Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Cheesiest Resurrection

It's been more than two years of silence, but I'm sure y'all are still out there, eating mac and cheese in Seattle, and wondering "where else in Seattle can I find great mac and cheese?" Well wonder no longer, because the answer is "in your own kitchen!"

Many of you may remember our review of Icon Grill's Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese. Many of you may know that they now offer a "Hog Wild Mac n'Chz" and a Fried Macaroni & Cheese appetizer, in addition to the original. What you may not know is... I hold in my hands the recipe to this... iconic dish. Yes that's right. Who's got the Ultimate Recipe? This gal!

Yes, it turns out Icon Grill was featured on "KCTS 9 Chefs" in 2004. You even see a certificate stating this upon entering the restaurant. And it just so happens that KCTS 9 is my employer. So I have access to all the recipes they feature on the show and in the cookbook. And I shall now bestow this recipe unto you.

Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese with Molten Cheese Sauce

serves 4 to 6

Macaroni and Cheese Sauce Base

2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup milk
1 pinch dry mustard
2 tablespoons flour
1 splash Tabasco, optional
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepot over medium-high heat. Add flour and mix until flour is incorporated into butter. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add milk and chicken broth and continue to cook until sauce is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and season with mustard, Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Allow to cool before using.


1 cup fresh bread crumbs (either buy them or remove the crust from some old bread and chop fine in a food processor)
1/4 pound fine grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon seasoning salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Macaroni and Cheese Mix

1 pound macaroni
4 Roma tomatoes, diced fine
3/4 pound sharp yellow cheddar cheese
24 1-inch cubes Velveeta (yeah, that's right, Velveeta)
1/2 pound Gruyère cheese
1/2 pound extra sharp white cheddar cheese

Cook macaroni in salted water, drain and rinse with cold water. Place tomatoes and cheeses in a large mixing bowl. Add three-fourths of the macaroni and 2 1/2 cups of the cheese sauce base. Mix thoroughly. Place the mix evenly into 4 small casserole dishes or 1 large one. Sprinkle with topping and bake in a 400-degree oven until hot and bubbly. Make sure to serve with lots of Molten Cheese Sauce.

Molten Cheese Sauce

8 1-inch cubes Velveeta (there it is again!)
1/4 pound sharp yellow cheddar cheese

Take the remaining sauce base after the macaroni and cheese is assembled and warm over a medium burner in a small saucepan. When warm, add cheese and cook until melted. Season as necessary.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Watertown Coffee

I live in a neighborhood that is rich in Ethiopian restaurants-- I have something like six to choose from in a three block radius-- but lacking in other options. I'm not an Ethiopian fan (no mac-n-cheese, to start with) so I've just accepted that while I love where I live, I'm not going to spend a lot of time hanging out in my 'hood.

That all changed when Watertown Coffee (550 12th Ave) opened its doors.

The first time I visited, I noticed that they served "Po Boys"-- PBR with a shot of whiskey-- in addition to excellent Vivace coffee. I took note, because the other thing we're lacking are bars that are not inside Ethiopian restaurants.

The second time I visited, this past Sunday morning, I glanced at the menu to see what the coffee options were and saw MAC-N-CHEESE. Now, whenever I see mac-n-cheese on a menu, I'm pretty much duty sworn to order it. Never mind that it was 10:30 on a Sunday morning. Mac-n-cheese was on the menu.

It arrived on a beautiful cobalt blue plate, with a side of garlic toast. Creamy delicious goodness. Big elbow mac. Smooth Tillamook cheese sauce. Topped with bread crumbs. Perfectly seasoned. $7. That's right, $7. Instant favorite.

Watertown Coffee, I hereby proclaim you The Best Mac-N-Cheese (thus far) in Seattle. Or anywhere, actually. Spread the word. (Their pumpkin soup is outrageous, too, and their veggie chili. And they have a fantastic warm rum & egg nog drink with whipped cream that will make you wish it was November all year. Seriously, go.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Louisa's with Deb

Deb forwarded me an email from Thrillist last week.  Specifically, this one mentioned Louisa's new fall menu.  Funny, I'd gotten the same email, but might have skimmed right past the Macaroni and Cheese!Cheese!Cheese! part.  But Deb and I work in the same neighborhood and have been talking about getting together after work for... well... ages!  We're both fairly busy ladies, what can I say?  But she knows I love mac 'n' cheese.

The irony is that neither of us was actually working in SLU that day.  She was working from home and I have Fridays off.  Either way we decided to have an early dinner at Louisa's.  Mostly, of course, for the mac 'n' cheese.

I've been to Louisa's just once before.  I grabbed a sandwich there back in the pre-Whole Foods days of the neighborhood.  Louisa's bakes their own bread in house, so a sandwich is a good way to go there.

Susanna recently had lunch at Louisa's, and of course, she had the mac 'n' cheese.  It was not her best experience.  But I had high hopes for this new fall menu of theirs.  No idea if it was the same mac 'n' cheese that Susanna had or not.

It was listed first on the menu.

From the menu

The description is well done.  Enticing.  Informational.  Exciting!Punctuation!Added!to!the!name!

So, we each ordered a serving.  Deb also had a lovely salad.

Deb's salad

Then came the main course.

Mmmm... Paprika

It was a nice consistency of cheese sauce.  It came out directly from the oven.

Louisa's Mac 'n' Cheese!Cheese!Cheese!

I liked it, I really did.  But, I would have preferred the noodles a little more al dente.  I also felt the paprika was under used.  I like a little kick of flavor in my mac.  Garlic, onions, mustard, cayenne, chili flakes, chipotle chili powder, liquid smoke, BACON.  But all of these things can get lost in the starchy, creamy nature of macaroni and cheese.  Less is often more, but in the case of macaroni and cheese, I think it's important to make sure you have enough.

I did appreciate that the edges had baked to a nice, crumbly, melt in your mouth crispiness.

And obviously, we had no problem finishing the food.

Finishing every bite

From the moment we stepped into Louisa's, we smelled cinnamon rolls baking.  Since Louisa's is a bakery, I knew I had to have dessert.  I had a lovely peach cobbler.  The crust was divine.

Peach cobbler

Louisa's carries lovely wines and some jazz musicians were setting up right as we were leaving. This macaroni and cheese may not make my mental list of favorites, but it was a nice dinner with a dear friend.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Latona Pub

Once you put the word out that you love mac 'n' cheese, you don't really have to search for it any longer. The mac 'n' cheese finds you.

A good friend recently organized a costumed pub run. The concept was simple. Wear silly costumes on a Saturday afternoon and run (relatively short distances) between the various locations. I had a work event earlier in the evening and decided not to do the costume thing - mostly because I didn't want to go home to change.

We met up with the group at Latona in Wallingford. Totally one of those places I've driven by a million times, but had never been in. Or if I had, it was long, long ago. The group was sitting and standing on the little sidewalk seating area. I'd already eaten, so I just had beer. Great tap selection.

It was fun meeting some new people and seeing the creativity behind people's costumes and silly accessories. And then, I met Kerstin.

She had ordered none other than Latona's mac 'n' cheese. The description on the menu reads:

Penne noodles tossed in a white cheddar and provolone sauce
baked with fresh herbs and parmesan served with baguette and
mixed greens...ask about nightly additions. $12.95

How about bacon and mushrooms as the additions for this particular night?

I think yes.

A girl after my own heart!

She graciously offered me a bite and it truly was delish. I'm excited to go back and try it another time with other additions. This is brilliant marketing, truly. I remember Mother's in Portland doing the same thing. And Lunchbox Laboratory does mac 'n' cheese du jour as well.

Now, let's take all take a serious moment for the beauty of macaroni and cheese.

I'm excited to try the truffle mac 'n' cheese sometime! A little trip up to Edmonds is in order soon.

And I'm also hoping to have a mac 'n' cheese tasting party this fall sometime. Details still totally TBD, but how beautiful would that be??

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Captain Blacks

Captain Blacks sits quietly next to Half Price Books on Belmont Ave on Capitol Hill. I walked up to meet Susanna and her Granfran. It took a moment to locate it. On a quiet weekday evening at 8:00, you could blink and miss it. It's a cozy little spot with two enormous decks - one in front, one in back. The interior is warm - wood, soft lighting. The back deck has a spectacular view west. It beckoned us to sit there. We were able to gaze gently at the sun playing peak-a-boo behind a marine layer, and ivy growing up a brick building nearby.


We started with a bottle of bubbly. Sigura Viduras runs $30 ($7/glass), perfect for the three of us to split. The waitress brought it out in a Corona ice bucket.


She apologized for not having stemware. In our shared opinion, the little tumblers fit in perfectly with the atmosphere.


There was a coolness in the air as we waited for the main event - a white cheddar side of macaroni and cheese for $6. Of course, these adventures are often more about the company and the conversation than the mac 'n' cheese. Susanna's Granfran is simply delightful.


Inspirational. Meeting her is knowing Susanna on a deeper level. We talked about books, love, life, careers, ambitions, food, land, travel, holidays - the kind of conversation the flows effortlessly and is interspersed with laughter.

The mac 'n' cheese itself was perfect. Fresh out of the oven. Mine was literally still bubbling! Thank goodness for the cool bubbly to wash it down. Mine also, for whatever reason, had lots of bacon in it. But Granfran and Susanna's did not. Odd? Perhaps. Or maybe the cook was just psychic and knew I would adore the savory surprise. I do love some bacon.


Traditional elbow macaroni. Cheesy, but not overly so. Perfect portion and price. Served hot. Garnished lightly.

As lovers of cheese, we also split one order of Beecher's deep fried cheese curds. I'd have them again, although prefer them in their uncooked state. Cooked, the consistency reminded me of mozzarella. The batter they used was super garlicky too. This would be a welcome snack after a long night of drinking.


Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Captain Blacks and would happily go back. It's in a great location and might have some of the coolest decks in the city. I'm excited to try other items on their menu as well.

More pictures can be found here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Slo Joe's

When I first started working in South Lake Union, there was no Whole Foods. There was no Tutta Bella. No Seastar. No Portage Bay. No Quiznos or Northwest Soups. There was Slo Joe's. And so we had a lot of Slo Joe's.

I've been returning to their mac 'n' cheese for about 4 years now. Sometimes I get a small side. Sometimes I just get a large and call it lunch (or two lunches.)

My parents came into town for lunch last Friday. Knowing my Dad can't handle walking very far, and not wanting to deal with driving or parking anywhere - we made the journey to Slo Joe's. My Dad really seemed to enjoy his pulled pork BBQ sandwich as it was easy for him to chew.

Here's my side of mac 'n' cheese:

Slo Joe's

I'm not exactly sure what goes into Slo Joe's macaroni and cheese. It has a nice little kick to it. It's just spicy enough. The consistency reminds me a little bit of Velveeta, but in a good way. It's filling and comforting, just like it's supposed to be.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Main Street Alehouse, Bothell

There's a reason they call it comfort food. Comfort food is often a warm dish, full of carbs and fat and love. It conjures up memories of home and childhood, family and friends, not to mention holidays and long weekends. Comfort food fills, calms and soothes.

So macaroni and cheese is a perfect food to consume when surrounded by grief. My Aunt Delphine passed away last week. She was 83 and lead a truly amazing, grace-filled life. This weekend was a whirlwind of precious time with family, celebrating her.

On Thursday, after the viewing, family gathered at a nearby alehouse in Bothell. I don't make it up to Bothell often, but was impressed right away. My kind of spot. The Main Street Alehouse has a fantastic tap selection, a menu full of comforting pub grub, several large screens to watch the game, and they graciously accommodated our large party. I can't remember the final count, but our group was in the mid-high teens.

The best surprise was the bowls of warm potato chips, house-made. I can easily pass up a bowl of Lays, and most of the time even Tim's Cascade doesn't quite do it for me. But these were little slices of calorie-laden heaven. Betcha can't eat just one? More like betcha can't stop eating them at all. So good!

My mom noted the mac 'n' cheese on the menu, and my cousin Wayne and I waxed poetic about it's culinary goodness. I briefly explained this blog and our passion for this dish. I had a soccer game later in the evening, so stuck with a half-order and a few bites of my Mom's house salad with fresh vinaigrette. The half order was plenty. I liked the choice of penne as the pasta itself. The cheddar cheese was classic - a good cheesy sauce. And the pieces of bacon gave just that extra bit of smokey goodness - I had no problem finishing the whole bowl. And still felt fine running around the soccer field an hour and half later.


The Main Street Alehouse is a fantastic restaurant. Definitely worth a trip outside Seattle city-limits for this one!