TBT: 2016 Mac and Cheese Festival
Throwback to the second Mac and Cheese Festival in Toronto! The event was held last June, running from the 3rd to the 5th.
I invited three of my younger cousins to join me, since I did not want to go alone. The doors were set to open at 12pm on the Sunday, but they were already letting people in around 11:45am. 2016’s ran better and differently than 2015’s.
The location was bigger. Liberty Village was the spot for last year’s festival and it lack the space for the amount of interested attendees. This time it was held at Ontario Place – definitely more spacious – which allowed more vendors to be at the event. Then there was security check, which makes sense for an event this large. You were allowed to bring in a sealed bottle of water, but no outside food was allowed. The event also had carnival rides and games, which were not present at the first year. But, the one thing that stayed the same was the use of tokens.
Everything at the festival was bought with tokens. On the Sunday, it looked as if the token prices started to lower a bit. For $20, you received 15 tokens. For $40, you received 30 tokens, and so forth. Each vendor had items pricing between 3-8 tokens for mac and cheese. I did see a few 10+ token food items but they didn’t look anything mac and cheese related. My cousins and I opted first for the 30 token price, since there were four of us.
To use our tokens wisely, we did a quick walk around, scoping for which vendor we’d like to try an item from. My cousins and I are an indecisive group, so we decided to each take turns in picking a vendor. I picked first since I knew I wanted to try Junked Food Co as soon as I saw it the booth.
Mac Smash from Junked Food Co
We ordered the Mac Smash for six tokens. The Mac Smash contained Doritos, lettuce, tomatoes, mac and cheese, and some sort of mayo sauce/dressing. (I forgot to note what’s inside the item). The entire thing was served in half a Doritos bag.
The Mac Smash pretty much tasted like nachos. It tasted good but it wasn’t anything special. I liked the concept of adding in Doritos, but the Doritos pieces were huge and pretty much took up half the serving. It would have been better if the Doritos were crushed up and sprinkled on top. It would have been easier to eat and provided more mac and cheese. There was also an excess amount of lettuce. The whole thing was difficult to eat and messy because of how it was served. I like the idea of using the Doritos bag, but it was too small. It would have been better to use the whole bag (with the same serving size) and that would have allowed us to mix the food easier.
Since it’s supposed to be a mac and cheese item, it lacked a lot in that department. To be honest, I have no recollection of how the mac and cheese tasted. I had high expectations for this, considering my friend Andrea and I have been wanting to visit the restaurant, but this was a bit disappointing.
New Jack City from Cut The Cheese
For our second pick, my cousin Angela chose the New Jack City for five tokens. The was a deep fried ball, filled with mac and cheese, drizzled with a warm sauce, and garnished with jackfruit pieces. Presentation wise, it looked
amazing. Taste-wise, not so amazing.
The dough and the mac and cheese tasted very similar, thus making it difficult to differentiate between the two. If a more distinct cheese, such as cheddar, were used instead, it would have flavoured the deep fried better. Truthfully, the entire thing tasted bland.
The warm sauce drizzled on top is a combination of milk, onion, flour, and jackfruit sauce. It was supposed to add sweetness to it, but I didn’t taste any sort of sweetness.
The only sweetness I tasted was from the actual jackfruit pieces. I thought it complemented the deep fried mac and cheese ball nicely, since it was pretty much the only thing that had a distinct flavour.
Fried Butter Chicken Mac and Cheese from TDot’s Naansense
My cousin Jessica picked our third serving of mac and cheese. She chose the Fried Butter Chicken Mac and Cheese for five tokens. I’ve actually had the Butter Chicken poutine from this vendor in 2015 at CNE. You can read up on that here.
Like our previous pick, this one was also a deep fried mac and cheese ball. The big difference was that this dish had great flavour. It had the authentic butter chicken flavour, however, it overpowered the mac and
cheese. When I ate the mac and cheese by itself, it really didn’t have a mac and cheese taste. It was kind of bland.
It also had a little salad side dish with it. It was just spinach and tomatoes. I didn’t eat it but my cousins said it tasted great with the butter chicken sauce.
Sweet Mac and Cheese Cone from Bacon Nation
There is one word to describe this food item: Interesting. It’s not the worst thing I’ve eaten, but it’s not the best thing. My cousins absolutely dreaded eating it but i didn’t mind it that much. The Sweet Mac and Cheese Cone, for six tokens, is sweet (as it says in its name) but it’s not savoury sweet – it’s just sweet.
The cheese part tasted like sweet potato; it had the consistency of sweet potato and look as well. We asked what the cheese part was made out of because it tasted sweet as well. We found out that it was a blend of many cheeses. Sprinkled on top was candied bacon. I’m not a fan of bacon so I didn’t like it, but it was like eating meat candy, if that makes any sense.
Overall, I wasn’t feeling this item. It definitely confused my taste buds. It was a neat concept but failed on execution.
5 Cheese with Herb Crust from SOCO
Since we only had eight tokens left, I wanted us to get the most out of this festival, so I looked for a four token vendor. SOCO was offering last year’s People’s Choice dish for four tokens. How perfect!
This dish really lives up to its reputation from last year’s festival. It was creamy, cheesy, and flavourful. It was exactly what I wanted in a mac and cheese dish from a Mac and Cheese Festival. Using five cheeses was smart on their part. You get a nice cheese flavour that isn’t overpowering but just right. The herb crust was fantastic too. I’m not sure what it’s made out of, but it looked very similar to panko mixed with some herb spice. Whatever it’s made out of, it was delicious. It added a kind of burnt cheese texture to the mac and cheese part, which is always a plus in my books. I would definitely re-order this. It was definitely my favourite at this year’s festival.
Mac and Cheese from Penthouse Catering
My cousin Angela picked the last mac and cheese dish for us. It was the Mac and Cheese (yes, that’s what it’s called) from Penthouse Catering for four tokens.
I was getting full at this point and didn’t eat much of this. The portion sizing of this dish was pretty decent for four tokens. It had shredded cheese and crumbled Doritos sprinkled on top. We were told that it was Italian pesto. It definitely had the look of pesto, but it didn’t taste like it. It tasted like pasta dishes bought at your local grocery store. Which after having pasta in Europe, does not even compare to being good pasta.
The macaroni felt a little overcooked and it was quite dry. It not only needed more pesto for flavour but it severely lacked cheese. If you’re calling a dish “Mac and Cheese,” I expect there to be a decent ratio between macaroni and cheese. Otherwise, rename it because the title is misleading.
Lastly, we ordered a Bloomin’ Onion. For ten tokens, you could get a full one. For five tokens, you’d get half of one. We really should have ordered half because we were all getting full. And by the time we ordered it, it started pouring!
We also sampled some of the Daiya’s vegan cheese. Some weren’t bad, but vegan cheese can never replace actual cheese *sighs*.
Luckily we were near the end of our time at the festival. After finishing the Bloomin’ Onion, we looked for someone to sell the remaining of our tokens to. Once we found one, after it stopped pouring ridiculously hard, we dipped and spent the rest of the day in Toronto.
Would I attend the festival again? Probably. It definitely was a huge upgrade from 2015’s disaster. You can tell that the event organizers learned a lot and really focused on the mistakes from 2015.
The only suggestion I have is the option of buying single tokens. Each token was 75 cents each, so it was kind of difficult for us to find someone to purchase our remaining tokens left (we had five). Luckily we did find someone, but it would be nice to have that option, so no token or money is going to waste. Also, more seating!
Other than that, I had a great time, despite the torrential downpour and getting a sunburn (even though it was grey skies and raining).