There seem to be a lot of places with creative mac and cheese offerings showing up on menus in the Capital District these days. Unfortunately, I have tried quite a few and they tend to disappoint. Not only are the portion sizes usually crazy large, but they have a LOT of ingredients in them. I don’t always want seven types of seasonal vegetables in my mac and cheese. They sound interesting, and then you get an entire casserole dish of food delivered to you at the table and you realize you’ve vastly over-committed. Which is why the mac and cheese sampler flight at The Tipsy Moose Tap & Tavern in Latham piqued my interest when I recently saw some pictures.
For $14, the flight of three mac and cheese dishes was still more than enough to comfortably split with another person. The presentation in little cast iron dishes was cute, and I can always appreciate anything topped with a layer of crispy cheese. Plus I am so indecisive with menus that I love the option to choose multiple flavors. So let’s just say that this dish is right up my alley.
The first test of any macaroni and cheese is the texture. I’m not a fan of too thick and goopy, and I don’t want to feel like it’s too stringy and cheesy to eat neatly. This version was perfect, with a very creamy and smooth consistency and no breadcrumbs. I know that it’s an unpopular opinion, but I have never been a fan of breadcrumbs in mac and cheese. I tend to find that it can be too grainy and distracting. I want the main focus to be on the cheese and the noodles and maybe some interesting meat mix-ins (like bacon). I’d much rather a crispy cheese coating that ties it all together rather than breadcrumbs, which always just feel like an afterthought to me.
Of the sampler options, our group had different opinions about the best. Some preferred the brisket, which brought a nice meatiness to the flavor profile of the cheese sauce. I thought that the meat was a little too fatty in some of the chunks, and it might have been better with more of a shredded consistency instead of big chunks. Others preferred a buffalo chicken version (not pictured), which was not very spicy but still had a nice touch of hot sauce flavor mixed in. My personal favorite was the chili version, which had a nice rich flavor and the best integration of ingredients and cheese. The most disappointing was the southwest dish, which included black beans, corn, and tomatoes. The flavors were a little bland in comparison to our other picks, but not bad by any means.
It’s worth noting that the mac and cheese is not on the brunch menu (although I have heard great things about that as well), so if you want to try this sampler you should plan on coming mid-afternoon or later on a weekend. Also worth noting that the parking is truly atrocious. There are only a handful of spots directly adjacent to the building, and no great on-street options nearby. The tavern does have an agreement with a local IT company down the road for overflow parking on the weekends, which is just a short walk away. But still, carpooling might be a good option for this venture.