Hello my fellow cheese lovers. If you live in the Hudson Valley, I hope you went to the most amazing festival ever created–the Mac and Cheese Fest at the historic Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville, New York. Around 20 of the finest restaurants and chefs in the Hudson Valley shared their mac and cheese creations. My smile grew with each vendor I tried, taking “Say Cheese!” to a whole new level. With a general admission ticket, I was allowed 15 samples to try and, of course, I tried all 15. Here’s my ranking of my favorite mac and cheeses.
15. Bull and Barrel Brewery/Restaurant
Any food combined with breakfast can’t go wrong. Bull and Barrel Restaurant created a bacon, mac, and cheese-stuffed waffle, topped with bacon-maple syrup. Want some for yourself? Their brewery/restaurant is situated near the base of the East Branch Reservoir, smack dab in the middle of the New York’s Croton Watershed supply system. They also create their own batch of artisanal craft beers that would compliment this sweet mac and cheese.
14. Amada’s Kitchen
Amada’s Kitchen is a family owned restaurant, which serves homemade style Mexican delights. They created a new twist on traditional mac and cheese by adding onions, tomatoes, and jalapeños. Like spice? Try Amada’s in Washingtonville, NY. You get a free coffee with any purchase! Everyone loves free coffee.
13. Whistling Willies
Whistling Willies is nestled on Main Street in Cold Springs and has been cooking great food and drinks for over 150 years. They were the only restaurant to serve veggie mac and cheese, which was a mash-up of spinach, asparagus, and broccoli with their signature cheese sauce, topped with parmesan breadcrumbs. I now realize that breadcrumbs should be on every mac and cheese.
12. Gentle Giant Brewing Company
Gentle Giant Brewing Company is a microbrewery and barbecue joint in Pearl River, New York. It’s a cool tap room that includes their beer & BBQ plus beverages from other local breweries, wineries, and distilleries. They had smoked mac and cheese with bacon samples. Anything with bacon makes my mouth water.
11. Piranha Grill
Piranha Grill is on wheels! This food truck opened in March in Deerpark, NY, and serves donut muffins, egg sandwiches, burgers, spiedies, freshly made french fries, and “piranhaissimos,” which is chicken or pork with provolone, onions, and peppers on a roll or in a pita. For this cheese fest, they cooked spicy taco mac and cheese. I’m always in the mood for tacos.
10. Whistling Willies
Whistling Willies also made another dish of mac and cheese. Love lobster? Check this out. Their yummy lobster and crab mac was a mix of lobster chunks, crab claw meat, and truffle oil. I clawed at my sample and finished it within seconds.
9. Mix and Mac
Introducing the winner of Best Cheese Mac at the festival! Everyone is buzzing about Mix and Mac in Middletown, NY. This sample was their traditional American cheddar cheese blend. If you’re looking for some comfort food, Mix and Mac is where you gotta get it.
8. Sweet Onion Brew House
Sweet Onion Brewhouse uses all fresh and local ingredients and almost all of their beer is from New York. Besides their beer and unique cocktails, we can’t ignore their buffalo mac and cheese. This sample is their signature 4 cheese mac with chopped buffalo chicken, topped with blue cheese drizzle and scallions. I’m from Buffalo and I cannot deny their buffalo chicken mac and cheese was better than anything I’ve had at home.
7. Mix and Mac
Mix and Mac does it, again, with their “Big MIC” mac and cheese. They combined cheddar cheese with ground beef, pickles, caramelized onions, and their special sauce. Basically, a fancy cheeseburger turned mac and cheese. I’m sure you’d like to take a big bite out of this.
6. Valley Diner
Valley Diner is run by Hudson Valley natives and serves a variety of local-friendly foods. At the fest, they served up a whopping 6 cheese mac and cheese with swiss, American, gouda, cheddar, parmesan, and mozzarella. It’s the cheesiest of cheeses.
5. Cosimo’s Brick Oven
Cosimo’s Brick Restaurant has five locations in Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Middletown and Woodbury, and relies on recipes that have been in the family for generations. Their mac and cheese was to-die-for: lobster, jalapeño, smoked bacon, artisanal white cheddar, and gouda, tossed with tortilla pasta in sherry cream sauce. Almost the tastiest, but definitely the prettiest.
4. Simon Chophouse
Simon Chophouse serves a variety of food, including steak fish cocktails. I know. Steak fish cocktails. Their mac and cheese was even better: smoked gouda and short rib. I feel the same way as Viola in She’s the Man. “My favorite’s gouda!”
3. Mix and Mac
Take life by the balls. Mix and Mac’s bacon and cheddar fried balls. Dip em’ in a tomato cream dipping sauce and you’re a crunch away from heaven.
2. Leo’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria
Leo’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria is a family-owned and operated restaurant in Cornwall, Newburgh, and Wappingers Falls. Leo’s diverse menu features pasta, chicken, veal, and seafood, highlighting a variety of delicious Italian specialties. Our second best eat at the fest was their pulled pork mac and cheese that was so creamy, it melted in my mouth.
1. Brothers BBQ
Drumroll, please! The best mac and cheese (in my opinion) at the fest was Brother’s Barbecue. I could not get enough of Brother’s famous mac and cheese. Their dish is made with caramelized brisket and pulled pork, with smoked cheddar cheese. That’s not all. It also has a Cheeze-It cheddar crust. It was the perfect blend of different flavors with a satisfying crunch. If there’s one place on this list you need to try, it’s Brother’s Barbecue.
That’s all my favorite eats at The Hudson Valley Mac and Cheese Fest. There were other vendors worth noting that I didn’t get a chance to try like Oath Beer Sanctuary, Toque of Class, Cornucopia Caterers, Rabbit and Turtle, Paisan on Wheels, and Barb’s Butchery. If you’re in the Hudson Valley and looking for some new restaurants to try, check these out! A farewell to my cheese lovers, arrivedercheese!