MAC AND CHEESE SMACKDOWN

April 12, 2016

It was a beautiful Sunday, a bit cool, though the sky was a lovely clear, bright blue. It was a perfect day to head down to Greenwich Village and attend a Mac and Cheese Snackdown. STANDING IN LINEWhen we arrived there was already a line waiting to get in. And it didn’t take long before a block long line formed behind us. There would be three separate sessions, each lasting two hours. We bought the 12:00 to 2:00 session. We were about to participate in a duel between premier restaurants for the bragging rights regarding who made the best mac and cheese in the NYC. FULL BELLYThe competition was to be held in Houston Hall. Fun signs outside the entrance to the Hall not only insured that this was a place with an “A” health code rating but we were guaranteed a full belly as well.VOTING CARDSAs we entered everyone got a card with the logo of the participating restaurants. For each tasting, the vendors would punch a hole in the card. This meant we’d have seven dishes of Mac & Cheese to taste. Though we later learned that several vendors said we could come back as often as we wanted. The entrance fee also included two free beers, or soda per person, and the beers were generous mugs of tasty quality brews.EARLY IN THE DAYHouston Hall is a lovely huge, old place with a an enormous long marble bar. The exposed beams and brick walls gives the place a delightfully authentic vintage look. There are at least six skylights that let in a wonderful glow from the midday sun.VIEW M&C STANDSThe participating eateries were situated on one wall. The lines for the tastings moved quickly, though some of the popular and well known restaurants had more people in their lines and of course the wait was longer. There was a trick to managing the waiting time. This is what I learned from a couple of giggly young women standing crowded together in one line; eat while you wait. Put your dish on top of your mug of beer, chow-down and chat with your companions.M&C HOUSTONWe were each handed a small bowl and a plastic spoon as we entered the Hall. Initially these containers seemed small, though after three helpings of the mac and cheese, the bowl appeared larger. M&C W: BACONOne of the vendors, the one who did not punch the card and told everyone to come back as often as they wanted, also slipped a candied strip of bacon into the dish. This particular mac and cheese had a slight smoky flavor. There was no bacon in the dish, but there was a hint of paprika in the dusting of toasted bread crumbs that topped each serving.GOING FOR A REFILLIt seemed to me that the vendors tried to standout by using variety in the garnishes. Some dishes were heavily coated with a densely flavored breadcrumb topping, while others simply sprinkled  shredded cheddar cheese across the top of a serving. 3 OF A KINDI ran into these ladies standing under one of the skylights tasting each others selections. They hadn’t gotten to the bar yet, but were having a great time eating and giggling while basking in the late spring sunshine.MMM TASTE THISThis couple had an enjoyable time feeding each other the various selections they each had made. Serious and intent, they appeared to be in a world of their own.EMPTY PLATESWe did our best to give each vendor our serious consideration. What struck me was that outside of what the restaurant either added to the mac and cheese or what they had sprinkled over the top, all the cheese sauces tasted amazingly similar. There was one vendor that loaded their mac and cheese with jalapeño peppers. It was far too hot for my personal taste and I thought the jalapeños totally distracted from the main theme of the day, cheese and pasta. Some dishes had bacon bits mixed throughout the cheese sauce. One restaurant that specializes in BBQ meat and southern dishes, topped each helping with a slice of their signature roast beef. ALMOST FULLAfter my grandson drank two giant steins of soda, tasted all the vendors offerings, not to mention that this pre-adolescent went back for seconds and thirds using his mother’s and his grandfather’s cards, he hinted at being almost filled up. But he agreed that it was getting close to leaving time. FUN DAYBy 1:30 the place was really hopping. It was hard to tell where one line began or even which line you were standing in. After tasting every thing that was available and drinking a huge stein of beer, I was more than finished with mac and cheese. It was time to vote. It was also time to get out into that beautiful sunshine. HOUSTON MY PICKThis was the winning vendor as far as I was concerned. They had the richest tasting cheese sauce, and though they added bacon and a few secret herbs and spices, this was done with a careful attention to what I thought was the main idea of pasta dressed in a strong flavoring of cheese. Let the cheese be the star. Let the cream and butter be the supporters, not the main attraction. But then I am a purist when it comes to comfort food.

 

 

 

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12 Responses to MAC AND CHEESE SMACKDOWN

  1. robin lettieri on April 12, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    you know I had to have mac and cheese for lunch.
    I’ll have the beer later!

    • Pushing Time on April 12, 2016 at 6:35 pm

      Hi Robin. It would be great to share a beer with if I lived closer. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a fun comment.

  2. Toddi on April 12, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    This looks like so much fun…along with good eats and drinks. Yes, pre-tweets do not get filled easily. Thank you for sharing.

    • Pushing Time on April 12, 2016 at 6:37 pm

      Hi Toddi. Yes, it was fun. It was interesting too how after a while they really all tasted quite similar. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Always glad to hear from a sister.

  3. Sharon on April 12, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Looks and sounds like a very enjoyable day with your family. Interesting also. What a great city you live in, always something fun going on.

    • Pushing Time on April 12, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      Hi Sharon. Yes, it was an enjoyable day. I’m going to keep a look out for more things like the mac and cheese smackdown. NYC is on giant ball of ‘everything’. Hope all is well with you and your family.

  4. Joyce on April 13, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Mmmmm. Looks tasty, looks like fun. You have such great NYC adventures!

    • Pushing Time on April 13, 2016 at 7:18 pm

      So great to see your response. Yes, it was yummy and lots of fun. But then crowds and food are always fun. Especially if it’s mac and cheese and beer!

  5. Jeri on April 15, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    Great story – it made me hungry. Tell me when there’s a chocolate showdown!

    • Pushing Time on April 15, 2016 at 8:24 pm

      Hi Jeri, Actually there was a big Chocolate extravaganza at one of the big stadiums or something out on Long Island not too long ago. I’ll let you know when I hear about the next one. There are often Chocolate gatherings at one of the exposition piers on the Westside.

  6. kentojohnson on July 9, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Lovely story, great accompanying photography. I know what I am cooking tonight!

    • Pushing Time on July 10, 2016 at 6:28 am

      Hi Kent! Glad you like the Mac and Cheese story! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Yep, a food smackdown is always a good incentive to get a good meal going!!

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