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Posts made in: 'Tournament of Mac and Cheese' (59) Currently Viewing: 31 - 40 of 59

November 7, 2014 at 10:56am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Over the Moon Cafe

Chunks of squash dominate the mac and cheese at Over the Moon Cafe in Tacoma's Opera Alley. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Hidden in Tacoma's Opera Alley, Over the Moon Cafe fits like your favorite pair of slippers. With eclectic designs, mismatched spoons, dark woods and assorted table lamps, Over the Moon Café could be your Aunt Esmeralda's house - you know, the free spirit gypsy with books stacked on each table and a kickass wine cellar. Open for lunch and dinner, its bistro fare leans heavy on fish and beef. The roasted duck salad is a must. 

Naturally, this cozy spot serves the king of comfort dishes.

Using penne pasta, Over the Moon Cafe has concocted a sweet, tangy butternut squash "mac & cheese" ($17) that takes the dish beyond comfort food. You'll find huge chunks of butternut squash, sage, sautéed shallots folded into a gorgeous, creamy sauce that isn't slick with grease, but accented with stringy Gruyere cheese, which I clipped off my fork by wrapping the strings around the sage leaves holding court at center stage. Topped with housemade croutons and Parmesan, this dish is a task to finish due to its size and richness.

The base of penne pasta, rich cream sauce and Gruyere cheese has seen many co-stars over the years. You might remember fresh Roma tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts and sliced Portobello mushrooms last autumn. This version easily moves into my top 10 South Sound mac and cheese dishes. Bravo!

OVER THE MOON CAFÉ, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. lunch, 4:30 p.m. to close dinner, Tuesday-Saturday, 709 Court C "Opera Alley," Tacoma, 253.284.3722

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

October 31, 2014 at 11:17am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Oakhouse Restaurant & Bar

Oakhouse's Mac and Moore Cheese

I've always loved October. Flora is in full regalia for its last fashion show, summer's hiccups butt into winter's tentative icy thrusts, and animals are ferociously busy with gathering, storing and various forms of copulation wherever the eye may fall. The best part of October, though, has to be the supernatural event that peeks out from the edge of the calendar - that beautiful, exuberantly wicked holiday that provokes us to worship the dead, revel in the unknown and rally for all that is spooky. Halloween has to be the greatest lasting expression of residual pagan ritual, tapping into our fear, perversion and lust for candy in one simultaneous, glorious, holy night.

Being in the food and drink writing business, I decided to pay all the respect I could muster to this great holiday, and went on the search for a haunted restaurant. Asking around, I could find neither employee nor patron with a story anymore haunting than missing saltshakers and banshee-like head waitresses. So I went looking for a haunted restaurant on my own.

Yesterday, I drove through Oakbrook's notorious enormous puddles of water to the Oakhouse Restaurant & Bar, sure to feel some leftover presence in the surrounding oak trees, or perhaps a specter in the pro shop - but instead I ate my mac and cheese with only a sole happy bartender as company.

Really, food does a lot of its own haunting, and a restaurant is teeming with ghosts - memories so powerful that they seem to beckon from beyond the present time, circumstance and behavior. I don't need a plate of mac and cheese to float across the room to feel the presence of something untouchable at the table with me. The sixth sense is probably the most powerful tool when it comes to eating, and it is created by thousands of experiences, feelings and residual spirit. We're all haunted every day.

I grew up in the Lakewood neighborhood of Oakbrook. The Oakbrook Golf & Country Club was my playground. It was where I experienced my first kiss. It was where I experienced my first dance. It was where I experienced what scotch can do to a body (that's for another scary story day). I was fortunate to have grown up in such a happy, safe environment during the '70s. I also ate a lot of mac and cheese, burgers and fries in the old clubhouse.

Professional golfer Ryan Moore and his buddies bought the Oakbrook Golf & Country Club several years ago and renamed it the Oakbrook Golf Club, opened it up to the public, remodeled the clubhouse's interior, let the weeds have our Turkey Bowl field and sold the pool and tennis courts to condo developers. They saved the golf course from fiancial ruin, but eerie fencing and weeds haunts those who once filled the area with smiles, laughter and first-wedgie screams.

Just as you might be dressing up today, the Oakhouse dresses up its mac and cheese. Named after Moore, its Mac and Moore Cheese takes a pile of fun creste pasta, tosses in Beecher's Flagship white cheddar, thin onion stripes, a touch of garlic and 10,000 toasted bread crumbs, then serves it in a ginormous, heated bowl. This is the stinkiest macaroni and cheese I have tasted or smelled since I began ... but in a good way. The combination of the robust Beecher's Flagship semi-hard cow's milk cheese, onions and tinge of garlic give rise to a unique taste that's a welcome change from standard strong cheddar flavors. Panko breadcrumbs provide a wonderful buttery crunch.

Yes, I prefer the old Oakbrook, but this mac and cheese dish helps create new wonderful memories.

OAKHOUSE RESTAURANT & BAR, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, 8102 Zircon Dr. SW, Lakewood, 253.584.8888

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

October 24, 2014 at 11:47am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Lunchbox Laboratory

Gig Harbor mac and cheese: Lunchbox Laboratory and 7 Seas Brewing team up for British Pale Mac N Cheese. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

I enjoy beer.

Beer makes mac and cheese awesome.

By the transitive property (math isn't my strong suit), I think beer mac and cheese is delicious.

Beer and cheddar have such an affinity for one another - the sour punch of the beer plays gorgeously with the nutty tang of the cheddar, particularly the sharp variety. The combination of the two invokes the umami must-not-stop-eating-this-deliciousness effect, which is reason enough for me to search out a beer mac and cheese dish.

I found one.

Lunchbox Laboratory has hooked up with fellow Gig Harbor resident 7 Seas Brewing for two weeks of experiments. The white lab coats in Lunchbox's kitchen have created dishes from 7 Seas' brews, including a British Pale Mac N Cheese ($6). The secret to the mac and cheese is beer - specifically, 7 Seas British Pale Ale. That ale gets poured into Lunchbox's house cheese sauce - American and sharp cheddar - mixed on the stovetop with fisarmoniche past then topped with optional bacon, jalapenos, green chilies and pork rinds. I suggest bacon. For an extra dollar, the top of the mac and cheese basically becomes very brown.

Beer and cheese are a match made in heaven, and at Lunchbox Laboratory, 7 Seas adds depth to the creamy bowl of goodness.

Sidenote: 7 Seas Brewing outnumbers the beer handles at The Gig Harbor Lunchbox Laboratory, including the fall seasonal Autumn Ale.

LUNCHBOX LABORATORY, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, 4901 Point Fosdick Dr. NW, Gig Harbor, 253.432.4061

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

October 17, 2014 at 11:04am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Famous Dave's

Dave's Cheesy Mac & Cheese is a side option.

Dave's Cheesy Mac & Cheese might be the last mac and cheese you taste in your life.

When you enter Famous Dave's at 72nd Street and Interstate 5 in South Tacoma, you're hit with delicious smokey odors, loud-ass Southern-fried rock music and the assault continues in the form of mounted deer heads, wooden mallards, 1930s hunting magazines and deer-antler chandeliers barely lighting a big, hunting lodge-like room. The décor is where knotty pine and Cabela's meet.


October 10, 2014 at 1:58pm

Mac and Cheese Madness: STINK's cheeseburger

STINK Cheese and Meat in Tacoma has a cheeseburger mac and cheese on special this week. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

The seed was planted last April during our Tournament of Burgers Championship party at Meconi's in downtown Tacoma. After taking second place to the Westside Tavern, Chef Hudson Slater of Maxwell's Restaurant and Lounge suggested mac and cheese for the Weekly Volcano's annual food tournament.

The South Sound Tournament of Mac and Cheese is scheduled for March 2015.

There are few dishes in this world more comforting than a nice hot dish of macaroni and cheese. And the beauty of it is, the recipe has such a basic foundation - pasta and cheese - that there is no end to the possible variations. Macaroni noodles are the standard, but many varieties - shells, bow-ties - can work just as well. And though cheddar is nearly ubiquitous, adding to that classic cheese with other varieties can bring nuances of flavor, and mixing it up with add-ins such as bacon can intensify the taste and provide texture.

My love of mac and cheese is a deep-rooted affair, grown from a seed planted by my mother's awesome, greasy baked mac and cheese. Lines were drawn, allegiances were broken, and blood was shed as everyone vied for the mac and cheese. By the end of the meal bloated bodies were strewn across the dining room, covered with cheese.

My mom blanketed the casserole dish with tomato slices before baking it, and I used to think that this was how mac and cheese was supposed to be made. When the tomatoes were missing I'd reach for a bottle of ketchup to the horror of tablemates over the years.

My ketchup habit has withered but not died. It was rekindled yesterday.

In preparation for the Tournament of Mac and Cheese, I have been digging into a different South Sound mac and cheese dish every week. In early June, I visited STINK Cheese and Meat, an almost certain number one seed when 64 South Sound restaurants do battle in March. I waited for owner Kris Blondin's mushroom truffle mac to be the mac and cheese special for the week, which also was the week she tweaked her roux creating a combination of sharp cheddar and her standard cheddar with added cream cheese. Her truffle mac is on my top 10 dishes tasted of all time.

Yes, yes, back to the ketchup ... and variations. I hit the mac and cheese jackpot again yesterday. Blondin just tweaked her roux again, adding heavy cream to the base. After learning the news, I glanced at the special board.

"Kris, you're serving cheeseburgers?" I asked.

Nope, this week's special is cheeseburger mac and cheese.

"I was at Costco staring at Angus beef, pondering a new mac and cheese recipe. And I noticed those big bags of French onions. Sometimes you see things and it triggers your imagination," says Blondin. "And I'm a ketchup fanatic. I've always loved ketchup with my mac and cheese."

Blondin added the Angus beef and onions to her new base, baked it, drizzled ketchup and mustard, then topped the dish with sliced hamburger pickles as one would on a cheeseburger. The beef adds spark and body - complete with a little crunch, and the perfect touch of burnt edges. The base is richer with the addition of heavy cream. 

STINK's mac and cheese special, as well as its grilled cheese sandwich special, changes every week, and by week I mean Tuesday through Saturday. For the next two days, you may delight in the cheeseburger mac and German toasted cheese sandwich, which is a variation of a Reuben.

STINK CHEESE AND MEAT, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, its wine bar stays open later, 628 St. Helens, Tacoma, 253.426.1347

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

October 3, 2014 at 10:16am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Farrelli's Wood Fire Pizza

Farrelli's Wood Fire Pizza in Lacey serves a creamy mac and cheese with a spicy sausage option. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

President Thomas Jefferson allegedly ate mac and cheese when he was at home in Monticello. What makes American comfort food comforting is its monotony - that mercifully uninflected drone of starch and fat that we can eat without being required to think, that we can eat and eat and eat without needing to handle knives or really chew. That's how we do it here, and we're a superpower. Mac and cheese is how pasta might always be served if Americans had invented it: Plain, easy and cheap.

Farrelli's Wood Fire Pizza's mac and cheese is a mash up between simple and sly, childhood and adulthood, cheap and chic. Its mac is creamy, buttery and yet still classy - with the option of adding spicy sausage. It's meaty elbow macaroni swimming in mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan with a small blanket of cheddar and two buttery garlic focaccia strips.

Jefferson also allegedly enjoyed pull-tabs and Oktoberfest pizza. He would have enjoyed hanging at the hidden Farrelli's in Lacey. He would have enjoyed the mac and cheese even more.

Grab a baked dish of comfort and cheer on your favorite team in Farrelli's huge lounge.

FARRELLI'S WOOD FIRE PIZZA, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 4870 Yelm Hwy. SE, Lacey, 360.493.2090, also in DuPont, Frederickson, Parkland, Sumner and Tacoma

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

September 26, 2014 at 2:45pm

Mac and Cheese Madness: Applebee's

Applebee's 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders is a whirlwind of flavors.

Let's face it. Applebee's is genius. It knows people exiting shopping areas will be drained  - money and energy - to the point of making crazy-ass decisions. It knows its "2 for $20" appetizer and two entrees special will draw people like magnets, right to its lounge with shiny cocktails and Maroon 5 loops. Speaking of lounge, Applebee's drops its beer and emotional fulfillment right in the middle of the joint. Genius. The single's bar meets family dining captures all the middle income.

Applebee's certainly had the genius hat riding high when "4-Cheese Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders" hit the white board. Three delicious, completely different tastes in the same bowl save time and money. Tiny bits of Applewood smoked bacon plus fried chicken on top of cheese-loaded pasta is brilliant. And, the whopping 810 calories with 35 grams of fat and 1,720 mg of sodium will help your tired, retailed-out self reach comatose in front of new fall TV delight, The McCarthys.

The only aspect of the dish that isn't genius is the flavor. It's a tad bland.

APPLEBEE'S, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 10407 Gravelly Lake Dr. SW, Lakewood, 253.983.8884

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

September 19, 2014 at 11:28am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Metropolitan Market Al Fresco Food Truck

Metropolitan Market in Tacoma's Proctor District serves a delicious Mac & CheeZola from a food truck. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Food truck. Mac-and-cheese. Metropolitan Market. Delicious.

Last Saturday, Tacoma's Proctor District was humming. The "Green Day" edition of the Proctor Farmers Market blossomed with folks studying sustainability and deleting Gateway to India's dish options before the market closed. Fair schmair. People walked the streets with purchased goods, with a little skip in their step, as they held tight to the summer sun. Umpqua Bank even closed later than normal, although I might have had something to do with that. Sorry folks.

Even with the huge Moveable Feast food truck festival at Cheney Stadium, Metropolitan Market - the posh "oh-my-gosh it's changed again" grocery store that arguably anchors the Tacoma neighborhood - had a steady stream of folks in front of its food truck. Hold that image. ...

If there is one thing Met Market knows, and does well, it's cheese. The upscale grocery store knows it is a food that makes the world go round, whether you're savoring tasty brie from a blanket on Tacoma's Ruston Way or substituting Manchego for sex in your house ... or Ruston Way. Met Market houses one of the best cheese shops in all the land, with almost every variety invented and a separate budget for sample toothpicks. It comes as no shocker the store's prepared mac and cheese is to die for. At least five penne pasta tubes escape from the keepsake ceramic bowl every time I have a session with the buttermilk blue mac and cheese. So good.

Back to the food truck ... Met Market skips the buttermilk blue and hands a Mac & CheeZola through the truck window. The truck people follow company policy of overstuffing the mac and cheese container, which I am not filing any complaints. I say bring it on. The "CheeZola" is a fancy name for cheddar and Zola cheese. CheeZola hugs it out with Conchiglie, commonly known as "shells" or "seashells" pasta. Topped with Parmesan and breadcrumbs, this $4.99 delight scores high in cheese flavor and crunchy crumbs.

Grab a cup and show it Proctor.

P.S. Through Sept. 23, Met Market is slashing 25 percent off many specialty cheeses.

METROPOLITAN MARKET, food truck open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through mid-October, breakfast until 11 a.m., 2420 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253.761.3663

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

September 12, 2014 at 10:45am

Mac and Cheese Madness: McNamara's Papa Ed's Mac and Cheese

Papa Ed's Mac and Cheese and McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont could end up in the third "X Files" movie.

Me, I like a good mystery. Pyramids? Shugborough inscription? Bigfoot? Dark energy? Ted Cruz? Quantum physics? Tacoma's Black Bear? Obviously.

But I also adore the lesser-known mysteries, the countless smallish puzzlers that I still don't understand after one live conversation, a phone call, a pending Facebook reply and an embarrassingly long Google search.

I didn't know what I ate. It was tasty, and it helped me though USA's pounding of Lithuania during hot FIBA action. (If I could somehow make the acronym FIBA mean USA's lazy passes are deflect every time I would.)

Wait. My phone just made that magical message sound. It might be the answer. Hold on. ...

Nope. Just Foursquare telling me Karen N. is at Memo's Mexican Food Restaurant on Sixth Avenue. No photo.

Anyway, I don't know what's in the sauce encompassing most of Papa Ed's Mac and Cheese at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont. It's creamy. It's buttery. It's a mystery.

Smiley fun bartender Amanda told me it's "Profectamount cheese ... with cheddar on top." I spent time looking it up.

Nameless hostess over the phone told me it was a "Perfectimo sauce the kitchen makes in the morning ... with cheddar on top." I actually spent time searching that one, too. "Perfect IMO" was the dominant search result. That can't be it, IMO.

McNamara's mac and cheese oozes with the mystery sauce, 10,000 chunks of salty ham topped with cheddar cheese and a buttery crumb topping, and then baked in a skillet. Elbow macaroni provides a tender chew, the noodles and ham holding on to the sauce until it reaches the mouth, often leaving a mark on the chin. The ham dominates the flavor.

There's an additional mystery with this dish: How can one person eat it the whole thing? I couldn't.

I'll post an update when the sauce mystery is solved.

MCNAMARA'S PUB & EATERY, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 8 a.m. to midnight Thursday-Saturday, 1595 Wilmington Dr., DuPont, 253.964.9200

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

September 5, 2014 at 9:49am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Mac N' More

Mac n' More serves one of the creamiest mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

No, I'm not high.

Yes, I write a weekly mac and cheese column. And, one might be hard pressed to find a weed-loving soul who scoffs at mac and cheese, the ultimate comfort food. But, my answer to the questioned posed via email was, "Not right now."

Aghast was a reader who claimed I must be out of my mind not visiting Mac N' More in Lacey during the 18 weeks since I launched this South Sound treasure hunt.

I explained I've been too high and was paranoid to venture out of my (comfort food) zone.


Truth is, I have pulled up a chair at the Lacey strip mall eatery a dozen or so times since Steve and Katrina Cobb opened the mac and cheese centric restaurant in 2012. Steve, who has seen the world through a restaurant kitchen window while his wife, Katrina, served in the Army, tweaked his macaroni and cheese recipe during a 25-year journey. After tasting the famous macaroni and cheese at S'mac in New York City, and making the final adjustment, the Cobbs felt confident enough to open their own joint at the corner of Martin Way and Dutterow Road.

Mac N' More serves nine variations of macaroni and cheese, with the option to create your own dish. A four-cheese "secret" recipe serves as a base, although the Cobbs have since let the world know Tillamook sharp cheddar is part of the equation.

The light creamy "original" sauce deserves a trophy on its own, but receives its crown with added ingredients such as pickled jalapeno, spinach, jammy onions, bacon, chili beans, to name a few. The Cobbs also offer nine creations of their own, including two mac and cheese creations that top all dishes on the menu - which includes chicken breasts, salads, burgers, sandwiches and shareables. The "Buffalo" mac and cheese includes chicken strips smothered in buffalo sauce, green onions and blue cheese ($8.85), while the "Loaded Potato Mac" ($8.85) arrives loaded with bacon, potatoes, green onions, sour cream and more cheddar cheese. The "Meat Loaf" mac and cheese is hot on their elbows.

Steve has perfected his pasta preparation, producing a firm elbow macaroni that holds the light sauce.

The portions will satisfy any appetite. After indulgence such as the aforementioned, it's hard to imagine how an ice cream sandwich, apple pie or shake could be added - but the option exists, as does a weekend breakfast.

MAC N' MORE, 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 9323 Martin Way, Lacey, 360.455.3290

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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Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

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Recent Comments

Budi Sdk said:

A very interesting article, to add insight can be read at


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Thank you for the list of restaurants to try out. I will have to try their Mac and Cheese....

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Any Spring beers?

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Amazing blog and very interesting stuff you got here! I definitely learned a lot from reading...

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