A Sandwich a Day: Welsh Rarebit Sandwich at Rubi's in Great Barrington, MA
Reason would suggest that when you're eating on-the-go, a gooey grilled cheese is not a practical sandwich choice.
Reason would also suggest that when you're picking up lunch from a fine cheese shop—in this case, one of the finest in New England—it's only prudent to order the gooiest, most spectacular-sounding grilled cheese sandwich on the menu.
You can guess which side of reason I chose when I was at Rubi's, the sandwich and coffee cafe* on the backside of Rubiner's Cheesemongers in downtown Great Barrington. The sandwich was the Welsh Rarebit ($8), and it had me at the sales pitch: "Mrs. Kirkham's Lancanshire, Mrs. Appleby's Cheshire, ale, mustard, and paprika on pullman white."
The flavor of those rich, crumbly farmhouse cheeses paired with the sharp edge of mustard and ale was classic rarebit at its finest. So was the gooeyness.
But what makes Rubi's version so interesting is the way they grill the cheese, so to speak. Rather than place the buttered sandwich directly on the burners of the press, they wrap it tightly in parchment paper and grill the whole package—paper and all. The reason, they told me, is that the paper protects the bread from overbrowning while allowing the sandwich to cook long enough for the cheese to melt completely. (Parchment paper, at least Reynolds brand, is heat-safe up to 420°F; they said they make sure to keep the temperature of the sandwich press a little below that.)
As far as I can tell, it was an effective trick. The sandwich was perfectly golden, not to mention crisp and delicate on the exterior the way bread on a typical grilled cheese rarely is.
*Sandwiches and coffee are the main gig, but the cafe also serves breakfast and dinner, which, on the weekends, includes raw oysters, lamb sausage, and some fantastic fish stew.
About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Senior Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.