Mac And Cheese Mania At Max & Dylan's

Blogging can be a pretty tough hobby. You have to do things like go to restaurants, drink wine, and sample five different kinds of macaroni and cheese. Seriously tough.

I was invited to Max & Dylan's (City Square) to judge their Mac & Cheese Mania Contest. Basically, in the weeks leading up to the judging, anyone could submit mac and cheese ideas on Max & Dylan's Facebook pages. The chef then chose five of the most creative ideas and prepared them for us to taste and rank based on creativity and flavor.

Crab and Asparagus Mac and Cheese. I thought this mac and cheese was rich and creamy with just the right amount of crab and a balancing handful of chopped asparagus spears. Was it the most creative mac and cheese ever? Not really. But it sure was tasty! And perfect for a spring menu.

Porcini and Truffle Mac and Cheese. This dish was earthy and hearty and sent scents of truffle wafting through the air. I really enjoyed it, but again, I've had plenty of truffle mac and cheese, so I didn't think it was a really strong contender in the creativity category. Based on flavor alone, it wins for me for a nice winter pasta.

Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese. This one held so much promise. It's like upscale Hamburger Helper (and I mean that in the best way possible -- you all know you love a little Hamburger Helper) -- creamy, cheesy, full of ground beef, and then topped with the typical lettuce and tomato a good cheeseburger usually boasts. I want it with ripe summer tomatoes, more-crisp iceberg lettuce, maybe some raw or sauteed onions, and fried pickles on top. That's right. Fried pickles. It just needed another notch of flavor.

Jalapeno and Chorizo Mac and Cheese. With my aversion to spicy food, I was prepared to write this one off. But it ended up being my favorite. It had a mild, constant heat, nothing too overwhelming but enough to let you know it was there. The spice with the mild, creamy cheese was heavenly. I'd want some bigger chunks of chorizo, but otherwise this one was perfect.

Chipotle Mac and Cheese. A lot of the judges seemed to like this one, but I found the flavor a little monotone. Throw in some chicken, maybe some peppers, and then you've got a dish. But the chipotle on its own wasn't enough excitement for me.

So which mac and cheese won? It was the jalapeno and chorizo mac and cheese (with the crab and asparagus right on its tail). This mac and cheese will soon be on Max and Dylan's regular menu, so make sure you stop in to try it!

What out-of-the-box mac and cheese would you suggest? I think I'd go with a short rib mac and cheese -- tender short ribs braised in a wine sauce, shredded and mixed in with creamy mac and cheese, heightened with a little goat cheese and some roasted tomatoes.

The wine was complimentary and so were the mac and cheeses, which were provided to us for the purpose of judging. Thanks to Max & Dylan's for inviting us in.