Fancy mac and cheese

Fancy mac and cheese

I love comfort food taken up a notch, and it’s what a lot of restaurants like to do. They take your mom’s meatloaf and make it with veal and bison, and all of a sudden it’s transformed into something more than it was. A lot of chefs have done this with mac and cheese: a luxurious dish that can be made even more fancy by the addition of a few other ingredients. So I’m jumping on the bandwagon. And, while it’s warm today, the past few days have been cold and snowy, which left me craving comfort food like mac and cheese to warm me up. And apparently I’m not the only one.

I found the recipe on Epicurious, and modified it a bit (lobster doesn’t quite fit in with a gourmet on a budget dish). Truffle oil, my friends, is what makes this recipe especially amazing.  OK, it’s black truffle flavored olive oil, but it’s all I could find, and probably afford.

Budget: $15 for 4 to 5 servings; or $3 to $3.75 a serving.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes. (more…)

Fabulous crab cake from Next Door

Fabulous crab cake from Next Door

Last night I was able to eat dinner at Ben’s Next Door. If you remember, I was skeptical about the “celebrity” chef they had brought in. But man, I was proven wrong. This was southern soul food done well. Nothing too fussy or fancy, just good.

First, they have their full menu available now. I’m not certain when this happened, but it’s good to see that the kitchen is in full swing. Here’s a taste of the menu (pictures of it after the jump) – appetizers range from $6 to $13, with spicy buffalo wings, crab cakes, soup, salad, and Savannah dry rubbed ribs. Entrees are a bit pricey, from $17 to $24, with fried chicken, duck fricasse, and braised beef short ribs. Sides are $5 to $8 and include fries and mac and cheese.

My two companions and I ordered an assortment of everything: spicy buffalo wings, crab cakes, roast tomato soup, mac and cheese, and fried chicken. The spicy buffalo wings were very good: spicy, but also complex, I swear I tasted some teriyaki in there. Man, the crab cake (as there was only one for $13) was out of this world. Very good, nearly all crab, I didn’t see any filler. Well cooked, at least an inch thick, it was good. The table of women next to us, who admitted to being a little drunk, said that the crab cake was the best they’d ever had in their lives. I might agree with that statement.

The roast tomato soup was fine, but nothing that blew me out of the water. The mac and cheese was very good, creamy and cheesy. The fried chicken was also great, but the “perfect” mashed potatoes they came with were not my standard of perfect, it didn’t seem like any cream or butter had been added to them, and they were a little bland. A down note on a good dinner.

For dessert the options were apple caramel pie, chocolate coconut pecan pie, and coconut cake, all for $8. We wanted the coconut cake, but were informed they were all out, so we split an apple caramel pie and a chocolate coconut pecan pie. The apple pie was good, the chocolate coconut pecan pie was too sweet for my taste.

The service was fine, though it did seem like our waitress had a waitress in training following her around, which was a little odd. We got seated right away at 8 on a Saturday night, which was great, the restaurant was full but there didn’t seem to be a wait.

I was very impressed with the food and will totally be back. One note though: the Ben’s inspired food – you can only order it at the bar.

More photos after the jump. (more…)