The Best Ever Mac & Cheese

My favorite show on the Food Network is  “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” for two reasons:

  1. You discover the favorite dishes of food personalities/writers/chefs and where you can find them. It’s also cool when they’re showing something you’ve actually eaten. I.e. Claire Robinson having the vanilla cream meringue cake at Cipriani in New York (I highly recommend it).

2.  The number two reason is watching their raw passion for food as they vividly describe each dish. Just listen to Alex Guarnaschelli– her words are poetic. She calls the waiter who makes the best Caesar salad “a maestro that sprinkles a salt violin of cheese.” Alex then looks up and pauses as she recalls each element and squints in joy. Love her.

 

I‘ve only had a handful of “that was the best ever____!” moments. And I know that I’m not going to find all of them in my neighborhood. It will require a little exploration because it’s a journey. With that being said, the BEST EVER Mac & Cheese can be found at The Butcher’s Table in Seattle, Washington. Owner Kurt Dammeier and  founder of Beecher’s Cheese, serves his “world’s best” mac & cheese at his steakhouse–all hot and bubbly and right out of the oven. It’s made lovingly with their Flagship Cheddar and Just Jack cheese. Flagship is like an aged Cheddar meets Gruyere: robust yet nutty. Marry that with a buttery jack and you have “the world’s best” mac & cheese. At the Beecher’s shop in Pike Place Market, it’s served piping hot-stove top style. It’s still very tasty, but now multiply that to the 100th power with how it’s prepared at The Butcher’s Table. They take the exact same mac and cheese, add bread crumbs and finish it off in the oven to develop a brown cheesy crust and…..wait for it…….serve it with their house-made Sriracha!  Is your mouth watering yet? The cheeses balance one another; Flagship gives the sauce an edge and Just Jack adds a luscious buttery texture. As you dig in with your fork and break open the blanket of cheesy crust, the steam of the hot noodles releases, giving you a welcomed mini facial. Get a little bit of crunchy cheesy bits along with the creamy pasta, a dab of the spicy Sriracha, and you have the perfect bite. True story: I placed two orders of this as a side to my steak. It’s next level, out of this world and the BEST EVER mac & cheese.

 

Manchego, Santa Monica

Nestled on busy  main street is a charming and unassuming  Spanish tapas bar called Manchego. Its small size and simple facade could easily be passed when driving by. The quaint interior is welcoming, and rustic textures gives the space a warmth that encourages you to stay for awhile.

The restaurant is named after an exquisite sheep’s milk cheese, which gives me an inkling of the level of cookery that awaits. I begin my night with a glass of Sangria, the perfect starting off point to a great meal.

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Crispy Jamon Tostado

burrata, fig jam, jamon

The gentle sweetness of the fig jam worked harmoniously with the salty pork. The crispy Iberia ham, rich butteriness of the fresh cheese, and the slight crisp edges of the bread gave the tapas dish nice texture.

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Brussels Sprouts

bacon, mushroom, vinagre de jerez

Acid. salt. sweet. crispy. This little vegetable was transformed into something amazing. The contours of each brussel leaf crisped up, the core was tender, absorbing the the sweet yet slight acidic caramelization of the vinegar. Bits of bacon enriched the dish and the mushrooms added a dose of umami and soft texture.

 

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Membrillo Glazed Pork Belly w. Marcona Almonds

Rich, unctuous, and just fantastic. With each bite, I experienced the layers of flavor and textural variety: the sweet cracklin’ skin from the membrillo glaze, glossy pork fat, and richness of the meat.

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Grilled Octopus

lemon, blistered tomatoes, anchoa olives, garlic

This dish was packed with acidity and freshness. I applaud the chef for cooking the octopus to perfection. The exterior had a desirable char, and the center was tender and supple. Lemon, capers, and tomatoes gave it vibrancy and a healthy amount of acid.

*not pictured but also a must-try are the grilled lamb chops with tzatziki and crispy capers (the best dish of the night, but devoured before a picture could be taken).

The food I experienced at Manchego was splendid. It’s a great place to unwind with a few good friends over great food.

Manchego /2518 Main St. Santa Monica, CA 90405 /visit manchego