Grilled cheese party

by Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca

Over the weekend, I held a grilled cheese party, an event so successful I hope to make it an annual tradition.

Friends arrived at my apartment armed with unconventional breads, exotic cheeses and other toppings, such as sliced apples and jellies, for whatever concoction they'd decided to make. Then each person had a turn taking over my kitchen, making several of their sandwiches and serving them cut into bite-sized chunks.

While some guests were foodies, many were not. But all revelled in the experiment. There’s something about grilled cheese sandwiches, or grillers as we took to calling them, that brought out the gourmand in each of us.

I was impressed with the combinations we amateurs came up with: white cheddar with a spicy homemade salsa dubbed “El Diablo” on sourdough; croissants filled with soft Port Salut, fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes; and multi-grain bread topped with herb Havarti, goat cheese, tomatoes and prosciutto, just to name a few.

There wasn't a kitschy processed-cheese-and-Wonder-Bread sandwich in sight.

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A gooey grilled cheese sandwich, one of many consumed throughout the night. (Courtesy of Natalie Bay)

It should come as no surprise that these retro sandwiches have a devoted following, with entire books dedicated to techniques and recipes, an annual grilled cheese contest and countless websites and articles extolling its virtues.

The first time I heard of a grilled cheese party, though, was from a classmate at a cooking course last year, and I had been mulling the idea ever since. I wracked my brain for alternatives to the sandwich, but finally gave in and stole the idea outright. Few meals rivalled the possible versions of this simple sandwich.

What other foods do you think would work well for a party?