Sunday, December 20, 2009

A (gasp!) Mediocre Melt Meal?

Say it ain't so, sandwich gods, say it ain't so!

My friend Trish was home for the holidays recently and we hadn't hung out in over a year so we decided to get together Tuesday afternoon. Our plan of action was to grab some lunch, catch up, then grab a drink or two somewhere. Fun enough.

We decided on Melt for lunch since Trish had never been but had heard good things. We got there around 1:15 and only had a short wait for a table, maybe fifteen minutes as opposed to the hour one might wait in the evening. Once seated we ordered some drinks and continued catching up. I had a Harpoon Winter Warmer, a malty Christmas ale with spices, not bad, but nothing spectacular. The bit of Trish's that I tried was a rich, hoppy, full bodied ale that I liked a little better. But, no matter, we were at Melt where there is great food and a huge beer list, right?

I should've taken heed, but I didn't realize at the time that my mediocre beer choice would predict things to come that meal. After much debate we settled on some sandwiches, Trish chose the Winter Chicken with grilled chicken, honey-tomato chipotle sauce, and pepper-jack. I opted for the special of the month: the Mighty Macaroni Melt, a serving of homemade mac'n'cheese breaded and fried, placed between two pieces of cheese and bread, then grilled. Sounds amazing, no?

No. Well, not totally bad. Not bad at all actually, just not great. The mac'n'cheese by itself was really good. Rich and creamy, made with a tangy white cheese. The cheese added to the sandwich was just standard American, not bad per se, but it didn't bring a lot to the party. The bread was the usual thick cut bread Melt uses for all their sandwiches. It all looks and sounds fine on paper, but it was just a one note sandwich, cheese and bread and cheese and pasta, all tasty, but a little redundant. In retrospect some pepper-jack might have helped things out. All the rich, creamy, bread-y tastes could've benefitted from being cut with some spice. Other tasty add-on might include Melt's amazing carmelized onions in Port wine reduction, bringing a little sweet into the mix would've helped, too. Or I could've asked for some hot sauce on the side, Melt usually offers Sriracha. Certainly there were things one or both of us could've done to elevate this sandwich to the lofty heights of the rest of the Melt menu.

That said we had great time out, for our second round of lunch beers (don't judge!) I had a Southern Tier Old Man Winter, an Old Ale, this brew has tons of rich hoppiness and just the right touch of malt. After taking a few minutes for our beer and sandwiches to settle we meandered back to the east side of Cleveland where we took a walking tour of Coventry before hunkering down at La Cave du Vin for some fancy micro brews. I opened with an Otter Creek Quercus Vitis Humulus. This is one of the most delicious and complex beers I've ever tasted. QVH starts life as a barley wine style brew, it then has sauvignon blanc grape juice added to it and is re-fermented with champagne yeast, finally it is aged in oak barrels. The resulting beer has the sweet and spicy bite of a good barley wine, with the hops and malt competing for control of your mouth. Then the sauvingnon blanc kicks in, lightening the load of the rich, heavy barley wine with its signature crisp, clean citrus and tropical flavors. The aftertaste is where the oak barrel comes in, leaving just a hint of woodiness in the back of the throat. Really tasty, but as weird as the bartender had promised. I closed the evening with one of my all time favorite beers ever, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. It's deep, dark malt is roasty and toasty, the perfect way to shake off a cold Russian or Cleveland night's chill, it has a great bitter coffee aftertaste, like the finish of a perfectly brewed cup of dark roasted coffee served pitch black. What makes this even better is that La Cave serves Old Rasputin on their nitrogen tap so it always pours rich and frothy and is absolutely worth the 3-5 minute wait for the beer to pour and settle correctly. Old Rasputin is great from the bottle, amazing from the tap, but on nitrogen it's fucking transcendent.

So, despite my first so-so experience with Melt we had a great night out, enjoyed some great company, and drank some mighty fine beers.

See what La Cave Du Vin is pouring here:


Trish said...

This blog needs a South Bend entry... Come visit! :)

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