When it comes to all things cheesy, Clementine’s Annie Miler out-oozes just about anyone else in town. The chef and owner of two bustling cafes, the original in Century City and a smaller outpost in Beverly Hills, once again celebrates Grilled Cheese Month this April with a special themed menu: The Quesoañera, celebrating 15 years of cheesiness.
It’s not that Miler thought she’d have a grilled cheese bonanza when she opened the first Clementine in 2000. There was always going to be at least one grilled cheese on the menu, a classic white cheddar on really good country white bread, because everyone loves grilled cheese. But when she found out April was Grilled Cheese Month, something clicked.
“It started as a way to do something fun in April, which happens to be a slower month for restaurants,” Miler says. “People were so into it in the beginning, so we did it again. Cheese begets cheese, I guess.”
Besides the sandwiches being delicious, the themes are out of control. Because April is also National Poetry Month, the second year they had customers write grilled cheese haikus to go along with their sandwiches. In 2007, it was Cheesedance, a film festival-themed menu (think: Media Noche in the Garden of Gouda and Edam). In 2008, it was Melt the Vote, in honor of the presidential election, with official voting cards, campaign signs and ballot initiatives like legalizing cheese for vegans. (“I don’t know if our customers ever really got that the menu wasn’t an official California voter guide,” Miler admits.). For 2013, they created a grilled cheese alter ego, Ms. Cheesey, who had her own backstory and Tumblr.
“We’d post pictures of her with her trainer chopping a block of cheese in half with her hands,” Miler recounts. “It makes it seem like there’s no food involved, but at the end of the day, it’s definitely all about making great sandwiches.”
For the Quesoañera, the menu features 15 sandwiches, one from each year and theme. It’s a mix of fan and staff favorites, things like the classic grilled cheddar from the inaugural year; the Cheesy Meatball (turkey meatballs with provolone on semolina bread) from the 2004 Flipbook; the Pretzel Paroxysm, a turkey melt with white cheddar, bacon and tomato relish on a grilled pretzel, from Cheesemaggedon: The Total Meltdown in 2012; and the Queso the Munchies, sharp cheddar and meaty chili on grilled country white bread with a mantle of Fritos, from Curds Against Humanity in 2014.
The theme or punny names usually come first. “If it’s too much of a stretch to create a sandwich to fill the name, I scratch it,” Miler admits. “Fifteen sandwiches may be pushing the limit of what the kitchen can do without killing me. We’re just glad the world didn’t end after Cheesemageddon.”
And like any fiesta de quinceañera, there will be tiaras to wear and some silly interactive displays, like the setup where you put your head through a cutout to get photographed wearing a gown or suit made of cheese. “It’s really kind of ridiculous,” Miler says. “But if anything, it’s a good excuse to wear a tiara.”
Get all 15 grilled cheese sandwiches at Clementine Culver City staring on April 1; there’s a limited menu of sandwiches in Beverly Hills. The menu will be available through April 30 at both.
1751 Ensley Ave., Century City, 310-552-1080
9346 Civic Center Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-461-0600