When I first heard there was a festival devoted to one of my favorite foods in the world, mac 'n' cheese, I've gotta say, I freaked. There aren't many things that are better than this cheesy, carby goodness, and you better believe I'll take any opportunity I get to stuff my face with it.
I went to the Return of the Mac Festival in Bloomington, hosted by Noodles & Co. and Clustertruck, where nearby restaurants made their own versions of mac 'n' cheese. Restaurants included Topo's 403, Nick's, Upland, Buffalouie's, The Tap, Big Woods, NoCo, and King Dough, just to name a few.
For a fee, guests were able to sample unlimited mac 'n' cheese for two hours. Two whole hours of nothing but mac 'n' cheese. People brought frisbees for plates, skipped meals, and wore their comfiest sweatpants for the occasion.
One taster at the mac 'n' cheese fest said he thought it was "interesting getting to try a bunch of wild varieties of a food normally thought of as basic and simple." I couldn't have said it better myself. The dishes ranged from your classic creamy mac (made by Carson's Family BBQ) to mac made with oxtail, mushroom, and Gruyere (shoutout to Nick's) to mac 'n' cheese made with oranges and topped with Cheeto dust (King Dough's specialty).
The mac 'n' cheeses were all judged first by actual judges who knew what they were talking about, and then by the people, who voted for their favorite cheesy dish through Yelp. The winner of each vote got to take home the Golden Noodle, the most coveted prize for mac 'n' cheese makers.
The Ivy Tech culinary program's take on the classic dish was called Quack 'n' Cheese, mac 'n' cheese with duck, and was voted by the judges to be the best mac 'n' cheese overall. The Feast mac 'n' cheese, which was an Aged Bacon Garganelli, was awarded the title of crowd favorite.
The Return of the Mac Fest is moving on to Noblesville, Indiana this June. If you know what's right for you, you'll be there.