Curdling News: The Overuse of Cheese in Bar Food
My weekly trips to Tyson’s Corner have me eating more than my fair share of Chef Geoff’s burgers lately. The namesake sandwich costs only $5 during happy hour and is competently prepared; requesting medium results in a faintly pink and juicy patty nearly every time. My only beef? A second slice of cheese.
On a burger already topped with bacon and served with a hopped-up mayo, two thick slices of cheddar seems redundant and heavy. I realize I can request that the kitchen tone down the dairy overload, or even have the cooks remove the slices, but a Sunday article in the New York Times has me half wondering if the USDA isn't targeting independent restaurants, too.
Just look at The Diner in Adams Morgan, where an otherwise delightful Reuben sandwich is inundated with so much Swiss, it spills out onto my plate. I’m also tempted to believe that cheese overload is the main reason I tend to hate nachos. It seems many bar food menus are addicted to dairy.
My best theory is that when melted and oozing, cheese makes one hell of a crutch. Domino’s proves that the simplest solution to a crappy tasting pie is to blanket it with so much fat it hammers you with flavor. But the technique isn't just reserved for low-brow chow. Any chef worth his ample weight knows all too well the results of whisking a pat of butter into an almost finished sauce. Thin and wimpy quickly becomes viscous and silky, proving the adage that fat is flavor (and texture).
Still, those same chefs know that quality ingredients have as much of an impact in the outcome of a dish. What if Domino's spent a little more time looking at the structure and quality of its crust, or perhaps reworked a tomato sauce that currently resembles ketchup? What if The Diner and Chef Geoff’s toned down their dairy infusion just a touch? Would many of us notice? Our hearts might.
I’m the first one to cheer on an extra melty dish of warm mac and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich, but I think I’m ready to ask when dairy’s incorporation passes from a worthy addition to possible abuse.
What about Y&H readers? Where have you seen cheese pushed too far? Or should we continue to march forth bathed in a blanket of melted goodness, with a bottle of Lipitor preemptively placed in our back pockets?
Photo by Scott Reitz