Here’s all you need to know in order to understand the depths of decadence that Meltkraft by Valley Shepherd Creamery plumbs with its grilled cheese sandwiches at Reading Terminal Market: You can order them grilled up in duck fat or bacon fat. To some of us, the very prospect is likely to get our heart racing—with excitement, not nervousness, though that might be appropriate too.
The Manson-monikered “Melter Skelter” sandwich is anchored by Valley Shepherd Creamery’s three-month-old riff on Raclette, a funky melter offset by pickled green tomatoes, smoky spice from jalapeños, the snap of watercress and a thin layer of BBQ potato chips that, though they were a bit soggy by the time I chomped into them, nonetheless added an ineffably appealing layer of heft, not unlike the fries famously piled atop the sandwiches at Pittsburgh’s Primanti Brothers. But, of course, a lot better than that.
The “Valley Thunder” finds its footing in year-old cheddar and an anchor of baked macaroni and cheese, the two of them spliced with slices of meltingly moist brisket. The “Brielle” leverages the fruity sweetness of cranberry chutney and caramelized onions to highlight the mushroom-like funk of very good Brie. This one, with pine nuts and a slick of duck fat, I was told by retail manager Zeke Ferguson, reminded him of Thanksgiving, which seemed dead on. (The entire staff here is helpful, engaging and deeply knowledgeable, each like some sort of lactic Yoda guiding your journey through the universe of cheese.)
You can order these to enjoy in the market itself at a nearby table or bring them home for later. I’ve tried them both ways, and each has its advantages. If, however, you choose the latter option, follow the advice I was given there last week: Reheat the sandwiches in a dry non-stick pan on medium-low heat. In addition, I discovered that, by covering it for the last minute, you can help to ensure proper cheese meltage. And if you bring home a cup of the excellent, aromatically lifted roasted fennel and tomato soup and enjoy it all alongside a nice glass of red or a well-hopped beer? Well, that’s just about as good as it gets, this time of year or any.
Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch sts. valleyshepherd.com/meltkraft-rtm
Cuisine: Artisan grilled cheese.
Hours: Mon.–Wed., 10am–5pm; Thurs.–Fri., 10am–6pm; Sat., 9am–6pm; Sun., 9am–5pm.
Price range: $6-$9.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014