108 - Smile and Say "Queso!"
While our North American version of grilled cheese calls for cheese to be melted between two slices of bread, the Mexicans dispense with this formality and go straight for the good stuff -- all cheese, all the time.
Chicharron de Queso is a typical Mexican street eat -- loved by both young and old alike. Chicharron means "crunchy pieces of" in Spanish, and in this case it's two slices of Monterrey Jack cheese grilled to perfection by Lucero Lopez at El Trompo Taco Bar and Cactus Grill in Kensington Market. Hailing from the city of Puebla, Lucero works her magic with a hot griddle, two spatulas and a bubbling mass of cheese that she patiently cajoles into a pyramid-like shape.
I ask her if she always manages to sculpt this gravity-defying cheese structure and she tells me, "No, I do what the cheese wants to do. But it's always good." Some would say great. The Monterrey Jack crisps up to lace-like, golden perfection. When you break off a piece and crunch away, you'd think you were digging into parmesan chips.
The toasted cheese takes up most of the surface of a regular sized dinner plate, and while you might think this a light snack, think again. All of this toasted cheese is fairly filling, so I'd suggest sharing it with an amigo or two. Believe me, this is advice well worth the taking because you'll definitely want to save room for the tacos al pastor, the homemade bean soup and Lucero's decadent three milk cake.
El Trompo Taco Bar and Cactus Grill
277 Augusta Avenue
photo credit: Mary Luz Mejia