S’mac down! Gowanus plays host to gut-busting comfort food showdown

S’mac down! Gowanus plays host to gut-busting comfort food showdown
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Got Lactaid?

Everyone’s favorite ooey-gooey comfort food was front and center at the Mac and Cheeze Takedown at the Bell House in Gowanus — where 25 amateur competitors hurled insults, threw elbows (along with penne, shells, and orecchiette) and served up pounds of souped-up mac to 300 hundred hungry spectators in the fight for dairy domination.

“There’s a lot of trash talk here, it’s great,” crowed local filmmaker-turned-Takedown creator, Matt Timms.

“It turns out that people have really passionate opinions about macaroni and cheese,” he continued. “It’s something that’s really hard to screw up, but also really hard to make brilliant.”

Most competitors wound up taking a more-is-more approach — hoping to curry favor with in-your-face flavors (bourbon BBQ sauce, blue cheese, jalapeno poppers, sauerkraut), luxury add-ins (lobster fondue, truffle oil), copious amounts of animal product (spareribs, corned beef, duck, pulled pork, sausage, bacon, bacon, more bacon), and beer.

“They know they need to wow you with just that one bite,” said Timms. “But if you had a whole bowl of anything you tried here, it would be too decadent — your head would pop off.”

Photo by Stefano Giovannini

At the end of the day, it was a nation of mac and cheese lovers divided, with the judges going for the bells and whistles: 4 Mushroom M and C with dried morel and porcini béchamel, gruyere, fontina and emmentaler cheeses, pickled beech and roasted oyster mushrooms, Meyer lemon, heritage bacon lardons and bacon fat bread crumbs; and the audience making the case for classicism, awarding top marks to “The Baby Maker” — a cheddar and gruyere casserole with a sage and onion panko crust.

“It’s fun when there’s some sort of twist, but when it comes down to it, you have to taste the cheese,” said attendee Diane Castelucci.

“So many of these dishes had so many ingredients, they wound up tasting like something else completely,” she added. “Ultimately, it’s important for the cheese to be the star.”

For more information, visit thetakedowns.com

Cheese champ: Andrew Gottlieb from the East Village trounced the competition with his winning signature dish.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini