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Posts made in: 'Tournament of Mac and Cheese' (5) Currently Viewing: 1 - 5 of 5

May 16, 2014 at 10:17am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Engine House No. 9

Engine House No. 9's Tailgate Mac and Cheese

It's Friday, which means I tempt you with another South Sound mac and cheese dish I believe is worthy of the Tournament of Mac and Cheese next spring. Of course, you, the reader, will ultimately decided the fate of the dish when nominations open in February 2015.

Wildly annoying name aside, Lit'l Smokiesaren't necessarily so bad on their own. What's not to like about a bite-sized pellet of sodium and grease from various protein sources after all? Where Smokies take the step from kitschy tooth-picked to awesome is when a cheese sauce starts to get involved.

Engine House No. 9 combines the two in its Tailgate Mac and Cheese, a creamy, workingman's take on the classic dish. The E-9 kitchen sautés cheddar and jack cheese with the Smokies and elbow macaroni, then tops the dish with green onions and crouton crumbles. It's a mild, cheesy concoction that fills for $9.99.

This mac and cheese dish is the new piglets in a cheese blanket.

Pair it with E-9's Rowdy Dick Amber and the game.

ENGINE HOUSE NO. 9, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday, 611 N. Pine St., Tacoma, 253.272.3435

May 9, 2014 at 10:35am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Smoke + Cedar in Tacoma

Smoke + Cedar's Skillet Mac + Cheese is a plus. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

While many people who head to the newly opened Smoke + Cedar are looking for the slow-roasted prime rib, the half-pound chuck burger, Team Dino's cocktails and the awesome happy hour, I drive up the hill for the mac and cheese. An order brings the perfect amount of orecchiette pasta (means "little ears") mixed in with owner Gordon Naccarato's version of the Augusta National pimento cheese recipe, then spackled with panko and crumbled  "Ritzy" fire cracker crumbs. The mac and cheese is served in hot skillet, which keeps it hot and prevents the concoction from sticking to the pan - good idea, since you don't want to let a single bite escape. it's freakin' delicious.

The skillet mac + cheese rings in at $8, but sells for an astonishingly $5 during happy hour, which is 2-6 p.m., 9 p.m. to close in the bar. Smoke + Cedar's happy hour food will be the talk of the town, especially during warm weather when its covered deck hops.

Every chef, every cook, every kid and every home-kitchen tongs-twirler has his or her own version of macaroni and cheese, but Smoke + Cedar's orchestration, paired with a cocktail, is so satisfying - so wonderfully immoral - that it makes my heart race just thinking about it.

SMOKE + CEDAR, breakfast 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., until 10 a.m. weekends; boozy brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 5 p.m. to close daily, 2013 S. Cedar St., Tacoma, 253.343.6090

LINK: Mac and Cheese Madness posts every Friday as a precursor to the Tournament of Mac and Cheese in March 2015.

May 2, 2014 at 10:14am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Paesan Kitchen & Bar

Get baked at Paesan!

It's Friday, which means I tempt you with another South Sound mac and cheese dish I believe is worthy of the Tournament of Mac and Cheese next spring. Of course, you, the reader, will ultimately decided the fate of the dish when nominations open in February 2015.

First, a touch of mac and cheese history. Thomas Jefferson helped make macaroni and cheese popular in the United States after sampling it in Italy. He brought home a pasta maker and introduced the dish in 1802. Mac and cheese is obviously the food of presidents, for it was also Ronald Reagan's favorite. Reagan enjoyed a little dry mustard and Worcestershire in his mac and cheese.

OK, on to this week's mac and cheese suggestion. ...

Paesan Kitchen & Bar serves a delicious, gooey baked penne pasta ($9) that had me gazing out its floor to ceiling windows, weighing the options of ordering another serving of the dish.

It's that good.

Fontina cheese is the star ingredient, although the leeks, egg, mustard, chile flakes, grated Parmesan and breadcrumbs would tell you different, if they could.

It's baked, which is an important and defining factor for what makes a fine mac and cheese, and the best selling point for Paesan's version. Baking it gives mac - or, in this case, penne - and cheese the yummy, crusty-crunchy bits of dairy goodness on the ends of the noodles, which prevents this dish from becoming a gooey mess.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Also, Paesan will be celebrating May the 4th Be With You.

PAESAN KITCHEN & BAR, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 1715 Dock St., Tacoma, 253.301.2396

April 25, 2014 at 12:09pm

Mac And Cheese Madness: Crown Bar in Tacoma

Crown Bar's mac and cheese pairs well with Scuttlebutt Gale Force IPA. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Following on the successful heels of the Weekly Volcano's Tournament of Burgers, our editorial staff will present a new NCAA Basketball tournament-like event next spring.  Once again we'll host a number of daily games that pit one restaurant against another, leaving it to the readers to decide the final outcomes all the way down to a final four and then a grand championship. (For newbie readers, Olympia's Westside Tavern edged out Tacoma's Maxwell's Restaurant in the final seconds of this year's Tournament of Burgers.) 

The competition for March 2015 will pit 64 South Sound restaurants that offer the ultimate comfort food - macaroni and cheese.

As I explained last week, my goal is to report on a South Sound mac and cheese dish every week up to the tournament - to spread the cheesy word, ease into tournament research and, obviously, build hype. I will highlight the best, skipping reports of orange cheddar and glistening pile of noodles that hold no nutritional value whatsoever.

Let's begin with one of my favorites, the Crown Bar's mac and cheese.

Cougar Gold long ruled the Tacoma neighborhood hangout's mac and cheese dish. The canned cheese from Washington State University's creamery in Pullman elevated the Crown's comfort food dish with an almost gruyére-like nutty, caramel flavor.

Today, Beecher's Handmade Cheese coats Crown's noodles. The artisanal cheese out of Seattle's Pike Place Market isn't a big change in flavor from the Cougar Gold. Beecher's also carries a delicious gruyere, nutty flavor. Chef Charlie McManus coats meaty elbow pasta with the flavorful cheese, then tops it with breadcrumbs. This is unfussy cheese perfection at its finest.

I say it's time to get yourself elbows-deep in some elbows.

CROWN BAR, 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday-Thursday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 5-11 p.m. Sunday, 2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.4177

April 18, 2014 at 2:17pm

Mac and Cheese Madness!

These two items combined is crazy delicious.

I haven't worked off the 20 pounds of weight gained during the Tournament of Burgers. In fact, the extra weight has become my friend. The fat and I reminisce about each burger joint, becoming all mushy and nostalgic over a last call burger at Shake Shake Shake, pairing Manhattans with Maxwell's Walker Burger, eating smoked burgers next to someone getting canned at Famous Dave's, playing human pinball at Five Guys in Lakewood, a rowdy Friday burger night at Tournament of Burgers Champion Westside Tavern, and so on.

Since announcing mac and cheese will be next year's tournament, my body fat is all ready thumbing through the Big and Tall catalog.

I'm prepared to begin the mac and cheese madness immediately. Why wait? Send that lentil soup back in the kitchen! That tramp will go through me in 30 minutes. My goal is to report on a South Sound mac and cheese dish every week. Those who have followed my past columns know I will most likely fail. And, dropping in on Tacoma's STINK Cheese & Meat for its weekly mac and cheese special doesn't count, although I will not surrender that pleasure.

Let's start with my favorite mac and cheese recipe.

The first time I made macaroni and cheese, I followed the official CIA (Culinary Institute of America) recipe. It took me approximately four hours, utilized two French "Mother" sauces, cost me about $10 to make and tasted mediocre. I won't be doing that again soon. I've since learned that cheese choice; plenty of preferably fresh breadcrumbs, and ample baking time can make all the difference. One very simple recipe that turned out delicious:

Aged Gouda and Campanelle

Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil the campanelle (campanelle, or pig's ear pasta, is a broad, curly edged pasta that soaks up sauces beautifully. It's available at most grocery stores). Once the water is boiling, you'll want to add about a pound, pound and a half of pasta to it. Take about four slabs of bacon and fry them until they're crisp. Set on a towel to drain fat. In a medium sized saucepan, heat one-and-a-half cups of half and half until nearly boiling. Throw in 2 Tablespoons of butter and watch it melt. Pretty, right? Now you want about 3/4 of a pound of shredded quality, aged Gouda. Make sure it's aged, or you will have a very bland casserole.

Stir this mixture over medium-low heat until the cheese is smooth. Now, I was naughty at this point and just couldn't resist grabbing a spoonful of freshly rendered bacon fat out of the sauté pan beside me and tossing it into the sauce as I stirred it. Not necessary. But it sure makes things taste good. Turn the heat off, drain your pasta (as long as it's al dente) and throw it in a bowl. Crumble the bacon into the pasta and toss. Pour the cheese over the pasta/bacon and toss again. Pour the mixture into a buttered casserole (I used a 10-inch cake tin). You can sprinkle with black/white pepper, cayenne, or even something sweet like cardamom or cinnamon on top. You probably won't need to add salt unless you've omitted the bacon.

Now take a dry old hunk of good bread and grate the daylights out of it to cover the top (you can pre-grate if you want to avoid a crumb mess from the guaranteed misfires). Some people at this point would throw on a couple pats of butter. I think I already hit the decadence quota with the pig fat. Your choice. Bake it until the crumbs are toasted and the cheese is bubbling. Eat with impunity.

Well, time to stick a feather in my hat and call it macaroni, whatever the hell that means.

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