviewed by Dan Clarke