Portland, Ore. - With 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game events kicking into full swing on Sunday, Portland Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury got into the act as a celebrity judge for a particular Rose City-themed event: a Grilled Cheese Throwdown.
Set up at the MLS Experience at Waterfront Park ahead of the Flaming Lips concert, Jewsbury joined City of Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, 750 The Game’s John Canzano, FOX 12’s Shauna Parsons, Quin Candy’s Jami Curl and Ben Jacobsen of Jacobsen Salt Co. to find out which grilled cheese should take the title. Their choices included a veritable who’s who of food carts in Portland: Bro-Dogs, Moo-Ping, Retrolicious, and The Grilled Cheese Grill.
So just what makes for a great grilled cheese?
“Well, the consensus is a lot of cheese,” said Jewsbury simply.
Portland is known for many things including stunning landscapes, great urban planning, microbrews, organic food, soccer, and, in particular, excellent food. There are literally hundreds of food carts sprinkled across the city—a fact that Mayor Hales was keen to point out as he deliberated between the nominees.
“These gourmet food carts raise it to a whole different level than I think most of us have ever thought of,” said Hales. “It’s fun for us to see this sampling of Portland’s amazing culinary art that we find on the street in food carts all over town.”
The various grilled cheeses ran the gamut from one’s filled with sausage and mac and cheese, to Thai-infused versions, to a Cubano-inspired one as well as one with Jalapeño peppers and that Portland staple: bacon.
Nostalgia weighed heavily in the judges deliberations.
“I just have memories of my mom making grilled cheese at home,” said food aficionado Ben Jacobsen of the Jacobsen Salt Co. “That’s the best.”
Added Quinn Candy’s Jami Curl, “The kind that you can dip into tomato soup.”
And in the final tasting at the Bro-Dogs cart, the judges found their winner. A mixture of cream cheese, American cheese, mac & cheese with smoked bacon as well as some pepper jack cheese, the Bro-Dogs submission was the unanimous winner.
“It was very, very tasty with all those cheeses,” said Jewsbury. “I think in the back of our minds, it also was the closest thing to what we remember when we were younger as a ‘grilled cheese.’”
The Throwdown was but one event happening all over the city in the run-up to Wednesday’s big match against Germany’s FC Bayern Munich (6:30pm PT, ESPN2), a fact that for Jewsbury, presented a way for Portland to give back to its fans.
“It’s an opportunity, I think, to say thanks to all our supporters and give them some fun activities to go around and visit in the city,” he said. “It also gives some guys around the league a chance to really appreciate what some of us get to see week in, week out.”
Mayor Hales wholeheartedly agreed and also believed that the MLS All-Star Game can have a global effect on the perspective of Soccer City, USA.
“In the time I’ve lived in Portland, we’ve gone from being a provincial city to being a global city. To me, having this game is the realization of that,” said Hales.
He also added that it’s “these kinds of events that change our relationship with the world and let us see the world differently and the world see us differently.”