I've loved Macaroni and Cheese ever since I can remember. There are good mac 'n' cheeses and there are bad mac 'n' cheeses. I'm on a quest to find the best mac 'n' cheese ever. In this quest, I've tried a number of different versions. I've definitely found some that are tough to beat and I've also found some that aren't worthy of the mac 'n' cheese title. Here are my criteria for judging mac n cheese:
1. Pasta. This is one of the first and most essential tests of a good mac 'n' cheese. If you're not using macaroni, it's not mac 'n' cheese. Last night we went to dinner at the Los Altos Grill. We had never been before, but I knew they had mac 'n' cheese on the menu and I wanted to try it. The mac 'n' cheese came as I side dish, so we ordered it with our dinner to share. They brought out what they called the mac 'n' cheese. I instantly saw that it was actually penne 'n' cheese. That's an automatic fail. It has to be macaroni.
2. Cheese. Another essential ingredient in a good mac 'n' cheese. Personal preference is a big factor in determining good cheeses. For this, I have to say that S'Mac in New York City beats them all. Why? Because you have a choice. All they serve is mac 'n' cheese and they make many versions using different cheeses and add-ins. And if what they have on the menu doesn't catch your fancy, you can build your own. I haven't tried them all, but the Gruyere with Bacon mac was excellent and I think my favorite mac 'n' cheese of all time.
345 East 12th Street
New York City, NY 10003
3. Bread Crumbs. Sometimes overlooked, but good bread crumbs can make a good mac 'n' cheese great. Home in San Francisco wins the best bread crumbs category. Their mac 'n' cheese is very good in and of itself, but the bread crumbs top it off with excellence. Bread crumbs should be crunchy and just sit right on top of the mac 'n' cheese. S'Mac offers a choice of bread crumbs or no bread crumbs, but any mac 'n' cheese snob will always go for the bread crumbs. Theirs are a tad on the soggy side which is why Home beats them out. Hooray for bread crumbs!
2100 Market Street
San Francisco, CA
4. Texture. A good mac 'n' cheese cannot be chunky. The cheese should be smooth and velvety and delicious!
5. Craziness. Let's be honest. Mac 'n' cheese is a comfort food. It shouldn't be crazy. With that in mind, I have to say the worst mac 'n' cheese I've ever had was at the Hard Rock Cafe. Their mac 'n' cheese has some kick. Too much kick. It's spicy. Very spicy. To the point that I had to drink about 6 glasses of water to cool my mouth off! Mac 'n' cheese shouldn't be spicy. Not even a little bit. Boo for the mac 'n' cheese at Hard Rock Cafe.
Happiness is a good mac 'n' cheese. If you find one that meets this criteria, please let me know! I'm always up for a good mac 'n' cheese!