Taking a walk through the park with our dear friend….Mac ‘n Cheese
It got a little cheesy down in the Big Easy as the Nola Mac ‘n Cheese festival poured throughout Louis Armstrong park on a pleasant Saturday afternoon in New Orleans.
Thousands of locals and guests from all over stopped through to get a helping of the golden goodness that is the ultimate side dish to any meal. With about a dozen full restaurants all serving at least one variation of the dish there was maybe 39 different recipes for everyone’s tasting pleasure.
“You bring in two different chefs with two different perspectives and influences of their own you are bound to get so many different tastes and feels,” said co-founder Julie Egren.
Ergen, a Detroit native, along with co-founder Kent Broussard who co-owns No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose was struck with the idea for this one day simply sharing drinks on the porch.
“First thing to was to question whether or not there already isn’t on which is what we did. Then the next thing out of our mouths was ‘You know who has the best mac’ n cheese?’ and we just went back and forth throwing out names of places,” Ergen said.
After that Ergen says that they started the process of calling around just to to see who, if anyone, would be interested in participating. Getting more and more positive responses and confirmations the two were in awe of the quick support their “day drinking” idea was receiving.
“We started calling people and got ‘yeah we’re in’ one after another and we looked at each other and go… ‘Oh s***! We’re having a mac ‘n cheese fest!” Ergen shouted.
This being their sophomore year, the festival saw a bit more help on the funding side as this year the New Orleans house of Blues pitched in to completely cover sound and music bringing in several acts such as the New Breed Brass Band and Jonathon Long to keep the crowd rocking throughout the day. Other sponsors included Fidelity Bank (for the second time) and local law firm Martzel, Bickford, and Cantola which according to Ergen took a bit of the burden off of their backs.
“Last year’s fest was 99 percent us…so this year with all the added help it brought us down to about 85 percent,” she added.
The goal is to bring in more sponsors to help generate more funds so that festival can be about more than just having a great time, there is a philanthropic aim that Ergen and Kent are working to refine.
“Right now we are working with other nonprofits to donate money to them and figure in what ways we can start our own foundation or group,” Ergen said. “Currently we are working with the Tre Deaux foundation that works with children with developmental disabilities and autism helping families find the proper resources for their needs.”
The pair are also hoping to make a donation to “Dressing for Success for Women” this year and later on the Music Box Village which offers children great experiences in learning about music.
“We are really just learning, we think we know what our end goal is and as we are learning it’s kind of shifted…finding out how things work, learning what it really means when we say we want to help families,” Ergen added stressing the want to help families in the southern region of the state.
This year’s festivities featured a few newcomers to the fold such as an all vegan restaurant, Original Thought, which was a crowd favorite.
“Crazy huge demand for it and if you think about it it makes sense because everybody wants it…including the vegans,” Ergen joked.
There was food and drinks galore with various drink vendors such as the “newcomer” Lavish Lemonade which just recently made it into local markets with their alkaline based drinks. With so many different approaches to the dish our taste buds were thoroughly pleased and greeted with a little something different each time.
Here’s who came to grace us with their recipes:
The Big Cheezy
Crawfish mac ’n’ cheese – $7
Bacon mac ’n’ cheese – $5
Cheez mac – $4
Flamingo A Go-Go
Pasta quattro formaggi giardiniera – $5
Frey Smoked Meat Co.
Pulled pork mac ’n’ cheese tots – 5 for $7
Brisket chili mac ’n’ cheese Frito pie – $7
Pork belly poppers – $5
Gonzo’s Smokehouse & BBQ
“Hog Heaven” mac ’n’ cheese – $7
Smoked brisket mac ’n’ cheese – $7
Pulled pork mac ’n’ cheese – $11
House of Blues
Crawfish mac ’n’ cheese – $8
Debris mac ’n’ cheese – $7
Original House of Blues mac ’n’ cheese – $7
Let Us Cater for You
Cajun mac ’n’ cheese balls – $8
Broccoli crawfish mac ’n’ cheese – $10
Barbecue hot link – $6
“Ghetto Burger” – $7
Hot crab dip – $8
Veggie chili – $7
Cajun deep-fried turkey wings – $5
Little Gem Saloon
Chisesi smoked ham shank baked mac ’n’ cheese with chicharrón – 1/2 order $5, full order $8
Chisesi grilled sausage with chimichurri on a bun – $8
Duck and Vidalia onion gumbo – $9
Manning’s Sports Bar & Grill
Buffalo blue cheese mac ’n’ cheese – $8
Hot sausage mac ’n’ cheese sandwich – $8
Mac ’n’ cheese – $5
Mac ’n’ cheese nachos – $6
Mardi Gras mac ’n’ cheese – $8
Broccoli and cheese mac – $7
Original Thought (everything vegan)
“Loaded Mac Bowl” – small $4, large $10
Barbecue jack fruit “pulled” sandwich – $8
Mac ’n’ cheese grilled cheese – $8
Loaded “burger” – $8
“Chick’n Salad” sandwich – $8
Fresh coconut water – $6
Out of the Box
“Vodou Mac N Cheese” (turkey sausage, pepperoni cheese, kettle chips) – $3
Asada mac ’n ’cheese (steak, fajita veggies, low carb queso blanco, cojita) – $6
Oh My Cheez-us (Vegetarian sweet potato, apple pecan topping, waffle cone) – $6
OOTB “Heme” Burgers (Plant-based soy patty with lettuce and tomato and sauce) – $7
Semolina original mac ’n’ cheese – $6
Cowboy mac ’n’ cheese – $8
Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar
Crawfish mac ’n’ cheese – 1/2 order $5; full order $9
Frozen French 75 – small $8, large $14
For more information visit their website www.nolamacncheesefest.com.