With a quick swipe of a knife, executive chef Dave Nevins smears dollops of butter along two slices of raisin-walnut bread, the start of a culinary construction of which tasty dreams are made.

As he stands in the kitchen of Siegel Bros. Marketplace, a specialty food market in Mount Kisco, N.Y., he continues to assemble ingredients, stacking Taleggio (a semisoft, Italian cheese) and thin cuts of prosciutto onto the bread. When he is done, he places it on a hot grill behind him where, in less than 10 minutes, it turns into gooey, rich goodness.

“Is it possible to make a bad grilled cheese (sandwich)?” Nevins had asked moments earlier. Those gathered seemed to think it nearly impossible, although timing is crucial. This type of sandwich doesn’t do well in a brown-bag lunch, or if too much time passes from creation to consumption. The crunch of the bread and the ooze of the cheese are as much a part of the experience as the taste, and those properties quickly lose their punch over time.

There was no fear of that happening this afternoon, as Nevins offered his expertise on the humble grilled cheese sandwich. Prompted by a request by “S” to create three combinations that were a step up from the traditional white bread-American cheese classic, and pair them with selections from the market’s companion store, Siegel Bros. Wine & Spirits, Nevins, a Greenwich resident, covered the spread with ingredients from his store. He crafted a three-cheese (fontina, gruyere and cheddar) mix on sourdough, prosciutto and Taleggio on raisin-walnut bread and a deboned and butterflied sardine, date jam and La Bonne Vie double cream brie on kalamata olive bread.

“I kept thinking, ‘What’s the funkiest grilled cheese I can do?,’” he says about the grilled cheese sandwich request. He had his answer as his eyes settled on a tray of fresh sardines chilling in the seafood case. This salty, rich, Mediterranean-influenced sandwich goes well with a 2016 Driopi rose, a dry Greek wine made of agiorgitiko grapes, a varietal used in everything from light rose wines to rich reds.

“I find if you pair things regionally, it tends to work with the blending of flavors,” says Njekwa Beasnael, manager of Siegel Bros. Wine & Spirits, who felt the acidity of the wine balanced the rich flavors of the date jam, brie and sardines.

Beasnael reached for a red, 2015 Cantine Sant’ Agata (Baby Barbera d’Asti), from Italy, to team with the prosciutto and Taleggio. “It’s really a good wine for cured meats, either grilled or cooked. And it’s a great balance for the Taleggio, while also pulling out the flavors of the fruit and nut in the bread. It brings all the flavors in the sandwich together and is not overpowering.”

For the three-cheese sandwich, Beasnael says grab a bottle of CA’Momi 2015 chardonnay. This Napa Valley, Calif., standout handles the flavors of multiple cheeses. “This is a fuller body chardonnay with a rich buttery taste and lots of fruit flavors,” he says. “If I went with a crisper wine, it would get lost. It would be a bit too dainty for such a rich sandwich.”

The shops opened in January and are adjacent to one another. They are run by Bruce Nevins and his children, Jeremy, Doug and David Nevins. Abram Siegel, their grandfather and great-grandfather, respectively, got into the food business with a kosher butcher shop in Woodbine, N.J., nearly 100 years ago. His sons then ran Siegel Bros. Butchers and Market, where Bruce Nevins learned the trade. Bruce went on to run wine shops in the area for decades with his family, including the Hay Day Wine Shop in Ridgefield, Grand Harvest Wines in New York’s Grand Central Terminal and the original Wine Wise in Greenwich.

This is the family’s first marketplace, and the first nonrestaurant experience for Nevins, a longtime chef and Culinary Institute of America graduate, who has worked in many Northeast restaurants, including Norwalk’s Osetra Oyster Bar and Fish House.

At Siegel Bros., grilled cheese is on the to-go menu, featuring the old staple, Velveeta, for the kids, and a daily special of gourmet cheeses for adults. “My favorite cheese to cook with, which we have here, is Fontina Val d’Aosta (a raw cow’s milk, semi-hard cheese), he says. “It melts very easily and it complements other flavors, as well. If you want to put ham or turkey or something else on it, it is not overpowering. It’s a good middle-of-the-road cheese.”

Texture is important, which is why he likes to mix firm and semi-firm cheeses. Pick a hearty bread that will hold up in the heat. Finally, keep the temperature to a medium heat so that buttery crust develops without burning. Then, pile it high, add additional ingredients, and let it sizzle, Nevins says.

“Grilled cheese is a great sandwich, because it can be as simple or as fancy as you want it to be.”


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