Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mac + Cheese Week 2016

Hey guys!

Mac + Cheese Week 2017 should be right around the corner now ... but that doesn't mean we can't talk about the 2016 edition and what I have had the chance to try.

I know, sounds like a lame excuse to write about a year later, but I have been so busy writing for other blogs. Since respecting deadlines for others is a very important value to my eyes, well, I ended up neglecting my personal blog.

First off, happy new year 2017! With all the food festivals that are being held right now and that are coming right at our faces in the weeks I will get to talk about a lot of food!

Anyway, if you aren't familiar with the concept yet, it's basically restaurants of Montreal that come up with a special mac and cheese for a limited time. Last year for Mac and Cheese week I went out twice. One night, I was accompanied by Kenly and Rio and we went to three different places all located in the heart of Downtown Montreal.

First stop was Wienstein & Gavino's known for its Italian cuisine, variety of dishes, and atmosphere.

As we sat down and looked at the menu for entrées we were given a plate of pesto and a halfway sliced baguette still slightly warm. If you haven't been there before, be careful.

This thing is dangerous. I remember once stuffing myself with so much bread and pesto that when my plate of seafood and lobster risotto came I couldn't eat it (which is probably one of the most expensive items on the menu).

We weren't sure how much mac and cheese we would eat in total so we ordered some fried calamari with diablo sauce.

The breading on the calamari was light and well seasoned, it held on well to the meat, and the diablo sauce was a very nice touch. I find that marinara isn't spicy enough and you need some spice with seafood (except for lobster, that's not necessary). I was happy with that choice because a lot of restaurants don't get it right, but there they do.

Our second entrée was the grilled octopus on Calabrian nduja-cannellini bean ragoût.

We really liked the presentation and the smell that came out of it. Slightly spicy (because of the nduja sauce) and lemony, it was a very nice mix of flavors. However the portion was relatively small to be shared between three persons.

Then came the real reason why we were here. The pear and gorgonzola Mac and Cheese.

Gorgonzola and pear usually go well together, whether as an entrée or even in a sandwich. However I wasn't sure how this mix cheddar, Parmesan, mozzarella, Gorgonzola (or blue cheese), with walnuts, pear, and onion, served with penne was going to turn out.

First of all the plate was big. Good thing we shared. The smell was very cheesy but not in a bad smelly way. The walnuts gave it a very nice crunch, and the texture of the sauce was just right, gooey inside and gratiné on top but nothing runny. I love cheese and I thought this combination, with the pear, tasted delicious. It was quite rich and fatty though and at the end of it we were a bit tired of eating it. I think this can be perfect as an entrée but if you want to eat the whole thing make sure you really love cheese and pasta.

We asked for our bill fast and jumped to our second stop, Reuben's, who has quite a good reputation for a deli. They are known for their meats, and mostly their smoked meat.

So we had to go for something we wouldn't find elsewhere : fried smoked meat wontons served with Sriracha mayonnaise.

Made with smoked meat, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese, they were piping hot when they arrived. Crispy outside yet oozy inside, they were a very special experience in themselves. I really liked the texture, but I found the mix inside a little too salty to my liking. However they were perfectly executed despite rising a bit our cholesterol level.

The mac they served was topped with their signature smoked meat.

Made with a mix of Velveeta cheese, Monterey jack, and cheddar, then broiled lightly into a skillet, we were expecting a bit more ooze. However it was a very good ratio, not too cheesy neither dry. The presentation was impeccable. The portion was unfortunately rather small but would have been perfect for just one person. The seasoning wasn't very present in the pasta and sauce because of the smoked meat that was already very flavorful on its own. However it couldn't cling to the sauce and pasta and since the pieces were rather small bits I think eating it with a spoon would have been more appropriate.

As soon as we were finished we ran to Deville Dinerbar for more cholesterol. Sorry, I meant mac and cheese.

We thought Deville was going to offer a special Mac and cheese dish they usually don't have on their menu ... but no, it was their mac and cheese wontons which they always have on the menu ... Oh well. We went for it anyway.

It's served with a cold marinara sauce on the side.

The wonton was crispy and actually delicious. The mac inside is made with cheddar, and the recipe isn't over the top. However, with the marinara sauce, it just seemed like a very good match. But truthfully you can get that anytime, don't go there just because it's Mac and cheese week.

Despite all the food we had already had, we were hungry for some more. Or thought we were hungry for some more. We asked for ahi tuna tacos.

The whole thing is special. First, the quality of the fish. It was good, but sliced much thinner than I'm used to. Then, the taco shell is actually a fried wonton wrapper. The filling is an Asian coleslaw, and it's served with a lime and wasabi aioli. Wow. It was good. I wish there were more fish but the textures and flavors were just so great together. It made me want to ask for more.

We also had some chips and Kopanisti dip.

The chips were thick cut with a hint of truffle and Parmesan. The dip was quite thick, made with feta cheese and red peppers. The flavors all went very well together. It was very rich and maybe a bit too much for us as the end of the day. We didn't realize the portion would be so generous but we really liked it. If you get this as an entrée make sure you share it because you won't have room for whatever else you ordered.

The second night I went out I took my friend Élise with me. I let her choose places she hadn't been to before.

Our first stop was Pub Brewskey located right in the Old Port.

Small place stuck in what looks like a basement, they actually have a nice selection of beers and cocktails. Very cozy, it's the perfect spot to bring a friend, or two, or three ... but careful, they may not have enough chairs for you! We had to sit at the bar, which we were absolutely fine with.

So we asked for their Black n Mac.

This beautiful thing was made with sausage from Ça Va Barder (special recipe using Brewskey La Underground IPA and smoked cheese curds), Brewskey Imperial Steam Stout cheese sauce, panko, Guinness cheese gratin, and jerky bacon.

Deer god. That thing was good. Every bite was a party in our mouth. No need to say more.

Our second stop was Fortune, located a few steps away from the Petite Italie.

This little taqueria was offering a roasted squash and jalapeño mac and cheese topped with buttermilk biscuit and queso fresco.

The idea was really interesting but to that point it felt more like a macaroni salad than an actual mac and cheese. I'm sorry. There was no ooze, no gooeyness, no sauciness. Also the portion was quite small and even on its own it wouldn't have been enough for one person. We had hopes for that one but it didn't meet our expectations.

And so that's it for today folks. Hopefully the 2017 edition will get even better and more diversified. My wishlist for this year : restaurants serving actual mac and cheese (on its own or in something) that is usually not on their menu. I mean, it's Mac and cheese week, isn't it?

Until next time!

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