Drizzle it, just a little bit…2013 Mac and Cheese Throwdown at Renegade by MOD

I officially have a mac and cheese food baby after last nights 2013 Mac and Cheese Throwdown.

I was fortunate enough to be voted as the third judge for the competition. I met two great food influencers in the Valley, Aaron from go lb. salt & Joanie from Restaurant Live AZ, who were the other two judges of the night.

2013 Mac & Cheese Throwdown Judges

2013 Mac & Cheese Throwdown Judges

After being told by our Judge Nazi, Susie (Girl Meats Fork), that we had to sit and eat, I got into my mac and cheese swing. There were 10 chefs and we were not told who created which dish. The judging was based on taste, cheesiness, consistency and creativity.

Here were the entries:

1. Rusconi’s American Kitchen: Chef Michael Rusconi

White truffle scented with San Joaquin Gold Mac & Cheese.

White truffle scented with San Joaquin Gold Mac & Cheese.

White truffle scented with San Joaquin Gold Mac & Cheese.

2. Renegade by MOD: Chef Michael O’Dowd

Rangoon style mac and cheese with chinese sausage, foie, edamame, dried cherries, cream cheese and veleveeta. It came with a cheese dipping sauce as well as a drizzle of cherry sauce.

Rangoon style mac and cheese

Rangoon style mac and cheese

3. 5th and Wine: Chef Joshua Yazzie-McLean

Fried onion string & chorizo mac and cheese

Chorizo mac and cheeserg427k

Chorizo mac and cheeserg427k

4. Tom’s Thumb Fresh Market: Chef Kevin Janeski

Three cheese mac and cheese

3 Cheese Mac & Cheese

3 Cheese Mac & Cheese

5. EVO: Chef Jeff Caswell

Prosciutto, Scallions and Parmesan mac and cheese

Parmesan mac and cheese

Parmesan mac and cheese

6. Cafe ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho, Chef Richard Garcia

Southwest mac & cheese with hatch green chilies, smoked corn, oven-dried tomatoes, double-cream gouda, shepard’s hope cheese, and a squeeze of lime, topped with a cheddar cracker crumb.

Southwest mac & cheese

Southwest mac & cheese

7. AZ Food Crafters: Chef Eddie Castillo

Jalapeno Bacon Mac N Cheese Pie Poppper: Jalapeno, mini pasta, cheddar cheese, pepper jack & cream cheese all stuffed in a buttery crust

Mac N Cheese Pie Poppper

Mac N Cheese Pie Poppper

8.  District American Kitchen & Wine Bar, Chef John Marchetti

Mac and Mole Short Rib with micro cilantro

Mole Short Rib Mac and Cheese

Mole Short Rib Mac and Cheese

 

9. Twisted Rose Winery & Eatery: Chef Nicholas Galakatos

Twisted mushroom mac and cheese

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Twisted mushroom mac and cheese

10. Stacey’s Smoke Dem Bones: Chef Paul Williams

Red pepper mac & cheese

Red pepper mac & cheese

Red pepper mac & cheese

There was a clear winner in my book with a close second. The golden macaroni dishes triumphed as follows:

1st Place: Cafe ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho, Chef Richard Garcia (Green chili)

2nd Place: Renegade by MOD, Chef Michael O’Dowd (Rangoon style)

3rd Place: EVO, Chef Jeff Caswell (Prosciutto and Scallions)

Peoples’ Choice: District American Kitchen & Wine Bar, Chef John Marchetti (Mole Short Rib)

There wasn’t a category, but if there was, my homemade golden mac and cheese headband would have for sure been in the lead:

Finally meeting Chef Michael O'Dowd!

Finally meeting Chef Michael O’Dowd!

Thanks to all the chefs who participated and rocked the event! I can’t wait until next year!

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Rainbow Valley Farms Cheese Gnocchi with Fresh Peaches & Pulled Pork

Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain

Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain

Quiessence at The Farm is a magical place. Hundred year old trees line the property, and it’s as if you’re transformed into another state. A farm literally in the middle of the city.

Quiessence at The Farm Tasting Menu

Quiessence at The Farm Tasting Menu

I was lucky enough to snag a reservation for the last dinner service that Quiessence’s previous chef was cooking. Chef Greg LaPrad has moved to Sonoita and opened his own restaurant in wine country. Before he did, I was able to experience a lovely dinner that included 7 courses, with my favorite being the Rainbow Valley Farmers Cheese Gnocchi with Fresh Peaches from Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek and Pulled Pork from the Meat Shop in Phoenix.

Rainbow Valley Farmers Cheese Gnocchi at Quiessence

Rainbow Valley Farmers Cheese Gnocchi at Quiessence

Usually when you think Gnocci, you think a heavier, sauce filled dish. Just having in Italy, it was a refreshing surprise to eat this lighter take on the pasta. The juices from the peach created a light sauce with the sage and butter.

The best part of the dish is that the gnocchi is made entirely of cheese – there is no potato.

The dish paired perfectly with the Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico.

Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico.

Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico.

Tonight we will be back at Quiessence for it’s soft opening as we experience the new menu, look and creations by Chef Dustin Christofolo (formerly Head Chef of The House at Secret Garden) and Chef Sacha Levine (formerly Sous Chef of Rancho Pinot and FnB).