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Kraft has nothing on these chefs.

A staple of sold-in-a-box macaroni and cheese, Kraft will be mightily upstaged next week when 14 kitchen masters take the simplicity of macaroni and cheese and turn it into a delicacy—mixing an array of ingredients you’d never find in a cardboard container filled with hard noodles and a packet of powdered cheese.

The Mac and Cheese Festival is a unique cook-off that is sure to delight anybody who loves the noodle and cheese concoction, which has been an American favorite for over 100 years.

Participating cookers promise your taste buds will rejoice at the festival, coming to the Resort Plaza Shops in downtown Coeur d’Alene on Saturday, Jan. 13.

Macaroni and cheese may seem simple, but given the right chef it can be elaborate—and oh so tasty and unique—smoked, baked or boiled.

Masterpiece M&C recipes

Think macaroni and cheese is just about the cheddar? Think again.

Ask Darrell Dlouhy, owner of Daft Badger Brewing at 1710 N. Second St. in Coeur d’Alene.

His scratch-made mac and cheese is a favorite at the brew pub and Dlouhy says he prepares it to perfection, using four cheeses and then smoking the meal, not boiling it.

“We smoke everything here,” Dlouhy says. “We use Sargento cheese, goat cheese, provolone and cream cheese.”

Mac and cheese, he adds, is a very popular menu option and he includes smoked pork belly with a garlic panko topping.

“It’s definitely one item that appeals to a lot of different people,” Dlouhy says.

An adult dish

Although long thought of as a childhood favorite, macaroni and cheese is not just a kid’s dish, says Jason Rex, owner of Collective Kitchen at 501 E. Sherman in Coeur d’Alene. Carefully prepared, it’s a comfort food for people of all ages.

Like Dlouhy, Rex has his own unique recipe.

“I use aged cheddar, goat cheese, parmesan, aged jack and cream cheese and then I add a smoked brisket,” Rex says. “It’s more of an adult mac and cheese. I don’t add your typical American cheese.”

Rex said they saute all the ingredients together and then bake it.

“Our customers love it.”

Rex says he’s thrilled with an opportunity to showcase his mac and cheese meal to the public and applauds the Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association for sponsoring the cook-off festival.

“The Downtown Association does such good things for all the businesses down here,” he says. “They’re headlining this (event) to help support local businesses … and it will bring more people downtown.”

High-end mac and c

Jason Clarke, owner of Castaway Cellars at the Resort Plaza Shops (home of the Mac and Cheese Festival), says he plans to serve up an untraditional, but ultra-tasty, macaroni and cheese dish.

Although many consider it a low-cost meal, dined on by college students and others short on cash, Clarke says he’s added a new twist to up the ante and take the cheesy meal beyond the college years—with substantially more substance than you’d find in a dorm room.

His recipe includes kobe beef, top sirloin and other special ingredients that he promises will satisfy the palate.

“It’s definitely a high-end mac and cheese recipe,” he says.

Participating Restaurants

• Collective Kitchen

• Sweet Lou’s

• Castaway Cellars

• Crafted Tap House & Kitchen

• Daft Badger Brewing

• Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery

• Rustic

• Mangia Catering Company

• Coeur d’Alene Taphouse Unchained

• Moon Dollars Bistro

• Cosmic Cowboy Grill

• Mac Daddy’s Gourmet Grub

• Crickets

• Paragon Brewing

Healthy competition

Billed as a “comfort-food-filled day tasting different cheesy dishes with perfect craft beer,” the festival promises to be a culinarily captivating event.

According to the Mac and Cheese Festival webpage, you will experience “variations of carefully prepared” dishes made by local Coeur d’Alene chefs “who will be competing for the Golden Noodle Award!”

Participants interviewed for this article are excited to share their unique recipes.

“I love cooking and competing,” says Clarke of Castaway Cellars. “This will be an amazing opportunity for people of all ages to really enjoy an American staple.”

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