Tag Archive | Macaroni & Cheese

Four-Course Menu with Cocktail Pairings by Top Chef’s Carla Hall

Carla Hall Looking Cute
Chef Carla Hall

It is no secret that eating and watching television are two of my favorite things to do in the world. And considering the fact that one of my favorite shows of all time is Bravo’s Top Chef, it did not take much prodding to get me to purchase tickets to attend former Top Chef contestant Carla Hall’s Pop Up Restaurant/dinner event at David Burke’s In The Box restaurant at Bloomingdale’s. Tickets to this event were offered, at what most people would consider to be kind of a steep price, through the Living Social website, but the expense proved to be so very worth it. Because Carla’s food is just insane!

It was especially fun to be joined for this spectacular culinary evening by my good friend Diane (a.k.a.”Diaaahhne!”), as she is also a fellow Top Chef fan and especially a fan of Carla’s. Following are photos and brief descriptions of the food we ate, which you will notice get progressively blurrier as the evening wears on, due to the unique cocktail pairings that accompanied each course, of which I was drinking many. Enjoy!

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche Arancini in Spicy Remoulade
Mini Arancini with Mushroom in a Spicy Remoulade

This tiny rice ball packed a lot of flavor, being perfectly crispy fried, and stuffed with tender rice and a plump mushroom morsel, all nestled on a tiny puddle of spicy remoulade. When we ate this thing, Diane and I agreed that it was the best food we had yet eaten in our lives. Little did we know that we would feel similarly about each piece of food we put in our mouths that evening.

First Course

Mac & Cheese with butter sauce and crispy bacon
Mac & Cheese with Butter Sauce and Crispy Bacon

Carla’s unique take on what she calls “inside out” Mac and Cheese comes off like a cheese stuffed tortellini made of most tender pasta you can imagine. The buttery, savory sauce was further enhanced by crumbles of crispy, salty bacon. I used a spoon to get every drop of the sauce. It was pure heaven. Best thing you ever ate, times two.

15 Ingredient Sangria

The Cocktail pairing for this course was called “15 Ingredient Sangria,” with a medley of 15 ingredients that I believe mostly included fruit and also seltzer to make the sangria effervescent.

Second Course

Hot Chicken Bite With Tomato and Cucumber
Hot Chicken Bite with Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Up next was Carla’s Southern specialty, Hot Chicken Bite, which rivaled my grandmother’s fried chicken for its insanely delicious, super-crispy fried skin. People who have not experienced super-crispy fried chicken skin have really not tasted one of the most delicious things that you can lay upon your tongue. This perfectly succulent fried chicken thigh was set on a tiny square of white bread, because that is how they serve it in the south, and was accented by a spicy hot Tabasco-like pepper sauce for that extra kick. The accompaniment/garnish of chopped fresh tomato and cucumber salad helped to cool the fire. Finger lickin’ good, as they say

Strawberry Margarita By Carla Hall

Accompanying the spicy chicken was a sweet and refreshing Strawberry Margarita with House-Infused Strawberry Tequila. I’m not super crazy about the taste of tequila, but this is fantastic.

Third Course

Meatloaf with Greens, Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Corn
Meat + Three: Carla’s homemade Meatloaf with Collard Greens, Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Corn

You can see that the photos are now in somewhat-less-than perfectly sharp focus, because at this juncture I have had three cocktails within a relatively short period of time. Not to mention, but you can see I am about you, the fact that by now the energy level in the room has kicked up a few notches and people are getting a little crazy over this delicious food. There was a lot of clinking of glasses going on and rampant moaning about how, OMG, this was the best food anyone had ever tasted and how surely we could now be at peace with death after having eaten such a fantastic meal.

Red Wine
Cocktail: Bocelli Sangiovese

Nothing goes with red meat quite like red wine. And you know how I feel about red wine.

Dessert

Banana Pudding with Bruleed Bananas
Banana Pudding with Pecan Shortbread and Bruléed Bananas

You should not be too surprised to hear that I had great difficulty even spooning a few mouths-full of Carla’s delightful banana pudding into my gaping maw after stuffing my face with all of her mind-blowing gourmet dishes and drinking myself into a stupor. I did my best.

Proseco Cocktail with Sangria in Background
Cocktail: Lavender Cooler with House Lavender Syrup, Aloe Juice and Prosecco

Man, what a nice cocktail!

Will Cook for Shoes
Carla’s Apron Says “Will Cook for Shoes”

I forgot to mention that at the start of each course, Carla came out from the kitchen and talked to us about the next dish we would be eating, its inspiration or origin, and how the ingredients worked together to make it super special. Later, as the evening was winding up Carla made sure to stop at every table and talk to each person, to pose for photos and just to be her amazingly cool and talented self. This Pop Up dining event was Carla Hall’s second session of these dinners that she’s held at David Burke, so be on the lookout for her to show up doing something like this again in the future. I do my best to enjoy my life, and to treat myself to nice things when the opportunity arrives to do so. Like I said, it was a pricey evening, but it was one that was worth every penny and an experience I’ll never forget. Carla Hall!

Carla Hall's Dinner Menu with Pumpkin

Tasty Treat of The Day: Cucina Fresca Gourmet Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese Box Smoked Gruyere

Macaroni and Cheese: It is my thing. A couple of months ago I attended the Food Fete press event here in NYC, where I was lucky enough to meet Kristen, the PR representative for Cucina Fresca Gourmet Foods, which operates out of Seattle. I’m excited to report that Kristen hooked The Gig up with a couple of boxes of Cucina Fresca’s frozen Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese! I ate some of it last night for dinner, so I could tell you about it today.

Cucina Fresca Tangy Gorgonzola

I received two different varieties of Mac and Cheese in my shipment: Smoked Gruyere, made with aged Gruyere, Swiss, Fontina, and a touch of lightly smoked Spanish paprika; and Tangy Gorgonzola, made with a mellow Gorgonzola cheese blended with Fontina and a tangy blue cheese. Since I was grilling up a simple burger, I decided that Tangy Gorgonzola would be a complimentary accompaniment. I was so right! This dish has a very homemade taste but is also of the quality that you would get in a nice restaurant. Not only was the cheese sauce tangy, as promised, but it has a smooth and nutty  flavor that gives it a sophisticated edge, while keeping the 100% comfort food vibe. I wanted to eat the entire dish but stopped half way, because I was full and because it was so good I wanted to save some for another meal!

Because this dish is so rich and versatile, it lends itself well to being mixed with a vegetable (broccoli would be ideal) or perhaps some cubed ham left over from another meal or a few strips of crumbled, crispy bacon. Make it fancy! I enjoyed topping a bite of my burger with a spoonful of the tangy, cheesy pasta and pretending I was eating some kind of exotic gourmet burger. Fun!

According to the press materiel I received, Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese dishes are all natural and carefully handmade in small batches. All varieties feature eggless penne pasta accompanied with rich, creamy sauce made with rBST-free milk, fresh cheeses and a touch of whole creamery butter. The secret to the creamy delicious sauce is that it is a roux-based béchamel sauce which the cheese is then melted into. Also, the pasta is cooked al-dente pre-packaging, so that it can finish cooking in your oven and absorb the flavor of the sauce. I am not a fan of hard pasta and this was cooked perfectly: tender but not mushy.

If you are one of those convenience junkies that can’t even figure out how to turn on a conventional over, don’t freak out; you can cook this product in the microwave. It will turn out OK. But let me tell you something as a confessed Foodie who loves convenience but doesn’t even own a microwave (yes, I just typed that): it is so worth it to take a few extra minutes to heat this up the way Mac and Cheese was intended to be cooked, in the oven. Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese goes right from freezer to oven (all you have to do is take it out of the box and remove the plastic lid) and cooks to a bubbling, golden, uber yummy dish of molten cheesy goodness (with the much-desired crispy, browned edges, even) in less than 45 minutes. It is so easy! It is so good!

Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese Four Varieties

Cucina Fresca offers two additional varieties besides the two sent to me: Sharp Cheddar, made with 2 year aged white cheddar; and Creamy Fontina, made with a blend of Fontina, aged Asiago and imported Parmesan cheeses. So cheesy! Each variety of Cucina Fresca Gourmet Mac and Cheese sells for $9.99 for a 20 ounce box that feeds two as a meal, but can be also be served as a side dish (reality check: it says on the box that it serves four, but seriously, who eats 5 ounces of Mac and Cheese and then stops? Answer: no one. Be smart and plan on serving two people, max, with one box of this stuff). Bon Appétit!

Visit Cucina Fresca on the web at find out about their other delicious, natural packaged foods at Cucina Fresca Dot Com.

Manhattan's Truffle Macaroni & Cheese Round Up!

Round Up Logo
Image Source

It is no secret that The Worley Gig is a huge fan of all delicious foods, and we try not to discriminate. But if we had to pick a favorite single food (rather than an entire ethnic cuisine, in which case Mexican FTW!) we would choose Macaroni & Cheese. Because, pasta and cheese baked together, yum. Over the course of the past year’s many restaurant reviewing adventures we have had the pleasure of sampling a current trend in Macaroni & Cheese preparation: the addition of truffles, or truffle oil, which elevates this humble comfort food dish into the culinary stratosphere. In this post we revisit five New York City restaurants featuring a Truffled Macaroni & Cheese dish on their menu. Feel free to pay any of them a visit and tell them we sent you!

Upstairs at The Kimberly Hotel

Truffled Mac & Cheese
All Food Photos By Anne Raso

Midtown Manhattan’s finest east-side rooftop dining experience is found at Upstairs, a swanky open-air cocktail lounge (with awesome nighttime views of the Chrysler Building) located on the Penthouse level of the Kimberly Suites Hotel (145 East 50th Street).  On our first visit last summer, our heartiest mid-week appetite was more than satisfied by an order of rich and fragrant Truffled Macaroni & Cheese ($12), baked en casserole to a golden hue. Simply perfect.  Rating: A

The Meatball Factory

Truffled Mac & Cheese from Meatball Factory

Chef Dave Martin takes credit for starting the Truffled Macaroni & Cheese craze while he was a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef. His signature dish, a Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($11), is among the most popular items on the menu at The Meatball Factory (231 Second Ave at 14th Street). Chef Dave’s secret to achieving such delicious, cheesey-truffly baked goodness involves first cooking the cream base for the sauce until it develops its own “nutty” flavor, then slowly folding in both Fontina and Parmesan cheeses so that ingredients blend perfectly, preventing the sauce from “breaking.” This technique makes for a very creamy sauce and a unique integration of flavors that, when combined with the essence of black truffles, elevates this memorable creation high above “your Mama’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese” status. Rating: A-

Update: Sadly, the Meatball Factory Has Closed as of April 30, 2012.

Bahr Che

Black Truffle Mac & Cheese

At Bahr Che Wine Bar (tucked away at 26 Astor Place) their limited menu is enhanced greatly by the Lobster and Black Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese ($16.00) — one of the heartier choices on a menu punctuated by tiny salads. We especially enjoyed the big chunks of lobster tucked around tendrils of macaroni in a mild cheese sauce, but ultimately the dish called out for either more sharp cheddar cheese or extra seasoning (a few sprinkles of salt, even) to bring out the much desired black truffle essence. Rating: B-

DL

Ludlow Mac and Cheese

One of our favorite new dining spots on the Lower East Side is DL (95 Delancey Street) where they do their Ludlow Mac (Elbow macaroni, with creamy béchamel sauce and cheese) three ways, including a glorious Truffle and Mushroom ($15), version. This is a classically oven-baked dish with a crispy panko crumb topping and plentiful slices of fresh mushroom added, which goes a long way towards enhancing the rich and flavorful truffle oil-infused sauce. Rating: A

Sons Of Essex

SOE Truffle Mac And Cheese

Sons of  Essex is one of no fewer than three restaurants with the word Essex in its name that is also located on Essex Street (in this case, 133 Essex Street, between Stanton and Rivington). Sons of Essex is so enthusiastic about the Macaroni & Cheese trend that its menu even has a separate section dedicated to detailing the various types of Mac & Cheese that SOE serves. In addition to a daily Mac & Cheese special variety, each day of the week you can also get the Truffle Mac N Cheese ($16) made with elbow macaroni, Gruyere and a truffle cheese sauce, baked to achieve the crunchiest golden brown top you could ever ask for. Easily shared between two people, this dish answers the burning question, “What shall we have for an appetizer?” Rating: A+

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ: Get Your Pig On!

Brother Jimmys Restaurant Union Square
“Put Some South in Yo Mouth”

Serving the crossover clientele where avid sports bar enthusiasts meet diehard southern BBQ aficionados, Brother Jimmy’s restaurants continue to maintain fierce customer loyalty while winning over new fans with an innovative approach to menu evolution. From Chicken and Ribs to Brisket and Burgers, the chefs of Brother Jimmy’s never met a cut of meat they didn’t like. But they also listen to their diners and pay attention to trending appetites, which means you’re likely to find something new and delicious on the menu each time you visit. Change, as they say, is good!

Decorated with bright neon, oversized menu boards and vintage feed store signage and farm-themed collectibles purchased from a specialty antique yard in North Carolina, Brother Jimmy’s interior décor is comforting and kitsch all at once. Up front at the bar / lounge it’s all about enjoying a frosty pitcher while watching a couple of sports teams pound each other in whatever big games are being broadcast on the nearly wall-to-wall big screens. But step further back into the dining room and, while the energy level is still at a low rumble (and the big screens are ubiquitous), you can still hear your own lively conversation while satiating your cravings for some of the best Southern BBQ in New York City. They also have online slot machine hubs here. This is an important question to first-time online uk slots gamblers because understanding the reason why casinos offer these welcome bonus and continuing membership bonuses will help you make better decisions about where you should play online games. Of course, the short answer is to create an attractive offer in a highly competitive environment. But it’s a little more complicated than that.

Charlotte Tea Cocktail
All Food Photos By Anne Raso

Don’t forget to start off your evening with one of Jimmy’s specialty cocktails! We tried the Charlotte Tea – a southern twist on the potent Long Island Ice Tea, with 5 alcohols and a hint of peach – refreshing!

Frickles, Fried Pickles
Must Try: “Frickles”

Even if you’ve grown wary/weary of the current “Let’s Deep Fry Everything” craze, be bold and order a starter of Jimmy’s signature Frickles: Slices of crisp sour dill pickles quickly deep fried in a light beer batter and served with a mild sour cream horseradish sauce for dipping ($7.95). These are prepared with such finesse that the pickle chips stay crisp while the hot batter also maintains a light crunch. Absolutely delicious.

The Wright Salad
“The Right Stuff”

Anticipating a meat-centric meal prompted us to search for a salad starter so we could tell ourselves we were eating “healthy.” Brother Jimmy’s Social Media Director, Leigh Shirvan had stopped by our table and she was happy to recommend one of her own favorites, The Wright Salad. This unique and popular salad is made with fresh romaine lettuce, wild rice, tender cubes of sweet grilled yam, tart apples, toasted pecan halves, thinly sliced red onion, dried cherries and a hint of poblano pepper for a subtle kick, all dressed in a light but flavorful vinaigrette ($10.95). The Wright Salad is the perfect size to share, and with the addition of chicken or other meat (add $3.00) it becomes a hearty meal for one on its own.

Other appetizers to choose from on Jimmy’s extensive menu include Peel & Eat Shrimp ($12.50), classic Fried Green Tomatoes ($8.25), crispy Onion Straws ($7.50), Humongous BBQ Nachos ($12.50), Jalapeno Poppers ($9.25), everyone’s favorite Chicken Wings served with a variety of sauces ($9.95 & $10.50) and a Brisket Quesadilla that we heard is outstanding ($9.50, ask for the Brisket as your choice of meat filling, as it is not listed on the menu item), among many other tempting treats.

Pig Pick of Brisket and Pulled Pork
Pig Pick Part One: Brisket, Cole Slaw and Pulled Pork

Since Jimmy’s menu is so extensive – and everything looks, smells and sounds so delicious as you read through it – you might find it difficult to make a decision as to what exactly you want to pig out on. If this is your dilemma, Brother Jimmy’s offers the easy way out with their Pig Pick: A choice of any four meat items including Northern, Southern or Dry Rub Ribs, Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket (lean or marbled), BBQ Chicken or Pulled Chicken, all served with Hush Puppies and Cole Slaw ($25.95).

Pig Pick: BBQ Chicken and Dry Rub Ribs
Pig Pick Part Two: BBQ Chicken and Dry Rub Pork Ribs

We chose the Dry Rub Ribs, Lean Brisket, BBQ Chicken and Pulled Pork and were soon salivating over a sumptuous BBQ feast! The Dry Rub Pork Rib, coated with Jimmy’s famous rub made from twenty ingredients that include black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper and cumin is served sauceless,  is as thick and meaty as a beef rib but as tender as a pork loin. The Brisket was also perfectly lean and tender and we appreciated that the pulled pork, so flavorful on its own, was left in its natural roasted and shredded state to be sauced as we liked from one of the three choices of Jimmy’s BBQ sauce on each table. We would also like to give a shout out to Jimmy’s delicious Cole slaw, which tastes like Mom’s homemade slaw – crisp, slightly sweet and not at all vinegary. Nostalgia!

Grilled Skirt Steak, Macaroni & Cheese, Collard Greens

We also shared Jimmy’s version of Steak & Fries ($20.50), though we persuaded our server to let us substitute sides of Macaroni & Cheese and Collard Greens ($5.50 each) so that we could maximize our sampling. The grilled skirt steak arrived perfectly done (medium well with a decent amount of pink), sliced thin and served with side of homemade BBQ sauce. Collard Greens can be tricky to do the right way and Jimmy’s are cooked to tender perfection. Surprisingly, the Mac & Cheese – one of the restaurant most popular sides – which has a tangy, sharp cheddar flavor turned out to be made exclusively with creamy Velveeta cheese! All we can say is that Velveeta sure has taken a few steps up over the years!

Apple Crumb Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Whipped Cream

Readers of The Gig’s Food Reviews know that we never leave a destination without having tried at least one dessert. Brother Jimmy’s has a very limited selection of desserts, but they cover all the bases with a Red Velvet Cake, Pecan Pie (of course!), Brownie Sunday with Caramel Butterscotch Ice Cream and an Apple Crumb Pie (pictured above) that is just out of this world (all desserts are $6.00).  Try to save some room for this homemade dessert with a tender bottom crust, layers of paper thin slices of tart apple and a crunchy brown sugar topping that we had “all the way” with both Whipped Cream and Ice Cream on the side. Because, why not?

As a special offer to readers of the Worley Gig, Brother Jimmy’s is offering a 15% Discount off the price of food only at their Union Square location (116 East 16th Street between Park Ave South and Irving Place), through January 31, 2012. In order to redeem your discount, all you need to do is mention to your server that you read about Brother Jimmy’s on The Worley Gig. Brother Jimmy’s has locations all over town. Visit Brother Jimmy’s Dot Com to find a location near you.

Macaroni and Cheeseburger: I Would Eat It


Image Source

I would so eat this burger.

Yes, it Exists: Macaroni & Cheese-Stuffed Meat Loaf, Wrapped In Bacon

Mac-n-Cheese-Stuffed-Bacon-Wrapped-Meatloaf
Meaty, Cheesey, Bacony Goodness

Woman’s Day magazine must have gotten a lot crazier than I remember it being when I was ten years old and my mom had a subscription. There’s a blog-worthy article online at this link (Note: Link is no longer active) right now, about overstuffed foods, that had my jaw hanging open, thinking I had somehow clicked over to This is Why You’re Fat Dot Com. My favorite of the featured gastronomical anomalies is the Mac & Cheese-Stuffed Meat Loaf. “The mouthwatering creation – wrapped in eight slices of apple wood-smoked bacon and boasting two pounds of ground beef – is filled with black truffle-saffron Mac & Cheese made with Romano, Asiago and sharp Cheddar cheese. To assemble, the bacon is draped across a loaf pan, a shallow layer of meat loaf is added, which is topped with the gourmet cheesy noodles, then another layer of meat loaf, and then the bacon is folded over the top before baking.” I would eat it, and ask for more. The full recipe, finely detailed with many pictures, can be found at Viva Hate!

January 2011 Update: That Viva Hate link above appears to be no longer good, since the domain was recently taken over by the band Viva Hate, but you can still see step-by-step assembly photos of the meatloaf at This Link!

Ten Creative Ways to Serve Macaroni & Cheese: A Love Story

green-chile-mac-cheese
Green Chile Mac & Cheese

If you are like me, you could eat Macaroni & Cheese all day long, because it is just that delicious. The Woman’s Day website has a cool article here featuring ten fun ways to prepare this beloved comfort food besides the traditional casserole dish or the orange powdered stuff that comes out of a cardboard box. Bon appetite!