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A Tip of the Cheesehead to the Mac & Cheese Contestants



When I think of comfort food, macaroni and cheese is among my top three ranking in the carb comfort zone with deep-dish pizza and buckwheat pancakes.

Whether it’s the iconic blue Kraft box, complete with powdered orange cheese, or the trendy side dishes that seem to be on every menu, macaroni and cheese is an adaptable comfort food. From the ubiquitous lobster mac and cheese or fried triangle bites served up in pubs, it can provide sustenance for the soul.

Just recently Lactalis Food Service sponsored Buffalo’s Best Mac & Cheese Challenge, which included 20 local eateries. Customers had the opportunity to win an iPad and restaurant gift certificates when they ordered, tasted and cast their online ballot for the mac and cheese creation that featured on of Lactalis’ artisan cheeses

From left: Conor Casey, Adam Lizak, Maura Crawford and John Cononico from Lactalis
After a hard-fought battle, Sole Restaurant emerged as the big cheese, winning the contest for their “Latin Mac & Cheese,” featuring Don Bernardo Manchego. Maura Crawford opened Sole in 2007 at the Walker Center in Williamsville. A year ago, they relocated the Pan Latin themed restaurant to 810 Elmwood Avenue in the city.

Sole was an eager participant in the Challenge. “So many competitions these days are smackdowns or showdowns.  I don’t care for the gladiatorial aspect of those competitions.  I don’t think there is such a thing as bad mac and cheese, customer interaction is always a great idea and business stimulator, so any way you looked at it, you couldn’t lose,” Crawford said.
 
She and her staff decided Manchego was the right choice for their spicy recipe. “We use Manchego a lot.  It’s a little pricier than some we could use, but the impact on nachos, tacos, rellenos, Chicken Buenos Aires and specials is amazing.  It shreds well, melts well, and the flavor stands up to other ingredients and doesn’t get lost in the sauce.
 
The winning recipe was a team effort-the most fun part of the restaurant business.
 
“I love conversations where you discuss the virtues of macaroni like it was part of the G20 summit.  Kudos go to Chefs Adam Lizak and Conor Casey, “noted Crawford. “I think we all agree that the coup de grace was the pickled jalapeno-it just made all of the other flavors pop.”

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