It may be thought of as a kids’ dish, but chefs will be taking macaroni and cheese to a whole new level this weekend at Copper Mountain Resort. From a Cajun crawfish and Andouille to a bourbon brisket mac ‘n’ cheese paired with a variety of vodka cocktails, even adults will find more than enough indulgences at the second annual Mac & Cheese Fest on Saturday, July 16.
“It was a huge success last year with our first year doing this, so we are so excited to have it back again this year,” said Morgan Whitehouse, spokesperson with Copper. “It’s a little different but, it still allows our chefs to be creative, and everyone loves mac ‘n’ cheese.”
The festival begins on Friday with a Sunset Kickoff Party in Burning Stones Plaza with free live music from local guitarist Umberto Fonte.
On Saturday, sampling runs from 2–5 p.m. with free live music for all guests from Gora Gora Orkestra and kids activities throughout. Eight local restaurants will be competing for a $1,000 cash prize for the tastiest and most creative mac ‘n’ cheese dish.
Most items are also paired with a sample-sized vodka cocktail created to complement the dish.
This is the first year Bakers’ Brewery in Silverthorne will be participating, bringing its traditional mac ‘n’ cheese on its menu as a base, with options to add a homemade vegetarian green chili or a sweet and spicy Sloppy Joe meat. Or add both for the Super Sloppy Supreme, said Cory Forster, co-owner and head brewmaster at Bakers’. The dishes will be topped with crispy haystack onions and can be paired with Bakers’ own craft brews.
The traditional mac ‘n’ cheese will be paired with the Buzzbird Belgian Wheat, a light and mild beer with a creamy body.
“If you go with the meat, we are bringing our Barking Dog Brown because the sweetness goes with sweetness, but the dry finish on the Brown helps to clean off the heaviness of the meat,” Forster said.
The green chili dish will be paired with Bakers’ new Elated IPA.
“This festival gives us a chance to showcase what we do,” Forster said.
Endo’s Bar & Grill from Copper won the competition last year with fried mac ‘n’ cheese stuffed in a hatch chile relleno with Mexican melting cheeses and applewood smoked brisket, topped with Rojo sauce and Cotija cheese. This year, the restaurant will be bringing a very similar dish — mac ‘n’ cheese with fried hatch chile chips, Mexican melting cheeses and applewood smoked brisket topped with Rojo sauce. Endo’s will pair this dish with a Copper Cosmo.
Copper’s Mountain Melt will be throwing down Cavatappi pasta spirals with Peppadew peppers, cherry wood smoked bacon, tender braised pork belly, crispy fried prosciutto, sharp white cheddar, rocket salad and Beemster Gouda cheese crumbles. Although not part of the competition, a gluten-free mac ‘n’ cheese option can be purchased at the Mountain Melt restaurant.
Tickets referred to as “Mini Macs” are $1 per ticket, and restaurants set the price for samples, usually priced between $3-$5.
Event manager Holly Robinson suggests pre-purchasing tickets online in advance to avoid the lines.
Tickets are packaged online in groups of 20 and can be picked up at the event at the ticket tent.
There will be plenty of kids activities onsite, and a magician’s show will take place at West Lake Stage on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Back this year, the Free Eating Contest will challenge participants to get down 2 pounds of mac ‘n’ cheese in two minutes, down from 3 pounds last year. Anyone who can complete the challenge will receive a $49 activity day pass.
“Three pounds in three minutes was just too much,” Robinson said. “This year we will do 2 pounds in two minutes and see what they can do.”
The popularity of the rich comfort food is evident in Copper’s social push for the event, leading organizers expecting a good turnout for the festival.
“It appeals to all demographics, whether you are a millennial or 50 years old,” Robinson said.