This January, we’re treating our taste buds to a variety of delish and good-for-you foods in order to kick off the new year right! Get nostalgic and check out our winning combinations for a grown-up grilled cheese sandwich. Bon appétit!

by Abby DiBenedetto | Photographs by Cayla Zahoran | Styling by Allie Wist

Pittsburgh Food Tour: January 2013

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese

It’s a beloved childhood staple, a quick go-to meal for students in college, and (with a few upgrades) it can take center stage on your grown-up dinner menu. We’re talking about grilled cheese! This melty sandwich is the perfect vehicle for a variety of flavor combinations, such as savory-sweet, or rich and nutty. We were inspired to mix and match our own combos after trying the Electric Cheese at Industry Public House. Their version of grilled cheese for big kids is made with aged white cheddar, fresh mozzarella, wild boar bacon, and bourbon-caramelized onions on sourdough bread. Try it yourself, get inspired, and say cheese!

Industry Public House, 4305 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412.683.1100.

Taste Test

A good grilled cheese sandwich starts with the bread. You want a hardy loaf that can handle some serous fillings without getting soggy. Here are our top three picks from Breadworks: Texas Toast (8), Six Grain (9), and Rustic Deli White (10).

“Butter both sides of the bread, then grill the insides of the bread first, layer your cheese on the browned side, then brown the outside of the sandwich — double ooey and gooey crunch contrast. I recommend Kerrygold butter, the cream is from grass-fed cows and it’s high in omega threes.” Cheesemonger Justin Crimone, Whole Foods Market

Pittsburgh Food Tour: January 2013

“Fruit and cheese are a classic combination, and when you put them on a sandwich, you’ve got the ultimate comfort food. This cranberry jam (5), which we make in-house, would be delicious on a grilled cheese.” —Pastry Chef James Wroblewski, Habitat Restaurant

TIP! Instead of using slices, grate the cheese for more even meltability.

WHIRL’s Winning Combinations:

• Provolone (1) + Jambon Ham, dipped in spicy marinara
• Smoked Gouda + Speck (2)
• Creamy Brie (3), peppery arugula (4) + sweet cranberry preserves (5)
• Robusto (6), quince preserves (7)+ Prosciutto


Two of our go-to catering companies are merging into one! Common Plea Catering, Pittsburgh’s largest off-premise catering company, has purchased La Creme, Inc. from owner Susie Franklin. Franklin will continue to work with the owners of Common Plea Catering, John and Donna Barsotti, combining her catering knowledge with the Barsotti’s 40 years-plus commitment to the business, its employees, and the community. “It seems natural,” says Barsotti. “Common Plea and Le Creme Catering have both built superior reputations and are known for excellence in food and service. Susie and I see significant new opportunities for the combined operation.”

Common Plea Catering, 2945 Smallman St., Strip District. 412.281.5140. La Creme Catering, 1650 Metropolitan St., North Shore. 412.325.3300.

Strong Scotch, Killer Malts 

Pittsburgh Food Tour: January 2013We’re in the heart of whiskey tasting season at the Allegheny HYP Club, so, on January 25, the club will be hosting a very special tasting of Natural Born Killer Malts to kick off the new year. This event is not for the faint of heart though. Three whiskeys of either cast strength or raw cast will be offered. These are the strongest forms of single malt scotches out there — and the flavor payoff is huge. Raw casts have an immense flavor profile that can rival that of wine, and these tastings can be as rare as opening one of only 200-500 bottles in the world. —Lauren Schmeer

Each whiskey will be paired with a complimentary appetizer prepared by the chef, and a reveal at the end of the night will show off who knew their stuff.

Allegheny HYP Club, 619 William Penn Place, Downtown, 412.281.5858.

Livin’ It Up

Oftentimes, grazing on the appetizer selection at a restaurant (cold drink in hand!) is my favorite way to eat. And, at Up Modern Kitchen, my heart definitely lies with the bar food. Executive Chef Eric Wallace revamped Up’s entire menu, but his bar food — “soul food,” as he puts it — is like nothing you’ve ever seen served at your local watering hole. From tender-grilled octopus with eggplant and garlic, to copa seca (pork shoulder) and homemade giardiniera (delicious and tangy pickled vegetables), Chef Wallace is cooking the simple, flavorful food I want to eat. And, most of his recipes are inspired by first-hand experiences — like his crispy herbed ricotta fritters. “I stumbled upon these in Boston at a little Italian-Greek street festival,” says Wallace. “I walked by and they were deep frying ricotta. I thought, ‘This is genius’ and I had to bring it back with me.” He’s not exaggerating. These fritters are little pillows of creamy ricotta surrounded by a crispy crust — also know as perfection. Order up plates for $5 each during happy hour, or hit the restaurant for late-night snacks, Wednesday through Saturday.

Up Modern Kitchen, 5500 Walnut St., Shadyside. 412.688.8220.

Pittsburgh Food Tour: January 2013

Copa seca with homemade giardiniera. Chef recommends pairing it with a glass of Botragno Primativo, an Italian Zinfandel.

This article is featured in the January 2013 issue of WHIRL Magazine.
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