Super Secret Grilled Cheese Ingredient Revealed: Or, WTF Is A Miven?
One thing is for sure: the husband and wife team of attorney Brian Beecher and schoolteacher Crystal Beecher, a/k/a, "The Mivens" won't ever tell you what the hell their secret ingredient, "Mivens" is, no matter how insistently you beg, threaten, wheedle and cajole. They'll just smirk, "Mivens are good and good for you."
Anna Woo Molten Marshmallow Peep Guts
Last Thursday night at The Foundry, chef-owner Eric Greenspan invited The Mivens, friends and fellow champions he met through the Grilled Cheese Invitational, to join forces with him as he let an eager crowd preview samples from the menu at his soon-to-open quick service restaurant next door, Greenspan's Grilled Cheese (opening date: "eventually").
The tasting menu featured four savory sandwiches created by Greenspan and four dessert sandwiches created by The Mivens.
Theories abound as to the actual composition of the mystery ingredient/running gag that Team Mivens uses to snag trophies at the Grilled Cheese Invitational year after year. Mivens is marshmallow peeps. Mivens is "your favorite thing." Mivens is crystal meth. Mivens is people.
Greenspan's selections were all winners: "The Champ," tallegio cheese, raisin walnut bread, apricots, and shortribs, "Johnny Applecheese," sourdough bread, cheddar cheese, apple mustard chutney, green apples, and pastrami, "Triple B With A Cherry T," marinated cherry tomatoes on sourdough with burrata, bacon and basil, and the sublime "Buffalo Bleu" -- the perfect choice for anyone feeling torn between two loves: grilled cheese and buffalo wings -- made with fried chicken tenders, bleu cheese and rye bread with a carrot celery slaw and red hot sauce.
Anna Woo Basil, Burrata, and Bacon = Triple B
Yet the Mivens-run dessert side of the menu read like a Monty Python sketch with the word "mivens" in place of "Spam:" "OG Cake and Mivens," "Mivens Strikes Back,"
"Return of the Mivens," and "A New Miven," all of which are basically simple grilled cheese sandwiches with marshmallow Peeps and allegedly, mivens, in the center. Variations on the pothead-enticing theme include the addition of doughnuts, cookie dough, corn flakes, and of course, more mivens.
Which brings us back to the original question: what the fuck is a miven?
"It's a fist of sugar to the face," said one taster.
Actually, it's candy sprinkles. Chef Greenspan handed Squid Ink a full container of the stuff on demand. "Mivens shaker!" he called at the pass thru, revealing that the Mivens' juggernaut boils down to an edible form of silver glitter specked with tiny pink and purple particles, named after a spontaneous exclamation from one of Crystal Beecher's young students.
Brian Beecher came up with his core recipe idea as a kid, when he'd become so enamored of marshmallow Peeps that he started eating them with everything. Throwing frosted flakes and sparkly glitter on top just underscores the dish's juvenile origins.
A grilled cheese sandwich with a molten marshmallow in the center isn't at all repulsive -- it's sweet and startling. But there's a lack of depth and complexity here that's unsurprising given that this is a sandwich originally conceived of by a child. What is surprising is that Team Mivens somehow manages, with little more than pixie dust and hoodwinkery, to bring home all those GCI awards. After all, their sandwiches have been up against others with far more sublime and sophisticated flavors: champagne sabayon, bourbon butter, raspberry and port gastrique, honey, apricot peppercorn mustard, banana-infused butter, caramel sauce, banana bread, cinnamon bread, mascarpone, gingersnaps, pumpkin butter. Yet the Mivens built their juggernaut on a jar of sprinkles? Grousing, grumbling, and gossip follow in their wake, but the Mivens only laugh all the way to the trophy shelf.
LJ Williamson Pure Colombian Mivens
Greenspan says he's well aware of the Mivens' reputation as the honorary "bad guys" of the Grilled Cheese Invitational, but smiles, "They're actually sweet people. But once they put on those pink Izods and start dancing around, they get a little obnoxious."
Will the Mivens childlike concoctions be worthy of a permanent spot on the menu at the new sandwich shop next door?
"Yes," Brian Beecher says. "Correct. We talked about it. That's what this whole night is, it's the premier."
Yet Greenspan was less unequivocal. When asked the same question, the chef would only say, "Maybe."