appetizers & recipes: grilled cheese sandwich and chili

Grilled Cheese Recipe

Last week, while in Manhattan, we had the opportunity to visit the JWT office on Lexington Avenue. It was an amazing opportunity to have a peek at the world’s most well known marketing agency. JWT has more than 200 offices worldwide. The Lexington Avenue office in Manhattan was five floors of open, creative workspace designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects.

The workspace is unique, fun and bright. It is designed as a sign of homage to story-telling. This would be such a foreign concept to the 1864 founders of Carlton and Smith, the original name of the advertising brokerage firm that specialized in selling space in religious journals. In 1878 Carlton and Smith was sold and renamed James Walter Thompson.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich
James Walter Thompson built a strong marketing agency by not only placing advertisements in woman’s magazines and expanding operations to Boston, Chicago and London, but by creating the actual advertisements and developing trademarks.

J. Walter Thompson was a company on the cutting edge of advertisement by the early twentieth century. By using testimonial advertising, end dish marketing, photography and attaching a famous name and face to a product, J. Walter Thompson became, one could argue, the leading marketing agency, that continues to evolve along with its name.

In 2004 J. Walter Thompson wanted a fresh look and an up-to-date name to remain cutting edge. J. Walter Thompson became JWT. With the new name came a new concept and this idea was that JWT would be the tellers of a story, not an advertiser. This became the inspiration for Clive Wilkinson Architect and how the design of the New York office came to be.

The once stuffy, conservative office space became a five floor open space with a story-telling theme complete with a central “tree trunk” that links the work areas, which often resemble modern living room so that work can be done in a relaxed, home-like environment. Sound proof rooms and meeting rooms are airy and cleverly named. But, what we found most welcoming was that throughout all five floors artwork created by JWT employees was hung with pride. The artwork was stimulating, but most importantly it gave a sense of ownership, of being home.

The people we met at JWT were clearly happy in their work environment, friendly and welcoming. Our visit ended with a cocktail hour complete with a variety of beverages and hors d’oeuvres. We learned a good deal about JWT and are thankful that time was taken out to give us a look into their world.

Gourmet Grilled Cheese

With that said, I half expected hors d’oeuvres sized grilled cheese sandwich at the reception. JWT, in 1930, used ‘end-dish’ marketing to promote Kraft cheese. It is said that JWT created the grilled cheese sandwich to market Kraft cheese. There is speculation, of course. People have been pairing cheese and bread, well, since there was cheese and bread. But, it takes a marketing genius to give cheese and bread a new name then market it. That is exactly what JWT did for Kraft cheese. The end result: An iconic sandwich that made Kraft cheese sales skyrocket.

We couldn’t just present a grilled cheese sandwich. What we made is a meal to warm you up from the inside out. Enjoy this warming combination of chili and grilled cheese on the cool autumn nights to come.

Grilled Cheese

We won’t bore you with a tutorial about grilled cheese since it is right there with boiling water…doesn’t everyone know how to do it? Two slices of your favorite bread, a little butter on the outside of the slices, your favorite cheese (and other fillings such as bacon or tomatoes) on the inside and a hot pan. That’s all it takes!

For our sandwich we used a cayenne pepper jack and Wegman’s cheese bread (You can never have enough cheese!)

Chili

This recipe is from the Mayo Clinic-Williams Sonoma Cookbook. We’ve taken the liberty of adding meat to the recipe. The original recipe is vegetarian.

Ingredients

1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you can take the heat)
3 tomatoes, chopped
3 cups cooked black beans
3 cups cooked kidney beans
1½ cups water
1 ½ pound lean ground beef

Directions

1. Place the beef in an already warmed crockpot.

2. While you chop the vegetables keep breaking up the beef with a fork as it warms.

3. When you have finished chopping all the vegetables add them to the crock pot, mix in with the beef.

4. Add the seasoning, tomatoes, beans and water.

5. Let cook for at least 6 hours.

The original recipe called for 6 cups black beans. We like black beans, but not that much so we used 3 cups black beans and 3 cups kidney beans to balance out the chili.

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19 comments

  • November 8, 2011 at 9:46 am //

    A very interesting visit! I am fascinated by how people en masse can be swayed by clever advertising campaigns! This cheese sandwich would definitely lure me to your kitchen!

    • November 9, 2011 at 8:45 am //

      Thank you so much for commenting, watching that show MAD men sure gives us a little taste of what it’s like in major advertising firms.

  • November 8, 2011 at 9:55 am //

    Interesting piece of information! I eat grilled cheese sandwich frequently at our company cafe when I visit NJ but have never made them myself before… right there with boiling water, huh… will have to try it one of these days… :)

  • November 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm //

    Great story on an iconic advertising agency, and on the equally iconic grilled cheese sandwich resulting from a successful advertising campaign. Great photos, great read!

  • November 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm //

    Great post! Love that shot of the cheese oozing out. ;)

  • November 8, 2011 at 9:37 pm //

    Nice post and the sandwich looks really tempting and lovely pictures :)

  • November 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm //

    Very interesting information on the power of advertising! Grilled cheese does have a place right beside tomato soup or chili as you have prepared, however I do love it on its own also. This was an enjoyable read-well done.

  • November 8, 2011 at 10:53 pm //

    Your sandwich looks very good – nice photos and the chili recipe sounds great. I agree it needed some meat. :)

  • November 9, 2011 at 3:45 am //

    Perfect comfort food! Looks delicious :)

  • November 9, 2011 at 3:47 am //

    That is one serious grilled cheese sandwich! It’s making my mouth water!

  • November 9, 2011 at 5:30 am //

    Darn! I just had lunch! :) What a great lunch/supper! I could eat grilled cheese sandwiches everyday but then I’d carry them on me for years!!!! Love the chile recipe! What a great complement!

    • November 9, 2011 at 8:09 am //

      Isn’t that a huge bummer about going from childhood to adulthood, those grilled sandwiches seem to go dirtily to the bum or thighs!

  • November 9, 2011 at 5:33 am //

    I use sage sausage. Or ground venison… few more vegtables…momsy ground turkey….great comfort foods….thanks

    • November 9, 2011 at 8:10 am //

      Hi JMS, thank you for commenting, sage sausage sounds absolutely comforting, and turkey, all the better.

  • November 9, 2011 at 9:02 am //

    What an interesting post–and may I say that is one fine-looking grilled cheese sandwich.

  • November 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm //

    Delicious – and the visit to NYC sounds terrific!

  • November 11, 2011 at 10:12 pm //

    My mouth is watering! How I love grilled cheese! The chili looks very yummy too :)