THEMUSEUM’s Mac & Cheese Festival brings out K-W’s finest

Photo by Marco Pedri

On a cold, stormy night in downtown Kitchener, a mac and cheese festival seemed like the perfect place to take refuge. Despite a sour event last year, THEMUSEUM’s Mac & Cheese Festival returned for a second year to dispel all doubts.

The layout was set up similar to Taco Fest, a very successful event also held at THEMUSEUM. Instead of overwhelming one restaurant to serve all-you-can-eat mac and cheese, this year’s event featured eight restaurants and each ticket included a single four-ounce portion from each vendor. Each restaurant competed to win the “Best Mac & Cheese” and “Best Beer” awards as voted by event participants.

After a cheese-and-booze-fueled night, Beertown took home the trophy for best mac and cheese and Elora Brewing Co. won best beer.

B@THEMUSEUM and Grand Trunk Saloon shared the first floor. B’s mac and cheese consisted of beer-braised beef short rib with white wine cream cheese sauce topped with cornbread crumble. Grand Trunk stayed true to its cuisine: a soul and southern style with hickory smoked pigtail cajun spiced mac and cheese.

On the second floor, TWH Social served up a sweet, salty, crispy and meaty mac and cheese packed with smoked chicken, cheddar, parmesan and fried shallots.

Abe Erb brought the mac and cheese found on their regular menu.

The third floor featured The Bauer Kitchen, Wildcraft, The Bruce and Beertown.

The Bauer Kitchen’s mac and cheese was my personal favourite. The blend of cured, spiced and smoked pulled pork shoulder with tons of fancy cheese finished with pork chicharónes and fresh scallions was nothing short of sensational.

Wildcraft brought their upbeat contemporary approach to mac and cheese with a duck confit base, brie and roasted garlic béchamel, chicharónes, crispy duck fat, orange zest, thyme and butter toasted panko. The Bruce Restaurant added a Korean twist to mac and cheese with an array of toppings for people to mix and match to their liking such as their house quick-pickled kimchi and cucumbers.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Beertown took a new take on the standard mac and cheese as they warmed it up with sriracha and pickles and topped it off with pounded jalapeno Cheetos.

In the words of the chef, Brandon Ulian, their mac and cheese was “fucking ridiculous.”

The crowd was diverse with a large representation of young, mid 20’s to mid 30’s, folks. Chef of TWH Social, Tyler Adams, pointed out that, “mac and cheese is universal,” and that this event caters to everyone from the financially conscious students to professionals celebrating their umpteenth anniversary.

As was the case last year, a live band was there to keep the atmosphere jovial and jubilant. Aside from the live band, the newly opened Underground Studio MakerSpace was available for event attendees to try their hands at cardboard arts and crafts. The trophies presented to winning vendors were impressively 3D printed by the MakerSpace.

The general sentiment behind why vendors wanted to participate in this event, aside from promoting and reaching out to the public, was to support community and charity. The proceeds from the Mac & Cheese Festival went towards funding education programs at THEMUSEUM, such as the new MakerSpace.

The second running of the event was an astounding success. The idea emerged as an extension of THEMUSEUMS’ Beer+ Series, where they combine beer with an array of activities and food to bring people together as an exciting fundraiser for the organization.

“We just wanted to bring people together with beer and mac and cheese, simple things that are enjoyable,” said Jenna Van Klaveren, brand, communications and digital manager at THEMUSEUM.

“It’s kind of the simplicity of it is what inspired the event.”

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