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    Houston Mac + Cheese Festival 2017: Was It Worth It?

    Did you see the Houston Mac and Cheese Festival event floating around Facebook back in January? I checked interested because who wouldn’t love taste testing a ton of macaroni and cheese? Spoiler: No one! I didn’t think anything about it and certainly wasn’t thinking that I’d end up going to the event itself. Luckily for my taste buds, my brother-in-law saw the event and suggested it as his birthday present from Rick and myself. Spoiler: This may be one of the best birthday presents ever.

    Here’s my pretty bad view from one of the edges of Silver Street. (Sorry, iphone pictures are hard. Also, a huge crowd formed right in front of here watching some dancers extremely soon after taking this.)

    There were a ton of vendors set up from around Houston all toting their best mac + cheese for us to taste. I was a little curious how we were going to carry mac + cheese but we got a special plate that held several tasting cups and a beverage along with several drink tickets along with a token to use to vote on our favorite. We got there when the festival first started and I am so glad we did. We had a bit to sprint around between vendor booths before the place filled. When it filled, it was so hard to walk around but a bunch of people came and left within an hour and it lightened up. Unfortunately, by the time it lightened up some vendors were out of mac + cheese and the orange goodpops for one of the signature cocktails were gone.

    Here’s the VIP section. it had all the comfy seating and places to put down food and drinks. The general admission had a couple of benches on the opposite end but nowhere near the amount of comfy inside seating shown here. There’s also a private bar in the back.

    Springing for the VIP Tickets – Yay or Nay?

    For us, it was a matter of money with the general admission tickets close to $50, there was no question for us which we would purchase. From what I saw of those who got the VIP tickets, other than access to the VIP section they got a tote bag with some goodies in it. We left right after they announced the overall Mac + Cheese Winner. I’m not sure if they had too many tote bags or what, but we walked away with 4 tote bags filled with goodies when we left even though we didn’t buy the correct tickets. For me, there wasn’t enough of a reason to shell out the extra $20-30 bucks. I’d definitely say nay to VIP and stick with the general admission tickets. The point is to eat all the mac + cheese anyway, right?

    Here’s my tasting plate at one point with several mac + cheese options. Unfortunately, none of these were particularly my favorites. There’s a mac + cheese eggroll, chipotle chicken mac + cheese, lobster mac + cheese, brisket mac + cheese and I’m not sure what the other one is.

    Was the Mac + Cheese Good?

    This question seems like it should be obvious. Duh, mac and cheese is almost always amazing. I didn’t get to taste all the mac + cheese options available because I got full. Of the ones I did taste, I was a little disappointed. A lot of the vendors seemed to throw a thick piece of bacon on top or crumbly bacon bits and that was it. Very few mac + cheeses seemed to go over the top which was most notably, the Oxtail Mac + Cheese from Houston This Is It’s Soul Food restaurant which was the #1 place winner. There was also a Spicy Crawfish Mac + Cheese from Hughies Tavern that Rick and D devoured and loved. For the most part, the mac + cheeses were good but not the phenomenal kind of good that I think I really expected going into the event. I also really liked a truffle one and a mac + cheese ball covered with a spicy marinara sauce.

    The #2 winner, Swift + Company, had the absolute best mac + cheese in my opinion. It’s called the Mac + Cheese Texas Tango and is a pulled pork mac + cheese with a mango tomatillo slaw. I was so in love with this weirdly somewhat sweet creation that I went back for 3 portions. Not only was it delicious, it was one of the more creative concoctions. I’ll definitely be trying to recreate this mac + cheese beauty at home.

    Was it Worth It Then?

    I believe that the 2017 Houston Mac + Cheese Festival was definitely worth a one time go. We did thoroughly enjoy our experience. For the admission price though, I doubt we’ll be going back in the future when it comes back next year. If we had a group of family or friends that wanted to go next year, I’d be down to go with them. I do think that it would make for an amazing date idea or birthday present experience.

    Enjoy some of your favorite mac + cheese soon! Also, feel free to check out my Mac + Cheese pinterest board for creative recipes.

    Ashley

    My Top 3 Family Owned Restaurants in the Houston Area

    It’s no secret. I love to eat, like I absolutely love it. I especially love when I can support a smaller family run business rather than a huge chain. These are my top 3 favorite family owned restaurants in the Houston area. There’s a chance that I may even run into you at one!

    1. El Dorado Mexican Restaurant
      I’ve been coming here since they first opened. They’ve never ceased to satisfy my Mexican cravings. The waitstaff is always friendly and accommodating, especially to special needs. I almost always get the Durango – a chile con queso puff, a guacamole taco, a cheese enchilada and a sour cream chicken enchilada with rice and beans. It can be quite a bit of food, but it’s too delicious to deviate to another meal. One of my other favorite meals is the  Also, their pina colada is absolutely phenomenal. This family has worked so hard. I’m so excited to say that they have opened a new location in League City. My family and I went right when it opened and we absolutely loved it. Well done, friends!
    2. Dumar’s Mediterranean Restaurant
      I’ve said before that this I recommend the couples plate. I wholeheartedly still urge you to order that. It allows you to try all the things possible on the menu. I have officially tried all the chicken shawarma options and have to say that there’s no way you can go wrong. There’s something so delectable about their chicken shawarma that keeps me coming back for it. Rick loves the lamb kebab. Next time, we’re trying the kenafeh!
    3. Marini’s Empanada House
      I got to know the Marini’s the summer after my senior year in high school when I first fell in love with Argentinean empanadas. My absolute favorite things on the menu are the Apple Gabriella (diced apples, dulce de leche, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, and nuts), the Italian Marcello (Italian sausage, pizza sauce, mozzarella & provolone cheese) and the New Yorker (broccoli, cream sauce, mozzarella & provolone cheese). The best part is that each empanada is super customizable. I almost always add avocado to the New Yorker. It just makes it even better. Marini’s has been growing increasingly famous which is awesome as they are such a sweet, sweet family. They have their restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives this Friday night.

    I hope y’all spend the night out at one of these establishments. I have absolutely loved my time spent at all of them and hope you do too.

    Happy eating!
    Ashley

    What I’m Loving // March 2017

    I’ve started 2 different blog posts for today and just nothing seems right. I don’t know if it’s just the day or what, but things aren’t flowing like they should. I love top ten lists, which I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve been journeying with me. I’m not sure since I’ve been back to blogging that I’ve really allowed y’all to see a peek in to who I am yet. Today, I’d like to share 10 things that I’m loving right now.

    1. If there’s one thing I’m loving currently, it’s the The Happy Hour Podcast by Jamie Ivey. I’m a bit obsessed. Like, I’m binge listening level obsessed. I love stories and I love how Jamie is inspiring me to stay connected in my faith, especially during this weird season of mine. Her guests are courageous, God-loving, fascinating women and I’m loving devouring their stories and getting to know them. Maybe, one day, Jamie will interview me. A girl can dream!
    2. Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs is a book that I’d recommend for sure. I finished this book in late January. It’s so worth the buy! I’ll be reviewing it in an upcoming post. It’s actually one of the ones that I started today and just decided I wanted to sit with the book and ponder a bit longer.
    3. The Pokemon Go App for Iphone is my current go to phone game. It’s reminding me to walk which is always good. Collecting Pokemon is fun too.
    4. Rick and I are both a bit obsessed with Skipbo. We’ve been playing almost nightly. I went on a 10+ Skipbo run there for awhile but he’s made a comeback. We actually spent most of our weekend relaxing with a NCIS marathon while playing this card game. Sometimes, it’s the simple things y’all.
    5. Want to Be a Writer? Start Writing. I absolutely love these encouraging words from Becky Kiser on writing. It’s interesting. Everywhere I seem to look lately, I hear more and more about this concept. It’s so simple, yet somehow has the power to paralyze us.
    6. If you’re looking for a good date night dinner spot in Houston, you should check out Dumar’s. I’d say get the Couples Plate. There’s a ton of food but it’s ridiculously delicious and so fun to try the huge variety that comes on it. I’m currently hooked on their chicken shawarma.
    7. In lieu of writing, I got to get together with some out of town friends tonight. We had a wonderful evening discussing life, drinking coffee and playing Harry Potter Clue. I think it’s been almost two full years since we four have been in the same place. My heart longs for a day when we could do something like tonight in person once a month or even more. God’s brought some amazing girls into my life, I just hope one day he’ll have us all in the same place too.
    8. I just started The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh over the weekend. I’m floored with the beautiful use of language within the pages of that book. I almost couldn’t even stop reading for date night because it had captured me so deeply. It’s been quite a while since that happened and I’m so excited to see what happens as I continue reading.
    9. I’m savoring alone time. This seems so weird to say, especially as a newlywed. Rick, don’t be upset if/when you see this. There’s just something that I’ve loved lately about carrying our fold up chairs into our backyard with a cup of ice cold water and reading. I cannot get enough of it. I don’t know if it’s the sun on my skin, the opportunity to get lost in a good story or just as much silence as suburbia has to offer. Unfortunately, I think winter is coming back so it may be a while before this is a consistent thing in my life. In the meantime, I’ll be snatching up the bits of time that I have to bask in the sun while I can though.
    10. This last thing I am loving is so silly. It’s not silly because of what it is, but how it came into my possession. I went shopping with my mom. We noticed this Columbia polka dot vest on a rack and she made me try it on. It fit perfectly and it was on sale. Plus, it is one of the most comfortable things I’ve worn in a long time. She bought it for me because I refused to get it for myself. With the constant changing of seasons and it’s ability to be ridiculously comfortable, it’s practically made itself into my every day uniform. I don’t even have a single complaint about that. I just can’t move on to another piece of clothing. It’s the perfect thing to grab in the mornings and I give no apologies for that.

    Alright y’all, thanks for sticking with me today and hopefully gaining some insight as to who I am, especially if we’re not IRL friends yet. I’ll be back with some serious insights soon. Love you and hope y’all are having a wonderful Spring Break! Don’t forget to get some self-care in!

    Ashley