There isn’t much better than a grill cheese sandwich unless you up the ante and add some fancy cheeses, breads, and other interesting ingredients. If I have just piqued your interest and didn’t turn you away by my lame title, then you really should check out Lisa LeShane and Oh My Cheeses at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market (as well as several festivals throughout the province). Oh My Cheeses uses homemade bread, locally inspired jam and cheese to make their sandwiches and Lisa’s menu is just as clever as the name for her business.
Oh My Cheeses came out of what Lisa calls “pizza nights”. “Basically, we’d make our own dough and then come up with fun pizza ideas,” she says. “They were fairly popular among our friends, and then I wondered if I could turn these pizzas into grilled cheeses.” With that, Lisa began making her own bread and jams and pairing it with cheese with the intent to use as many local flavors as possible. Oh My Cheeses set up shop for the first time at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market in December 2014 with four sandwiches; Cupids Blueberry Balsamic Jam, cracked pepper and Old cheddar, Gull Island Partridgeberry and brie, and a couple of sandwiches with cream cheese and jelly. Since then, Lisa has developed over twenty sandwiches with the goal to incorporate as many local ingredients and collaborate with as many businesses as possible.
Prior to starting Oh My Cheeses, Lisa had been working at Fixed Coffee and Baked Goods, where she says she got “amazing training in food safety and quality.” When she stopped working there, she said she missed “baking funky things for people”. She had been selling knitted goods at the Farmer’s Market and thought it would be the perfect venue to try expanding into the food industry.
Lisa says she loves that she started her business at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market. She says that a beautiful collective works there and is appreciative that she was allowed to grow and expand there and thinks the Market allows her to have access to some of the freshest ingredients on the island. “It’s great to purchase vegetables from local farmers, and purchase fellow vendors’ products for sandwiches,” she says. Lisa also says she has loved the first Winter St. John’s Farmer’s Market because she has been developing several new sandwiches, such as the “Wafflewich”; an old cheddar and bacon grilled cheese using the Waffle Lady’s (another vendor you can find at the market) waffle, drizzled with maple syrup and experimenting with Five Brothers Cheese (who I have written about in previous articles).
As someone who likes to play around a bit with recipes as well as someone who has tried a very interesting cream cheese/blue cheese hybrid spread prepared by Lisa, I was interested to find out how she comes up with her recipes. “I find inspiration everywhere. I have a great cookbook that has no recipes but rather pairing ideas called the Food Bible,” says Lisa. She also credits her amazing friends that work in the food industry. Lisa says she also finds inspiration when she travels. “I was recently in Finland and had an amazing salad that I later turned into a grilled cheese,” says Lisa. “It’s not a hard job to be inspired by cheese and bread.”
If you were already aware of Oh My Cheeses and follow them on social media, you might have caught that Lisa mentioned that she was in Halifax earlier this winter doing some R&D so I asked Lisa if she could let us in on what she was cooking up next. “I just purchased a food trailer and am so excited to bring that trailer to Port Rexton Brewing.,” she says. Lisa says nothing pairs better with a pint like a good grill cheese and she is excited to give this new endeavor a shot. “While there is a trend for quality mobile food stands in NL right now, we’re still so far behind the rest of the country. I’ve seen amazing food stands pop up at the markets, and I was inspired by them,” says Lisa.
While she notes that St. John’s has a ways to go to catch up with the food truck trend, we are now seeing trucks that are selling more than just fish and chips or fries, dressing and gravy. “Not that I’d ever turn down a plate of fries dressing and gravy, but much more is possible,” says Lisa. In addition to her creative and tasty grill cheese, Lisa is hoping to expand her focus and incorporate quality pub food like pretzels, Scotch eggs, and Belgian-style frites.