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Tue 6 Nov 2007 04:00 AM

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GCC F&B scene just ain’t cheesy enough

There is a new food trend in the US. Its not high brow or upscale, it doesn't involve tall food or expensive ingredients-its grilled cheese.

There is a new food trend in the US. Its not high brow or upscale, it doesn't involve tall food or expensive ingredients-its grilled cheese. Yup, the humble grilled cheese sandwich is being elevated to new heights and newfound popularity. In Los Angeles, there is an entire restaurant devoted to the art of the gooey sandwhich-The Melt Down, in Culver City. Campanile, standard bearer of the LA Italian food scene, has grilled cheese night every Thursday (and it is the busiest night of their week), while the Foundry on Melrose serves grilled cheese with taleggio, short ribs, arugula and apricot caper puree on raisin.

LA is also home to the Grilled Cheese Invitational-a cooking competition in which more than 600 people compete to create the best grilled cheese sandwhich is three categories: missionary (bread, butter and cheese), kama sutra (featuring meats or other ingredients and fancy bread) and honey pot (dessert sandwiches).

What, you are probably asking, does all this have to do with the culinary world of the GCC, where grilled cheese would be considered a bit, well, pedestrian? And that is precisely the point, because it takes a certain sense of humour and a certain self-confidence that can be seen as lacking in the culinary scene here.

Perhaps you need a mature market to sell a grilled cheese sandwhich consisting of raw hamachi and prosciutto on toasted brioche with buerre blanc and topped with quail egg, as they do at Hatfield's in LA. Or perhaps all you need is chutzpah? But whatever it is, the sense of food fun is lacking in the GCC.

There are plenty of places where fun can be had, many fun-oriented outlets, but there is a certain lack of self-effacing humour and good natured fun that seems to be missing. Perhaps we could invent our own regional tongue-in-check cooking invitational-The Hummous Cup? The Hammour Cookoffs? Think about it-it could be the region's must see cooking event-and inject a sense of lightness at the same time.

This month we talk to David Thompson about his new project - Thai street food. Although we don't normally include recipes, we felt that Thompson's new project might spur others to think about new ways of cooking regional dishes. We also have the second installment in our series on the Westin's race to hit their opening dates, and a close look at a favourite brand which is newly resurgent-Trader Vic's. Have fun!

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