Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Recipe: Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Alright, I can hear the criticisms now.  A vegan mac and cheese?  Yes, friends, it's possible.  And no, there's no cheese.  But! Some recipes do a great job with non-cheese mac dishes, so I decided to try my hand at it.

I went with a recipe from Le Petite Eats.  It seemed pretty straightforward, so I went to the local store and picked up all the ingredients, including something called nutritional yeast, which I'd never heard of before.  I'll be honest, however, and mention that this was not a pure vegan mac and cheese.  I wasn't willing to pay eight bucks for a giant portion of vegan butter substitute when all I needed was 2 tablespoons, so I used regular butter instead.  There.  Now that that's off my chest...

I began by steaming the cut up butternut squash in a vegetable steamer.

Then, started putting all the ingredients together under instruction of the recipe.  It was weird how many spices I would need to add flavor since with a regular mac and cheese, it's relatively straightforward.

There was also the need for a kind of vegan bechamel sauce.  This recipe used cashews and almond milk.  Not many cashews.  Just a handful.  It was hard not to just eat them.  Mmmmm, cashews...

There was also a fair amount of prep for the sage breadcrumb topping.  Some butter, breadcrumbs, garlic and sage leaves all had to be prepped and made crispy over the stove.

As I started to realize how many steps would be included in this recipe, I decided some wine was in order to get me though the journey.

After the butternut squash had been steamed to a soft, easy to cut state, it was time to puree in the blender.  This actually proved pretty challenging since the butternut squash kept forming a kind of air pocket above the rotating blades, so I had to constantly start and stop the blender to pop the air pocket.

Once the butternut squash puree was ready, I started the process of heating up the bechamel sauce.  Once that was hot and formed a somewhat thicker consistency (it never really got all that thick...), I added in the butternut squash puree and mixed it all together.

Then it was time to add in the noodles.  The sauce was so thin that it almost didn't even seem to cover all the noodles.  It also didn't help that they were basically the same color.

Then, everything was transferred into an oven safe bowl and topped with the sage and breadcrumb topping.  Popped into the oven for 20 minutes to toast the breadcrumbs, and then, it was done!

The final product had a pretty okay flavor.  I don't know that I would call it a mac and cheese substitute really, but my boyfriend seemed to enjoy it.  He even went back for seconds.

Unfortunately for me, I did not have such an enjoyable time with this recipe.  I'm slightly convinced that I may have had some kind of allergic or intolerant response to the nutritional yeast.  It's possible it was also some bad butternut squash, but since I had such a negative reaction and my boyfriend was relatively fine, I have a feeling it was more than that.

So, that's what I get for trying to go vegan (or almost vegan).  I guess it's good I still really like cheese.

Happy New Year 2016!  I hope the year ahead is filled with lots of good times and good meals.  And good macs! :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: Murray's Cheese Shop

Murray's Cheese Shop
254 Bleeker St, New York City

Hey friends!  It's another field trip post!  This time all the way from New York City!

There were several restaurants to try while visiting the Big Apple, but I knew that I had to make some room for some local Mac and Cheese!  I did some research and eventually found that Murray's Cheese Bar was a pretty popular choice.

To be fair, somehow, we found ourselves at Murray's Cheese Shop (owned by the same folks) in Greenwich Village instead.  I haven't been to the Bar location, but from what I've read, I would assume that the Bar is more like a restaurant, whereas the Shop is more like, well, a shop.

Looking back, I'm actually kind of happy we found ourselves in the Shop location.  it was cute and had a massive amount of unique and fine cheeses and meats and right in the middle of it was this awesome kiosk where you could order all sorts of goodies, including a build-your-own mac and cheese.  I opted for just adding some bacon (I don't care what the World Health Organization says).

The sauce was made up of their special blend of 3 cheeses and then you could choose between any number of toppings or additions.  The sauce wasn't super creamy but it definitely wasn't dry.  I would say this would be a great recommendation for anyone who doesn't like their sauce super heavy.  The bacon flavor was a little overpowering of the cheese, so it was hard to judge alone, but overall, I really enjoyed it.  And I enjoyed my trip into the shop.  They had some great old jazz music on and loads of local foods and candy to purchase.  It was pretty awesome.

While writing about NYC, I have to recommend a second spot, not Mac and Cheese related.  Not far from Murray's Cheese Shop, in neighboring West Village, you'll find some really, really AMAZING cookies from Sweet Corner Bakeshop (535 Hudson St, New York City).  We picked up a large Peanut Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip.  They were super delicious.  I highly recommend stopping in if you're in the area and need a sweet treat! :)

And lastly, I have to show off my new souvenir.  We happened to be in town just before the New York Marathon, which was both really cool and kind of annoying.  It was cool because you could see all the excitement during newscasts and lots of runners started coming in to the city and bringing along their pre-race energy.

The best part was that the local sports stores (Nike, New Balance, Asics) all had some special marathon specific swag that you could purchase for that week only.  Since I'm somewhat obsessed with Nike city specific swag, I figured I'd opt for this cool customized running shirt over the classic "I heart NY" tee.

I even made sure to fit in a very quick jog through Central Park,  just so I could wear it without feeling like a hypocrite.  Haha!

Anyway, cheers everyone and happy eating!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Experiment: Mac & Cheese Pancakes

Every now and then, I get these weird mac and cheese suggestions from folks and most of them I never really take the time to try out.

Then I saw a really straight-forward recipe for Mac and Cheese Pancakes as one of those Buzzfeed food hack how-to videos (embedded below).

I was intrigued and figured, hey, what the heck, why not.  It was simple enough.  Get some instant pancake mix, get some boxed mac and cheese and put them together.  What could go wrong?

I'll be honest, I had NO expectation about taste.  It was hard to determine if this was going to be a major failure or something new and awesome to continue making all the time.  I just figured, why not?  Worst that can happen is I have some wasted mix and mac.

So I watched the Buzzfeed video to try to figure out how much to use of each ingredient.  Unfortunately, they don't really give specifics on amounts, and after trying this out, the amounts they show would definitely be really off.

Mac And Cheese Pancakes
Posted by BuzzFeed Food on Sunday, September 27, 2015

So I gathered up my supplies and started making the mac and cheese, using a standard Kraft blue box.

Using Krusteaz mix, 2 cups whole milk and 1 cup cheddar cheese

Kraft Mac and Cheese

I decided to start conservatively.  I didn't use a full box of pancake mix, and though I cooked the full box of mac, I didn't expect to use all of it necessarily.  Once the mac and cheese was ready, I started an initial mix of the pancake mix using whole milk (like the video shows), and then came the mac and batter blend...

This where it started to seem a little more difficult.  I didn't want to have a bad mac to batter ratio so I added the mac and cheese in slowly at first.  Eventually, however, it seemed like I would need the whole box to match up to the batter, even though I hadn't even used a whole box of pancake mix (like the video seems to show).  After adding in the entire mac and cheese portion, I added a cup of shredded cheddar cheese (3 year aged Wisconsin cheddar).
Yum... Cheese...

Then, after mixing that all together, I started to cook on my non-stick griddle pan.  The video shows a greased pan being used, but I generally cook all my pancakes on a griddle, so I left out the oil.  I realize it might have been crispier if I had used oil, but I was willing to make that sacrifice.  I wasn't interested in a crispy glaze anyway. 


Hmmm... skeptical...

Then, after cooking for a handful of minutes on each side, it was time to test it out...

Still weird.

It was... pretty awful.  It was super bland, I could hardly taste anything so it just tasted like.. blah.  I imagine that it may have needed less pancake mix, and I probably needed more shredded cheese.  I don't know if I'll ever really try this experiment again.  There's not too much motivation to do so.

It was fun to try though :)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Review: Bear Republic Brewery

Bear Republic Brewery
345 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg

Wine Country visitors and residents: you MUST try Bear Republic's Brewers Mac and Cheese.

That's an order.

I had tried this mac and cheese once before with friends, but had a hard time mustering up the energy to truly judge it since we had just spent the day lounging by the pool and day drinking at Francis Ford Coppola Winery down the way.  Yes, hard life, I know.

So when I found myself eating there again this past Saturday, I felt compelled to try it again and give it a proper review.

It was great.  So great.  I love the flavors in this mac and cheese.  It has jack, cheddar, American, Parmesan, and a blue cheese bechamel sauce.  I usually don't even like blue cheese, but it really works well in this mac and cheese.  You can get it plain, or with bacon and/or jalapenos.  Since I tend to avoid super spicy foods, I went with the bacon.  Okay, I admit, I also just really love bacon.

The texture is very creamy and cheesy and I just love that.  The portion size is rather generous, as I remember from my first visit.  On this trip, however, a friend and I split the dish and it was just the right size.  We both felt full, but not stuffed.

With all that said, I have to explain why this mac won't be making it into my top ten, and I may get a lot of flack for it.

While AWESOME, I have a really hard time thinking of Healdsburg as part of the direct Bay Area.  It's a over an hour outside of San Francisco, and I tend to think of wine country in general as it's own entity.  I mean that in the BEST possible way.  I mean, I don't get excited about visiting another part of the Bay Area, but I sure do get excited about visiting wine country.  So, yeah, I guess that's my reasoning.  Sorry If that offends anyone.

So, again, if you are in that area of northern wine country, GO.  Go get yourself a mac and cheese.  Oh, and maybe some of their famous beer offerings as well.  Let's not forget that.

Review: ROCKS Lakeview

ROCKS Lakeview
3463 N. Broadway, Chicago

This is a FIELD TRIP post!  :)

I suppose Disneyland was also a field trip post since it's not the Bay Area, but I get especially excited when I can try mac and cheese offerings across California state lines.

Recently, I visited Chicago for a long weekend, and when friends and I found ourselves at ROCKS in the Lakeview neighborhood, I decided I should probably give a Chicago option a go.

ROCKS has named their dish Mac & Cheesus!  Kind of a funny title.  It contains smoked gouda, jack and cheddar cheese, diced chicken breast and is topped with some breadcrumbs and scallions.

I wish I could say it was as tasty as a Chicago deep dish pizza (now THAT was GREAT), but sadly, not this particular version.  The cheese texture was a little dry and the chicken was pretty flavorless, so it just sort of added to an overall bland taste.  I think that if you added some kind of seasoning to the chicken, or even attempted a kind of BBQ chicken flavor, it would probably give this mac the kick that it's missing.

What is good at ROCKS?  Well, I didn't get to try too much while there, but the sweet potato fries sure tasted awesome.  Stop in for beer, catch a football game and order some sweet potato fries.  And if you want to attempt the fried mac and cheese option (sadly, I could only try one), let me know what you think!

Review: Disneyland's Cafe Orleans

Disneyland's Cafe Orleans
New Orleans Square, Disneyland

This post is a little belated, but I definitely remember this mac and cheese experience fairly well, because unfortunately it was rather disappointing.

One of my favorite parts of visiting Disneyland is eating all the amazing food.  On average, Disneyland and California Adventure boast some of the best dishes and snack foods around, so it ends up being about half the reason I fork out the money for a plane ticket.

Unfortunately, the mac and cheese option at Cafe Orleans, located in the New Orleans Square area of Disneyland, was not very delicious.  The flavor was pretty bland and the portion size was rather depressing, even for the adult sized.  I suppose they try to make up for it with some veggie additions.  But really, let's face it.  If someone's ordering a mac and cheese, they are probably not looking to have half of the dish be made up for with vegetables.  That's just my two cents.

If you do find yourself at Cafe Orleans, this might actually be one of the healthier options, which makes me laugh.  For something really memorable and delicious, try the beignets, or if you are really hungry the Monte Cristo, which is basically a regular Monte Cristo but with beignet style fried bread.  AH-MAZING.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review: Public House

Public House
24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco

This past weekend I was at AT&T Park (home of the San Francisco Giants) for the annual Giant Race Expo and 10k.  It was my third year running the race and I always get a little excited for the expo as well.  Afterwards, I grabbed a quick bite at Public House.  I couldn't believe I had never been there before.

I was excited to see that they had a Baked Mac and Cheese on the menu.  Cheeses included Provolone, Cheddar and Gouda.

The size was pretty perfect for lunch, but probably not enough to share with another person.  It wasn't too big and just perfect for carb loading for my race the following day.

The flavor was okay.  Nothing really stood out, but you could tell there was a nice mixture of flavors.  For the most part the sauce was creamy, however, there was a significant amount of oil that had separated from the cheese in the cooking process.  That's probably one of the least appetizing things to see in any dish: an immense amount of oil or grease.

Leftover oil from the cheese... ew.
All in all, though, it wasn't too bad.  I probably wouldn't order it again.  There were several other items on the menu that looked delicious, like the fried chicken or burger.  There were even mini corn dogs if you are feeling like something fun.

For a baseball lover, however, you can't beat the location.  Public House is located within the AT&T Park's Willie Mays Plaza, just adjacent to the ballpark and dugout store.  For any Giants fan, this place is a real treat.  I enjoyed sitting outside with my Hunter Pence bobble head.  All the runners received an official race bobble head at the expo.

So next time you're at a game and want to pick up a drink or bite before a game, check out Public House.  Make your own determination on their Baked Mac and Cheese, and let me know what you think!

Go Giants! :)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: Absinthe

398 Hayes Street, San Francisco

Yum! Look at that cheesy crust! Photo courtesy of Vincent Serritella
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure to try Absinthe, a chic little restaurant and bar located in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.

While they had many appetizing menu items (I had the steak entree), there was of course one side I definitely had to try:  the Baked Mac & Cheese!

Absinthe has a baked version with Vermont White Cheddar and some really amazing herbs.  There's even a slight kick of spice, which reminded me of my dish at Fat Angel, but it's not quite so powerful.

The sauce texture was interesting, but it was redeemed by the cripsy cheese crust that's formed around the outside of the bowl.  That was definitely something I hadn't seen in most mac and cheeses I've ordered and reviewed.  The portion size felt like a large side, but would make a great small meal or lunch should you ever hope to order just that.

I can't finish this review without mentioning the highlight of the evening's dishes, however.  The most amazing treat we had at our table were the homemade pretzel appetizers.  That's right: Pretzels.

These bite sized pretzels came five to an order and were paired with the most amazing garlic, cheese sauce.  The sauce wasn't too thick, in fact it drizzled onto the tops of the pretzels quite nicely.  I could have eaten so many more of those, but alas... I had to share them... Next time, I'm ordering some just for myself!  They were so, so, so delicious.

All in all, I highly recommend a stop at this Hayes Valley treat.  My only regret is not ordering the Galapagos cocktail, which has been featured on 7x7's The Big Drink app for some time now.  Oh well, next time!  So go, my friends, and pick up some pretzels, some mac and cheese, and maybe some other bites and have a little small plate party.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Happy National Mac & Cheese Day!

It's National Mac and Cheese Day!

The Gilroy Garlic Mac @ Homeroom
What a great day to celebrate by finding or making your favorite mac dish and enjoying with friends.

It's not too late to get your mac and cheese fix.  Some places around the country are really celebrating, like in Baltimore, Maryland, you can get a free small mac and cheese from Noodles & Co.

I went to Homeroom with a friend at lunch today and we weren't the only ones with the same idea.  Not long after parking, the line was already forming and by the time we had been sitting just a few minutes, there was already a small group of folks sitting outside the restaurant waiting to be seated.

But we were some of the lucky ones.  We got seated right away and I was so excited to get my mac and cheese fresh from their kitchen.  So fresh, it was actually bubbling hot!

A video posted by You Don't Know Mac (@dontknowmac) on

What are you doing for National Mac & Cheese Day?  Stumped for locations to visit or recipes to try?  Maybe this infographic will help inspire some ideas!  Happy eating and Happy National Mac and Cheese Day!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fit Tip of the Day: How Many Minutes?

Since Mac & Cheese isn't my only love in life, I've decided to start featuring some fitness tips I pick up in my everyday journey of living a more active life.  Most specifically, I've taken up jogging and running races and what not, so most of these tips will probably be geared towards that.

Here's a tip about how much of a given exercise you'd probably have to do to burn off the calories from one serving of mac and cheese.  I'm going to use an estimate from the Homeroom Gilroy Garlic Mac since that seems to be a pretty popular choice and mention on this blog.

The estimated calorie count for the Gilroy Garlic Mac (based on Homeroom's Mac & Cheese cookbook) is 940 calories per serving.  For this entry, I won't be factoring in the fat/carbs/protein break down and how they affect digestion, nutrition, etc., but for anyone who is curious, it's approximately 59g in total fat, 58g in total carbs, and 41g in protein.

If a 150 pound person were to eat a full serving of the Gilroy Garlic Mac, they would need to complete the following times for the following activities to burn off the 940 calories:

Running (8-min mile): 63 minutes
Running (10-min mile): 79 minutes
Running (12-min mile): 94 minutes
Jog/Walk Intervals: 135 minutes
Walking (4mph): 157 minutes
Swimming (vigorous effort): 79 minutes
Swimming (moderate effort): 118 minutes
Stationary Bike (vigorous effort): 73 minutes
Stationary Bike (light effort):  135 minutes
Basketball: 94 minutes
Football: 86 minutes
Jump Rope: 94 minutes
Tennis: 118 minutes
Volleyball: 94 minutes
Golf: 188 minutes
House Cleaning (vigorous effort): 235 minutes

Interesting list, huh?  I love my mac and cheese, but I love it even more when I balance it out with an activity like running or jogging.  I thought I'd share this list with everyone in case there was anyone out there interested in doing the same.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mac of the Day: White Cheddar with Spinach

A good friend of mine loves Homeroom just as much as I do and we regularly like to take trips for our favorite dish there: the white cheddar mac.  Anyway, I got this awesome photo of her variation on the dish today and thought I'd share it here.

Happy Friday and happy eating!

Want to see your mac and cheese meal show up here as a Mac of the Day?  Just email and you might see it show up one day!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tote Bag Giveaway Winner!

Today is June 9!  It's You Don't Know Mac's first birthday!  Woo!

It's also the day that I announce the Tote Bag Giveaway winner! Drumroll....

Here's the winning Instagram photo:

Congrats to Jessica, who has won her very own You Don't Know Mac tote bag!  This photo is too cute not to win!

You can follow You Don't Know Mac on Instagram, too, and who knows... Maybe you'll one day win a tote bag as snazzy as this one, too!  Thanks again to all my awesome readers and contributors over the last year.  It's been really fun to get photos, recommendations, recipes and more from all of you.  I hope you'll continue to share your mac and cheese experiences and let me know what you think of some of my recommendations.  Happy Birthday, You Don't Know Mac, and Cheers to all of you!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Review: Fat Angel Food & Libation

Fat Angel Food & Libation
1740 O'Farrell St, San Francisco

This past weekend, I stopped in at Fat Angel before attending a concert at the Fillmore.  I had heard that they had a killer mac and cheese, so when I saw how close they were to the venue, I knew I had to stop in.

The restaurant wasn't nearly as busy as I expected it to be, but I suppose that had a lot to do with there be an NBA Finals game on at the same time and Fat Angel doesn't have a TV.  Note for future reference, if you are hoping to watch a game somewhere, this probably isn't the place.  But!  If you are looking for a great mac and cheese, look no further because we have a new addition to the Top Ten list!  Congrats to Fat Angel!

The cheese sauce is spicy, which I haven't seen offered in too many restaurants.  While I'm not usually a fan of spicy dishes, I could appreciate the flavor and how it made this particular mac and cheese so unique.  They use a blend of Gruyere, Cheddar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.  To add the spicy kick, they throw in some cayenne.  The cooked cheese that forms a crust around the edges and top of the dish is delicious and is complimented well by cooked breadcrumbs sprinkled on top.

Yep, that's a good helping right there
Surprisingly, even though it was spicier than I normally prefer, I ate practically the whole dish.  The cheese sauce was creamy and held well to the pasta.  There wasn't any kind of watery remains, which can often happen in a skillet due to an excess of fat oils that didn't congeal in the hot serving platter.  That sounds lovely, right?  Haha.  But none of that present here.  Just some good, creamy sauce with a spicy flavor that, if you are like me, will have you drinking many glasses of water.

All that said, I encourage you to give Fat Angel a try!  It has the You Don't Know Mac Top Ten stamp of approval... for now...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Review: Sidecar

1127 Broad St, San Luis Obispo

Large portions!
While in San Luis Obispo for Memorial Day weekend, I stopped into Sidecar, one of my new favorite bars to visit while on the central coast.  Last time I visited Sidecar, I just got a couple drinks (they are pretty well stocked with some good bourbons and whiskeys), and had some popcorn at the bar.  This time, I wanted to sample their restaurant menu.  It also happened to be my birthday so I was pretty excited to celebrate with some mac and cheese.

I ordered the Butternut Mac, which includes roasted butternut squash, vermont cheddar cheese and is topped with breadcrumbs.  It wasn’t very rich, but had some good flavor.  I think that it would have really soared if it had had a creamier sauce.  The cheese and butternut squash had a tendency to just kind of clump together on the noodles.  The topping didn’t add much in the way of flavor and felt more like a slight texture change.  The portion was great, though.  I barely finished half of it.

If I were to return to Sidecar, I probably wouldn’t order the mac and cheese.  I’d probably inquire into their market cut or market fish selections.  My boyfriend ordered their market cut, which was a delicious steak with some really good mashed potatoes and veggies.  Another dish I would look into would be the tator tots side, which I’ve heard is pretty delicious.

If you find yourself in San Luis Obispo, definitely give Sidecar a visit, if not for the mac, but at least for the great bar selection, some really good popcorn and a cool environment.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Happy 1st Birthday & Tote Bag Giveaway!

Just about a year ago, on June 9, 2014, I posted my blog entry here, and so You Don't Know Mac was born!

So... Happy First Birthday, You Don't Know Mac!  It's been super fun exploring new mac and cheese recipes and restaurant offerings and it's been even more fun to share my explorations with all of you readers!

To celebrate, I'm giving away a large You Don't Know Mac tote bag, just like the stylish one pictured here.  It works great for groceries, a random walk to the local mac and cheese restaurant, or even the beach!

How do you win this awesome tote bag you ask?  Well, it's super simple! Between now and through June 8, Instagram a photo of yourself with a mac and cheese dish you enjoy (or just the mac and cheese dish is fine), and tag @dontknowmac in your photo post.  You must tag @dontknowmac to enter, or I might not see it.  On June 9, I'll reveal the winner here in a new blog post and on Instagram.  The more Instagram photo posts you have, the more entries you have into the lottery!

Happy photo taking and Happy Birthday, You Don't Know Mac!

Don't follow You Don't Know Mac on Instagram?  Well, now you should start!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: Eureka!

1141 Chorro St, San Luis Obispo

Hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend!  I spent the whole weekend down on the central coast enjoying some delicious food, wine and spending time with some lovely people.

While there, I stopped into Eureka! in downtown San Luis Obispo and gave their mac and cheese side dish a try.  It's a little more like an extra creamy alfredo pasta, so I don't know that I'd totally call it a mac and cheese, but it was very very tasty.  It's not a very large portion, but if you are just looking for a quick, smaller meal, it's just right.  I paired it with a pinot noir, but it probably could've stood up against a denser wine since it was so rich.

When it arrives at the table, it comes in a small skillet resting on a wooden base and garnished with a fried sage leaf.  It's definitely very pretty and looks very appetizing.  The sauce is very creamy, and though the dish lacks any kind of crispy, cheesy or breaded topping, you don't miss it.  The flavor is very rich but definitely resembles more of an alfredo pasta than a mac and cheese.

Either way, you probably won't be disappointed if you stop in at a Eureka! location and pick up the side dish.  Happy dining!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: Beachside Coffee Bar & Kitchen

Beachside Coffee Bar & Kitchen
4300 Judah St, San Francisco, CA

Beachside's Mac and Cheese
Today I get to write an especially fun post, at least for me, because this mac and cheese trip was an especially fun and memorable one.

My birthday is coming up, and as an early surprise, my boyfriend bought us both bicycles so we could start riding around the city.  We rode from the SF Presidio, through the Richmond district, all through Golden Gate Park, and eventually down to Ocean Beach, where we pedaled down the Great Highway until our lunch destination: Beachside Coffee Bar & Kitchen in the Outer Sunset district.

I had no idea what I was going to eat, but I was starving after such a long, hilly ride.  And so, of course, I was thrilled to find that Beachside had a mac and cheese dish on the menu!

It came in a great big bowl, and since I was so hungry I was happy to have such a big portion.  The pasta was cooked pretty well, and the cheese topping was pretty delicious.  Unfortunately, the general sauce flavor was a little light and the sauce itself was a little runny, but I still enjoyed it and ate the entire dish.

Ordering menu and part of the pastry case
My favorite part of the experience, however, was just the general atmosphere.  It was very laid back and even though this is a relatively popular place, it didn't seem to hard to get a seat at a table.  It's one of those easy, order at the counter and grab a number for your table type of places.  Super low-key, which fits well with it's close proximity to the ocean.  That whole area near the beach has a sleepy vibe to it and Beachside seems to embrace that.

When you first walk in you are greeted by big wooden tables, a large paper, handwritten menu, and best of all, a ridiculously big pastry case with some of the most delicious treats and goodies I've ever seen.  Even though we've now already been to the restaurant twice, I have yet to try one of these amazing looking baked items, but fully intend to do so, very very soon.

On my second visit, we went for breakfast, where I tried a bacon waffle.  Basically, it's what you would think of: bacon mixed in with the batter and then cooked on the waffle griddle.  Very, very good.  I didn't order any coffee myself but I tried some of my boyfriend's and it was pretty darn good.

In general, I just enjoyed spending a lazy morning eating a yummy breakfast after riding my bike down to the ocean.  You could probably spend a fair amount of time just hanging out and eating and drinking coffee there if you wanted to, it's got that great feel to it.  The only thing you may have to look out for is when the mad rush of people starts to show up around 10am.  That's when getting up and leaving when you are finishing might be the more polite thing to to.  Luckily, there's a great big ocean nearby that you can go check out!

A new friend
When I left the restaurant on our first trip, I was thrilled to find a very cute, very friendly black lab had been guarding my bicycle.  He was really cute and loved the attention as I was trying to undo my lock.  Basically, a perfect end to a delightful meal and visit.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this longer post than usual.  Granted, it wasn't all about mac and cheese, but if a particular restaurant environment strikes me as something special, I think that's worth writing about, too.

I hope you'll make the stop someday to try some mac and cheese, or pastry case goodies for yourself.  Who knows, you just might see me there again... and again... and again :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mac of the Day: Plain Ol' Mac & Cheese

So I'm cheating a little bit today by posting a recommendation from SF Gate.  I figured it works because this is probably going to be one of the next mac and cheese dishes that I try.  Actual Cafe has their customizable version called the Plain Ol' Mac & Cheese, which is anything but plain.  You can add from a large list of options including bacon, jalapenos, mushrooms, and more.  Looking forward to trying this guy!

Source: SF Gate

Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Panera Bread

Panera Bread
Multiple Locations

Not too shabby, Panera.
Tyler Florence is going to kill me.

I think I might like Panera Bread's mac and cheese more than his...

Okay, maybe not, but it's not that bad.  It's actually got some pretty good flavor and the sauce is nice and creamy.  I've seen countless recipes passed around on Pinterest and other DIY friendly websites.  And for good reason.  It's a pretty decent version.

The one thing I will say that is has going against it is that you can taste a bit of that kind of "perservative", pre-made kind of flavor.  Something you'd expect maybe from a box of Kraft mac and cheese or some other easily prepared version of the dish.  And for that, I cannot put this dish into my top ten.

However, it's pretty good if you find yourself out and about, especially since there's a Panera Bread pretty much everywhere.  So fear not, non-San Francisco Bay Area readers!  There is a great mac and cheese near you, too!

Happy Monday!