In Old Mission Peninsula wine country on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Up North chefs dress up the most comfortable of comfort foods for a wine date. The Great Mac & Cheese Bake-Off sells out every year, so we got the recipes for you to cozy up with at home. Enjoy.

These recipes were featured in the November 2011 issue of Traverse Magazine. Subscribe so you never miss a dish.

Some years ago, the vintners of Old Mission Peninsula 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. 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 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.

Success is measured in pounds of pasta (restaurateurs each heft out some 50 pounds of uncooked pasta for the event). In 2010, 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. Below are the recipes (with wine pairings) for the 2010 Mac & Cheese’s medalists.

Most Unique: Soul Hole Bacon Mac & Cheese

Pair with Bowers Harbor Spirit Cider

Bacon Mac & Cheese

  • 1 pound macaroni, boiled and drained
  • 1⁄2 pound smoked cheddar
  • 1⁄2 pound cream cheese
  • 1⁄2 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound applewood-smoked bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
  • 1 cup rendered bacon fat
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Salt to taste
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated garlic

Cheese Sauce

  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup Vermont cheddar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Splash Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • Salt And Pepper to Taste


  • Flour for dredging
  • 1 cup Schreiber Batter Mix (or use any tempura type batter and add Creole seasoning, salt and pepper to taste)
  • 1⁄2 cup milk
  • 1 duck egg (or 2 chicken eggs)
  • Frying oil
  • 1 small bag crushed Cheetos

Combine all ingredients in Bacon Mac & Cheese section. Mix well distributing all ingredients evenly. Add mixture to an oiled pan and chill overnight.

Add all ingredients for the cheese sauce to a thick-gauge pot and heat slowly until all ingredients are melted.

In a heavy skillet or deep fryer, heat oil to 350 degrees. Cut the mac into 1⁄2-inch cubes and set aside. Dredge the mac cubes in straight up flour and then into the pre-mixed batter. Fry mac until golden brown, top with warm cheese sauce and crushed Cheetos.

Cheesiest: TraVino Wine & Grille Award Winning Mac & Cheese

Pair with Brys Estate Late Harvest Riesling

Alfredo Sauce

  • 1 1/2ounces butter
  • 1 1/2 ounces flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • roux (see recipe below)
  • 4 quarts heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1 cup chicken stock (can be omitted if making vegetarian)
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder

Melt the butter in a saucepan on low heat. Fold in the flour and cook on low heat to make roux that is blonde in color and smells like toasted almond. Remove from heat and whisk into simmering sauce to thicken.

In a heavy pan, sweat garlic in oil, stir 1 minute. Add all remaining ingredients except roux and bring to the scalding point. Stir in roux until sauce is thickened. Bring to a low boil and simmer 5 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until ready to finish the mac & cheese.

Asiago Breadcrumbs

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs (panko work best)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil blend
  • 1 cup grated Asiago cheese

Mix well and refrigerate.

Mac & Cheese

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked according to box instructions, drained
  • 1⁄2 pound cooked chopped pancetta (Italian bacon) or regular bacon
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded Parmesan reggiano cheese
  • 1 quart Alfredo sauce
  • 2 cups Asiago breadcrumbs

Before serving: In a large nonstick skillet, sauté bacon, add Alfredo sauce till hot, add pasta, sauté until hot, add shredded cheese and top with breadcrumbs. Serves 8 to 10 people.

Best With Wine: Lakeview Restaurant Alfredo Mac & Cheese

Pair with Chateau Chantal’s Un-Oaked Chardonnay

Alfredo Sauce

  • 1 1⁄2 ounces flour
  • 1 1⁄2 ounces butter
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped onion
  • 1⁄4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 quarts heavy cream
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 ounce Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Melt the butter in a saucepan on low heat. Fold in the flour and cook on low heat to make a roux that is blonde in color and smells like toasted almond. Remove from heat and whisk. Sweat the onions and the garlic in the oil until translucent. Add remaining ingredients except the roux, and bring to a boil. Mix the sauce and the roux together until smooth. Simmer another 5 minutes. Cool and reserve.

Mac & Cheese

  • 2 quarts creamy Alfredo sauce
  • 2 slices thick bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/8 ounces fresh basil chiffonade
  • 1/8 ounces fresh tarragon chiffonade
  • 1/8 ounces fresh parsley finely chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 pounds cooked gemelli (or pasta of choice), cooked and drained
  • 4 ounces shredded Asiago cheese
  • 4 ounces shredded pecorino Romano cheese
  • 4 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat the Alfredo sauce in a large sauté pan, whisking constantly as you bring to a simmer. Add the bacon and herbs and hot, precooked pasta. Stirring constantly fold in all the cheese until melted throughout.

People’s Choice: Mission Table/Jolly Pumpkin Dried Morel Mac n’ Cheese

Paired with Peninsula Cellars Pinot Blanc

  • 1 medium shallot diced small
  • 2 ounces sweet butter
  • 2 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 26 ounces vitamin D milk
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 ounces white cheddar grated
  • 2 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
  • Dash Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cooking sherry
  • 3 cups shitake mushrooms (sautéed will yield about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried morels
  • 2 ounces white truffle oil
  • 1 pound pasta, (elbow macaroni, penne, etc) cooked and drained
  • 3 ounces good Parmesan (reggiano or grana padano)
  • 2–3 ounces panko breadcrumbs

Sweat shallots in butter 2 minutes. Add flour and cook over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, to make roux. Add milk and whisk together, cook over low heat 5 minutes. Stir in first three cheeses until smooth, add all ingredients except Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Toss cooked pasta with cheese sauce and pour into eight bowls. Sprinkle Parmesan and breadcrumbs over pasta mixture and bake in 350-degree oven until golden brown about 5 minutes.

Michigan Comfort Food

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski