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.