Monday, July 2, 2012

S'MAC: Sarita's Macaroni and Cheese NYC

Sarita's Macaroni and Cheese, better known as S'MAC, is a small eatery in Manhattan's East Village. As you'd expect, it features one thing: macaroni and cheese. I'd imagine the mantra behind this restaurant is as follows... "if you're good at something, stick with it." Also, "people love macaroni and cheese." Thus this spot is as popular as you'd imagine. With limited seating, the dining area can fill up quickly. Luckily, there is a small take-out shop next door so you can get your mac and cheese on the go and eat it nearby.

I consider myself to be a pretty amazing mac and cheese maker. I can be skeptical of others' mac and cheese creations. Upon my visit, I decided to try the sampler, which features 8 of their mac and cheese varieties. I felt this would give me the best insight into what S'MAC has to offer. Although it's a bit pricier than the Nosh (small) and Major Munch (medium) sizes, it definitely offers a lot of food and there's no better way to try multiple flavors.

You also get a little "map" to help guide you through your sampler. The flavors it includes are All-American (American and Cheddar cheeses), Cheeseburger (the All-American with seasoned ground beef), 4 Cheese (Cheddar, Muenster, Gruyere, and Pecorino), Cajun (Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Andouille sausage, green pepper, onion, celery, garlic, and Cajun seasonings), Alpine (Gruyere and slab bacon), La Mancha (Manchego cheese, fennel, and onions), Parisienne (Brie, roasted figs, shiitake mushrooms, and rosemary), and Napoletana (Mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and basil). Yum!

Overall, I really loved the mac and cheese here. I thought some of them were a bit less saucy/cheesy than what I'm used to in my kitchen, but they were all flavorful and well-seasoned. The varieties were unique and untraditional, definitely making this a fun little adventure.

Left to Right: Cheeseburger and All-American

Let's talk about each of the flavors. First up is the All-American. It's exactly what you'd expect. The nice melting quality of the American cheese with a bit of additional flavor from the cheddar. It wasn't disappointing for the most straight-forward of the lot. A good standby.

The Cheeseburger was actually one of my favorites. I didn't think it would be, but the beef was seasoned really well and gave a solid punch of flavor to the basic mac and cheese. It's definitely a more gourmet version of what you'd find in a Hamburger Helper (I've actually never had Hamburger Helper but I'm aware that this is the common flavor profile).

Left to Right: Cajun and 4 Cheese

The 4 Cheese was nice and cheesy and had a good depth of flavor between the variety of cheeses. This is a good choice if you're not looking for mix-ins in your mac and cheese, but want something a bit more elevated than the All-American.

The Cajun definitely showcased the Pepper Jack cheese really well. It's the first thing I tasted, along with the Andouille sausage. It was a great example of what can be achieved in mac and cheese with Cajun flavors, but it wasn't really my favorite of the bunch.

Left to Right: La Mancha and Alpine

On the other hand, the Alpine was easily one of my favorites in the sampler! I'm a fan of Swiss flavors in mac and cheese (I've used them before in my own mac and cheese adventures) and this one doesn't fail. The gruyere is front and center along with delicious slab bacon. One concern I often have with slab bacon in mac and cheese is that sometimes the fat isn't really rendered well enough, and you just end up with globs of fat. On the contrary, the bacon in this mac and cheese was well cooked! I was really impressed with it overall. This is what I might order next time :)

Next up is La Mancha, which plays on Spanish flavors. Utilizing Manchego cheese, fennel, and onions, I'd say the strongest flavor here was the onion. Although I enjoyed the flavor (I do love onions), it was a little strong and overpowered the cheese a bit.

Left to Right: Napoletana and Parisienne

The Parisienne was seriously packed with flavor, between the meaty shiitake mushroom flavor and the sweet figs and herbaceous rosemary. The brie made it extra melty and cheesy. Honestly, this is another of my favorites. It definitely stepped up a simple mac and cheese to something full of flavor.

Finally, the Napoletana is in a world of its own. Featuring fresh mozzarella cheese, the flavors are less sharp than its friends, but compounded with the roasted tomato and basil it's 100% Italian. It still features the "creaminess" of a mac and cheese so it easily fits the bill without tasting too much like a baked Italian pasta dish of another name. It was very tasty and a great option if you're in the mood for something less typical in mac and cheese.

S'MAC (Sarita's Macaroni and Cheese)
345 E 12th St
(between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
 New York, NY 10003
(212) 358-7912


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