I love America for many reasons (its traditions, its really good food trucks, its men), but near the top of the list is its obsession with macaroni and cheese. And this weekend, I went to the king of all Mac & Cheese events – the Mac & Cheeze Takedown.
The idea is simple: Home cooks apply for a spot (no real chefs allowed), create an inventive recipe and then cook 8lbs of the stuff to dish up to hungry Brooklynites, who then vote for their favorite. I headed to the Bell House in Gowanus, grabbed a paper plate and moved along the line, carefully stacking up on tiny cups filled with different flavors.
Among the amazing names – ‘Mac-sagna’, ‘Porkaroni and Cheese’ – were some ridiculously creative ideas, including French onion soup flavor, white miso and one of my favorites, nacho mac: mac and cheese mixed with black beans, salsa and chili and topped with nacho chips. Ooh it was so naughty.
But by far my favorite was ‘My Big Fat Greek Mac & Cheese’, which mixed feta, sun-dried tomatoes and black olives with penne pasta. In the name of journalistic thoroughness (I was covering the event for Edible Brooklyn), I had to go back for some seconds.
After filling myself to the point of nausea, I had a chat with Matt Timms, the guy behind the Takedowns. He explained that they started in his Brooklyn living room 12 years ago as a way for his friends to share their recipes. But they have slowly grown to a huge series of events and he’s taken them across the country. While the Takedowns started as a competition for the best chili recipe, they now showcase weird and wonderful cookies, ice cream and even tofu.
Matt’s such an eccentric guy and has this bizarre balance of being so passionate about what he does while also being ridiculously relaxed. Which is also a great description of the event as a whole.
As I sampled the beers, the prize giving got underway. Up on stage, each of the 30 contestants introduced themselves and then the prizes were dished out, with two meaty macs (poblano peppers and smoked bacon) taking the crowns – and some kitchen appliances.
No prizes for the glorious Greek mac, but I was too sleepy to kick up too much of a fuss. What an amazingly gluttonous way to spend an afternoon. Bring on the next Takedown, I say!
If you’re interested in reading more, check out my story on Edible Brooklyn. And keep an eye on the Takedown website for the next event – an ice cream Takedown – in July.