Mac & Cheese Night #5: American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

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Fifth macaroni and cheese night already? And I’m not even sick of the stuff yet. I must say, though, that all this mac and cheese analysis has affected my standards. Let’s just say that a recent order from a fast food chain was NOT up to snuff. Bright orange sauce lacking flavor and overcooked noodles doesn’t do it for me as easily as it used to.

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen does commit the atrocity of overcooked noodles, but in their case, it’s no crime. We went to the Mission location (2400 Harrison St.), a spot that’s steadily busy even at 2 on a Saturday afternoon.

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That menu is composed of sandwiches made of locally sourced ingredients, which results in quality that you can taste. The drinks illustrated that for me most clearly.

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My lemon-thyme soda hit the spot. The thyme wasn’t any bit player; it was a refreshing counterpoint to commanding citrus with just enough sugar to make it palatable. Husband’s pomegranate-rosemary soda was also tasty, but it didn’t hold a candle to the lemon-thyme for me. Obviously, I was not in a berry mood.

And both Husband and Friend #1 were not in mac & cheese moods, opting instead for the club turkey and cubano, respectively.

Club with cheddar, havarti, smoked turkey, roasted tomatoes, bacon, stout mustard, and arugula on sourdough.

Club with cheddar, havarti, smoked turkey, roasted tomatoes, bacon, stout mustard, and arugula on sourdough.

Cubano with monterey and garlic-herb jack cheeses, coffee-rubbed pulled pork, ham, stout mustard, pickles, pickled red onions, and chipotle butter on levain bread.

Cubano with monterey and garlic-herb jack cheeses, coffee-rubbed pulled pork, ham, stout mustard, pickles, pickled red onions, and chipotle butter on levain bread.

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Maryhill Proprietor’s Reserve 2011 Tavola Rosso

Maryhill Proprietor’s Reserve 2011 Tavola Rosso
Columbia Valley, WA

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Last time I reviewed a Maryhill wine, I pledged to have my pictures edited from our winery visit before the next one. I am happy to say I completed that mission!

Click 2x for the panoramic view.

Click 2x for the panoramic view.

And wow, Maryhill is a breathtaking winery (9774 Hwy 14, WA). It’s hard not to be right on the Columbia River Gorge. I honestly think being there on a stormy, foggy day added a whole other level of beauty to the location.

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Of course, my friend Cassie, who works at Maryhill, also ups the pretty factor.

Cassie and I looking adorable, if I do so say myself.

Cassie and I looking adorable, if I do so say myself.

We met at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference, and she graciously guided my husband and I through the tasting then strong-armed me into buying a few of Maryhill’s wines reserved for wine club members, the first of which I reviewed last month for you.

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American Oak

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I adore brunch. I also adore sleep, and being located in Hayward, I honestly don’t have a lot of brunch options nearby, so I don’t make it out to brunch often. But occasionally, the desires to (a) eat brunch and (b) meet up with friends combine to get me out of bed at a decent hour. By which I mean noon.

I also adore Alameda, and Friend #1 lives on the island, so we chose Alameda for this brunch review. With an equal number of brunch items as brunch cocktails, American Oak seemed promising, though I bypassed the alcohol for coffee. It’s a choice I make more often than I’ve led you to believe.

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American Oak’s coffee set-up is charming, from the hodge-podge mug collection to the cute individual buckets of cream and sugar. I also found the restaurant itself charming, especially the little nooks and crannies to hide in. Friend #2, in contrast, found the wide, open space unnervingly airy—the two-floor establishment with a patio is obviously meant to host a vibrant night life, and this was definitely daytime.

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For me, all the open space meant a brunch spot that doesn’t have an hour-long wait. Walking right in to a table is AMAZING for brunch in the Bay Area. I firmly refuse to complain about that as long as the food is good. Though not having crowds does make one suspicious…

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…though I was thoroughly satisfied with my heirloom tomato and bacon benedict. They had no problem serving it hard-poached, which is more often a problem than you’d think. The hollandaise sauce was thinner than I like but its tang was acceptable, if not memorable. And that may have been the fluffiest english muffin I’ve ever had. I’m not sure where the corn portion of the corn and arugula salad was, however.

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