Crave, Mosaic and New Moon Take Home Mac-Off’s Prizes

macoffWhen last week I spoke to mac-and-cheese expert Stephanie Stiavetti, she bemoaned cooks’ reluctance to add seafood and Asian flavors to their customized mac-and-cheeses. Entries at this weekend’s Mac-Off suggested her concerns weren’t unfounded: Competing restaurants were far more likely to use pork than shellfish, and a bottle of Sriracha at the Southern Season station was the rare nod to Eastern cuisines.

But Mosaic, which my fellow judges and I unanimously selected for the Critics’ Choice award, at least made smart use of panko. The bread crumbs added an attractive texture to a mac which was already distinguished by jalapeno heat. In a field of very creamy entries, Mosaic’s mac stood out for its complexity.

The People’s Choice award went to Crave, which has won the prize every year since the event’s 2009 debut: Folks are fools for classically-cheesed cavatappi — and reminding voters that Esquire‘s already deemed Crave’s mac “life-changing” probably doesn’t hurt the restaurant’s annual chances. Continue reading

Mac-and-Cheese Expert Offers Judging Advice for Mac-Off

meltcoverAttendees at this weekend’s Mac-Off are likely to be exposed to a range of wild macaroni and cheese recipes by chefs trying to wow eventgoers — whose votes determine the People’s Choice title — with their creativity.

As an experimental mac evangelist, Stephanie Stiavetti strongly supports chefs thinking outside the blue-and-yellow box when concocting their entries.  But the co-author of the forthcoming Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, written with fellow freelancer Garrett McCord, says any version of the iconic dish should be judged primarily on the quality of its ingredients.

“Our highest priority for superb mac-and-cheese is fresh ingredients,” Stiavetti says. “And don’t cook the personalities out of them.” Continue reading