Mac Off and Menchie’s

On Saturday afternoon, we got together with a group of friends for a good cause. A cause near and dear to my heart. 
This is very serious.
But not really.
The annual Charleston Mac Off! Mac and cheese, that is. 

photo 1

Did you catch that? There, on that sign…White chocolate s’mores mac and cheese?! You know my eyes went big and my sweet tooth went crazy when I read that. It sure sounded strange, but I HAD to try it. Well, turns out it was just as weird as you would think. I love Graze and give them all the credit for taking a chance with that one, but it simply was not good. Sorry, Graze 😦
Once I got that out of my system, I tried all kinds of more traditional mac and cheese. You may have also noticed Crave listed on that chalkboard sign. And yes, they had won the competition for three consecutive years prior to this year. Wouldn’t you know it, but Crave won again! 
photo 2

Here I am with a sample of the mac from Poogan’s Porch, complete with scallions, country ham and smoked gouda. This was one of my faves. 
photo 3

Of all of the delicious mac and cheese I ate (way too much, but that was to be expected I suppose), this butternut squash ravioli in a brown butter sauce was the best part of my day. Rio Bertolini’s makes fresh pasta, which I’ve bought from local farmer’s markets before. They know how it’s done. I bought some lobster ravioli, butternut squash ravioli and whole wheat pizza dough to bring home for dinners this week. 
photo 4
I needed something cool and refreshing as the heavy cheesy pastas quickly got the best of me. I’m not much of a beer drinker, or a day drinker for that matter, so this sparkling lemonade was perfect. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch watching football with friends, taking a nap and recovering from the mac overload. Somehow I managed to be hungry by dinnertime. I ate a salad at Moe’s then loaded up on a heavenly bowl of Menchie’s – Pure Chocolate, Cake Batter, Praline Pecan, and Peanut Butter yogurt topped with peanut butter cups, whipped cream and caramel sauce. 
What a day!

A Restaurant Review – Another Trip to Crave!

I told you that my girlfriends and I went to Crave for dinner on Saturday night to celebrate my bachelorette party, but I didn’t say much else about the meal. Ready for the details?

We started by ordering some wine – a bottle of red and a bottle of white. We sipped away while studying the menu and snacking on the complimentary warm bread and butter.

After much indecisiveness on everyone’s part, we were ready to order. I ultimately decided to order the Spinach and Tomato Grilled Cheese ($9) as an appetizer for the table to share. I knew I HAD to have it one way or another, but most of the girls were ordering some of the more expensive entrees. I felt like I should get something a little fancier too, but didn’t want to give up the grilled cheese. This was a perfect compromise. I could have a few bites of my grilled cheese and also get a fancier dish as my main meal.

grilled cheese
It was just as good as I remembered and it was gone in no time. Everyone quickly knew why I love this sandwich so much. 
Now, if I thought I was in love with the grilled cheese, I fell even more in love with the Sea Scallops ($25) I ordered for my entree. The seared scallops were served with green beans and the most amazing lobster risotto in the world.
Actually, I don’t think I can honestly say I’ve ever had any other lobster risotto, so technically I don’t have authority to declare it the best in the world, BUT I promise you…It was heavenly. Everything about my dish was above and beyond my expectations. 
I also sampled a few bites of my sister’s fish tacos and my mom’s black bean salad. Oh yeah. Maybe a few bites of the award winning mac and cheese too. 
I was overwhelmed with pure goodness for most of the meal. So many delicious things coming from all directions!
Although we were just about stuffed by then end of dinner, I couldn’t pass up dessert. Our waitress recommended the Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake ($8) so we decided to get a slice to split. Thankfully my dear friends let me have more than my fair share of bites, or maybe I was just a little agressive with my fork and forced the others away. 
caramel cake
This cake is one of their several gluten free menu items, in case that is of interest to you. I didn’t even realize that until we had just about finished the piece, but you would never know the difference. It tasted like any other gluten-filled cake I’ve ever had. 
If you can’t tell, I love this place. It’s a Charleston MUST for locals or visitors alike. 
They have plenty of options to suit any palate or dietary need, so there’s really no excuse not to give it a try. 
Crave on Urbanspoon

Spicy Cajun Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese, ma-mac and cheese. Uh! Can I have some please?
Please tell me you know what I’m talking about. You know, that Verizon commercial? I don’t see it on much anymore, but that song was my jam back in the summer. 
I could sing that song all day long while eating (or even just dreaming) about a bowl of this.

Super spicy. Super creamy. Super delicious. Need I say more?
Well I’m going to anyway. You need to make this. And if you have never made homemade mac and cheese before, just do it. (I’m a Nike rep now by the way….ok not really). But this was my first homemade mac and cheese experience too and I promise it’s easy peasey, nice and cheesey! 

I know I’m all over the place today. Sorry. I don’t know if it’s the Christmas music making me giddy, or the taste of this mac and cheese still lingering on my tongue. Probably a combination of both. 
I’m just going to stop while I’m ahead. Here’s the recipe…Enjoy! 

Spicy Cajun Mac and Cheese
(Adapted from Eat.Live.Run)

Makes 3-4 servings

2 1/4 cup dry pasta (I used spirals)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
3/4 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup milk (I used original unsweetened almond milk)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
2 teaspoons cajun seasoning (I used Tony Chachere’s Original Creole)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add bell pepper, jalapeno and garlic. Cook about 4-5 minutes or until vegetables become tender and begin to brown. Add milk and bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Add flour and continue whisking for about 3 minutes. Add cheese to pot and stir until completely melted. Turn heat to low and allow to simmer. Add remaining seasonings. Pour cooked pasta into the pot and toss everything to coat the noodles. Serve immediately.

Pecan Pancakes and My Favorite Macaroni

Another Sunday. Another stack of pancakes. Only unlike last Sunday, I ate these pancakes myself. Greg and I took his family to Triangle for brunch before they headed out of town yesterday. I had my mind set on pancakes since that picture Brooke sent me last week. Triangle’s Toasted Pecan Pancakes and a side of fruit sounded perfect. Not to mention a $1 mimosa…or two. 
We had a great brunch, but Saturday’s dinner at Coleman Public House is tough to beat. You may have read about their decadent mac and cheese from my posts herehere and here. Yes, it is THAT good. 
For an appetizer, Greg and I split a basket of french fries- Garlic and Truffle & Parmesan. We couldn’t decide between the two so our waitress offered to give us a mix of both!

Wanting to keep to my commitment of eating little to no meat, I couldn’t decide if I should skip (GASP!) the mac and cheese topped with grilled chicken like I normally do and just order a salad or veggie flatbread instead. But Greg talked some sense into me. “Go with what you know is good,” he said. 

So I did. I ordered the mac and cheese, but skipped the added chicken. The dish does contain some bacon pieces, but I was able to compromise with myself. And that stuff is worth every bite and compromise. It has never failed to be just as delicious as I remember. 
When I ordered, I was surprised that my waitress remembered me from our previous visits and said, “Don’t you normally get grilled chicken on top?” Why yes! Thank you for remembering! She said her and the other waiters still love that combination that I have opened their eyes to. 
You’re welcome.
Other highlights of the weekend included riding around all over Daniel Island on our new bikes, watching Greg’s brother finish a half Ironman (such an amazing accomplishment!), shopping, and a nice longggg, hard nap. 

Now it’s time to work away for another week. Looking forward to next weekend already!

I’ve Got the Blues

Don’t you worry. I’m not depressed. I am not blue in a bad way.

Rather in a cheesy macaroni way. You remember that jingle, right? Kraft Macaroni and Chheeeeese…I’ve got the blues.

I’m not going to lie. This isn’t actually Kraft. It’s Publix brand. Most of my groceries are generic brands. Hey, it’s cheaper that way. And it all tastes close enough…usually. There are a few things I have learned I am better off buying the higher end brands, like cereal and ice cream. This mac and cheese was on sale for so cheap I just couldn’t pass it up. And I was pleasantly surprised. It’s no Velveeta, but it is very comprable to Kraft’s blue box. 

That is all besides the point though. I didn’t intend on telling you about my grocery shopping habits. 
The point is that I had forgotten how comforting it is to curl up on the couch with a nice hot bowl of mac and cheese for dinner after a long day of work. I am coping with the fact I can’t have this every day of the week. Boxed mac and cheese can be (barely) just as sufficient if you are in the right mood. 
One day I will need to make it from scratch. First I have to eat all of the boxed stuff in the cabinets that I stocked up on while it was on sale.