Mac and cheese with bacon

The Denver Mac & Cheese Fest will offer about 20 variations of the comfort food staple. It’s Friday at Number 38 in Denver.

A bowl of steamy, gooey macaroni and cheese hits the spot on a cold February night.

But what if that mac and cheese suddenly came spruced up with kimchi? Or fried prosciutto? Or jackfruit?

Twenty Denver restaurants, including Gypsy Q, Wally’s Wisconsin Tavern, Sugarfire Smokehouse and Tupelo Honey, are about to test the limits of your love for the cheesy noodle dish at the inaugural Denver Mac & Cheese Fest. It’s Friday at Number 38.

“Denver is such a foodie town, and we thought this would be a fun way to see local chefs get creative with the old childhood favorite,” said Lacey Spruce, an event organizer. “And see how they put their own unique spin on it.”

Attendees will receive a commemorative spork, three hours of unlimited 3-ounce portions of macaroni and cheese, and samples of wine, beer and liquor. Early-entry ticket holders can start sampling 30 minutes early, and VIP attendees get an hourlong head-start, along with an open bar, T-shirt and other VIP-only offers. Diners also can vote for their favorite dish.

Spruce’s favorite take on the old stand-by comes via Nathaniel Schoen-Roda, chef for The Whiskey Biscuit, an Englewood restaurant that serves down-home American food. His version stars duck confit, arugula and other flavors you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you think mac and cheese. Schoen-Roda won most delicious grilled cheese at the Mile High Grilled Cheese Festival, another event by the organizers of the Mac & Cheese Fest. He’ll compete again Friday.

“It’s a comfort food,” Spruce said. “In many places, they associate food with different emotions, and mac and cheese is a childhood staple. There’s a comforting, warm feeling. There’s also just something about cheese.”

JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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