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Posts made in: 'Tournament of Mac and Cheese' (59) Currently Viewing: 21 - 30 of 59

February 6, 2015 at 10:13am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Marrow Kitchen and Bar

Marrow Kitchen and Bar in Tacoma serves fancy mac and cheese in a pot. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Macaroni and cheese - once a comfort-food staple of every Wednesday night dinner while your dad works through the night publishing a newspaper with hot type press - isn't what it used to be. And thanks to Marrow Kitchen and Bar, which makes no apologies for food steeped in indulgence, squiggles of meaty, housemade daily cavatelliare enmeshed in a Mornay sauce and delivered in a cast iron pot for an elegance of the re-imagined comfort food crafted like no other.

The immodestly rich recipe is completely hedonistic. Every chef, every cook, every kid and every home-kitchen tongs-twirler has his or her own version of macaroni and cheese, but Marrow's orchestration - with a $2 option for bits of salty, delightful pork belly nubbins - is so sensual - so wonderfully immoral - that it makes my heart race just thinking about it.

Each pasta piece is perfectly cooked al dente. Creamy, cheesy béchamel sauce with just the right amount of salt, this is what lovers of noodles and cheese sauce rhapsodize about. The baking pot arrives hot, the top layer of pasta burnished and browned. It's already awesome thanks to the Mornay sauce ($17), but the option to add the pork belly or truffle mushrooms ($2) should be all but mandatory.

An order of this love in a pot doesn't come with a hammock, as it's serving size leaves room for deviled eggs ($8) or mussels with bacon lardons and bone marrow Hollandaise ($10) and, of course, two nationally-recognized craft cocktails. Oh, I have 3,000 words ready to burst out on Marrow's steelhead gnocchi ($24), but that's for another day.

MARROW KITCHEN AND BAR, 3 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday-Saturday, 2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.267.5299

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

January 30, 2015 at 11:12am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Westside Tavern

Westside Tavern serves a thick, bacon jalapeno mac and cheese. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Of course Westside Tavern's mac and cheese pops.

The energy inside the attractive Westside Olympia restaurant and bar swells on a nightly basis. Bankers and bikers share fries. Hipsters and hillbillies hug. There's a book club chatting in that corner. There's a website brainstorm happening in the other corner. Craft beer and cocktails dot the landscape. If a juggler or someone dressed at Batman popped in at any part of the night, that catalyst would ignite the room into a frenzy - the bankers and hipsters would hug, the bikers and hillbillies would dance and a book club website would be born. Mass hysteria.

It's only naturally the Westside Tavern's mac and cheese consists of a "secret family recipe."  I did discover they blend four cheeses, elbow macaroni, jalapeños and house made bits of bacon topped with crispy bread crumbs with fresh jalapeño corn bread with housemade red pepper jelly. It's a rib sticker that pops with jalapeno spice. It could help sustain a sudden party situation. It could help keep the drive alive.

The Westside Tavern knows there are two guiding principles behind terrific mac and cheese: a combination of cheeses, never just one, and a high proportion of cheese to everything else. Velveeta, cheddar and heavy cream makes the creaminest, cheesiest mac and cheese. They also know ridged elbow macaroni helps the sauce cling to the noodles. And, homemade breadcrumbs and shaved cheddar on top is just badass.

Pop into the Westside Tavern, grab the huge portion of mac and cheese, and wait for Batman.

WESTSIDE TAVERN, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, 1815 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia, 360.915.7839

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

LINK: Westside Tavern won the Tournament of Burgers

January 9, 2015 at 2:07pm

Mac and Cheese Madness: The Homestead Restaurant and Bakery

If you like it thick ...

Pop the cap on your Lipitor bottle mac-and-cheese lovers. This week's Mac and Cheese Madness column moseyed over to The Homestead Restaurant and Bakery.

South Tacoma Way's classic cowboy diner serves many winners below its wagon wheel ornamentation. "Bakery" is, indeed, part of its name, and the house-baked fluffy biscuits, coffee can bread, pies and cinnamon rolls confirm. The slow-roasted pot roast is a solid choice. And the awesome honky-tonk and early blues masters (John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Blind Willie McTell) bounce off the aged cedar walls.

It's three sunny side eggs, fried chicken and meatloaf all around. The pancakes are huge and fluffy; the omelets are decent, and the hash browns are perfect. 

The prices are ridiculously low across the board.

What makes a great mac and cheese is perhaps more intensely subjective than pizza crust preferences. Is it thick, creamy cheese sauce or a layer of cheesy crust? Some say it requires a generous topping of seasoned breadcrumbs, while others are staunchly anti-crumb. The Homestead's version ($4.25!) was elbow macaroni with an ultra-thick casserole concoction of Cheddar, American, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and seasoned breadcrumbs. It was not my thing. I found it too thick, with a Campbell's cream soup texture.

Did I mention you receive a free slice of housemade cream pie with dinner?

THE HOMESTEAD RESTAURANT AND BAKERY, breakfast, lunch, dinner, 7837 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma; 253.476.9000

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

January 2, 2015 at 11:34am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Harmon Brewery & Eatery

The Harmon Brewery & Eatery serves their mac and cheese creamy. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

The Franciscan Polar Plaza ice-skating rink has, at its heart, attempted to bring life to a patch of land that has been, well, a little barren for the past few years. Tollefson Plaza has been criticized by many as a hefty investment with little return for the community. On-again, off-again efforts to turn the public plaza into something noticeably public have met with limited success. If downtown were brimming with daytime shoppers, Tollefson Plaza might attract a few people. But until then, organizers say, it's up to local organizations to make it a destination. Thanks to the Tacoma Art Museum, with backing from the Franciscan Health, Tollefson Plaza is full of life during the holiday season - although much of that life falls on its ass.

For the past three years I have booked live music every Saturday during the ice rink's run. I've witnessed amazing music, holiday cheer, hipsters falling right on their skinny-jeans bums, and couples, awash in love, rosy from the fresh air, celebrating their wedding proposals on ice. I've also seen a fare share on concussions and broken bones.

The musicians are good sports. Most Saturday nights have seen temperatures below freezing. Melodies have been twisted due to frozen digits and chilly deep breaths.

To accompany the new "Art of the American West" exhibit in the new Haub Family Collection wing at TAM, I booked bluegrass, country rock and old-timey bands at the rink. The Cottonwood Cutups, SweetKiss Momma, Shotgun Kitchen, The Rusty Cleavers, Dixie Highway and Forest Beutel added an awesome soundtrack for butterfly jumps, cherry-flips, layback spins - but mostly skating moves such as the unstable skating, the fall, the skid and the mixed-gender collision. This Saturday, Jan. 3, The Oly Mountain Boys bring it all home from 7-9 p.m.

What the hell does this have to do with mac and cheese?

While the musicians freeze their asses off, I typically take a long intermission and warm up with a Manhattan from a neighboring restaurant or bar. Two weeks ago, I made my way down Pacific Avenue for a delicious Manhattan made by lovely bartender Katie at Harmon Brewery & Eatery. It was there I discovered the Harmon's delicious creamy crab mac and cheese.

If ever there was a loaded dish, it is this. A huge dish full of cheese, Dungeness crab and nostalgia, and so hearty it can warm the coldest night. Elbow macaroni are enmeshed in creamy cheese sauce of Parmesan, Asiago, cotija as well as a cheddar/jack blend. A giant bowl arrives full of pasta, in what appears to be a simply creamy, cheese sauce flavored with Dungeness crab. But try to take a bite and you'll find that the stringy bits of cheese pasta are wholly enmeshed in the sauce. Better to take the scoop-and-shovel approach to eating this one. At $16.99, the giant bowl of comfort food will easily fill two bellies.

HARMON BREWERY & EATERY, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday, 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 1938 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.2739

LINK: Video of Katie mixing a Manhattan at the Harmon

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

December 19, 2014 at 11:08am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Chambers Bay Grill

Chambers Bay Grill's crab mac and cheese is the perfect amount of food. 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 contest this 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.

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. Chambers Bay Grill marks my 33rd mac and cheese dish.

There are many variations on the basic mac and cheese architecture - elbow macaroni baked in a cheddar cheese sauce - and as many different notions of what the best, truest version is, if such a thing can even be determined. All cooking is chemistry, but great macaroni and cheese feels more like the work of alchemy.

Crab mac and cheese is hardly the novelty it once was - especially in Western Washington - but in the expert hands of Chambers Bay Grill, their talent elevates the dish to new heights. Overlooking the Puget Sound, the majestic Olympic Mountains and expansive Chambers Bay golf course, Chambers Bay's Chef Josh Corcoran and his team rely on Beecher's Handmade Cheese for their sauce and ample long King crab legs to give their creamy mac 'and' cheese ($16) an assertive edge.

The dish is creamy without sacrificing the cheese. I definitely tasted crab - practically every bite. The briny notes in combination with the nutty Beecher's was terrific. Toasted panko topped the splendid dish because toasted panko is to mac and cheese as caramelized sugar is to crème brûlée; without it the texture is just too smooth.

This is not a humble, modest, sit-by-the-sidelines macaroni and cheese. Chambers Bay Grill's crab mac and cheese is in the top group on the leaderboard.

CHAMBERS BAY GRILL, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to sunset Friday-Sunday,6320 Grandview Drive W., University Place, 253.460.4653 or chambersbaygolf.com

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

December 12, 2014 at 12:38pm

Mac and Cheese Madness: BITE at Hotel Murano

BITE's truffle mac and cheese is several echelons above post-recess nourishment. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

The modern art zing of the Hotel Murano's décor makes me dizzy with delight. My eyes are pulled from left to right, up and down, catching equal parts fine art and whimsy. Upbeat chill music reverberates through the lobby, right up to the lobby bar. Their restaurant, BITE, located on the fourth floor, drips with chic ... and delicious, gourmet flavors.

Not surprisingly, BITE's mac and cheese is also an adults-only playground, thanks to the addition of truffles. For the uninitiated, the rare fungus grows symbiotically with the roots of oak and hazelnut trees. With a little luck, a farmer can expose a sapling's roots to black truffle spores and plant it in a truffière (truffle orchard), where it will grow for years before it is ready to start producing truffles. If it works, a good truffle tree will fruit for 40 years or more. It's an expensive ingredient that doesn't make an appearance at most South Sound restaurants.

BITE's mac and cheese is gobsmacked with truffle goodness. (Kudos to the genius who discovered you could drizzle truffle oil on mac and cheese and make a good thing great.) The mix of black truffle shavings and white truffle oil produces a forward truffle aroma - the taste lingers long after walking through the giant glass doors.

Meaty orecchiette pasta is fused together with a mix of melted white cheddar, ricotta and Parmesan. The pasta choice gives the dish even more personality, as well as acts as a reservoir for the creamy, white sauce. Baked crusty on top, the dish has a pleasant mix of textures and the perfect amount of pasta - I left wanting more, but knowing another bite would take me over the edge. It's served in a giant, hot bowl with a decidedly grown-up flair.

This mac and cheese ($14 lunch, $17 dinner) pairs beautifully with a nice glass of white wine, which offers a crispy acidity for the elegant decadence of the dish.

BITE, lunch 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily; dinner 4:30-9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, until 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; Hotel Murano, 1320 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.591.4151

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

December 5, 2014 at 10:38am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Boathouse 19

Boathouse 19's spectacular mac and cheese pairs well with the Giant Pacific Octopus IPA from neighboring Narrows Brewing Co. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

It's a well known fact that cold weather = comfort food.

And what's more comforting then hot and cheesy mac and cheese?

On a recent rainy night, Boathouse 19 shone like a lighthouse for those craving comfort food. Next to the Narrows Marina, tucked behind the massive Narrows Brewing Co., you could see the glow through the windows that become live paintings of nautical themes.

Boathouse 19's mac & cheese may not have a stadium named after it, but it takes the afterschool snack and hangover helper to a whole new level. Maybe the Boathouse 19 Mac & Cheese Bowl? It's certainly worthy.

Eating Boathouse 19's three-cheese macaroni and cheese ($13) is an out-of-body experience. Upon completion, it's a full body experience. The waterfront restaurant offers a rich, filling dish of elbow macaroni bathed in silky, cheesy goodness and served in a cast-iron pan. Maybe the secret to this mac & cheese greatness is the caramelized onion and huge chunks of ham. Maybe it's the thick blanket of panko, that is the perfect contrast rather than steel the show. Maybe it's the dish's fine balance of being cheesy but not cheesy, creamy but not creamy. No need to twist. No need for a spoon. Pepper jack, American and cheddar, blended all together, served by the happiest server I have ever met.

Seriously, this is worth a trip to Boathouse 19 all by itself. This is mac and cheese that makes an impression.

BOATHOUSE 19, 11 a.m. to close Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma, 253.565.1919

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

November 28, 2014 at 12:27pm

Mac and Cheese Madness: The Swiss Restaurant and Pub

The Swiss adds spicy Andouille sausage to its mac and cheese. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

I pondered skipping this week's Mac and Cheese Madness Friday posting. South Sounders are either one big mashed couch potato after feasting on tryptophan-releasing flesh (and 10 tons of other comfort foods) nibbling on leftovers throughout the day, or, if out and about, will choose lighter fare to counterbalance yesterday's glorious gluttony.

Then, I remembered my mission, to report on a South Sound mac and cheese dish every Friday up to our Tournament of Mac and Cheese in March 2015. I need to spread the cheesy word, ease into tournament research and, obviously, build hype. I can't let the South Sound down. It's my life's mission ... and derision from my wife.

The Swiss Restaurant and Pub knows the two guiding principles behind awesome mac and cheese: a combination of cheeses, never just one, and a high proportion of cheese to everything else. The type of pasta isn't as important, so long as it's short and dried; fresh pasta will collapse under a cheese sauce. Tubes and spirals help the sauce cling to the noodles.

The downtown Tacoma restaurant blends cheddar and jack cheeses with extremely short elbow macaroni. The dish is almost soupy but the high cheese ratio forces five twists of a fork to break free. The addition of spicy Andouille sausage makes it badass. Graininess doesn't make an appearance.

Note: The Swiss has this mac and cheese on its special board. Its fate will be determined by its patrons' reviews.

THE SWISS RESTAURANT AND PUB, 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Wednesday, 11-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday, 1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma, 253.572.2821

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

November 21, 2014 at 11:04am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Half Pint Pizza Pub

Half Pint Pizza Pub in Tacoma's Sixth Avenue neighborhood pays tribute to the famous "Pasteurized Recipe Cheese Product" in its mac and cheese. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Macaroni and cheese seems simple enough - the ingredients are listed in the name of the dish. However, as I have discovered over the last eight months, the varieties are endless.

Depending upon the pasta, cheese and toppings, it can have a gourmet, beer, Southern, Mexican or Texan spin. The dish goes with everything from bacon to lobster and truffles. Even the crust can vary - croutons or breadcrumbs can add exciting flavors, as well as a textural crunch, to the cheesy goodness.

At its core, two schools of macaroni-and-cheese philosophy exist: the artisanal, gorgonzola-gruyere-gouda kind and the one devoted to the blue box. This week's mac and cheese dish tips toward the box.

The Half Pint Pizza Pub, formerly Medi's, is a small, red sauce Italian pasta and pizza joint in Tacoma's Sixth Avenue neighborhood. Check that; it's a red sauce Italian pasta, pizza and craft beer joint. You can't miss the chalkboard proudly listing craft brews, including several local breweries. Half Pint's mac and cheese version fills a small, cast-iron skillet with small elbow noodles bathing in a bubbling, creamy Velveeta (a nearly 100-year-old Frankencheeese) and heavy whip sauce, freckled with tiny nubs of croutons. Two perfectly toasted garlic bread slices and a tiny cup of tangy marinara sauce were welcomed sidekicks. The small size makes a nice lunch.

Gooey and good, and no doubt artery clogging, may I suggest you can wash down this cheesy morsel with a pine-y and strongly bitter Breakside IPA, which, like all beers, is only $3 on Thursdays.

HALF PINT PIZZA PUB, 2710 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.2531

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

November 14, 2014 at 11:31am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Silvers Saloon

Silvers Saloon tops its ultra-cheesy bacon mac and cheese with shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Cowboys retain a certain mystique: They're cool. Spend enough time in these environs, and you'll find yourself wondering: could I pull off a cowboy hat? Or cowboy boots, maybe? (For me, the answer is no on both counts.)

Yesterday, I was surrounded by cowboy hats and boots, listening to new country tunes at Silvers Saloon, the "Chuckwagon meets Saloon, Old meets New, Spacious meets Intimate, Casual meets Chic" joint, or so the Olympia restaurant bar claims on its Facebook. Silvers does have one cowboy boot firmly planted on the ranch, but it feels like it could have been DJ Murphy's Chip and Chowder House, which it was several years ago. Yes, the horseshoes dot the walls. The wagon wheels lean. And its rustic wares were once a mercantile's hot items. Yet, it needs one good bar brawl to paint the walls before it feels truly old and saloon-y. Also, I vote for more twangier tunes, but to each their own.

The service is ultra-friendly and fast. My bacon mac and cheese ($10) tray arrived quicker than a hot knife through butter.

Yes, I said "tray." A long, oval plate rimmed with cartoon cows corralled the enormous amount of thick mac and cheese. Yes, I said "thick." The elbow macaroni butted elbows due to a surplus of smoked white cheddar topped with bacon. Yes, I said "bacon." It's sad, but more often than not it's true. Bacon makes everything better, and cheese-soaked pasta is no different. Silvers Saloon's stick to your ribs mac and cheese is understated and simple, but a herd of bacon puts it over the top.

SILVERS SALOON, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. kitchen daily, bar later, breakfast all day, 2752 Pacific Ave. SE, Olympia, 360.489.0255

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

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