Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 30, 2013

Cheesy tradition returns: Great Macaroni and Cheese Bake-Off

TRAVERSE CITY — Area chefs will cook up about 10 gallons of sauce and 40 pounds of pasta each for an annual cheesy competition.

The Great Macaroni & Cheese Bake-off, which started in 2000, will be even richer than usual, with Hawthorne Vineyards mixed into the competition for the first time.

The annual cooking competition pairs eight local restaurants and eight wineries to create a perfect macaroni and cheese and wine pairing. Awards are given to the best mac and cheese, the cheesiest and best pairing.

“It’s just a relaxing day where people that have their families over for Thanksgiving and are looking for something fun and different to do can get out and experience Old Mission Peninsula wine with a comfort food pairing attached,” said Marie-Chantal Dalese, the director of marketing for Chateau Chantal.

All 1,200 of the $40 tickets to the event sold out in October.

“It’s become a traditional event for a lot of people. The same groups come into it every year,” said Tom Kowalczyk, the assistant manager at Peninsula Cellars.

Attendees are assigned one winery to begin their journey to avoid crowding and then move on to the rest. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“What I think is the most fun part of the day is pairing the different mac and cheese creations with different wines and seeing how those two match up to make a new fun gourmet pairing,” said Dalese.

The trick, she said, is to balance the weight of the dish with the weight of the wine.

“For mac and cheese, which are fuller-bodied dishes, a fuller-bodied wine (is needed) to stand up to the richness of the mac and cheese,” Dalese said.

The Jolly Pumpkin will return to compete this year, and some newer restaurants, including Towne Plaza and Opa Uptown, will cook on the peninsula for the first time.

“It’s fun,” said Paul Olson, the chef and general manager at The Jolly Pumpkin and Mission Table.

Other chefs will represent the Inn at Black Star Farms, The Cooks’ House, Siren Hall, Grand Traverse Resort and 7 Monks Taproom.

The wineries also will be open for regular tasting.

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