Three years ago, I scratched something off my bucket list: I judged a macaroni and cheese contest. An inaugural event called the Surf Dreams Foundation Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff was trying to make some noise in the community and I wanted to get involved. I participated in a social media contest and won a coveted role as one of the judges. I had a great time.
After you do something as prestigious as help declare a winner in a macaroni and cheese competition, you can’t do much to top it. So, I stayed away from the 2nd and 3rd annual Surf Dreams Foundation Mac-N-Cheese Cookoffs. I figured allowing a few years to pass was a good thing before showing up again.
Just a couple days shy of the three-year anniversary of when I realized my macaroni and cheese fantasy, I returned to the festival. This time around it wasn’t an inaugural event. Instead, it was a much bigger and better organized event with numerous area restaurants participating. In fact, the 4th Annual Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff had grown so much that we had to be shuttled to the event site.
But the cookoff wasn’t the only thing that had grown; my entourage had too. Sloan joined us on Sunday to eat some mac and cheese in the sun. This year the festival was on the premises of Sara J’s Seafood Restaurant and we wasted no time purchasing sample tickets. Before we knew it, we were chowing down on different versions of my favorite dish.
Many of the macaroni and cheese dishes had some type of meat served with it. Whether it be chicken, chorizo, or ground beef, you could fill up on protein with your carbs. Multiple restaurants/vendors presented their mac and cheese offerings with fresh seafood. As someone who doesn’t enjoy most fish and crab, I saved my tickets when we passed those booths.
But there was also homage paid to classic mac and cheese as well. At one booth, the woman doing the serving said “This is simply macaroni and cheese just like your grandma made it.” I appreciated the many vendors who opted for the basic ingredients of noodles, cheese, butter, and lots of love.
This year’s cookoff evolved to include mac and cheese dishes not meant to be served in a cup with a fork. One such example was the macaroni and cheese pizza offered by Mellow Mushroom. This wasn’t a gimmick offered by a $5 buffet place. Rather, it was gourmet pizza at its finest. In hindsight, Sid and I wished we each got our own piece because it was the best thing we tried all afternoon.
We also had the pleasure of sampling mac and cheese spring rolls. These little guys were incredible and Sloan liked them too! They came from a food truck that specialized only in spring rolls. So, in addition to the obvious flavor, the vendor also offered spring roll options such as bacon cheeseburger, pizza, hot dog, taco, pulled pork, and even dessert options.
In my opinion, the story of our visit to Garden City wasn’t the mac and cheese pizza or the spring roll food truck – it was what I alluded to above. To see the strides made by the event was neat. My worries were unfounded that the lack of my judging expertise would negatively impact the young festival. Dumb joke, I know.
In all seriousness, congrats to the Surf Dreams Foundation Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff organizers for putting together a great event. My family had a nice time. Don’t Blink.