Over some delicious mulled wine, I chatted with bar owner and beer genius Dave Pollack about the three most important things in his life (this weekend) – skiing, beer, and mac n’ cheese.
This adventurous and cheesy day is happening this Saturday 1/25/14. Skiing is 6am-7pm. After party starts at 8pm. If you want to get in on this ski trip or enter your mac n’ cheese into the competition, email Dave dave (at) thediamondbrooklyn (dot) com.
Dave was extremely stoked on this particular ski resort; I’ve only ever seen him get this excited about beer.
For many, warming up with a hot toddy in the ski lodge is a bigger draw than the actual skiing (at least for me that’s the case). The first thing Dave described was how in Platteskill’s ski lodge the foot rest at the bar is a hot water pipe redirected in front of the bar to serve also as a foot warmer – aka design ingenuity.
As for the actual skiing, Dave raved about Plattekill:
It’s furthest and smallest of all the Catskills ski areas. It’s like going to your friend’s home who happens to have a ski area behind their house. You wait less than 60 seconds to get on the lift, the whole experience is so nice. And the skiing is challenging with steep runs. The cherry on top is that it’s on the farther western edge of Catskills so lake effect snow hits there, then peeters out toward Hunter ski area. They get 175 inches of snow per year while Hunter gets 125. And, it takes under three hours to get there and the lift tickets are only $45.
Now for the after party…Bring your best mac n’ cheese for a chance at glory and a comp’d bar tab. Dave will take care of the beer. The following are his pairings:
Brooklyn Brown Ale (cask conditioned version) (NY)
The sweetness of the brown ale complements the dish while moderate hops give it a little something to cut through the cheese.
Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale (CA)
The caramelized malt flavors play well with the creamy mac, a little more hops here will cut through the goo, perhaps better than the brown ale. I am excited to tap this beer. Just tasted it last week and it is delicious. It is partially fermented in an oak Burton union system. This is a very traditional English setup in which multiple barrels are attached to each other and the beer moves through the “unions” and the different barrels as it ferments. It is a great workout for the yeast, producing a really terrific fruity English-style pale ale.
Grande Dame Oud Bruin (Switzerland)
This is the wild card. It is a sour brown ale. The sweet chocolate flavors found in this beer style should be great in the same way as the Brooklyn Brown but the sharp acidity from wild yeasts will provide a serious counterpoint to the dish…maybe too much or maybe amazingly right on. We’ll see!
As for you Mac n’ Cheese competitors we have some tips and tricks to offer so you can perfect your recipe:
Chattavore blog raves about an easy one pot wonder from Heavenly Homemakers, which involves cooking the pasta in milk and cheese. This method, “draws the starch out of the pasta and thickens the milk, and the cheese completes it.”
The Daily Meal goes into great detail about perfecting mac n’ cheese focusing on the quality of ingredients and type of cheese and interestingly the type of pasta used. They recommend, “penne instead of the traditional elbow macaroni because it “sucks up the cheese better” since it has a long tunnel-like hole,” and “undercooking the pasta,” is key since more cooking happens in the oven. Hopefully pasta type isn’t a disqualifying factor.
There is actually a blog dedicated to this dish called All Things Mac n’ Cheese and they have an entire page of tips. Let’s focus on the béchamel sauce, because you’re making béchamel right? They say: “if you are making a béchamel sauce (butter + flour + milk) for the macaroni, add the milk very slowly, whisking constantly, for the perfect consistency.” They also have tons of really out there mac n’ cheese recipes if you want to go an untraditional route, like Baked Potato Mac n’ Cheese. YES PLEASE!
If you’re wondering what the best cheese to use is, Aunt Martha has some advice:
It is important to use pungent cheeses, such as sharp cheddar, mixed with a little Gruyere or pecorino Romano for extra bite, since the white sauce and pasta will absorb a lot of flavor. The type of cheese used will also affect the sauce’s texture: Sharp white cheddar produces the smoothest result; yellow and extra sharp cheddars can become grainy.
I just hope somebody has the balls to fry their mac n’ cheese because that is next level. Please leave you mac n’ cheese tips in the comments and see you Saturday!