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There's a scent in the air... the sweet scent of toasted cheese on bread. That's right, it's Toastie Takeover time again, and the 13 national finalists have been announced. Is your local toastie chef one of the lucky few?
With a whopping 100,000 toasties served up since the first round of judging began on April 13, the competition’s more than 180 entries have now been whittled down to 13 finalists across six regions.
Those finalists hail from Auckland, Ngatea, Okere Falls (Rotorua), Ohakune, Havelock North, Palmerston North, Greytown, Nelson, Christchurch, Queenstown, Twizel, and Dunedin, and encompass local eateries, rural roadside cafes, breweries, a food truck, a fish farm, a burger bar, an artisan food store, and a newly opened toasted sandwich bar.
To qualify for the competition, sandwiches needed to be toasted between two slices of bread and – like all respectable toasties – able to be eaten by hand. The toasted sandwiches also needed to contain cheese (or a vegan substitute) and the sponsor's McClure’s Pickles, with all the other ingredients left entirely to the entrants’ imaginations.
A variety of smoked and slow-cooked meats can be found among the ingredients in this year’s finalists, including pork, brisket, lamb shoulder, and salmon. Delicious cheese blends also feature, while several finalists have made inventive use of the McClure’s Pickles range, including using pickle brine and crispy fried pickles. Some finalists also chose to extend the toastie experience by including sides and tempting dippers, like gravy and tomato soup.
The second round of judging starts next week, with the winner announced on July 27.
Archie Café (Auckland): Pepper Pig: Hot pork, double cheese blend, McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles, mustard and sriracha on toasted sourdough.
Wynyard Pavilion (Auckland): Low 'n Slow: Low & slow smoked wagyu brisket, Massimo's mozzarella, McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles, truffle aioli and Old Yella habanero mustard.
The Public Office (Ngatea, Coromandel): The Smoky Pork & Pickle: Cider braised pork, smoky wood sauce, melted gouda and McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles, topped with crispy fried pickles.
Okere Falls Store (Rotorua): Get Smoked, Pickled + Toasted: House smoked, beer brined brisket, McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles, hop salted mozzarella, smoked cheddar, watercress and horseradish on Bread Asylum X Lumberjack Brewing spent grain sourdough with pickle brine sour cream and a beer gravy dipping bowl.
Toastie Ohakune (Ohakune): Owen's Missus, Who Takes No SCHMACK: Corned beef, pickled carrots, Pepper & Me 'Schmack Sauce,’ McClure's Bread & Butter Pickles and four cheeses.
Best Burgers (Havelock North): A Cluckin Patty Melt: Chicken fried Best Burgers patty, Swiss cheese, bacon & onion Jam, McClure’s Bread & Butter Pickles, Best Burgers Special Sauce on house potato bread.
Brew Union (Palmerston North): Pork & Rye: Pickled pork, jalapeno, date and smoked gouda cheese sauce, American mustard mayo and McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles on rye bread.
The Offering (Greytown): Beef Greytown (Our take on a classic): Four cheese blend with Parkvale mushrooms, onion and baby spinach, thyme and parsley to form a spread, French mustard, pulled hot smoked rump beef with a chipotle BBQ Sauce, McClure’s Bread & Butter Pickles, white cheese sauce, all nestled between toasted marble rye bread.
Little Nessie Café (Nelson): Toasted Reuben: Pastrami, Swiss cheese, McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles, sauerkraut, secret sauce.
BEERS (Christchurch): Lamb Margera: Smoked lamb shoulder, Swiss cheese, McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles, kimchi and onion rings on sourdough.
Morning Magpie (Dunedin): Tickle My Pickle: Organic sourdough, McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles with house pickles, a big slab of Evansdale cheese, served with a dipper of tomato soup. (Also a finalist in 2021)
High Country Salmon (Twizel): Loco Mexicano: Cold smoked salmon, McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles, corn salsa, avocado, cheese, spinach, cornflakes and chilli mayo, in toasted rye sourdough. Served with fries.
Johnny Crema (Food Truck, Frankton, Queenstown): Reubie Roll: Corned beef, horseradish béchamel, McClure's Sweet & Spicy Pickles, all rolled up on a divine slice of European Bakery jumbo loaf, served with crisps.