Follow the crumbs
Grilled-cheese food truck makes a tasty trail around Chico
Henri has loved grilled-cheese sandwiches ever since his childhood in the Midwest, when mon pere, the French-film scholar Etienne Bourride, would prepare them, along with a big pot of the traditional go-with, tomato soup—comfort food for our Saturday-afternoon movies on the old Bourride console television. He loved American westerns, and I have fond memories of sitting with him, sipping soup and munching on the sandwiches as we watched John Wayne in search of Natalie Wood or firing at Indians attempting to overtake the stagecoach on which he rode shotgun.
“Just never call them ‘toasties,’” he would say emphatically, referring to the word the English used for the sandwiches. “We must diligently continue to distance ourselves in every way possible from that culture,” often adding, “and I use the word ‘culture’ loosely. Comprenez-vous?”
Then he’d hold up his glass of Bordeaux. “To the great American West. Et fromages et pain. Et à la santé.”
Ah, simpler times.
Today, Colette et moi watch movies on her computer. I was shocked recently when she told me that we could watch almost any movie we wanted, at that moment or any other time. “Streaming,” she called it.
I was skeptical. Some Like it Hot?
She smiled, turned on her computer, and the credits began to roll. Marilyn, Tony, Jack. The only things missing: grilled-cheese sandwiches—and of course the soup and Bordeaux.
“We can fix that,” she said. “Didn’t I set you up with a Facebook page?”
“I think so,” I said. “Though I’ve never really understood all that ‘Friending’ and ‘Liking’ stuff.’
“Doesn’t matter.” She put the movie on pause. “Log in.”
I did as my dear sister commanded, and the next thing I knew we were looking at the Facebook page for the Mayhem Gourmet Grilled Cheese food truck.
“Look,” she said. “They’re parked over on The Esplanade by Enloe Hospital today. Let’s go.”
Mayhem Gourmet Grilled Cheese, run by husband and wife Jeremy and Jennie Wolfe, is a welcome addition to Chico’s burgeoning street-food scene. They have a standard menu of six different grilled-cheese sandwiches ($6 each), plus two children’s sandwiches ($3)—though sometimes they offer a special pulled-pork-and-cheese for $7.50. Each comes with a small cup of fresh tomato soup. Another $2 gets you a bag of chips and a Capri Sun. All sandwiches come on sliced sourdough with several choices of cheese (with fontina common to all).
The catch—and actually the fun part, we realize now—is that they’re mobile, in a different location each day, and you need to go to their Facebook page or Twitter feed to find out where. From Vallombrosa in front of the post office to Philadelphia Square to out by the airport, they’re usually serving from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., often from 6 p.m. to 8 pm., and sometimes offering “late-night cheese” until 2 a.m. Sometimes they move to a new location during the middle of a “shift,” notifying customers via Facebook/Twitter.
On our first visit, I ordered the bacon with maple-chipotle jelly, and Colette got the sun-dried tomato and turkey with pesto. We brought them back to the house and opened a bottle of old-vine Zin (lacking Bordeaux, a decent Plan B) and ate them as we watched Joe, Jerry and Sugar Kane. Very good, perfectly grilled, golden and gooey, though I expected a little more bite to the pesto. Perhaps in the good-old summertime, when fresh basil is more available, Mayhem’s pesto will be jazzier.
We’ve found them several times since and have always been satisfied. I especially like the pepperoni with marinara and parmesan. Once, the truck parked on Main Street between Fourth and Fifth, Henri caught sight of Duffy’s Tavern out of the corner of his eye. The five-minute wait for his sandwich gave him the perfect opportunity to pop in for a mid-day cocktail. He had just stepped back into daylight when the truck’s pick-up window opened and his name was called—his grilled cheese with Applewood ham and jalapeño jelly was ready. And delicious. Mon pere would have approved.