Friday, October 8, 2010

Foodie Fridays: The Oaks Gourmet

The Oaks Gourmet
1915 North Bronson Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 871-8894

There is simply nothing better than a grilled cheese sandwich—its gooey insides oozing out between two slices of crispy, buttery golden-brown bread and paired with an obligatory cup of warm tomato soup.

Why is this particular combination so perfect and scrumptious? I’m guessing it’s partly due to the pairing of rich, not-so-low-fat cheeses and bountiful carbohydrates. But there’s more to it than that. Grilled cheese is all-American favorite that we all were served as kids—by mom, grandma, or even Uncle Bob. With a single bite, an American adult can be delightfully transplanted back to his or her youth. Grilled cheese is a time machine.

Recently, I visited The Oaks Gourmet on Bronson in Franklin Village, right around the corner from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater on Franklin. I should point out that this was before the god-awful heat wave, which directed my cravings more towards frozen yogurt than tomato bisque. However, on chilly fall evenings, I highly recommend any and everyone to attend The Oaks’ glorious weekly event “Grilled Cheese Night,” offered every Wednesday from 6PM to midnight.

The Oaks Gourmet is a classy neighborhood market boasting a huge selection of fine wines, cheeses, kitschy beverages, marinades, desserts, and coffee beans, in addition to its fabulous dine-in menu. Any foodie could easily spend a couple hours here merely browsing the shop, reading the labels, and trying to decide what to order.

The service is friendly, too, and unlike Whole Foods, you’ll actually feel like you’re visiting a neighborhood market where you can bounce ideas off the staff and make sure you leave with the right items.

Only on Wednesday night can you come for the special menu of grilled cheese paired with house-made tomato bisque. While these decadent sandwiches definitely have the time machine capability, they’re not for kids. We’re talking about sophisticated, complex flavors made for adults. I asked resident chef, Greg Paul, where the recipes for these delicious combinations are born.

He told me it’s not a process of taste tests and research, but rather, wherever his spontaneity and creativity lead him. He decides on the menu each Wednesday afternoon based on whatever happens to strike his taste buds at the moment. The chef certainly has an incredible palette and an endless amount of ideas up his sleeve. Every sandwich I’ve tried here has been a home run.

On the Wednesday evening we visited, Shevin and I tried four different sandwiches chosen by Chef Greg.

First up was the truffle-honey goat cheese with roasted fennel, braised onions and Danish fontina on cranberry walnut bread. This was my personal favorite. The rich, savory taste of the truffle and goat cheese complemented the sweetness of the braised onions. The cranberry and walnut bread added texture and flavor for a melt-in-your mouth type experience.

We also tried the jalapeno shrimp and avocado melt with sharp cheddar and camembert, which certainly packed a spicy punch.

The steak and taleggio with braised leeks and marinated Angus sirloin was rich and sure to leave any meat-lover content.

And last but certainly not least, The Oaks’ signature sandwich, the grilled Black Forest bacon and English Cotswold with Thousand Island dressing on sourdough. Biting into this one releases an explosion of indulgent flavors, which explains why it took home the 2010 Grilled Cheese Invitational People’s Choice Award. (What an amazing event this would be to help judge…)

Believe us, all the sandwiches were as decadent and delicious as they sound; they were all paired beautifully with the rich and creamy, oregano-infused tomato bisque; and the evening was all the perfect reason for a bunch of adults to gather round and be kids again on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Photos by Brain Brown/

Mail to: foodiefridays at foundtrack dot com


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