A Humble mix of pasta and cheddar baked in a casserole, macaroni and cheese has long been a college student’s stand-by and a childhood favorite. But lately this cheesy dish has been elevated to gourmet status, with add-ins like lobster or braised beef, and starring a variety of swanky cheeses. In Vermont, cheese enthusiasts see it as an opportunity to get creative.
The Vermont Mac & Cheese Challenge, which began in 2013, was created by Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company and Castleton Crackers, both headquartered in South Woodstock, VT. Top chefs and restaurants around Vermont and New Hampshire cook up their most creative versions — like the 2014 winner, orecchiette with smoked ham and spicy aioli sauce from chef Justin Dain of PINE Restaurant in Hanover, NH.
This September, 3,000 fans will come to Artisan’s Park in Windsor, VT. To vote for the People’s Choice, all attendees get a list of the approximately 25 competitors, a pencil and a biodegradable spork to dip into the samples. Even kids can cast a vote for Kids’ Choice.
“There is a real sense of place that connects us to our food, especially with Vermont and artisan cheese,” says Kent Underwood, chief operating officer for Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company. “Promoting local area restaurants from both Vermont and New Hampshire through this annual festival is a source of pride for us.”
In 2014, Big Fatty’s BBQ in White River Junction, VT, won the 1st Place People’s Choice Award.
Proceeds from the event benefit Sustainable Woodstock and Vermont Food Bank.