1.) Mac N Cheese Throwdown Review – Cleveland – February 17, 2018

When I arrived at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland

…it wasn’t too difficult to find my way to the Mac N Cheese Throwdown.

I just followed the signs through doorways…

…and down corridors…

…and I was there in no time – and before everyone else.

I got here super early because I was one of four tasting judges (photo courtesy of Monica Robbins)…

…who voted on such dishes as Mac ‘n’ Cheese Curds (Merwins Wharf)…

…Smoked Gruyere Mac & Cheese (Luxe Kitchen & Lounge)…

…Mac ‘n’ Cheese Crepes (Cafe Avalaun)…

…and Braised Short Rib Mac ‘n’ Cheese (Pub Frato)…

…all while a swarm of hungry festival goers arrived to do the same…

…and some waited through a long line to get inside.

In the main room…

…there was a VIP area…

…equipped with a bar…

…a DJ…

…and the majority of food booths representing area restaurants (Harry Buffalo), restaurant groups (Driftwood)…

…and food trucks (Hatfield’s Good Grub)…

…all of which either handed samples to festival goers (Deagan’s/Hofbrauhaus)…

…or stocked the table for them to pick (Southside).

A smaller room across the way…

…held more of the food vendors (Willoughby Brewing/Wild Eagle)…

…and the area between the two held the public bars…

…and a handful of non-food vendors (IV Rescue/Champion Windows).

Guests ate theirs samples at standing tables…

…in the open…

…or in line while waiting for other samples.

Some even brought their own baking trays to collect samples and eat all at once.

And while festival goers continued to gather samples (BRIM)…

…and vote for their favorites…

…I did the same at the judges’ table with such interesting dishes as Pierogi Mac ‘n’ Cheese (Southside)…

…Surf & Turf Mac ‘n’ Cheese (Two Bucks North Olmsted)…

…Poke Mac ‘N’ Cheese (2nd and High)…

…the slightly spicy and delicious Mac ‘n’ Cheese Balls (Wild Eagle)…

…and the rather decadent Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese Grilled Cheese (Metropolitan at the 9)…

…which I obviously loved.