The Early Word: the Milk Truck
The Milk Truck's ham and cheese sandwich, with accompanying grease stains.
Given that a day scarcely seems to pass without some beloved, possibly downmarket childhood favorite getting an artisanal make-over and a truck to go with it, it was only a matter of time before the grilled cheese sandwich got its time under the sustainably sourced spotlight. This weekend's Brooklyn Flea brought us the premiere of the Milk Truck, Keith Klein's endeavor to partner melted cheese with locomotion. Although Klein's outpost at the Flea was sans truck (that'll come in May or June, when he gets the necessary permits to operate the old Divco milk truck he's revamping), his full menu was up and running.
The $6 Classic with a Twist was aged Wisconsin Gruyere melted onto Jewish rye with champagne-pickled onions and whole-grain mustard. Grilled to a crispy, amber-hued perfection, it had a gratifyingly gooey center. Although the mustard and onions worked well in theory, in practice their flavors overpowered the cheese, which, given the punch Gruyere typically packs, is saying something. But the rye, from Blue Ribbon Bakery, was an inspired choice, even if the excessive amount of butter shellacked onto it rendered it little more than a grease sponge (shockingly enough, it is possible to over-butter a grilled cheese sandwich). Still, this was a solid and largely satisfying sandwich, and given that it was the Milk Truck's first day out, chances are Klein and co. will work out their kinks, butter surplus et al.
Where the classic faltered, the ham and cheese occupied very solid ground: the ham, partnered with Vermont aged cheddar and wicked-hot Coleman's mustard and grilled on rosemary pullman bread, was the stuff that fat-pants dairy dreams are made of. Hot and salty, it was a voluptuous, spicy mess, able to induce ecstasy and a food coma in equal, potent measure. While the classic with a twist needs a bit of work, the ham and cheese is already a classic unto itself.
So the Milk Truck seems to be off to a promising start. But as we wiped the grease off our fingers, we had to wonder if the truck's presence at the market means that Anne Saxelby's own superlative grilled cheese sandwiches will no longer be available there. Although they didn't arrive with nearly as much fanfare last summer, they were one of the best things we've ever consumed at the Flea, and one would hope that there's room enough among the crocheted leg warmers and Pyrex bowls for a dairy double-whammy.