On Saturday, April 11, 2015, the Morningside Area Community Council (MACC) hosted their 2ndannual MAC(C) n’ Cheese bake off at the local VFW. The bake off consisted of eight Morningside residents, preparing their signature mac n cheese dishes to win the ultimate prize of the coveted Silver Fork! There were 3 judges, one of which was Corporate Chef Bill Fuller of Big Burrito Group; the others were local residents. In addition to the mac n cheese tastings, they provided chicken wings, beer & wine, along with a performance by “Don’t Ask” band; this was all included in the $20.00 ticket price. There were raffles and 50/50 tickets sold at the event. All proceeds of this event go towards the Morningside Mile Honoring Those Who Served.
The event began at 7:00 pm. The VFW was packed by 7:15. My co-eater and I found some seats right up front. Actually, we didn’t really have a choice, as most of the tables were reserved. These folks are serious about their mac n cheese 📷. After the judges got their taste, the rest of us ran in line to get our portion of the comfort food. I purchased $10 worth of 50/50 raffle tickets and headed to the first stop. It was titled “Exploded Pierogi Mac n Cheese”, prepared by Russ Shelly. The second was, last year’s winner, “First Time’s A Charm” made by Stacey DiRenzo. Third stop was “HP’s Cheesy MACC" by Henry Petrilli. The fourth was “Sue’s Surprise”, by Susan Kirk. After filling up my plate with the first four, I added some wings and took that to my table.
I got back up to get my taste of the next 4 competitors. My fifth stop, was “Buffalo Elbows”, cooked by Jeffrey Rothman. Sixth was “Guisepinna’s Cheesy Pasta Bites”, seventh was “Saturday Night Special”, prepared by Eddie McGrady and last but not least was my eighth stop, which was “Michelle’s 7thHeaven”, by Don Sand. I finally had all 8 pastas, and I was ready to dig in! I decided to eat them in order (1-8), I know that may sounds strange, lol, but it was the only way for me to wrap my head around how to eat 8 different mac n cheeses!
So, let me start by saying that I am not a big fan of pierogis! I know, I know…how can I be a true Pittsburgher and not…With that being said, I was a little nervous about the first one. It definitely wasn’t your typical mac n cheese… It was literally loaded with pierogis! The taste was good though. The second one was made with Rotini noodles, so I automatically thought of pasta salad, not mac n cheese. It was tasty, but not sure if I would classify it as an “actual” mac n cheese. It won last year though, so who am I to judge? Sue’s Surprise, was definitely that. She actually created 2 different pastas; one featuring bacon and the other with mushrooms. I love bacon and mushrooms, so I opted for both. Neither of them were really “cheesy” enough for my liking. I took a break and cleansed my pallet with a swig of wine and moved to my next plate.
I was excited to taste this next one. I've seen pics of buffalo mac n cheese on Facebook and magazines, but never had I had the pleasure of tasting it. I stuck my fork in and closed my eyes, to enjoy each morsel of that spicy, cheesy goodness! Next, was a perfect little “bowl shaped” mac n cheese bite. It was perfectly crunchy, different than what I am used to, but a pleasant surprise. The last one was the cheesiest of them all (Kraft has nothing on this one), I later found out that there was an astonishing 26 cheeses in that thing! As I was eating, a gentleman by the name of John Santoriello, came to my table and offered me a NINTH mac n cheese! He was somehow not registered for the competition but decided to make his anyway. It was delicious. It had chunks of Italian meatballs in it. He absolutely would have been a strong contender.
After tasting them all, we were given a ballot to vote for People’s Choice. I knew my favorite was the Buffalo Elbows. My three table-mates all agreed as well. While waiting for the votes to get tallied, the lights were turned down, the band played and the residents of Morningside ate and laughed with friends and neighbors. I went to the judges table so that I could get a picture with Bill Fuller 📷
At last, it was time to hear the winners! They first announced the winners of the raffles and 50/50. My heart was racing as the ticket number was called. Of course, I didn’t win, but a lucky gentleman won $334!!! Afterwards they proclaimed the winners for the bake off. People’s Choice went to Russ Shelly(Exploded Pierogi) and the 1st place winner was Don Sand (Michelle’s 7th Heaven). The crowd cheered and I was grateful that I was able to get a picture of the winners before I left.
This was a wonderful display of a community event that was well executed. The residents of Morningside made me feel welcomed and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to join them and help raise money for a worthy cause.