Tuesday, June 27, 2006

S'Mac - Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth?

From an early age, my mother tried to teach me about the importance of fresh food and the harmful nature of processed and canned goods. From birth, she cooked for my brother and I, making almost everyone of our meals from fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. She took the importance of cooking from scratch so seriously, that the greatest insult in her kitchen was to call myself a Gerber baby. So what did I take away from all this? I realized that there was nothing I wanted more than unhealthy, processed, canned food to rot my innards, stunt my growth and, on the whole, destroy all the good work my mother’s cooking had done for my well being. As a kid wanting and having destructive food are two different things and seeing how my mom did the grocery shopping, I knew I would have to convince her to buy me the food she so dearly detested. I knew it couldn’t be some super processed food, like frozen pizza or fish sticks, so I picked a meal that I could see her making, but it was just easier to buy. That my friends, was mac ‘n’ cheese, and for the better part of my middle and high school existence, it was my main source of fuel.

Now almost a decade later, it seems that mac ‘n’ cheese has become the side d’jour of many gourmet restaurants. Long gone are the days of simple elbow pasta mixed with melted American cheese. Today it’s all about a spruced up approaches like a four cheese blend, mixed with Andouille sausage and baked with Sourdough breadcrumbs on top. And to tell you the truth, I couldn’t be happier. This past weekend New Yorkers were treated to the grand opening of S’Mac, a quaint, East Village eatery whose menu exclusively features all things mac ‘n’ cheese. Although opening only nine months after being conceived, husband and wife team Ceaser and Sarita Eyka (Owner of the infamous Peanut Butter Co. in the Greenwich Village) had built up quite a buzz and despite the flood inducing downpour, people were lined up out the door to try their wares.

Doing our best to stay dry (and to watch as much World Cup as possible) we didn’t make it to S’Mac until around two-thirty. Unbeknownst to us, they had been slammed since opening that morning and by the time we got in line, multiple items had been scratched from the menu. The situation was so dire, that about ten minutes after we arrived they posted a sign saying that they were shutting down for a few hours and reopening at five-thirty. With a broken air conditioner, a jam packed dining area and a thirty plus minute wait, we contemplated getting out food to go, but once we saw that each dish was individually served in a mini iron skillet, we decided to wait it out. TO fully explore the menu we decided to each order a different dish, so I picked the “Gruyere”, a Swiss styled dish with elbow pasta (the other options is whole wheat pasta), Gruyere cheese and slab bacon (Nosh Size, $6.75).

After ordering, another thirty-minute wait ensued, but this gave the crowd time to thin out and allowed us to grab seats. Finally my number was called and I was presented with a personal skillet, filled with about a pound of the good stuff and topped with a golden brown, baked breadcrumb crust. The pasta was cooked to a nice al dente and mixed the right amount of Gruyere, which was at first lightly sweet, but then tasted more earthy and nutty. The slab bacon was cut into sizable chunks and it’s salty fat rounded out the dish’s full flavor. While I nibbled at all of the other dishes, the best was the “Brie”, which was creamy Brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary. It had a distinctive velvety and sweet taste, with the roasted figs adding a delicately juicy texture.

As we finished our skillets (every bite of every dish was eaten), I chatted briefly with a very frazzled looking Ceaser and Sarita. I told them I was a huge mac ‘n’ cheese fan and that I had been counting down the days till their grand opening. They smiled politely (I can’t imagine I was the first one to say that) and then asked me how I liked the “Gruyere”. I thought for a second and then replied, “It was so good, that even my mother would approve.”

S'Mac is at 345 East 12th St in New York City.


At 12:55 PM, Blogger Mark W said...

What was the brand du cuisine? Kraft or Velveta?

Mark W


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