Beer

The Great San Francisco Mac and Cheese Throwdown

When four, count ‘em four, friends contacted me this week to make sure I was aware of this event, I realized I’d made a bit of a mac-and-cheese-tasting reputation for myself.

This throwdown comes your way through the combined efforts of the SoMa StrEat Food Park and FunCheapSF, both great organizations with a goal of keeping Bay Area residents in good food for fair prices. In addition to over 10 food trucks offering their mac and cheese spins, there will also be games, beer specials, and a cheesy cover band. And yes, that’s the precise language used to describe the band.

What: the Great San Francisco Mac and Cheese Throwdown

Where: SoMa StrEat Food Park, 428 11th Street, San Francisco.

When: 11/22 from 11am to 5pm.

How Much: $5 for entry, which includes 1 tasting ticket OR $20 for a passport that includes entry, 5 tasting tickets, and a PBR. Individual tasting tickets are $4 each.

Get me tickets: Order them through Eventbrite here.

Unfortunately, I will not be attending the throwdown because I already have plans Saturday and because I’m pretty sure that many mac and cheese options are too many even for me. But my quest to conquer 7 x 7′s list of the best Bay Area mac and cheeses continues, and my most recent post on that is here. Coming up soon are my thought’s on Paragon’s offering and then the Mac and Cheese nights will continue after the New Year. Only 4 to go!

 

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Minneapolis Blogging: Minnehaha Falls and Hiawatha

Outhouse at the John Stevens House in Minnehaha Falls Park.

Outhouse at the John Stevens House in Minnehaha Falls Park.

On my third trip to Minneapolis this past May, I felt the challenge of figuring out what was left for me to tour in the area. I’d conquered the Chain of Lakes, the Walker Museum, the Sculpture Garden, the Guthrie Theater, the Mall of America, and plenty of delicious eats and drinks downtown. Yet somehow, in my prior searches of things to do in the city, I never came across Minnehaha Falls.

Keep clicking on the photo to get the largest view.

Keep clicking on the photo to get the largest view.

The Falls are famous for being the focus of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” which is actually a name stolen from a nearby lake—we’ll get to that on this day trip, too. This sprawling recreational area is impossible to miss if you’re taking the Blue Line—and you should take the Blue Line because Minneapolis’s public transit is awesome. Just get off at the Minnehaha Falls stop and cross the street to the park. The first thing you’ll see is the John Stevens House.

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The home of John Stevens, who served as a ferryman for Fort Snelling, was the first home built in Minneapolis and it’s been moved four times since. I found the eyes on the statue of Stevens quite creepy.

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Fire in the Triangle: Battle Market vs. New Southern Kitchen

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I was thrilled to again judge a Fire in the Triangle battle, having judged my first last year when NC Competition Dining premiered in the Research Triangle. If you love food and live in the area, then you simply must make next year’s series—it’s too late for this year’s. All the battles have been sold out for weeks!

WRAL is the local media sponsor for the competition, and they already have a great summary up of Monday’s night’s competition between Market and New Southern Kitchen, but I just have to add my own spin.

 

The competitors await the results.

The competitors await the results.

First, though, I should make clear that my meal was complimentary as one of the evening’s professional judges. Second, I was plied with wine by a fabulous group of dining companions the entire evening. That may affect my opinions. But mostly it affects my dehydration today. Thank you again, ladies, wherever you are!

Diners and judges enter their scores in six categories for each dish, including aroma, execution, flavor, presentation, accompaniments, and the creativity used with the secret ingredient. Diners’ ratings making up 70% of the total score and judges get 30%. We were blessed with two—two!—secret ingredients for this meal, heirloom tomatoes and TOPO spirits. You may recall that I visited TOPO’s distillery last month, so I was excited that their unique, organic, local gin and vodka would be highlighted in these dishes. Making them stand out in a dish was the most difficult part of the challenge, in my opinion.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Onto the dishes! The first course, by Chef Sokum Slama of New Southern Kitchen, was napoleon heirloom tomatoes with couscous, lobster, and a TOPO vodka and basil beurre blanc.

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This was a strong start for Chef Slama, using beautiful colors and pulling out all the stops by starting us with lobster. The tomato had wonderful flavor, but the vodka was impossible to pick out. It was Course #2 from Chef Chad McIntyre of Market that probably did the best job of highlighting the vodka.

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It didn’t quite get my highest score of the evening, but this green tomato and crab salad with poached tilefish and a citrus “Mary” sauce was my favorite for flavor. That citrus sauce captured the spirit of a Bloody Mary effectively, garnering it high creativity scores. The peppers and greens (kale, I believe), were delicious with the sauce, and the fish was perfectly done. Pistachios for crunch are always a plus!

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