I recently celebrated my half birthday. Yes, I realize that makes me sound like a 6 year-old, but I love birthdays and I love any reason to celebrate. For this reason, I also celebrate a birthday week and try my hardest to convince Andy that our 1 year, 274th day wedding anniversary really should be commemorated. Andy had never heard of this half-birthday business until he met me, and I don’t know if he would admit it, but I think he kind of likes it. This year, he outdid himself with my half-birthday celebration…
Living only 20 minutes from San Francisco, you would think that we would visit often, exploring new shops and restaurants, and eating our way through the city. But to us, it is a whole lot of work. You have to deal with traffic, and parking, and crowds, and then more traffic. So we hardly ever go. But this day, Andy had planned a half-birthday excursion. First we would go to the Ferry Building Marketplace where I’ve been wanting to go for ages, then to lunch at Pier 23 where I heard they have an amazing roasted crab, and to cap off the day, a trip to CB2 to shop for more tiny dishes that I don’t need but love with all my heart. Talk about a dream day!
Let me just say right off the bat that I am now so enamored with the Ferry Building that I could move in. If they allowed lodgers I would sign up, particularly at Boccalone Salumeria, whose sign proudly proclaims that they sell “tasty salted pig parts.” I wanted to buy two of everything in that shop.
We also went to Cowgirl Creamery,
Acme Bread Company, a wine bar, a mushroom shop, a seafood shop, an olive oil shop, and much more.
Anything you could think of, they had it. We could have skipped lunch and eaten our way through the marketplace. But no, I heard a crab calling my name…
Pier 23 (which is down the Embarcadero a ways) is a fun place; very funky and casual with outside seating and great food. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten something with as much vigor as I ate my oven-roasted whole crab served with the most amazing butter-garlic dipping sauce. There was literally crab flying. Andy picked some out of my hair later that day. I was in the zone, and didn’t say a word until lunch was finished. Needless to say, it was ridiculously good.
After a quick shopping spree at CB2, we headed home very happy. And later, we got to enjoy this:
Cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, spreadable spicy salami from Boccolone, and a fresh baguette from Acme. Best half-birthday. Ever.
Since we had a good amount of cheese left over, there was no way that I was going to have that much Cowgirl Creamery sitting in the fridge without making macaroni and cheese. It was just an opportunity I could not let pass by. I’ve wanted to make my own mac ‘n cheese for awhile now, and I finally had the cheese I wanted to use.
Half-Birthday Cowgirl Creamery Mac ‘n Cheese
8 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked in salted water and drained
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated in a saucepan
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces crumbled Mt Tam cheese (Cowgirl Creamery)
3 ounces crumbled Red Hawk cheese (Cowgirl Creamery)
1 1/2 ounces grated gruyere cheese
1 1/2 ounces grated white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
For the topping, mix bread crumbs and parmesan cheese together. Reserve.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When melted, stir in flour and whisk for several minutes until flour is browning and cooked. Whisk in hot milk, and continue stirring over heat until mixture thickens. This will take a few minutes. Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in cheeses and pepper. Stir until smooth.
Combine cheese mixture and cooked macaroni. Spread into a baking dish. Sprinkle reserved topping over the entire dish.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, until topping is golden brown.
(Disclaimer: If you don’t like strong cheese, this may not be the mac ‘n cheese for you. The Mt Tam and Red Hawk definitely have a distinct flavor, which is why I love them so much, but a non-cheese lover may not feel the same way.)
To me, this is the ultimate mac ‘n cheese. It’s creamy and tangy and rich and decadent. I ate WAY too much of it and only slightly regretted it. The top and sides get crunchy, which is the best part to some of us (okay…both of us). For my first homemade mac ‘n cheese, I really couldn’t have asked for better. When you start with such yummy ingredients, it’s hard to go wrong.
Now I can’t wait for my real birthday…Italy, here we come!