baker & co, west village

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This cozy spot on Bleecker is somewhat of a sleeper hit, as far as West Village Italian restaurants go. Unlike I Sodi, for example, you don’t have to reserve months in advance to eat at a normal dinner hour. But that being said, it’s generally always full and smells delicious.

While I enjoy all of their pasta, I only tried their macaroni and cheese recently. As you can see from the photo, it’s a beauty. The menu actually calls it Baker’s Mac and Cheese “Cacio e Pepe,” which is a bit misleading because it tastes like a (very good) regular mac and not overly peppery.

Let’s break it down: I always enjoy a cast iron skillet presentation, especially one that’s topped with breadcrumbs. They also get bonus points for using the rare pipette shape pasta, which is a truly excellent vehicle holding a thick cheese sauce. As for the mac sauce: it was a good balance of creamy and cheesy. There’s enough sharp cheese in there to please those who love a rich flavor, but it’s not overwhelming for those that like a milder sauce (like my toddler!).

Definitely worth a drop by if you’re wandering around the Village.

259 Bleecker St., 212-255-1234

blossom du jour, locations vary

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photo via Instagram

Blossom du Jour is a vegan restaurant that’s not obnoxious about being vegan (rare!). When I need a detox from mac and cheese (also rare!), I love picking up their salad bowls filled with marinated kale, sweet potatoes, and avocado.

The last time I popped in, however, I noticed that they too carry a macaroni and cheese. Obviously, it being a vegan spot, the cheese is made out of cashew and the “bacon” is mushroom-based. If you’ve never had it, it sounds terrible, I know. But, having had previous good luck with vegan mac at By Chloe, I was willing to give it a shot.

Does it taste like regular mac? No. But it’s really tasty, I promise! Mushroom has so much natural umami flavor that when it’s smoked and crisped, it’s delightful. And much in the same way homemade almond milk is truly creamy, a well-executed nut-based cheese is very satisfying. At Blossom, they make theirs in house, which is evident in its quality and freshness. I also appreciate the use of elbow pasta, which is a perennial favorite shape of mine. The dish is finished off with a dusting of breadcrumbs, which doesn’t add much, but it is nice for adding crunch to a stovetop mac.

If you’re interested in exploring cheese alternatives or you have vegan friends, Blossom is definitely worth a stop.

Locations vary, website here

dos caminos, locations vary

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Mexican macaroni and cheese is a thing, guys. One of the most colorful versions can be found at Dos Caminos  (locations vary, but we went to the one in Soho). Listed on the menu as “mac ‘n chorizo,” it features wheel-shaped pasta (I don’t think this one has an Italian name), a very mild cheese sauce, crumbled bits of chorizo and sliced peppers.

I was rather underwhelmed, unfortunately. I’m not a big fan of peppers anyway, so I’m sure that colored my opinion, but the sauce lacked depth — it was creamy without being cheesy. I do love a good chorizo and the version here is very tasty, but you’re better off ordering it in a different dish.

475 W. Broadway, 212-277-4300

mr. donahue’s, little italy – NOW CLOSED

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I have to admit, I cheated a little and ordered Mr. Donahue’s through Caviar, but it arrived fresh and hot, so I think this review is legit.

First off, I love the concept of this restaurant. The meat and three (or two, in this case), is a hallmark of Nashville food, among other Southern cities, and it’s great to see it landing in New York. My dry-aged meatloaf (!) from here was phenomenal.

I, of course, ordered a side of the mac to sample. Similar to other Southern recipes, this is a very mild, creamy sauce. It’s not my personal favorite style of mac sauce because there’s no real bite to it, but I think it was executed very well. The pasta shape (it looked like the rarely-used capricci) was also well-suited for trapping the sauce. There was a sprinkling of fresh herbs and breadcrumbs on top, which didn’t really add much, but certainly felt in line with the 70s vibe of the restaurant and menu.

Would I order this mac again? Sadly, no, but I do recommend a trip here to sample the other outstanding sides and entrees.

203 Mott St., 646-850-9480

 

by chloe, greenwich village

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I am not a vegan (what?!). BUT, I am not against vegan food. That is, as long as it’s made from actual ingredients and not mashed up vegetable bits meant to resemble chicken fingers or American cheese slices.

I was lucky enough to meet Chef Chloe Coscarelli a few months ago at my office. She brought me one of her signature vegan raspberry tiramisu cupcakes, so we were friends for life. What’s wonderful about Chloe’s food and recipes is that while everything is vegan, you cook with it in its intended state. So the natural vibrancy of the fruit and vegetables really shines through. You’re not eating over-salted lentils shaped to look like fish sticks.

In an event bigger stroke of luck, Chloe’s first restaurant, by CHLOE., just opened a short walk away from my apartment. There are delicious kale salads, hearty veggie burgers, vegan ice creams that you would never know didn’t have dairy, AND, macaroni and cheese.

Wait, vegan mac and cheese?

But, I mean, look at that picture! Chloe’s mac and cheese is made with whole wheat pasta, sweet potato sauce and shiitake “bacon.” Does it taste like Velveeta? No, but that’s not the point. This is a wholly satisfying dish, albeit not cheesy in the traditional sense. The creamy sweet potato sauce brings a comforting salty-sweet flavor, while the shiitake bacon is crispy, full of umami and absolutely addictive.

So, the next time you’re looking for your mac fix, but need something a little less gut-bursting than a bacon-blue cheese number, please do check out Chloe’s fabulous cooking.

And don’t leave without trying the kale ice cream. Trust.

by CHLOE., 185 Bleecker St., 212.290.8000