By Scott Beveridge
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Every Tuesday an offbeat food booth in Pittsburgh reaches out to Facebook to advertise its weekend menu, which offers grilled cheese Sammies, plain or fancy.
The fancy part of that sandwich would serve enough to perk my interest in Soup Nancys, a staple at Pittsburgh Public Market.
"We're also pretty good at making a delicious sandwich when your only instructions to us are, "Surprise me," Raszewski responded to my Facebook reply, after curiosity prompted me to ask Food Nancys about what it takes to make a grilled cheese sandwich fancy.
There is more than one way to fancy-up a grilled-cheese sandwich, she replied.
First the cheeses are selected and then topped with such ingredients as fresh basil, tomato and raspberry habanero jam produced locally by The Berry Patch.
"You get the idea," Raszewski continued.
Then, I get an urge to drive from where I live in the back hills of southwestern Pennsylvania's Monongahela River Valley to Soup Nancys in the city otherwise known as the Paris of Appalachia to taste one of these fancy sandwiches.
By the way, the sandwich celebrated its 250th birthday this year, having supposedly been invented by Britain's Earl of Sandwich when he demanded his servants give him sliced beef between bread so not to interrupt a card game.
The sandwich would best become spiced up by Americans, says Raszewski, who should know because she has nibbled on them while traveling the Netherlands.
Restaurants in that country still just slam some meat between bread, nothing more, as did those who attended the Earl, she said.
Well, there is nothing boring about Soup Nancys' fancy Sammies.
"You want white or multigrain whole wheat bread?" Raszewski asks after I order one last Saturday, and, while we attempt to remember the story about bread meal inventor John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich.
"What do you suggest?" I reply.
She recommends the wheat bread, saying it holds up better than white while squished in a panini maker.
"Go for it," I say.
I'm here for fancy.
This chef selects provolone, muenster and pepper jack cheeses and garnishes them lightly with fresh basil and generously with the hot pepper jam and tomatoes, freshly picked from her garden.
Eventually I inquire as to what inspired Soup Nancys to put tongue-numbing jam on a grilled cheese.
"It took some experimenting," she said.
A few minutes later I walk to the cafe seating area with a beautiful dripping sandwich that cost just $3.50.
I later return to the booth to report that this is the greatest toasted cheese sandwich that I have ever eaten in my 55 years on the planet.
"It carries a bit of a kick," I said, adding that it requires cold water.
Next time, Raszewski said, grab yourself an avocado mint smoothie, pointing to a beverage booth across the isle.