Traverse City Events: Some years ago, the vintners of Old Mission Peninsula, just outside of Traverse City, got to chewing over how to lure folks out of food comas on Thanksgiving weekend and out onto their wine trail—a route that wends down the vineyard—and orchard-dotted peninsula on its lazy roll into Lake Michigan. Paradoxically, their solution was to tempt with food (hair of the dog comes to mind!). Comfort food. Like, say, macaroni and cheese. The silliness of pairing wine with the homey dish appealed to the vintners. “So much about wine is snooty,” says John Kroupa, owner of Peninsula Cellars and one of the founders of what was to become The Great Mac & Cheese bakeoff. The vintners challenged Traverse City area restaurants to do mac better—and the event morphed into a competition bathed in roux, cream, a stunning panoply of cheeses, surprise ingredients, and oh yes, pasta, sometimes even elbow shaped.
With 10 Great Mac & Cheese bakeoffs under the Old Mission vintners’ belts now, success is measured in pounds of pasta (restaurateurs each heft out some 50 pounds of uncooked pasta for the event), and the 14 cases of wine each of the seven wineries of Old Mission goes through at the event. Last year 1,400 people bundled up against November gales (in really bad weather the diehards still come, says Kroupa, “suited up like they’re on the Deadliest Catch”) and trailed from winery to winery to sip, sample and vote for their favorite mac & cheese.
Alas, the 2011 event is sold out, but take comfort and follow the links below to the recipes for the 2010 Mac & Cheese’s medalists.
For information: wineriesofoldmission.com.