Vegan Mac & Cheese Showdown

15 Oct

I owe you a meal planning and CSA post, but my computer was held hostage all day yesterday for football. I used the good camera (i.e. not the iPhone) to take photos, and now I’m at work, so I will have to see if Mr. X can send them to me when he eventually rises and shines. Anyway, it feels wonderful not to be sick any more. I took Friday off to recuperate, which was a good choice. I was still feeling crappy on Saturday, so clearly I just needed the rest (and extra neti potting).

I did venture out briefly on Saturday, though, for LA’s Best Vegan Mac & Cheese Showdown hosted by Chica Vegan! I have been looking forward to this event for a month, and there was no way I was going to miss it. We’re talking $5 for five samples of vegan macaroni and cheese hosted at a space I love that is walking distance from my apartment. I sucked up my sniffles and the fact that I was flying solo while X had an audition and headed down.

So, like I said, you fork over $5 to receive a ticket book for your samples:

Each restaurant had one for you to tear off and exchange for your cup of faux cheesy goodness. The system was very organized. I tried to get a shot of the action, but I’m a pretty terrible photographer, as you know, so this is what I got:

Anyway, I had my first sample from Hugo’s, which I have visited twice though strangely never written about:

Theirs was so brightly colored and is a regular menu item. It featured: “Fusilli pasta with garlic, sliced mushrooms and sweet peas in a creamy cashew and sunflower cheese sauce. Topped with crispy onions.” It was really, really good (and HUGE! My eyes were much bigger than my stomach. I honestly believed I could power through every bite of five of those things without getting sick, but I was wrong.). I really like Hugo’s — especially their brunch — but had never sampled their well-known mac ‘n cheese. I’m so glad I did!

Next was M Cafe de Chaya, which I have also visited and enjoyed and not mentioned on the blog:

Theirs was the most non-traditional spin with rotini, asparagus, and sun-dried tomatoes tossed in a light white sauce and topped with arugula. I enjoyed this take and would definitely eat it again, but it would have been more to my taste with some crushed red pepper or even just black pepper. I think that’s a macrobiotic thing, though.

The third one I tried was from SunCafe Organic, a new-to-me restaurant that Lynn from The Actor’s Diet recommended before:

Theirs was a tweak of a regular menu item, and here’s how they describe it: “ANDEAN DREAM quinoa pasta, tomato, cashew cheese sauce, garlic pecan crumble” (minus the “lemon basil tossed baby greens”). This was hands down my favorite. It was so flavorful and creamy, and the pecan crumble was insane. I was already feeling a little full by this point, but I couldn’t stop myself from eating every delicious morsel. I am so, so glad to discover SunCafe!

As I said, I was feeling more than a little full at this point, but I still had to try the last two contenders so that I could vote with accuracy. I grabbed them both at the same time, had three nibbles of each, and then saved the rest for Mr. X. Here is Doomie’s Home Cookin’, one of my favorite vegan restaurants that I’ve blogged about once before:

This was your basic Kraft mac ‘n cheese except veganized. To be totally honest, it was my least favorite, which isn’t to say it was bad, but I have just never been a fan of the basic recipe. Even as a kid I didn’t eat boxed macaroni and cheese. (I was weird and incredibly picky.) I know I’m the odd one out, though, since Doomie’s won second place in the people’s choice vote.

And finally we had Southern Fried Vegan, which was totally new to me:

Like Doomie’s, theirs was pretty traditional, though it did have a nice little sharpness to it that set it apart. They apparently participate in a lot of events — they don’t have a brick and mortar shop — including this week’s Vegan Taco Thursday at Eagle Rock Brewing that I will have to check out soon.

After we sampled (or gorged ourselves on) the choices, we voted for our favorite. There were two prizes: the people’s choice and the judges’ favorite. The judges were:

  • Judge of Top Chef Masters and Food Editor at LAist.com: Krista Simmons
  • Mohawk Bend’s Executive Chef: Mike Garber
  • Hot Knives Cookbook Writers and Chefs: Evan and Alex

The winners of the people’s choice were SunCafe Organic in first place and Doomie’s Home Cookin’ in second place. The judges’ favorites were Hugo’s in first and SunCafe in second.

Here are my picks in order:

  1. SunCafe
  2. Hugo’s
  3. M Cafe de Chaya
  4. Southern Fried Vegan
  5. Doomie’s

So that was the event. Since I was feeling poorly and was by myself, I left pretty quickly, but I had an amazing time. I want to give a huge shout out to Chica Vegan for organizing such a great event, to the five restaurants who participated, and to all the volunteers to ran such a perfect event. I hope to see more showdowns in the near future!

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2 Responses to “Vegan Mac & Cheese Showdown”

  1. Lynn @ The Actor's Diet October 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    yum! i need to go back to sun cafe….it’s really a terrific place!

    • Brigid October 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

      I’m excited to try out the actual restaurant since the mac ‘n cheese was so incredible.

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