Winter is coming.
You think it’s scary when someone in Westeros utters those words? They take on a more brutal meaning when said by a Chicagoan. However, the change of seasons becomes more tolerable thanks to the comfort food available at Mac and Cheese Fest. The event (where I’ll be a judge for the dinner portion) returns to the UIC Forum on Saturday, November 5, 2016, with two different sessions and 50 restaurants participating in each.
The annual fest, now in its third year, continues to grow and showcase a variety of options that reflect the evolving tastebuds of The Windy City. I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned cheese and cream dish, but below are some of the can’t miss vendors with creative takes on a tried and true staple.
The newly opened Il Tavolino is offering a ‘Bad to the Bone Mac’ (perfect for people who love to photograph their food thanks to its clever presentation). The elbow mac is made with bone marrow, pepperoni and soppresata sauce, which is melded together with a smoked cheddar and mozzarella cheese sauce. The fun doesn’t stop there. It is then topped with baby arugula and focaccia rosemary bed crumbs, and served in bone marrow. This dish is not available at the restaurant, the only way to sample it is at the fest.
Public House: The Fried Mac & Cheese Balls will be a specialty item made at the fest highlighting Public House's already popular ‘Multiple Choice Mac N' Cheese.’ The dish consists of a rotini pasta blended with an assortment of cheeses including American, sharp and white cheddar fried to perfection. Then, the fried balls are drizzled with a white cheddar truffle sauce to give an even cheesier flavor.
Filini is serving up one of the most rare takes on mac and cheese with a blueberry mascarpone creation from Pastry Chef Caroline Kolaja. The sweet treat is made up of a rosemary pine nut streusel and lemon crisp puff. If you can’t make the festival, the delicious delight is on special at the restaurant from November 3-5, 2016.
Sunda's Szechuan mac and cheese sticks to the restaurant’s Asian Fusion roots with chow fun noodles, wagyu beef, water chestnuts, mushrooms and scallions. The dish is specially made for the fest and will not be available anywhere else.
AMK: The 2015 Lunch Winner of Mac & Cheese Fest is back with a savory blend of jalapeño, a bacon crust and five cheeses (asiago, provolone, gouda, fontina and havarti). The best part? It’s available year round.
Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap will show off its "Walking Taco" mac. The dish is a combination of slow-smoked pulled pork on top and its house made mac and cheese. Which is then finished off with sour cream, tomato, fresh jalapeño, green onion and fire roasted salsa served in a corn chip bag. Starting November 1, 2016, the unique twist on mac and cheese will be offered at the restaurant, as well as the festival.
Morton’s Steakhouse mac and cheese is made with cavatappi noodles, tossed with applewood smoked bacon in a rich cheese sauce. The sauce is four-cheese blend of sharp cheddar, parmesan, swiss and cream cheese along with finely minced onion. The creamy delight is topped with cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs which is then baked until golden brown and bubbly.
The Hampton Social: The Montauk Mac comes with lobster, smoked cheddar sauce, garganelli pasta and swiss chard.