This week’s site we love is Grilled Cheese Social, where proprietor (and brand-new SAVEUR intern!) MacKenzie Smith has created an ode to all things melty, cheesy, and on sliced bread. Anchored on lush, gooey close-ups of crisp, buttery bread and cheese topped with all manner of accouterments — everything from bacon-wrapped dates to an edible poutine-wich made with gravy-dosed french fries — this is not a website for the lactose intolerant. Here’s what MacKenzie had to say about her site:
Photo: MacKenzie Smith
** Live since:** May 2010
** Posting rate: **About one new post per week
** Geographic location:** Brooklyn, New York
** Why is the site called Grilled Cheese Social?** When I was trying to come up with a name, I knew wanted something original but also something familiar and entertaining. I had just eaten at the Stanton Social and was talking about how adding the word “social” to the end of anything instantly made it more fun. With that, Grilled Cheese Social was born.
** What’s been your most popular post?** By far my most popular post has been La La Love You. In this Valentine’s Day-inspired post I poke fun at my not-so-happening love life and feature a heart shaped grilled cheese made out of French toast challah bread, mascarpone cheese, Nutella, and fresh Florida strawberries.
** What’s your favorite post**? Hmmm, that’s a hard question! I guess I would have to say that my most recent favorite is the Little Devil (on horseback). I made this post during a very exciting time and it was absolutely delicious. I was just finishing up grad school so I made a celebratory grilled cheese that combined sweet and savory bacon wrapped dates, creamy and tangy blauschimmel cheese, crispy French bread, and of course real butter.
Photo: MacKenzie Smith
** What’s something great that you’ve learned or that’s happened to you since starting your blog?** By far the best thing that’s happened to me since I started my blog was winning an all-expenses-paid trip to the Grilled Cheese Invitational in LA thanks to Tillamook Cheese. I produced a video that showcased my original recipe for a grilled cheese that tied together some of my favorite foods: candied bacon cornbread, fried green tomatoes, and Tillamook cheddar. Not only did Tillamook treat me like a queen, but thanks to them I got to compete in the tournament and was able to be an executive judge for one of the heats. It was one of the best (and filling) experiences of my life. [You can read all about MacKenzie’s adventures with Tillamook here and here.]
** What’s the usual process for developing one of your posts?** When I started the blog I was in graduate school at Columbia University and I sort of used it as an escape from the scientific writing that was consuming my life. Because of this, I try to make it as fun as possible by taking inspiration from everyday life – whether it be a good friend’s birthday or a spin on something delicious I have recently eaten. Once I have a concept in mind, I develop a grilled cheese around it. Before I finalize each and every recipe I always invite some friends over, make some sandwiches, and gather their feedback so I can make it as tasty as possible.
** What are your favorite ingredients and tools?** I absolutely love getting gourmet and artisan cheeses from places like The Bedford Cheese Shop in Brooklyn and Murray’s Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village. I also always try to use local and seasonal ingredients that I find at various Greenmarkets throughout the city. As for my favorite tools, they would have to be my huge non-stick double burner griddle and a super-thin plastic spatula.
Photo: MacKenzie Smith
What are your favorite food and cooking resources? My number one resource is definitely my family. I grew up in a very Southern household where everyone (almost everyone, sorry Dad) was a self-taught cook. My Uncle Bro (aka Joe Rabitaille), has been an executive chef throughout my entire life and in college he was kind and patient enough to give me and my friends weekly cooking lessons. As for my Mom and Grandma, well I grew up in the kitchen with them so I could go on and on, but basically they taught me everything I know and I’m constantly relying on them. However they don’t always answer their phones, so in those rare instances I turn to my collection of Williams-Sonoma cookbooks, and various blogs and sites like Saveur.com, FoodNetwork.com, bonappetit.com, and RealSimple.com
** What photography equipment do you use?** Most of the time I use a Canon G12 but if I’m feeling extra strong I use an old and extremely heavy Nikon D200. I guess the most important part of my photography is that I use a ton of natural light. I shoot my pictures in the morning in front of the biggest window in my apartment and it makes all the difference.
** Where else can we find your work?** You can find some of my recipes on The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s 30 Days 30 Ways website, the Wisconsin Cheese Talk website, and Tillamook Cheese’s Loaf Life Blog.
** What food blogs do you follow? ** Probably too many to mention! But to name a few (alright more than a few, I know) I love Orangette, 101 Cookbooks, Bittersweet Sugar & Sarcasm, Lottie + Doof, Bon Appetempt, I Made That!, Tartelette, The Year in Food, Eat Make Read, and Smitten Kitchen.
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