A Tale of Two Mac ‘n Cheeses: Milestones vs Kessel&March

Whatever your feelings about Vancouver Foodster, he was running a Mac ‘n Cheese Challenge and mac ‘n cheese is a GREAT THING. I didn’t get to try at least three kinds (minimum required to be able to vote in the contest) but I did manage to try two…Milestones and Kessel&March. First up, Milestones on Robson.

*Contest is over and winners have been announced here. Kessel&March won in the Media Judge category! 🙂

Milestones’ “Howe Sound my Orecchiette?” Mac ‘n Cheese

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Postcards that every participating restaurant was handing out.

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Phillips Blue Buck. A caramelly pale ale. Ok/good enough. A touch too sweet, à la Granville Island beers.

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Here’s Milestones’ mac ‘n cheese, which they called “Howe Sound my Orecchiette?” because it contains Howe Sound IPA in the cheddar sauce and uses orecchiette (little ears) pasta insead of macaroni. Also features bacon and little chunks of chorizo.

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I liked that the orecchiette were like little cups for the sauce. The little bits of chorizo were a welcome addition too. But I had a problem with the pasta. Something about the texture of it…it wasn’t soft or mushy, it wasn’t hard, but…chalky? Grainy? I didn’t get any bounce or elasticity in the noodles. And I think that using only cheddar doesn’t make the best mac ‘n cheese sauce. A blend of different cheeses would make for a more exciting experience.

A good mac ‘n cheese should stand on its own without bacon. The bacon here I thought was a bit of a cheat, a crutch, almost a cliché by this point. I almost felt like the bacon got in the way.

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I finished it but it didn’t really satisfy my mac ‘n cheese craving. I could see this style of mac ‘n cheese appealing to Milestones’ target demographic, but it just wasn’t for me.

One thing I have to say though, the service at Milestones is good. Host was friendly and my server was experienced and knew the drinks/beer list front and back. I generally don’t like the corporate feel and accountant-driven menus of casual fine dining restaurants  but I can see why people like going back to places like Earls, Milestone, Joeys, etc.

Kessel&March “Tony’s Northern Italian Macaroni & Cheese

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Kessel&March are a newish eatery on Powell St., really close to Powell Street Craft Brewery and just down the block from Odd Society Spirits.

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Their European-inspired menu intrigued me. They also do beer pairing dinners. They did a Parallel 49 dinner in March and are doing a Powell Street Craft Brewery pairing last Sunday in April. I would go, but I usually have to think long and hard about spending more than $50 per person for a meal…even though I’m extravagant in other ways 😛

When I got inside, they were playing Little Dragon! So here’s the soundtrack for the rest of this review! Click play and read on to get the full experience of being there 😉

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Le menu.

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The only beer on draft is Asahi Super Dry. The rest are bottles. I went with the P49 Hay Fever Saison cuz I thought the effervescence and slightly spicy yeast would work well with the saffron and truffles in the mac ‘n cheese. I find Hay Fever to be a bit too sweet for my taste as far as saisons go, but it went pretty well with my meal.

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Thanks to the great feedback they got from their mac ‘n cheese, Kessel&March have added it to their regular menu! Renamed “Saffron Black Truffle Macaroni & Cheese”, with gremolata, perigord truffle shavings and parmesan, you know this isn’t going to be your regular mac ‘n cheese experience.

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They also do a bit of baking here too.

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Could be a nice way to finish a meal instead of a traditional dessert.

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I might try it next time.

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Here it is, the Saffron Black Truffle Macaroni & Cheese. Fluffy shavings of truffle and parmesan, like newly fallen snow 🙂

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I like the serving size. Big enough for you to really get into the flavours and enjoy them, but not so big that you get sick of it by the end.

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This is a subtle, sophisticated take on mac ‘n cheese. Intriguing herbal earthy note. The crispy gremolata texture is much welcomed, functioning like breadcrumbs. The sauce was smooth, almost custard-like. A few bits of saffron throughout, leeching their intense colour into the sauce. The pasta texture was perfect for mac ‘n cheese. It had that softness yet springy mouthfeel that makes mac ‘n cheese so fun to eat.

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This isn’t a mac ‘n cheese that will hit you over the head with rich, fatty, oily cheesiness. It doesn’t use crutches like bacon. This is a sophisticated, adult take on mac ‘n cheese that rewards the patient. Worlds away from dishes that use the dreaded awful “truffle oil” perfume, and polar opposite from the mac ‘n cheese from Milestones.

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I wasn’t done yet! I couldn’t resist their Sardines on Toast. After having some delicious local sardines at La Pentola, I jumped at this opportunity to have sardines again. Since this is an English dish, they used “salad cream” on the toast. It’s mayo to us 😛

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The sardines were good! Very different take on sardines versus what I had at La Pentola, but still delicious. Whereas the La Pentola sardines had an accented intensity and fishiness (I think they grilled them), here the sardines were lighter, fresher-tasting, with a tempered fishiness. Moist, juicy, oily, almost delicate texture.

Sardines are like the goat meat of the fish world.

Sardines are like the goat meat of the fish world. Some people love the oiliness and fishiness, some hate it. I love it. Even if you don’t like the fishiness of sardines, you might find this version quite pleasant to eat.

*I use the word “fishy” as like the fish version of the word “gamey” to describe meat. Totally positive attribute in this case.

I came to Kessel&March just for mac ‘n cheese but came away liking the place as a whole. If you’re dining solo or duo, I recommend sitting at the counter so you can see all the action in their small open kitchen. They’re friendly and are open to chatting if it’s not too busy. Their Wednesday night family-style suppers might be a fun option in the future. Nice addition to a neighbourhood on the cusp of something new and great.

Kessel & March on Urbanspoon

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