The Cavern, which is neatly tucked away in a subterranean haunt on 104 Street, combines what may just be the holy trinity of edibles: cheese, espresso, and wine. For cheese comprises innumerable regional varieties that span continents, textures and thought-processes, espresso embodies the purest of coffee-based beverages, and noble vintages are the elixir - the juxtaposition - of fantasy and fact.
A few steps down from street level reveal a small selection of chairs, a glass cheese cooler, an espresso machine, a futuristic enomatic that seems to levitate wine bottles in suspended animation, and a Glen Miller-esque soundtrack, all framed by exposed duct work and other vestiges of this venerable brick building. It is yet early in the afternoon; wine will not be available until later, but much contemplation and introspection is to be found in the cheese cooler.
A judicious melange of many-hued cheeses bask in a cooler that would not look out of place in Jane Jetson's kitchen. Although whittling down a selection proves difficult, (pictured, from back to front) Appleby's Double Gloucester, Sardo, and Drunken Goat emerge as strong contenders for caseo-favouritism. Double Gloucester superficially resembles a cheddar, but differentiates itself from its better-known British countryman with a crumbly-buttery texture and a sunny, mellow, and slightly nutty flavour. Sardo hails from Argentina and, while its texture is rather rubbery, possesses a salty, beer-like essence that evolves on the tongue. Drunken Goat, or Queso Cabra al Vino, is a Spanish creation that marinates chalk-white cheese in red wine. The glorious result is a gustatory revolution that deftly treads between grape and goat.
The Cavern Grilled Cheese presses a fragrant assortment of fromage between two slices of sesame seed-studded bread, and arrives with a handful of salted crisps and a few pickled veg. The bread could be thicker and the entire presentation is a bit monochromatic, but this grilled sandwich outshines the margarine-washed, pan-fried, processed cheese-filled rectangles that pervaded the childhood meals of so many. For now, I am content to revel in the underground universe of cheese both melted and solid. Next time: wine and espresso.
Afternote: I nearly didn't get to eat my sandwich. Mookie tried to sneak in a bite during the photo shoot.