My friends Mark and Emma have been organising a festival of macaroni cheese appreciation called Pastaval for a number of years. Focussed around Glasgow’s southside, a range of local eateries compete for the coveted trophy sponsored by macaroni cheese specialists McIntosh of Strathmore.
With Mr Macaroni himself in attendance, this looked likely to be an afternoon of guaranteed fun. It all kicked off at the Butterfly & the Pig Southside where the 250 sellout crowd collected their packs containing scorecards along with vital forks and cardboard dishes.
I started with the offering from the headquarters. Their recipe apparently featured both manchego and blue cheese in a light, drippy sauce. It was a good opener but left room for someone to come in with a more definitively winning dish.
Next it was on to nearby Surf Dogs where they gave participants a little more choice with plain or topped versions. My co-conspirator Kenny opted for the veggie haggis while I chose black pudding and meaty haggis. This was again pleasing stuff and a solidly good effort.
Next we had the Hickory Steakhouse. This seemed like quite a lively and buzzing place, but their mac lacked a really good meltiness to it.
This marked our southernmost extremity, so we turned back towards the city centre and ambled up Pollockshaws Road. On the way to our next venue we bumped into Mr Macaroni who was pausing for photos with the locals every few steps. He’s quite the celebrity in these parts it seems.
We soon reached venue number four, the Bungo. The folks here were the reigning champions having scooped the 2017 trophy.
They had clearly spent a good bit of time working on their dish as it was packed with flavour. Their blend also had some blue cheese tang to it, along with the smoky heat of paprika. It was the best dish of the day by a clear distance, for me.
The final stop was at Lebowski’s just along Nithsdale Road. Their dish was a pretty characterless affair, though, which was disappointing for a place with such a strong reputation for their food.
We headed back to Pastaval headquarters for the totalling of scores, although it would have surprised me a great deal if the Bungo didn’t win by a comfortable margin. But there’s no accounting for taste…
The subtle simplicity of the Butterfly & Pig’s dish won the day with the Bungo in second. Hickory placed third.
Pastaval was a roaring success with everyone enjoying a fantastic day out and a carb-filled feed. Congratulations to the Butterfly & the Pig for regaining the trophy and a big thank you to Mark and Emma for organising, Sarah for sponsoring, and Rusty for keeping Mr Macaroni so well-behaved all day.
Following on from the pasta fun, there was the small matter of Mark and Emma’s surprise wedding, which was a truly joyous occasion graced with a splendid macaroni cheese cake.
Here’s hoping we can make Pastaval happen in Edinburgh before long. I look forward to that.