Restaurants compete for 'most outstanding' title at Mac & Cheese Festival

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Local restaurants competed against one another in the hope of claiming "the most outstanding mac and cheese" title on Aug. 21 when the Mac & Cheese Festival returned to Berg Park.

The event, which benefits the Boys & Girls Club of Farmington, was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Attendees spent Saturday afternoon enjoying unlimited gourmet macaroni and cheese samplings and samples of wine and beer.

The line at the tent for Red Lobster curved along the grass as Benjamin Crabtree, culinary manager, and Andrew VanDam, server and bartender, served macaroni and cheese that featured a five-cheese blend with green chile, Maine lobster claw, Chilean langostino and Norwegian langoustine.

Outback Steakhouse serve macaroni and cheese made with blueberries and graham cracker crumbs at the Mac & Cheese Festival on Aug. 21 at Berg Park in Farmington.

"This is the prize winning one right here," Crabtree said adding that the concoction is not on the restaurant's menu, so it is a special dish for the event.

Attendees vote for their favorite macaroni and cheese by casting a token in a box setup at each restaurant's tent. The restaurant with the most tokens wins the title, followed by second and third place finishers.

Tim McLaughlin is the new executive chef at Cedar Bow restaurant inside Northern Edge Casino in Upper Fruitland.

For the competition, the Cedar Bow team served a macaroni and cheese dish consisting of Gouda, Gruyère, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, green chile and a bit of bacon.

It was served along with tomato basil bisque and a crispy wanton on the side.

Fat Boys Deli served cookies decorated as macaroni and cheese during the Mac & Cheese Festival on Aug. 21 at Berg Park in Farmington.

"Our goal is to do like a grilled cheese and soup theme," McLaughlin said.

While the festival is a fun event, it also provides exposure for the restaurant and casino, both have reopened after closing because of the pandemic, he explained.

Scott Vuko, director of marketing at Northern Edge, said the management team thought that participating in the festival was a way to mark the gaming facility's return to helping the community.

"The lines keep coming," Vuko said about attendees' interest in tasting the restaurant's macaroni and cheese.

Clancy's Irish Cantina took first place followed by Dickey's Barbecue Pit in second place and Cedar Bow at Northern Edge Casino in third place, according to the festival's results.

The macaroni and cheese served by Red Lobster at the Mac & Cheese Festival in Farmington on Aug. 21 featured three types of lobster meat.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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