Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Icon-ic, indeed!

Icon Grill's mac 'n' cheese is touted by many as one of the best in town. It seemed like an ideal way to begin our quest. I've had it a handful of times and have never been disappointed. Eventually, we'll have to make it to the Icon's sister retaurant, Zephyr Grill. We'll be able to see if the recipe differs at all as you venture down I5 to Kent Station.

What I like about Icon Grill's preparation is that they keep it simple. It's made with elbow macaroni and good cheese. It doesn't have shitake mushrooms or lobster added. And, while I can't wait to venture out and try these interesting varieties - Icon truly honors a traditional recipe. It's baked to perfection - giving it a nice crust. The tomato and basil, both served fresh on top, add just a little extra pizzaz to the dish.

An added bonus - I love to play with my food. The molten cheese served on the side gives this dish unique interactivity.

All in all, there's a reason this mac 'n' cheese is hailed as one of the best in town!

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being creamy and 10 being cheesey - I give this a 7. But I don't like it too cheesey - so that's perfect for me!

Noelle's grade: A

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


"Mmmm... WHAT is that SMELL?" a co-worker and one the students asked as I heated up my lunch today. That, my friends, was the leftovers from last night's dinner. The two mac-n-cheese connoisseurs finally made it to our first tasting. Noelle suggested the Icon Grill. We ordered two glasses of a taut pinot noir and the Icon's mac-n-cheese ($12.95). It arrived steaming hot and beautifully mounded, a pile of pasta and cheese topped with cheery tomatoes and festive basil. A small carafe of molten cheese sat to the side. Noelle demonstrated the way a previous server had cut an X into the top of the dish and poured the melted cheese inside. We giddily snapped pictures and posed our meals for the camera before, at last, diving in.

Ahhhh... Straight up, no foolin', comfort food mac-n-cheese. No frou frou Gruyere. No truffle bits. Just a big warm heapin' helpin' of elbow macaroni and cheese sauce. The additional molten cheese helped the dish seem even more homemade. The tomatoes and basil added unexpected yet utterly pleasing and natural flavor. The enormous portion left each of us with enough for another meal, bringing the per portion cost down to a reasonable (but not Kraft blue box) $6.50. Surrounded by the Icon's plush bar and beautiful Christmas decorations, the mac-n-cheese brought welcome warmth on a rainy December night. The service was cursory, even after the evening rush subsided. But the mac-n-cheese is worth returning for.

Susanna's grade: A

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Home-made-iest

This blog really was supposed be about taste testing mac-n-cheese that OTHER people had made, a chance for two friends who have a shared low-brow passion to dig deep into the nouveau comfort food movement and report back. One of the reasons that we're friends, however, is that we're both active, passionate, engaged people. And have we actually gone out and, together, done any of the aforementioned tasting? No. Too busy. Sad sad sad.

That said, the world of mac-n-cheese waits for no one. I made a batch last night, a combination of 'ultimate pot luck' dish for a friend's birthday and comfort food for a neighbor who just suffered a second trimester miscarriage. I searched online for a good recipe (hello, Food Network-- if a mac-n-cheese recipe has more than 10 ingredients, you might be overthinking things). What I found will now enter my repertoire.

Also, what did we ever do before pre-shredded cheese? It's one of those stupid luxuries that I am such a fan of that I don't even think twice about forking over $3.00 for a two cup package.


Susanna's Favorite So Far Mac-n-Cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2 cups macaroni
2 cups whole milk (don't even think about shaving calories with 2%, 1% or, horrors, skim)
4 Tbs flour
4 Tbs butter, melted
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp garlic
2 cups + grated sharp cheddar cheese
dry bread crumbs, soaked in melted butter

Cook the macaroni to al dente, drain.

Make a roux with the melted butter, flour and milk (that is, mix them together in equal parts until they form a smooth paste)

Add in the salt, pepper and mustard.

Add in the grated cheese. Mix until smooth.

Return macaroni to the pot you boiled it in. Mix in the cheese sauce. Transfer to an oven-proof casserole dish.

Top with bread crumbs. Bake for
15 minutes. Enjoy with salad ('cause you need something healthy in there).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

To start things off...

Susanna and Noelle have been busy, busy ladies this summer. But don't worry! In the coming fall months, as the weather begins to cool and the days grow shorter - we will be talking about mac 'n' cheese at great length.

To tide you over, Citizen Rain just brought this to my attention. Someone over at the PI just published the recipe for Beecher's Mac 'n' Cheese. I think I may have to try this... stat!


6 ounces penne pasta
2 cups Beecher's Flagship Sauce (recipe follows)
1 ounce cheddar, grated ( 1/4 cup)
1 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated ( 1/4 cup)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil or butter an 8-inch baking dish.

Cook the penne 2 minutes less than package directions. (It will finish cooking in the oven.) Rinse pasta in cold water and set aside.

Combine cooked pasta and Flagship Sauce in a medium bowl and mix carefully but thoroughly. Scrape the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the cheeses and then the chile powder. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

NOTE: If you double the recipe to make a main dish, bake in a 9-by-13-inch pan for 30 minutes.


1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
14 ounces semihard cheese, such as Beecher's Flagship, grated (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 ounces grated semisoft cheese, such as Beecher's Just Jack
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking and cooking for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, salt, chile powder and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to three days.

NOTE: A single batch of sauce makes enough for a double recipe of macaroni and cheese.