Cheddar-Beer Mac and Cheese


I love comfort foods – mac and cheese, beef stew, chicken soup, anything slightly salty and full of butter. I tend to reach for them when I’m having a bad day or just because. I turn to comfort foods in times of celebration or when I’m in need of comfort. This mac and cheese is no different. It’s something I have been perfecting for about two years. Tweaks and modifications have led to a perfect mac and cheese – one with body that isn’t too rich. This particular flavor combination comes from my love of Saus’s cheddar duvel sauce. Though, it’s evolved from there. Something that started with cheddar and beer became more – I added mustard, I experimented with different beers – stout, reds, i.p.a.s, lagers, you name it I probably tried it in this mac and cheese. I made this particular mac shortly before St Patrick’s day so I had a nice Harpoon Celtic Red around, and it was (and is) my favorite.

Beer + Bacon + Cheddar Cheese= LOVE

I make macaroni and cheese pretty regularly – pasta, milk, and cheese are ingredients I always have on hand so it makes a quick meal pretty much any night of the week. I think that’s one of my favorite things about mac and cheese. It will work with most any cheese and will accept any additions. It’s always familiar and different, which I love. But this mac and cheese is a special one; BF and I use it to celebrate – jobs, raises, pretty much anything positive in our lives means I make this mac and cheese. The beer makes it rich and the mustard adds a great sharp flavor. Also – the benefit of being able to drink a beer while you’re cooking is AWESOME.

There’s something so comforting about that beer at the end of the day, and pairing it with cheese and mustard basically makes it a much more filling pretzel. And we all know how I feel about those.

Cheddar-Beer Mac and Cheese

Adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, though at this point it’s really all my own. I also crisped a handful of homemade bacon lardons to add to mine, but that’s totally optional.
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (sharper=richer)
  • 2-3 Tbs spicy mustard (I use Gulden’s, because it’s what I typically have on hand but your favorite will work just as well)
  • 1 cup beer (lighter is better, this isn’t great with stout)
  • 1 lb pasta, cooked to a bit less than al dente (I like a curly tube pasta, like cellantani or campanelle because they hold a lot of sauce and their shape)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2-3 Tbs melted butter
  • 1 tsp crushed mustard seed (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Preheat your oven to 350 and oil a large ovenproof bowl.
  • In a medium, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat melt the butter and mix in the flour until it becomes a paste. This is a basic roux and can be used for thickening in lots of ways.
  • Add the milk to the roux and let it come to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheese and stir to melt. The sauce will be quite thick.
  • Stir the mustard into the cheese sauce. Gently add the beer, if the bottle is fresh it will be quite foamy. The sauce may slightly curdle at this point – don’t worry. Keep stirring and it’ll come back together.
  • Add the cheese sauce to the cooked pasta and stir well. Pour the cheesy pasta into the oiled bowl
  • Mix the panko crumbs, melted butter, and crushed mustard seed together. Spread the crumbs evenly over the cheesy pasta.
  • Bake the mac and cheese for 30-40 mins, until the panko is crispy and lightly browned.
  • Remove the mac and cheese from the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 mins before eating.
  • Enjoy with a beer!

Dinner Right Around the Corner

As most of you know, I live in a suburb of Boston known as Watertown and I love it. I’ve been living here for about three and a half years and the longer I live here the less I want to leave. From small family businesses to well traveled streets where I feel safe walking home after a midnight showing of The Hunger Games Watertown has welcomed me and I love it.

I love the family of eveything here. From my favorite market, Arax, to my new favorite restaurant, Maximos, Watertown is all about family. Maximo’s is rapidly becoming the place I order from for delivery when I don’t want pizza. They have it all, from garlicky bruschetta to fantastic salads and marvelous burritos they produce delicious food that is unique and inexpensive. Upon first glance the menu seems a bit all over the place but after talking to Betsy and Phil about it I learned that they just wanted to serve what they make for themselves at home.

This was a good turkey burger, though I just am not a turkey burger girl.

Perfectly dressed and cooked steak salad.

My favorite sandwich and the one thing I come back to.

My least favorite dish of the meal, I prefer my tuna still splashing.

Maximo's Takeout


I was provided this meal free of charge after winning a contest through The Boston Brunchers but all opinions here are solely my own.

Hyper Local Brew Fest

Hyper Local Brew Fest If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that every summer and fall I drop down the Boston Local Food Festival rabbit hole.  You can barely pin me down for an evening and BF thinks I’m merely a ghost for about a month leading up to BLFF.  So naturally, when the organizers contacted me about a summer event to promote the festival and find more awesome brewers I was thrilled and immediately said yes.

So, in June the Boston Local Food Festival team with Sustainable Business Networks of Boston is presenting the Hyper Local Brew Fest!  This will be an evening of fun I assure you!  Our line up is looking more and more robust every day and as we speak we already have wineries, meaderies, and breweries signed up and excited to show us their wares.

So when is this fabulous event?, you ask.  It’s June 16th at the Somerville Armory where it will be set up in a very similar fashion to our Brew Fest last year.  There will be two sessions of tastings with tickets priced at $30 each. There will be music, there will be delicious nomables, just like at the festival $5/serving.  In general it’s going to be a magical experience.  You should come.  You can get tickets here. And, if you use the code HYPERLOCAL today only (March 16, 2012) you get 10% off your ticket!

A Visit with Vianne Chocolates

I love chocolate of all sorts. I will eat chocolate anytime, its familiar and comforting in a nostalgic way.  I love that first bite into a handmade chocolate that makes my mouth want to do a jig, or the soothing way chocolate melts at body temperature.  I am convinced that chocolate would solve most problems and that nothing else calms most ills.  I have been lucky enough to test this theory time and again in all situations and at all times. I love it.

I periodically get the opportunity to eat chocolate like this, decadent dark chocolate with additions that make me swoon and one weekend day I had an opportunity like that.  On the afternoon of July 30th I was given the fantastic opportunity to sit down with the totally charming Valerie, owner and chief candy-maker-extrordinaire of Vianne Chocolates.  Vianne Chocolates is one of the specialty vendors at last year’s Boston Local Food Festival and then I only briefly met her as I showed her to her booth.  As I sat down to interview Valerie she gave me a marvelous linen bag full of goodies!

I immediately fell in love with the sketch on the bag and all of the packaging.  Made by a South End artist these little sketches are a fun and creative way for Valerie to show her local love, and does she have local love.  This girl hails from the wilds of New York and tries as hard as possible to incorporate local produce, jams, herbs, whatever into her chocolates.  From using Kate’s of Maine butter (yay, totally rocking the Maine pride) to using mint she grew herself (!) and sourcing her more obscure spices from Christina’s Spices in Inman Square, Valerie is all about keeping as much as possible local and sustainable!

I also love when companies and businesses choose pet charities that they are passionate about, this is especially true with Vianne and the Pug Bars.  These pug bars, aside from being insanely cute, are for a GREAT cause.  Of every bar that is sold Valerie donates 25 cents to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, how great is that?  So not only does Vianne source as much as possible locally, they support a local charity too!  And if saving animals doesn’t lessen the guilt of eating this fantastic chocolate than nothing will.  😉

Now, then onto the best part.  Let’s talk about the chocolate.  As I sit here eating the beautiful pieces of candy that were to lovingly stashed in my snazzy bag I am abuzz with excitement.  My first chocolate is the Strawberry Balsamic (one of Valerie’s favorites), with it’s creamy white chocolate center, rich dark chocolate coating and generous sprinkle of strawberry dust I am in heaven, glowing with the thrill of perfect chocolate that only enhances the flavor of strawberries with each savored bite.  Chocolate number two is the Green Fairy, an entirely different chocolate than the strawberry balsamic but still totally swoon worthy and, by far, my favorite.   The green fairy is, as the history of it’s name would suggest, an Absinthe spiked truffle that is one of those tongue-dancing-a-jig sort of chocolates.  The crisp chocolate shell followed by the spicy and herbal ganache is a totally mesmerizing experience.  I could sit here and give you a play by play of all the chocolates that were bestowed on me but instead I will encourage you to come to the Boston Local Food Festival on October 1st and try them yourself.  And if you see me around grab me a green fairy 🙂

I wrote this post for the Boston Local Food Festival blog back in the fall, however if you are struggling for a some good Christmas gifts Vianne Chocolates will definitely fit the bill of that person with a sweet tooth.

*All photos in this post are courtesy of

Harbor Sweets Worth the Trip

It’s no secret to anyone who has spent time near me that I am a chocolate fiend.  I’ll grab the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar just as easily as I will reach for the high-end and well made chocolates.  That’s not to say I’m not discerning – I am, my ideal chocolate is dark with nuts in it (but not too many) and has a high cocoa butter content, but if my ideal isn’t available (which sometimes happens) I’ll reach for that Hershey bar without thinking twice.  Luckily for me I recently had the chance to eat some high quality chocolate and watch it made from scratch right in Salem, MA by Harbor Sweets Chocolates.

Harbor Sweets is a totally enchanting chocolate shop that makes an effort to make chocolates by hand with care.  When Harbor Sweets invited the Boston Bloggers over for a tour and tasting I was not expecting what I got.  We were greeted at the door by a large tray of chocolates with all of the chocolates that Harbor had to offer, I chose a Sweet Sloop (Harbor Sweet’s signature chocolate).  As Megan chose her chocolate I wandered a bit of the shop which actually looks out over the area of Harbor Sweets where the Sweet Sloops are made!

HS makes chocolates by hand, from the copper kettles that they cook the almond butter crunch for the Sweet Sloops to the people standing on the line to add the line to the sails of the sloop everything is given careful attention.  Watching everyone work there was a wonderful experience and made me want to eat more of their chocolate.  I loved knowing just how much effort and though went into a single one of my chocolates.

Now, the chocolates – they were fantastic (far and away greater than any Hershey bar, I assure you).  I don’t much care for white chocolate but the Sweet Sloop – a triangle of almond butter crunch covered in white chocolate with a base dipped in dark chocolate and crushed pecans is, without a doubt, one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in quite a while.

As our tour guide brought us around the workshop I felt spoiled and indulgent, the rich chocolate scents everywhere were magnificent.  We (Megan, Kevin, and I) saw everything from start to finish, from tempered chocolate, to filled molds, to the cooling room.  There was the giant perfectly scored table where THOUSANDS of sweet sloops had been cut and those copper kettles.  There were entire rooms where people hand fed chocolates onto conveyor belts and wrapped candies.  I was enchanted and wanted to live in this Willy Wonka-esque wonderland of chocolate.

I left Harbor Sweets full of chocolate and with a goodie bag to boot.  I will definitely be back to this New England gem to get more of their wonderful chocolate.  And you should totally go check them out too!  They’re on twitter and offer full (and insured) shipping of all of their chocolates from their online storefront.  Go on, give them a try and yes they do ship internationally, in case you were curious.

 My tour of Harbor Sweets was complementary but, as always, my opinions are my own.