I Think I Get It

cheddar AND apples? yes
I went to the Apple Pan for hickory burgers a handful of times while I was in college (insert 8-Clap here). Like Clifton's and Philippe's, it's a special place. I loved the creaky front door, I loved that it's not "retro" it's actually old (old by LA standards, anyway), I loved settling into a tall chair and leaning on the counter and I loved sitting next to Norm MacDonald there and that he seemed in real life exactly as he seems on tv. I haven't been back to the Apple Pan in a quite a while, but I have only good memories of the place. Well, all good memories and one odd one: seeing a piece of apple pie, topped with a slice of cheddar cheese slide across the counter to a fellow diner.

Cheddar cheese... with apple pie? I thought my eyes deceived me, not a stretch as I have terrible eyesight. But after telling a few people what I had seen, I learned that it wasn't a mirage, it really was cheese on pie. And that is a thing, apparently. Cheese on pie. What a world! I couldn't imagine how it would taste and I especially couldn't imagine it would taste good.

I've had apples on the brain since going apple picking. I've also had apples on the kitchen table, on the coffee table, on the stereo... I picked a lot of apples. And I've made a valiant effort to use what I picked. I don't feel ready for a pie quite yet, so I've been hunting for appley alternatives.

I may have (repeatedly) referred to my brother, Kirk, as being stupid and annoying, but he's actually highly intelligent and he stopped being annoying once he hit 6 feet (at approximately age 5... he's tall). We live full adult lives in separate cities and don't get to spend as much time together as I, and hopefully he, would like. So last year we planned a little sibling getaway: a couple of days in Austin, Texas. Kirk really is tall. Really, very tall and as I imagine is the case with most larger animals, he requires food nearly constantly. We once took a stroll through the Ferry Building while I was visiting him in San Francisco. Every time I turned around he was chewing something different, culminating with a giant baguette he had tucked under his arm, but within biting distance.

Not surprisingly, much of our trip planning revolved around food. We both made lists of places we wanted to try and it was during this phase of planning that Kirk asked if we could have two breakfasts a day, a request I wrote about in my The Magic of Breakfast for Dinner blog. On our first morning in Austin, Kirk suggested we try a taco place he'd read about, I suggested a different taco place. I was the one with a rental car, so we followed my suggestion. Sadly, the place I suggested (demanded) we go was closed and we ended up at the bakery next door. As consolation prizes go, the Upper Crust Bakery was tops. Since I had led us astray, I let Kirk choose what to get and while the woman behind the counter did seem slightly alarmed at the number of pastries my brother ordered, he made great selections. The cinnamon roll wasn't dripping with icing and I was afraid its nakedness would render it dry, but no. It was moist and tender. The cheese scone was an even more delightful surprise. The cheese melted on top and sprinkled throughout the scone added a nice little contrasting texture and welcome pop of flavor. It's been a year since I ate that scone, but if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still conjure up the experience. Mmmm.

Last week, as I recipe hunted for all things apple, I ended up at the Smitten Kitchen (an inspiring and lovely website for any who aren't already a fan). More specifically, at the Smitten Kitchen's exuberant post about apple and cheddar scones. I thought about the cheese scone experience in Texas, I thought about the cheese + pie incident at the Apple Pan. I thought about my bowls of apples, I thought about the hunk of smoked, white cheddar from Andrew's Cheese Shop just given me by a coworker. And I said, probably out-loud (poor impulse control): let's do this thing.

The recipe makes 6 scones, I baked two and put the rest in the freezer raw. The consistency of the scone was great: crumbly, but not dry. The cheddar and apples played remarkably well together. But it just wasn't... enough. The following morning, I baked two more scones. But this time, after 15 minutes in the oven, I took them out and topped with grated cheese a la the Upper Crust cheese scone. After another few minutes in the oven, the scone bottoms were golden and crispy, and melted cheese embraced the tops. That extra tablespoon or so of cheese made all the difference. It filled in the missing flavor and elevated the entire pastry.

Cheese and apples, huh. I think I get it.

And by the way, on morning 2 of McConnell Kids Take Austin, we did go to Mi Madres, the breakfast taco place Kirk had read about. And it was absolutely amazing. He got a range of tacos and I got a breakfast burrito... a breakfast burrito I still dream about.

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