We are nearing the end of this journey, folks. It’s gotten harder every time. It’s gotten more painful every time. Believe us when we say, this dumbass project has caused a whole lotta sleepless nights.
Behold, The Final Fourk.
Matchup: Tomato & Mozzarella vs. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
Winner: Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
Notes: MIRROR MATCH! We should’ve expected this: there are few things in this world better than the combination of cheese and tomato. In fact, can everyone please just take a second, close your eyes (after reading the rest of this sentence), and thank the food gods that they gave us cheese and tomato. I mean, shit, my dudes– they are some kind of tasty. Instead of looking at the obvious similarities here, let’s focus on the differences between these two classics. GC&TS is a one-trick Goliath. Most of us knew what they were capable of when this whole thing started, and that they would probably find themselves in this position. Where Tomazzo is refreshing, GC&TS is heavy and rich; it is for a cold winter’s day or to treat you when you’re under the weather. Tomato and Mozzarella is a snack or a companion whereas GC&TS is a whole meal. Tomato and Moz has used every trick in the book to get this far. On its own it is light and fresh, but it goes well with almost everything and can be teamed up with heavier items (bread, pasta, etc.) to great success. It has far and away more utility than any other food item on this bracket, and has upset some serious contenders. They are the cinderella story of food pairings, and have been wonderful to watch over the last few weeks. It is the utility that got them here, however, that is ultimately their undoing. This tournament is specifically about food pairings, not how well that food pair goes with other things. Tomato & Mozzarella are wonderful, but their greatness isn’t truly unlocked until they are added to other elements or dressed up in some way. They need an oil or a starch to be made complete, and that is not what this bracket is about. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup is transparent and obvious, but sometimes that simplicity is what works best. As much as I would like to push forward the ever-crafty Tomazzo, there is no way it beats this old standby.
Matchup: Cheese & Crackers vs. Chocolate & Peanut Butter
Winner: Cheese & Crackers
Notes: A quick story: I am writing this from a hotel in Seattle while on vacation with my family. If you were wondering how dumb I am/this whole bracket is, I have spent the last 48 hours “enjoying” my vacation by stressing out about which food pairings I would advance in this completely inconsequential project we have started here. While walking around, my family and I stopped by Beecher’s Cheese right outside of the Pike Place Market to see what the hubbub was all about. We grabbed a hunk of their Flagship, which is a salty, nutty, semi-hard cow’s milk cheese aged to perfection for 15 months, and a bag of their signature crackers. We picked up a bottle of wine, went back to the hotel room, cut that cheese (hahahahahaha) with a plastic knife, and went to town. It was devoured in minutes and, after my food boner subsided nearly three hours later, I knew that my mind had been made up. I love chocolate and peanut butter. I really do. When I am choosing an ice cream flavor, with few exceptions (shout out to Thrifty’s Chocolate Malted Crunch), I always go with some combo of chocolate and peanut butter. My favorite season isn’t summer or spring, it’s when the holiday shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cycle starts up again (Sept/Oct: pumpkin, Nov/Dec: Christmas trees, Jan/Feb: hearts, Mar/Apr: eggs, in case you were wondering). But when I take a hard look in the mirror, I know I love Chocobutter because I am a terrible glutton. This is, as much as I hate to admit it, the Surf & Turf of sweets: two really delicious things that don’t actually complement each other that well but are so good that we want them both. You could make the argument that real chocolate is bitter and real peanut butter is salty and those flavors somehow work together, but we all know that isn’t what’s going on here. In most iterations, the chocolate is super sweet milk chocolate, and the peanut butter is also super sweet. It’s decadent and wonderful, but a better food pair than Cheese & Crackers, it is not.
Matchup: Burger & Fries vs. Bacon & Eggs
Winner: Bacon & Eggs
Notes: You jabronies thought you were pissed at me before? Strap the fuck in.
Before I do what I’m about to do, I need you to understand something. The day we started this bracket, I was 100% convinced Burger & Fries would win not only my conference but also the entire tournament. I knew Bacon & Eggs would do well, but never did I imagine this well. But here, today, as we close in on the finals, Bacon & Eggs have upset the biggest, baddest titan in this bracket. In the words of Sir Ben Kingsley’s supremely overacted Iron Man 3 trailer narration: “SUMMMM may call me a terrorist, AND othurrzzzz call me a teachuurrrrrrr.” This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I’ve looked at apartments less seriously than I looked at this matchup. Burger & Fries is an absolute powerhouse. B&F has easily kicked the shit out of every challenger this far. I feel confident that if I were to advance Burger & Fries to the final round I would not only beat that dingus Jesse and win the entire tournament easily, but also provide a little relief from my Round 1 Cookies & Milk decision that left so many of you broken and furious. But guess what?
I am a very serious journalist and this is a very serious subject.
I have to preserve my journalistic integrity. I have to ignore my feelings and do what’s best. I have to look objectively at this situation and remind myself: this is about food PAIRINGS. This isn’t about which is a more classic dinner. It’s not about how many different types of burgers and different types of fries exist. It’s not about the fact that veggie burgers provide a vegetarian option, thus being more inclusive and allowing more people to enjoy it. It’s about teamwork. It’s about a duo. I don’t think there’s a person alive who can look me in the eye and tell me that Burger & Fries are pulling equal weight. The burger is always the star of the dish. Always. Simply put, there is no universe where a human being would ever describe a burger as a side dish to the fries. It would just never happen. With Bacon & Eggs, however, the door is certainly open for prolonged discussion about who is the star and who is the sidekick. I’d personally argue that eggs are the star, but the fact that it’s even up for debate shows how valuable they both are to each other. They are one of the only foods in this tournament who didn’t even consider playing for other teams. You saw chocolate everywhere. You saw cheese, and milk, and you even saw fries other places. There are countless obnoxious designer burger restaurants these days that serve burgers without fries (I am HIGHLY AGAINST THIS, for the record). They do this, of course, because they expect you to buy the fries anyways, but SOMETIMES PEOPLE DON’T. Sometimes people don’t want to pay an extra $6 for a basket of designer fries and they figure that the burger will be just fine this time. You ever seen Bacon & Eggs served alone? Sure you might see Eggs hanging out with sausage or playing some chess in the park with Ham, but we all know Eggs is in a domestic partnership with Bacon and nobody’s worried about it. The only time you would see Bacon & Eggs sold individually, they’d be under the “sides” section of a diner menu. According to the very menus of the world in which we live, a burger alone could be an entree, but a plate of bacon or a plate of eggs could not. Not without each other. Burger & Fries may be Batman & Robin, but Bacon & Eggs are the Wonder Twins. Bacon & Eggs are like Maggie & Jake Gyllenhaal, and Burger & Fries are like Chris & Liam Hemsworth.
This is a food-pairing tournament, and this is about teamwork. I’m a scientist and a very serious journalist. I have to do what’s right. I can’t allow Fries to coast by on Burger’s hard work. Not here. Not anymore.
Matchup: Macaroni & Cheese vs. Pulled Pork & Coleslaw
Winner: Macaroni & Cheese
Notes: Let’s track Pork & Slaw’s progress thus far, shall we? In Round 1 they beat Cookies & Milk which nobody on this planet thought possible. In Round 2 they beat Coffee & Donuts which was less surprising but still left some of us thoroughly shook. Now here they stand, scarred from battle but nevertheless ready to give it their best shot, and fight til the end. This matchup right here is the food-pairing battle equivalent of when Boromir gets shot with like a thousand arrows before finally going down. Pork & Slaw battled valiantly and magnificently. There’s an alternate timeline somewhere out there in this crazy old galaxy of ours where they even go on to win the whole thing.
But it is not this timeline.
Macaroni & Cheese is, has always been, and always will be one of the most classic and traditional food pairings our world will ever know. At its worst, it’s served in a box shaped like Spongebob or dinosaurs and little kids go absolutely ape shit over it. At its best, it’s served in a BBQ restaurant, with big thick macaroni and a three kinds of cheese and a baked, breadcrumby exterior. And you eat it, served as a side dish to your pulled pork sandwich — served with slaw either in the sandwich itself or as another side dish — and when you leave the restaurant, you get in your car and drive home. You think, Damn, that was a good sandwich. But about five minutes into your drive you think (yeah you’re still thinking about lunch), You know what was reallllllly good though? That Mac N Cheese. That Mac N Cheese was the tits, my brother (that’s how you talk). Mac & Cheese has been here since before we were born and it will be here long after we die. It deserves to be here.