Slapdash Gourmet: Going gourmet — with PB&JWritten by Amy Campbell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As a mom, I’ve made a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my time, but not all of them were for my daughter. I still appreciate a good PB&J myself, specifically red raspberry jam on soft bread with a schmear of creamy Jif. For a real treat, I grill it. Crunchy on the outside, sweet and gooey inside, a grilled PB&J is dinner and dessert in one bite.
“Grilled” is about as upscale as my peanut butter sandwiches are likely to get, but after attending Food for Thought’s Jam City event, I have a new appreciation for these humble ingredients, and for the 11 restaurants that accepted the Jam City challenge: to create something gourmet from PB&J.
Food for Thought is a social justice organization dedicated to feeding the hungry. The group’s Saturday picnics feature sack lunches with PB&J sandwiches as the star, offered with sides of dignity, respect and a genuine desire to forge relationships with those in need. Food for Thought also operates two food banks — a permanent location in Oregon and a mobile food pantry that visits 11 locations every month. The Jam City fundraiser was held in conjunction with the organization’s sixth anniversary.
Jam City’s PB&J creations were not required to be in sandwich form, but all of my favorites were. Deet’s BBQ offered the “Pork-gasm,” an open-faced creation built on a corn muffin spread with an applesauce-apple butter hybrid, topped with pulled pork and a peanut butter sauce. Sweet, salty, porky … you get the idea. It was a little messy, but then most good barbecue is.
Registry Bistro’s Erika Rapp went in an entirely different direction, taking advantage of Asian cuisine’s use of peanuts to create her Huckleberry Duck Bun with Spicy Peanut Sauce. The steamed bun was filled with beautifully cooked duck and got some crunch from veggies that included alfalfa sprouts and shredded carrot. Neither the huckleberry “jelly” nor the peanut sauce were overbearing or seemed even a little odd against the other ingredients, making it perhaps the most cohesive dish at the event.
Perhaps the truest sandwich of them all was the slider from Mancy’s Steakhouse. The grilled-on-site burgers featured a peanut butter and goat cheese condiment that the restaurant should probably come up with a name for, because I’m guessing that people who’ve tried it are going to want some more. I know I do. The “jelly” component was a tomato jam made fresh at the restaurant. I wouldn’t be surprised if these “Jam City Sliders” end up on Mancy’s menu.
In addition to the creative dishes, four acoustic bands played the event and created a nice atmosphere for the sell-out crowd. Unfortunately, crowding was a problem. I arrived at Jam City early, pretty much right on top of the 6 p.m. start time, and the venue — the Blarney Event Center on Monroe Street — was already filling up. It was a great location, but if Food for Thought decides to make Jam City an annual event the organizers will need to come up with a larger venue. For a nonprofit doing so much to help our community, that’s a good problem to have.