A black sign with “Jalapeño Bacon Mac & Cheese” written in chalk drew my friend and me into The Ore House in Vail Village on a Sunday night. It was pretty late, so we were surprised to find a place serving food, let alone food that seemed far from standard bar fare. What’s more, the menu described it simply as “Need we say more?” If the bar-restaurant had enough confidence to say that, I was willing to put my faith in that cheesy macaroni.
After getting our food, I realized that allowing my gut to decide my faith was a bad idea. To me, “Jalapeño Bacon Mac & Cheese” screams tasty, but it was actually quite bland and lackluster. The cheese sauce wasn’t creamy or gooey – a good mac and cheese is at least one of those, an amazing mac and cheese is both. I’m not sure what types of cheeses were used, but I bet a sharp cheddar and gruyere would have created a good consistency and strong flavor. (OK, so don’t put too much weight on that suggestion. I do know a good cheese, but I’m not yet an expert in pairing them for a cheese sauce.)
You would think the jalapeño would add some flavor, but it was as if the chef added it as an afterthought and so the pepper didn’t have a chance to permeate the sauce and pasta. If you’ve ever cooked vegetables (who hasn’t?!), you would have probably come to the same conclusion because the jalapeños were bright green and crispy. The jalapeños or chilies in any casserole-type dish I’ve eaten were always softened as a result of baking or simply cooking. I don’t know if the cook simply forgot to add them till the last minute in our dish or if that’s the way all of them are prepared, but it definitely wasn’t right.
The bacon was present but didn’t add much either. I guess if it wasn’t in there, though, the mac and cheese would have been even more boring. All the ingredients sounded so right, but unfortunately the end result wasn’t.
The place: The Ore House, Vail
The dish: Jalapeño Bacon Mac & Cheese, $8
The ingredients: Large elbow noodles, cheese sauce (TBD), minced bacon, diced jalapeños, bread crumbs
The verdict: Not worth ordering. Need I say more?
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