Grilled cheese

April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and at least two cook-offs will be taking place early in the month. (Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore Sun / March 22, 2011)

It's finally spring, and our thoughts turn naturally to warm, crusty bread and gooey, molten melted cheese. I'm firmly in the simpler-is-better camp when it comes to grilled cheese. A perfect grilled cheese is one of those things you're still as likely to find at a lunch counter, or an all-night diner, as at a gourmet place. Personally, I could do without tomatoes, but I'm always happy to see good, slabby bacon.

April, you'll be happy to hear, is Grilled Cheese Month, which gives us all a reason to refine our grilled cheese tastes.

The big event around here is coming up April 10, when the Mount Washington Tavern will host a Grilled Cheese Sandwich Cook-Off. It's a benefit for Moveable Feast.

There are actually two competitions at the April 10 event, one for the general public and one for the celebrity chefs: Kevin Miller, formerly of Ixia, Bill Crouse of Slainte in Fells Point, Matt Milani of The Rumor Mill in Ellicott City, Chad Gauss of City Cafe in Mount Vernon, Opie Crooks of Roy's Restaurant and Darrick Granai of Baldwin Station.

Home cooks have until April 1 to submit their entries for the noncelebrity contest, which is why I'm bringing it up so early. More information about the event and the home cooks contest is at mtwashingtontavern.com/events-promotions.

Mount Washington Tavern is at 5700 Newbury St. Call 410-367-6903 or go to mtwashingtontavern.com

Kudos for the Prime Rib The Silver Plate Award will be presented to Buzz Beler, founder and owner of The Prime Rib, at the 2011 International Foodservice Manufacturers Association's awards celebration in Chicago on May 23, during the National Restaurant Association's annual convention.

The award recognizes excellence in foodservice operations and pays tribute to winners' contributions to the advancement of the foodservice industry. Beler earned the 2011 Silver Plate Award in the Independent Restaurants category. Past recipients of the award include household names (in my household, anyway) like Charlie Trotter and Danny Meyer. Beler, as far as I can tell, is the first Maryland-based recipient of this particular honor.

"I am honored to be included in such an esteemed group of entrepreneurs whose creativity, passion, and persistence have set a new level of excellence in the restaurant industry," Beler said in a news release.

Spring arriving on menus Thomas Dunklin just announced his first menu since taking over the stoves at B&O American Brasserie last December.

New: small plates like roasted beet carpaccio with goat cheese, avocado, pistachio and Meyer lemon oil; Decadent Deviled Eggs, a soft-boiled egg with truffled Maryland crab, mustard and caviar; and oxtail ravioli with parsnip, ricotta, cherry jus and calamari.

There are also new signature flatbreads featuring Dunklin's creations, wild mushroom with pesto, goat cheese and pearl onion, and house-made duck chorizo with egg, Gouda, candied turnip and braised greens.

The dinner menu offers raw bar selections with the season's freshest shellfish and oyster offerings, as well as charcuterie items made in-house.

What really got my attention on the new menu, though, was Dunklin's lovely trio of Red Velvet Doughnuts, a big hit for the chef back in Oregon, with cream cheese frosting and served with a sweet potato cashew milkshake.

B&O American Brasserie is at 2 N. Charles St. Call 443-692-6172 or go to bandorestaurant.com

Blue Hill Tavern has announced its spring menu, too. According to co-owner and manger Mel Carter, the appetizers are mostly, if not entirely, new. They include octopus with lemon and shaved fennel, an escargot saute, and a garde manger with chicken liver, prosciutto di parma and breseola.

Entrees are now divided between seasonal and favorites, things that customers would "kill us if we took off the menu," Carter says.

On the seasonal menu are mussels and monkfish in saffron broth, skate wing (suddenly everywhere) with olive tapenade and orange and butter braised fennel, and bison osso buco.

Blue Hill Tavern is at 938 S. Conkling St. Call 443-388-9363 or go to bluehilltavern.com.

Send your restaurant's spring menu to richard.gorelick@baltsun.com