Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wild Mountain Cafe

Yesterday, Susanna and Noelle made a much needed post-election appointment to dish over our new President-Elect Obama and eat macaroni and cheese. It was necessary. It had been too long since we'd had a formal macaroni and cheese date. At noon on a Saturday, we needed something that would be on a brunch or lunch menu. And we found 8am Mac N Cheese:

8am Mac 'n Cheese ~ Holy cheese in Heaven, Batman! We’re pretty sure they’d serve this stuff in the hereafter, or at least in the trailer park I grew up in. Our 4 cheese blend is an ooey, gooey extravaganza known to increase your desire to…take up the harp! Or get a satellite dish. Comes with grilled organic country bread... $7.75

Love from both of us over Mac and Cheese on a breakfast menu! We walked into the little house, greeted by a friendly wait staff, eager to order.

Wild Mountain Cafe has character. Integrity. It's recycled space. Recycled dishware, flatware, and charm. It feels like home, and as Susanna pointed out, you can still feel the energy of the past residents.

Before we even had a chance to sit down, we were offered coffee. Both of us said yes. The coffee was deliciously strong, cut nicely with a little cream. I don't normally pair coffee with my mac 'n' cheese (my personal preference is usually red wine) - but it was a nice combination. Perfect for rehashing our election-week giddiness.

The macaroni and cheese at Wild Mountain Cafe is classic. Elbow macaroni. Four cheeses. A nice hint of garlicy goodness. The portion is good for 2-3 meals. It's rich and decadent (as all good mac 'n' cheese should be!). It reheats well. This is partly due to its consistency - they've mastered making the cheese sauce creamy.

No add-ons - this is a classic dish served well. Can't wait to go back and try something else on their menu. If their preparation of mac 'n' cheese is an indicator, it's sure to be tasty!

Monday, July 28, 2008


This one I did on my own. Noelle and I have started to realize that mac finds us. First, our friends all know that we're doing this blog so they feed us new places to check out all the time. But we're also attuned now, so whenever and wherever I eat out, the first thing I do is scan the menu for mac-n-cheese. Whym, the new 24 hour diner on Denny and 1st that replaced Minnie's, was just such a place. I met my friend, Ed, for lunch and politics. Mac-n-cheese was on the menu. $10. I ordered it.

I'm starting to realize that there is a mac-onomy (if you will forgive the neologism), families of mac-n-cheese. For instance, there is the NOLA style of baked spaghetti noodles in a faint cheese custard (found in Turkey, as well). There is the homestyle, ooey gooey mac-n-cheese, which is surprisingly elusive. There is the pasta in a cheese sauce that somehow doesn't equal mac-n-cheese. And there is the penne in a ceramic baking dish with a thin cheese sauce topped by chopped tomatoes, as at Crave and Whym.

Whym's version was distinctive in its intense garlicky overtones. In fact, I was more conscious of the garlic than the mac-n-cheese with this dish. The portion was a little small. It came with cheese topped foccaccia, which felt like a lot of carbs for one dish. (Sometimes I wish a side salad would automatically come with all mac.) If you love garlic, check it out, but I think it's safe to say I'm not a fan. Next time I'll try the burger.


Noelle and I talked tonight about how behind we are on our postings and it really is now or never when it comes to the tasting reviews. So, now it is.

We went to Twist on 1st and Bell tonight. They have a generous happy hour from 4 - 11 p.m. Sunday - Thursday. $2.50 house wines, $5 martinis, $2.50 small bites like really good chicken potstickers, and $5 for a human sized portion of crab mac-n-cheese.

1. Description: ribbed elbow pasta, melted shredded cheese topping, creamy sauce.

2. Portion size: Good. A little small, perhaps, but not overwhelming and I (with probably the smaller appetite of the two of us) was pretty satisfied once I let it settle.

3. Taste: I wasn't wowed. It tasted like pasta and cheese sauce. I couldn't discern any crab but Lorraine, who was guest tasting, said she did. It was good, with a nice pepper kick-back, but would have benefited from a touch of salt (none to be found on the table). All in all, I didn't find that it melded together into that magical alchemy of mac-n-cheese.

Still, Twist is a screaming deal and the hallway tables were lovely. I'd definitely go again... but I'd probably go with the chicken potstickers and the banana split.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Taking it International

I just returned from a marvelous two week trip to Turkey. Fantastic experience. I have never felt so welcomed or taken care of. Beautiful textures and colors everywhere. I loved being in such a different culture.

But that's not the important part. No. I am a mac-n-cheese huntress. I doubted that Turkey, home of the doner kebab and endless tomato and cucumber salads, would have mac-n-cheese, but I was duty bound to explore the possibility. Lo and behold...

Turkish mac-n-cheese. A.K.A. firinda makarna

Stylistically, it's strangely NOLA like-- noodles baked into a casserole with a bland egg /cheese sauce. Like many things in Turkey, it had parsley and onion. It also had a hint of spice, which, according to the recipes I'm looking up online now, is nutmeg. Unfortunately, I only got to try it once at a cafeteria style restaurant on Istiklal Caddesi, so I have no comparison, but the other versions I saw looked similar. Wherever you go, there it is. Mac-n-cheese, bringing the world together through a shared language of pasta and cheese.

(Apologies for the lousy photos. I dropped my gorgeous camera in the Mediterranean and was stuck with a disposable film camera for the rest of my trip.)

Mea Culpa

Noelle and I have been eating mac-n-cheese. Promise. We're at least three experiences behind on our posting (it IS July, after all...), but it's been busy what with boyfriends (her, mostly) and travel (me, mostly) and job drama (both of us to varying degrees). By August, I will have posted what I have.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Best Part

Julie and I are in the beginning stages of a friendship. We met volunteering in Lewis County on flood mud clean up. We met for drinks. We went out again two weeks ago and had a fantastic time at a bar, chatting up a married guy and a cute bartender. We had SO much fun that we decided to do it again tonight. Only, I've been wholly work focused this week and she's maybe dating someone now. Also, the bar we'd gone to before was horribly yuppie tonight. And the cute bartender was morose because he broken up with his girlfriend (of two and a half years) two days ago (huh-- didn't know he HAD a girlfriend). We bailed on the first bar and went to a second, more blue collar bar. The Lock and Keel. We found an empty (we thought) booth, only to be joined shortly thereafter by middle aged guys who were returning from a smoke. The drunker, single one stayed and sat next to me, persistently chatting us up. I lied and said we were Canadian. It was bad.

Luckily, we looked at the menu. There was mac-n-cheese. Not all was lost. The description was spare-- Grandma Smokey's mac-n-cheese with a crispy topping. $6. Bring it on. Creamy, processed cheese sauce. Elbow mac. FRIED ONION TOPPING. Oh heavenly goodness. I shared it with Julie but yeah, I wanted my own. Next time. I will also bring my camera on the next outing. But, Lock-n-Keel. Ballard Ave. Good mac-n-cheese. Even late. Far better than drunk old guys. Who knew?

Monday, March 24, 2008

The 5 Spot - Route 66

On Valentine's Day, I had dinner at the 5 Spot to help celebrate a friend's birthday. Sharing your special day with a Hallmark holiday has to be a challenge, so I was happy to bring J some soup and Emergen-C (he had that nasty bug that was going around, and still is), play the holiday low-key, and have some good time with the girls as an alternative.

I had a nice personal ulterior motive as well. On a chilly walk with K to get her car in Belltown (left in a lot after a big party), we slowed and glanced at the rotating menu. Always posted nicely in the window, their mac 'n' cheese, once again, caught my eye. I know. How predictable. So I knew what I was going to get before I even sat down for our meal.

It should be noted that the 5 Spot has a nice, simple mac 'n' cheese all the time during their late happy hour. I believe it goes for $5. They also have $1 PBR on draft. In fact, I recall the night I met J I had this exact combination. It's a good standard version. And at that price, one that Susanna and I should make a point to review soon! And, dare I say, frequently? Can you review something more than once?

I didn't take a picture of the menu this time and I should have. Since the menu rotates, I can't find their "official description" anywhere. And since I'm a little late to post about my experience, I can't recall all of the subtle nuances.

I can tell you that it came with broccoli. Mac 'n' cheese is a rich dish, so the addition of vegetables is always welcome. It makes it feel a little more like a complete meal, and not just a complete indulgence. Although, I love it, so perhaps it is always an indulgence.


Traditional elbow macaroni - not a necessity, but nice on occasion. There was a little blue cheese added to it. Potential for a disaster in too-much-flavor, it wasn't overpowering at all.

On portion control - it was a two-dish for me. It tasted so good I remember thinking to myself that I might finish it. But it was a lot of food. And it reheated nicely the next day.


(I really want a nicer camera!)

As the 5 Spot rotates through similar themes often, I'd definitely recommend this particular dish on future visits to Route 66. It may still be available (for a limited time!) - but I can't guarantee it.

Pyramid Alehouse

On Monday, February 18, J and I participated in a Brewer For a Day at Pyramid Brewery, near Safeco Field. The overall day aside (not the time or place), we had lunch at the brewery and I saw "Mac's 'n cheese" on the menu, so I had to partake.

I worked one summer for Thomas Kemper and at one point knew their menu very well. But it had been a few years and this was a new addition.

First, the description:


I enjoyed the pepper flakes and the ham, although overall the dish was a little too salty. And I typically like salty things. I think the ham is what did it.

The dish:


On portion control - this was definitely two meals for me. I started with a salad, which always makes the meal that much more filling. But this preparation was so rich, it required a lighter side.

It was baked and crusty.

I like Pyramid overall. They have pretty standard fare and I think they reflect Seattle culture nicely for the touristy crowd that comes through for ballgames and to experience a good craft beer. But I think they're trying to find themselves a little bit. Most of their beer is now brewed at Portland Brewing.

I like their beer. I like their food. But I don't love them. Nothing makes me want to go back time and again for more. I'm slightly disenchanted, although I look forward to their continued success in craft brewing - and maybe one day they'll perfect this Mac's 'n Cheese dish and I'll go back to experience it again.

Geraldine's Counter - Noelle's take

I don't want to be redundant - Susanna's description of our lunch on Friday is very thorough. Also, for the time being, when we have a shared adventure, she will be our designated photographer. Her new camera is too cool. My silly little Samsung won't do these dishes the same justice.

Just a few things to add to her post...

Here is their official menu description of the mac 'n' cheese:

Macaroni And Cheese
We guarantee this to be best-of-class. Not entirely typical–and all the better for it, we think–it blends four cheeses, garlic, chopped tomato, a few jalapenos, cream and magic spices. Once you’ve had our Mac, you can’t go back! 8.00

The tomato and jalapenos define it. If you'd asked me to describe it later, I might have thought there were some bell peppers in it too, but that was just my imagination.

I will also note that it is a baked dish, but it isn't overly crusty on top. At least the day we were there. I liked the way the cheese on top formed a thick layer, without crusting over. You could easily mix the cheesy layer into the dish and you wouldn't even know it was baked. It wasn't loaded with bread crumbs or potato chips either.

The dish wasn't overwhelming as far as portion control. I hadn't had breakfast (which is very unlike me, but it was a lazy morning, what can I say?) so I had a bit of an appetite. I was able to eat it all and not feel stuffed. Despite the wonderful cheesiness, it didn't sit too heavy.

I'm excited to go back to Geraldine's Counter again - sooner than later! I love those few blocks of Columbia City. They have so much character. Plus it leads to fantastic discussions on gentrification.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Geraldine's Counter

Noelle and I met at Geraldine's Counter in charming Columbia City. The sun was out, our afternoon was wide open, and we had mac-n-cheese on the brain. While we waited for our order to arrive, we waxed philosophical about the many a splendored thing that is mac-n-cheese. So varied (spaghetti noodles, rigatoni, elbow, fusili, creamy, dry, processed, edgy, creamy, soupy, melty...) and yet "they're all SO GOOD!" Noelle exclaimed. Can you name one other food that is so diversely wonderful? I can't.

Our Geraldine's mac was different yet again. Noelle said that it was like chili mac minus the chili. Soupy creamy sauce topped with melted cheese. Diced red peppers. A kick of jalapeno.
Like a burrito without the tortilla, beans and rice. Just the right amount. Warm and satisfying and, somehow, sunny. Thumbs up. (Next time I go to Geraldine's, however, I'm either getting breakfast or chicken pot pie... everything on that menu looks tasty.)

A side note...The mac-n-cheese was good, but our conversation was equally satisfying. We talked about friendships and community and bowling alleys and serving on boards and our volunteer work. I love sharing this mac-n-cheese adventure with Noelle and I'm glad that it is allowing us to become better friends. There's more than just cheesy goodness here!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mac in a Hurry

I went on a fantastic walk today-- 4 1/2 miles along Lake Washington, up the Mt. Baker bluffs, along the ridge, down through Madrona and back. I walked for about three hours (there was a long chat with a border collie owner in there). When I finally got home, I was famished and I had mac-n-cheese on the brain. No boxed stuff in the house (I really am trying to cut back...). What's a girl to do? IMPROVISE! This is not a recipe, per se, because I just threw it together, but the guidelines should work.

Mac-n-Cheese in a Hurry

Serves one

1 cup macaroni pasta
packaged shredded medium cheddar

Boil the pasta.

Make a roux (that is, melt the butter and mix in flour until it's thick).

Add milk until smooth.

Add cheese.

Add salt to taste.

Add pasta to sauce.

Ta-DAH! I can see this as a weeknight go-to meal when I have a family.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Best in the West (5)

I have heard about West 5's mac-n-cheese from various people, but I'm not one to believe the hype without tasting it first. When the opportunity arose this afternoon to go to West 5 with my co-workers, I barely had to look at the menu. Wish I'd thought to bring my digital camera... (what with the Barack Obama rally earlier in the day, it was a thoroughly recordable series of events). Radiatori pasta in the best cheese sauce I've ever had, encrusted with bread crumbs. YUM. The large was $10.95 and worth every single penny. The hype don't lie. Can't wait to go back!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Great N'awlins Mac-n-Cheese Adventure

Noelle and I spent last week volunteering with Hands On New Orleans. It was the first Cheesiest road trip. We said to ourselves, "New Orleans is in the South. Mac-n-cheese is a Southern specialty. We will have to find the best mac-n-cheese in New Orleans while we are on this trip." Ah, innocence...

First lesson learned: New Orleans is not the South. New Orleans is a different universe.

Second lesson learned: When searching for mac-n-cheese in New Orleans, you want to look for "baked macaroni".

Once that was established, I hit up Google and found that Verti Marte (1201 Royal Street, in the French Quarter) got several mentions.
It was also on the list of must-eat places we were given by a New Orleanian we met in Seattle. When we asked around for word-on-the-street recommendations, we were directed to VooDoo BBQ, a New Orleans franchise. With addresses in hand, Noelle and I (joined by Erin and Nora, two of our fellow Seattle Works volunteers) found a taxi and the Great N'awlins Mac-n-Cheese Adventure was on.

We started at Verti Marte. It's a hole-in-the-wall deli (and I mean that in the best way possible), in the tourist-free part of the Quarter. The kind of place you know and love if you're a local but outsiders would never look at twice. We were a little unsure how to open the door, leading us to wonder if it was open. Once inside, we made our way through cramped aisles to the deli counter at the back. We giggled and took pictures, to the amusement (we hope) of the staff.

Our order: baked macaroni for five,
a small container of potato salad, and a slice of pecan pie to go. Total? Under $10. We think they threw in an extra portion or two of macaroni, too. Super nice people.

I told the woman who helped us that we were volunteering with Hurricane Katrina clean up. She asked if we did drywalling. "Sure!" I burbled, "We'll do anything..." "I have a friend," she said, "She's older and she needs help drywalling her house. Can you do that? Please?" My heart sank. "We're working with this organization and they arranged projects... You can contact Hands On New Orleans..." But no, we would not be able to help this woman's friend.

Outside, we waited for a cab on the corner. A m
an rode up on a bicycle and asked if the microwave on the curb worked. Next thing we knew, he was singing to us-- first a hymn, which segued beautifully into "(Don't Know Much About) History", and finally "Stand By Me", by which point we had lost our shyness and joined in with him, harmonizing up to the moon.
A neighbor pulled away in her car, thanking the man for the song and singing along. It was a perfect French Quarter moment.

Once in the cab, we headed to Voodoo BBQ on St. Charles. Our order: five servings of mac-n-cheese, one order of potato salad, one serving of bread pudding, and two sweet teas. Total? $25.

Back at the Hands On bunkhouse, we eagerly laid out our feast. The verdict? N'awlins mac-n-cheese is really different from what we were expecting. It's made with spaghetti and American cheese. It's not quite comfort food. It is rather bland and definitely benefits from the addition of salt. (It does not benefit from the addition of hot sauce, an experiment I gladly abandoned later at Serio's. Maybe their muffaleta is better?)

That said, Verti Marte's was easily better than VooDoo's elbow macaroni version or Fiorella's (which friends kindly brought back for us later that night). It was so good that a crew went back on Thursday for lunch, but I wasn't part of that, so I'll let Noelle tell that part when she gets to posting her version of our adventures.

Much love to Verti Marte!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Noelle and I are actually spending a week together in the same place (crazy talk for two such busy ladies). We are volunteering with Hands On New Orleans until January 27th and you'd better believe that we have a mac-n-cheese mission while we are here in the South. Tomorrow night is our appointment with destiny-- venue to be determined.

In the meantime, I want to remember this recipe:

Charlotte’s N’awlins Mac ‘n Cheese

4 cups cooked spaghetti noodles, drained

2 cups grated cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Once you have the spaghetti cooked and drained, place in a large bowl and while still hot and add the cheddar. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni mixture. Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Top with additional cheese if desired. (yes, definitely desired!!)