New pop-up: The Melt
Words and photos by Alice Harbourne.
Like commenting “I could do that” while walking around a contemporary art gallery, there’ll always be people who scoff at gourmet versions of home-cooked food. The toasted sandwich is an easy target – any idiot with a $20 sandwich press from The Warehouse can bosh one out – but given the option, wouldn’t you much rather an ex-Euro chef with a cookbook obsession carefully craft one for you?
Thankfully for Auckland, that option’s on the table throughout July. Chef Matt Stewart of catering company/market stall Little Eats will be taking over Ponsonby’s Craft Kitchen on Friday and Saturday evenings to worship not-so-humble grilled cheese sandwiches. A menu of six intensely researched varieties will be available to order, alongside salads, antipasto and two deconstructed desserts.
Nothing epitomises the contradictions of our zeitgeisty food desires like following a mac n cheese, cola braised-beef, bacon and truffle-filled toasted sandwich with a deconstructed panna cotta, complete with a garnish of dehydrated methylcellulose “meringues”. For Stewart, the pairing of food styles was obvious: “toasted sandwiches are what I love to eat; deconstructed desserts are what I love to make.” Having begun his career on the pastry section at Euro under Simon Gault – who also happens to own Sous Chef, Auckland’s only importer of molecular gastronomy ingredients – you can appreciate that. After a brief stint in professional kitchens, Stewart carved his own path via a mountain of cookbooks from which he’d adapt dishes for family and friends. If they approved, they were added to a changing-menu at his regular market stall pop-ups.
The Melt is Stewart’s first dining event series, and it marks the culmination of months of grilled cheese research. From scouring the land for the right cheese supplier (he settled on Karikaas’ New Zealand-made Dutch cheeses) to the perfect bread for each sandwich (Wild Wheat’s sourdoughs passed the test), he’s put great thought into the flavour and texture of every bite. Having learned not everyone loves pickles (heresy!), they’re an optional but recommended side to cut through rich flavours, especially if you’re opting for The Big Cheese – a melty symphony of mature gouda, fresh mozzarella and maasdam – or the mac n cheese overload (The Mac Daddy) described above.
Whether you’re as obsessed with grilled cheese as the internet is, or simply willing to be initiated, this new pop-up is for you. Just make sure you leave room for dessert.
2 Ponsonby Rd
The Melt on Facebook.