Marquee photo by Christy Richards.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that I lurve vegan mac and cheese. It comes very close to rivaling ramen as my favorite food. You’ll also know that I’m no stranger to eating and entering mac and cheese contests. So yeah, mac and cheese and I, we the best of friends. Last weekend, I snuck away from Feast for a few hours for the Green Acres Vegan Mac Smackdown!
Green Acres Farm Sanctuary is a one of several farm sanctuaries in the Portland area, providing a safe haven to abused, abandoned, and unwanted farm animals. They also have a foster program that cares for kittens and puppies (#cuteoverload) before they’re ready for adoption to find a forever home. I have not visited the sanctuary in Silverton yet, but it’s always a joy to follow along on social media and see how all the animals are doing. You can support Green Acres by volunteering or sponsoring the animals.
The Green Acres team went all out, transforming the Lagunitas community room into one big vegan mac party with a DJ, macaroni succulents, a scavenger hunt, golden noodle trophies, and even a photo booth. I was invited to judge alongside Jess “Scone” DeNoto of Vegan Iron Chef and Tal Caspi of vegan Israeli restaurant Aviv. Fun times — thanks so much for having me!
It’s no surprise that tickets sold out well in advance as this was a fundraiser for Green Acres, and there were EIGHT different vegan mac and cheeses competing! There was even enough mac for seconds if you wanted. They’re all winners as every mac entry was kindly donated by the chefs, and Lagunitas donated beer as the perfect pairing. Here’s my rundown of all the vegan macs!
1) Fatsquatch: Popper Mac
It’s interesting that they took the ranchy alfredo sauce route. Deep fried treats are their specialty, so it was fitting that Fatsquatch topped their mac with fried pickled jalapeno coins. I wasn’t too crazy about this one, but maybe it is best enjoyed straight from the cart. Sometimes cooking such a large batch throws things off.
2) Virtuous Pie: Cavatelli + Veloute
Of course, Virtuous Pie brought a strong mac and cheese game. The handmade cavatelli had a great texture, and the crispy pancetta and parmesan crisp were on point. Flavor wise, the corn and smoked gouda sauce was complex and delicious, but I found it to be a little watery. I know, they’re going for a veloute, but that was the only slight miss for me.
3) Of Roots & Blooms: Classic Mac
This was the first sample I tasted, and it set a high bar. The smooth, cheddar yellow cashew sauce is what mac and cheese dreams are made of. Bouncy pasta, kale chips, bread crumbs. It’s simple, but so damn good. I was at Feast all weekend long, but this was the best thing I ate that entire weekend.
4) Sweet Hereafter: Beer Baked Mac & Cheese
I actually tried their mac not too long ago. It’s got nice crunchy toppings: pretzel, crispy onion, smoked bacon bits. The beer cheese flavor is intriguing and unlike any other mac I’ve had. Unfortunately, this sample was drier than what I’ve had at Sweet Hereafter.
5) Herbivoro: Dominican Mac
Herbivoro brought an unique Dominican twist to the mac contest with lasagna and sweet plantains. I’ve seen all sorts of different veggies used in vegan mac and cheese, but this is first I’ve seen with plantains. That said, I still prefer my mac without plantains. Sorry guys!
6) No Bones Beach Club: BBQ Mac & Cheese Ball
This is not the first mac and cheese ball I’ve ever come across, but unlike others, this was not a gimmicky snooze fest. Nicely fried exterior to contrast the creamy interior. There was a strong kick of cheesy jalapeno, and the BBQ jackfruit center was tasty too. I’m surprised this was the only entry with cheese and BBQ as that’s a classic combo.
7) No Bones Beach Club: Classic Mac
No Bones also entered the contest with a classic mac. Not a bad vegan four cheese sauce, but some of the pasta way was too al dente for me. Their fancy mac was definitely the stronger of their two entries.
8) Blossoming Lotus: Stuffed Pepper Mac
This sample is exactly what I expected to see from Blossoming Lotus: mac and cheese with peppers and roasted corn, plus pecan chorizo topping. It feels lighter (and healthier?) than many other entries, but still cheesy and satisfying.
Note: I was invited to judge the Vegan Mac Smackdown. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.