April brings about many things – warm spring weather, Easter, the end of tax season – but one of the tastiest reasons to enjoy this time of year is that it’s also Grilled Cheese Month. Culminating in National Grilled Cheese Day on April 12, the entire month celebrates this gooey, savory sandwich that is enjoyed by millions of diners both young and old.

La Brea Bakery recognizes the importance of this month. The artisan bread purveyor also knows that while cheese demands the spotlight on the sandwich, the bread can be just as important and can make or break its taste.

At its Los Angeles café, La Brea Bakery is celebrating all month-long with a special grilled cheese menu. Three limited-edition sandwiches will be offered every Thursday night in April from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. PST that utilize La Brea’s artisan breads to perfection:

  • The Classic: Three cheese blend on Country White Sourdough Loaf
  • Cowboy: Short rib, yellow cheddar, caramelized onions, and a garlic mustard spread on Country Wheat
  • South West: Avocado, cilantro spread, southwest pork belly, and Monterey jack cheese on White Table Bread

Recently, La Brea Bakery DVP and Executive Chef Henk Drakulich discussed with us the importance of bread in the grilled cheese sandwich and how you can make your sandwiches stand out with the right pairings.

We know that bread can make a huge difference in the overall quality of a sandwich. How does that specifically apply to grilled cheese sandwiches?

While many consumers think the cheese should be the star of the show in their grilled cheese sandwich, the bread actually plays a huge role both in flavor and texture/composition of the sandwich. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the bread is more important than the cheese.  For a great grilled cheese sandwich, the benchmark is the color and flavor of the crust of the bread.  Ideally, you want bread that is going to activate your palette, highlight the existing flavors of the cheese, and one that has a crisp consistency. As far as texture goes, using day-old bread that’s lost the soft, doughy feeling will ensure it’ll toast evenly, melting the cheese and creating a strong foundation for the sandwich.

What types of bread work well with this type of sandwich?

The type of bread can really be a matter of personal preference, but a classic pairing for grilled cheese is a sourdough such as La Brea Bakery’s Sourdough Loaf or Sourdough Baguette since it has a subtle flavor that’s instantly recognizable but won’t overpower the cheese. It also has a crisp yet chewy crust that adds a surprising crunch to balance out the gooiness of the melted cheese, and the innate tanginess of the sourdough creates an opportunity to get creative incorporating other ingredients into the sandwich like caramelized onions or avocado. 

What is your personal favorite take on the grilled cheese sandwich?

I really love having some fun when I make a grilled cheese sandwich and experimenting by adding in unexpected flavors. One combo that I’m excited about that the La Brea Bakery café is serving up for customers during the month of April is The Cowboy, which has Short rib, yellow cheddar, caramelized onions, and garlic mustard spread on our Country Wheat. Including meat in a grilled cheese can change the core of the sandwich for the better – it adds protein and emphasizes a nice smoky, savory flavor that goes well with the sharpness of the cheddar. Add in the sweetness of roasted garlic and subtle bite of Dijon mustard and you really start to take a grilled cheese sandwich to the next level. Just like with everything else that I cook, I try to build levels of flavor that synergize into a great finished dish.

Does La Brea have any special breads or sandwiches in the works for its 30th anniversary in 2019?

In addition to rejoining the brand to celebrate the 30th anniversary, our founder, Nancy Silverton, is collaborating with her protégé and La Brea Bakery’s SVP of R&D, Jon Davis, to develop new, special edition breads. La Brea Bakery Founders will launch later this year and will incorporate ingredients like sprouted grains and alternative flours. In honor of Grilled Cheese Month, we’ll be unveiling a special grilled cheese recipe using the new breads at the café later this month.

Will the Los Angeles café be holding a Grilled Cheese Night or any other celebrations for National Grilled Cheese Day/Month?

We’re excited to bring back our annual Grilled Cheese Nights for another year to celebrate this month-long holiday that has become a customer favorite. Every Thursday throughout the month of April from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., we’ll be serving up a limited-time only grilled cheese menu at our café on S. La Brea Avenue with options including the Classic Grilled Cheese, The Cowboy, and The Southwest. Just to make things even more special, all of the breads used for Grilled Cheese night will be baked that same afternoon in the Café’s new state of the art artisan deck oven.