All I can say is Copper Mountain had me at Mac and Cheese.
Copper Mountain’s 5th Annual Mac & Cheese Fest featured heavenly macaroni and cheese dishes from 11 different vendors. Each vendor served their own take on the classic cheese and noodle dish along with a surprise I wasn’t anticipating: a mixed drink pairing for each mac and cheese dish!
I met up with three other friends at the festival around noon, just in time for lunch. We all came prepared with empty stomachs. Two of my friends had just gotten done with a morning mountain run, while I tried my hand at mountain biking in Copper before they arrived. With empty bellies and the smell of gooey goodness in the air, we were ready to dig in!
We got our tasting started at the Banquets/Jacks booth. The mac and cheese featured at this stand included tender beef anticuchos which were perfectly seasoned and grilled. Meanwhile, the gooey Oaxaca queso and fried jalapeños created a perfectly creamy bed for the meat. We savored this dish while listening to the live music in the Center Village and sipping on the vodka-Sprite drinks that were served at the booth.
Next, we moved on to the Ten Mile Tavern tent to try their Mediterranean Mac which boasted fontina cream sauce, sundried tomatoes, pancetta, Boursin cheese and crunchy herbed breadcrumbs with a slice of Porchetta on top. The handcrafted ingredients were the star of this dish. One of the chefs showed us a case of Porchetta that had been slow-roasting overnight. As if all of this wasn’t enough, the booth offered a refreshing vodka-pink lemonade drink pairing.
The next dish caused some controversy amongst our group. At the C.B. Grille booth, we were intrigued by the smoked lamb shoulder, but also skeptical of the tomato and mint relish topping. Mint? With cheese? With so many dishes to try, I decided to be stingy with my selections and pass.
One friend decided to go for it, and she was not disappointed. She said that the mint wasn’t overpowering, and the lamb shoulder was delicious. I guess in hindsight, how could lamb not be good when paired with crispy, fried shallots and Havarti and gouda cheeses? To top it all off, the stand included a Copper Cucumber Cooler drink, that was her favorite for the day.
Many booths took some culinary liberty in concocting unique toppings and mix-ins for their fancy mac and cheeses. However, one booth kept things deliciously simple. High Rockies Whiskey & Wine bar served up an extra-rich Sweet and Savory Mac and Cheese with gouda, gruyère, parmesan and white cheddar. Mixed in the cheesy goodness were classic elbow macaroni noodles and Italian breadcrumbs. This dish was a good reminder of the reason for the festival in the first place. Simple noodles and cheese are just so darn good!
Remember how I said the sample sizes were generous? At this point in the afternoon, we were starting to feel it. We decided to try just one more stand.
My last sample for the day was the Jalapeño Popper Mac N Cheese at Eagle BBQ’s stand. It did, in fact, taste just like a Jalapeño Popper.
Only better because, noodles.
Katie is a graduate student studying International and Intercultural Communication at the University of Denver. Originally hailing from the Midwest, she still remembers her first-time laying eyes on the Rocky Mountains and falling in love. In addition to exploring mountain trails, Katie enjoys checking out Colorado’s craft breweries and scouting the Front Range for the best scoop of ice cream.