Friday Foodstuffs 1.8.10: Mac ‘N Cheese Smackdown!

So I’m watching that super mega battle on Food Network that had Chefs Flay, Lagasse, Batali and Comerford (the White House exec chef) duking it out – culinarily-speaking, that is. And I got to see something that made me smile a bit: Emeril frying a turkey a little ‘too’ well. It’s always good to see a top chef make a little boo boo now and then – it allows you to relate to them a bit more. It’s like watching Tiger Woods (back when he played golf – remember that?) hit a fat one off the tee and into a clump of trees. You chuckle a bit and say “Heck, I could’ve done that!”

But, Emeril recovered and saved the turkey dish – much like Tiger would have done by hitting a 300-yard shot out of the trees and onto the green. Then we go back to being in awe and very jealous at the same time, saying “Now THAT – I could never do.”

Chef competitions are fun, and if you can be a part of the action for only, say, $10 a person – that’s even better. Well, the chefs from SJ Culinary Events are gearing up for their January “Homestyle Classics” week, and to get things started, they are having a little Mac ‘N Cheese competition. Here’s the press release to give you all the details:

If you think macaroni and cheese only comes from a box, some local South Jersey chefs have a surprise for you.

As part of their upcoming January promotion “Homestyle Classics” in which they showcase their restaurant’s version of favorite family dishes, the chefs will kick off with a grand Macaroni and Cheese contest to vie for the best and creamiest.

The “Mighty Mac” contest takes place Monday, January 18 at 6:30pm at Tortilla Press Cantina, located at 7716 Maple Avenue, Pennsauken, NJ. The cost is $10.00/adult and $4.00/child for children under 12. The price includes all the mac and cheese you can eat. “We have so many chefs jumping on the bandwagon to be part of this, that the public is going to get some very creative versions of Mac and cheese,” says Tortilla Press Cantina owner Chef Mark Smith. Smith has more than a dozen restaurants signed up and more asking to be included. “At some point we’ll have a cut off just for space considerations,” he explains. “But we want to keep it open for as long as we can. The public deserves to see what independent restaurants can do to make even mac and cheese a creative meal.”

Judges will be available from the Food Bank of SJ, which is a charitable recipient of the event. But the dining public will also be asked to give their opinion. “We’ll have judge’s picks and popular picks,” says Smith. “Among the categories are Best all around, Most like Mom’s and Most creative.”

“People forget how healthy good mac and cheese can be,” explains Chef Jim Malaby of blueplate Mullica Hill. “Forget the boxed version…we’re talking real milk and real cheese. The nutritional value is incredible and it’s very, very economical.” Each participating restaurant will do their own special version of mac and cheese, adding regional touches that create, in Chef Malaby’s words, “a spectacular panorama of tastes for this very simple homestyle classic.”

The chefs will use the event to highlight how to feed families with meals that are high in nutrition and low on cost, making their alliance with the Food Bank of SJ an important one. “We’re all independent restaurants ourselves,” explains Chef Joe Palombo of Mirabella Café “and we know what it means to struggle. If we can give back to the community through fundraising and education, it’s our responsibility and privilege to do so.”

If you are interested in attending this event please contact Tortilla Press Cantina at 856-356-2050.

If you’re wondering where the Winter Festivals of Food list is, it’s on back order. No no – I’m going to get it done soon. This past week was a little, erm, eventful. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s suffice to say that the number of children we have will not increase – and I’ll leave it at that.

And in the news this week…

A restaurant owner in Somers Point helps out a fire department…in Kansas.

Enjoy your weekend!

– John

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