On March 21st, Alma Chocolates hosted Alberta St.’s The Cheese Plate Food Cart in the Alma Kitchen to create a dinner of inventive grilled cheese bites. The Alma Kitchen is separate from their shop on NE 28th- instead this is a special event room in the newly renovated 105 year old American Brush Building, a former candy factory and grocery distribution center and then American Brush company (and thus the name- the sign for this still is painted on in white letters on the red bricks on one side of the building as you approach from Burnside) and which is supposedly haunted. Thankfully, although the building is rather quiet, when I pulled open one of the two bathroom doors at the end of the hall (not marked- you just have to look for the sliding lock that switches from In Use to Vacant) that said Vacant and saw just a bunch of janitorial and construction tools, I quickly closed it but nothing was moving and I noticed no shadows.
The event was set up as a casual cocktail party with rustic charm using burlap sacks to cover tables and the glow of lots of white candles: it would not have surprised me to hear there were 100 candles throughout the room.
There were a few wooden chairs set up at small tables along the walls around the rectangular space. This was a bit of a surprise to me as most cocktail events I know use lots of tall cocktail tables so that people may not be sitting, but they can anchor themselves by putting food and drink there, and those are throughout the space, including the middle. I got there close to when the doors opened at 6 and my friends and I snagged chairs by a good sized table, but more chairs must have been brought in as additional people sat in a row behind us. Most people ended up being able to sit as the staff brought out the wooden cutting boards to pass out bites of the grilled cheeses, although a few were left leaning against a wall. In the corner, musicians with a guitar and saxophone provided background music.
The first half hour included snacking from a table with plates of cheese and Alma chocolate- preview of individual bites of all of the cheeses that were being used in the sandwiches we would soon enjoy: River’s Edge “Up in Smoke” Chèvre, Portland Creamery “Sweet Fire” chèvre, Willamette Valley French Prairie Brie, Briar Rose Creamery Feta, Rogue Creamery “Crater Lake” Blue, La Mariposa Five Corners cheese, and Briar Rose Creamery “Madrona” (tallegio style) cheese.
When you first entered the room and saw this table, you couldn’t help but be really impressed by the selection and quality of artisan goods here. The accompaniment here of popcorn rather than the expected vehicle of crackers or baguettes was surprising (especially given 2 of the 5 cheeses were chèvres and how awesome the PDX Cheese Cart’s homemade crackers which I sampled at Wedge 2012 are) but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the cheeses, and kept our appetite ready for the grilled cheese bites.
The Menu of Oregon Cheese & Alma Chocolate included
- Briar Rose Creamery “Madrona” with pear chutney, toasted and sandwiched with salted peanut butter cup cookies. A great start and end salty and savory and sweet “grilled cheese” course.
- Rogue Creamery “Crater Lake Blue” with mocha almond nibby bark, toasted on cranberry bread. Warming up the blue cheese really brought out more of the flavor
- Willamette Valley “French Prairie Brie,” habanero caramel, toasted on warm moist banana bread, I may have had 3 of these and taken 4 bites home in one of the pink boxes they offered at the end…
- La Mariposa “Five Corners” cheese and Briar Rose Creamery Feta, Mexican chocolate mole sauce, toasted on corn bread. Although this was tasty, since I was able to enjoy larger chunks of the feta earlier during the first half hour (which is mild and not as salty as you might assume with feta), I would say I liked it earlier than here because there just wasn’t enough of it and although I could see the Five Corners cheese it got a little lost with the corn bread and mole.
- Portland Creamery “Sweet Fire Chèvre,” shaved dark chocolate truffle, toasted on buttery soft almond brioche was a spicy sweet soft bite
- River’s Edge “Up in Smoke” Chèvre, lavender caramel sauce, toasted on pretzel bread. This was my favorite cheese of the night with its strong smoky flavor
The event was BYOB, although DRY’s sodas were also available in vanilla bean or lavender or you could mix the two! I really liked the vanilla bean soda- and although we also enjoyed a bubbly sparkling wine I had brought along, the soda also was a lovely refreshing pairing. The April F+P birthday party is coming up in April, and I am intrigued with the idea of including a couple cases of DRY soda with a bar for DIY mixers: if you visit the website they offer several cocktail mix recipes.
The next event in the Alma Dinner series is An Evening of Beer + Chocolate featuring five local breweries (Alameda, pFriem, Hopworks, The Commons Brewery, and Double Mountain) and five local chocolatiers (Alma Chocolate, Cacao, Cocanu, Woodblock, and Xocolatl de David) pairing their chocolate and beer together on April 4th, again at the Alma Studio.