Jimmy’s perfects mac & cheese
ASPEN Macaroni and cheese has had held a special place in my heart, and stomach, since I was able to eat solid food. Its been a staple in my diet since at least the age of 3. Now 36 years later, I still find myself constantly craving the calorie-loaded carbohydrate. Its clear that Im not alone in my quest for the ultimate mac & cheese. Countless varieties have been appearing on the menus of some of the trendiest restaurants in the country for the past several years. Some of the most notable chefs are coming up with their own versions of the traditional dish, trying to dress it up with fancy ingredients. While living in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of trying all kinds of dressed-up and dressed-down versions. Ive had phenomenal dishes at some of LAs hottest restaurants where I paid $20 for my favorite food. And plenty of hangovers have been fed with the dumbed-down version at California Pizza Kitchen, hands-down the best chain-based mac & cheese available.Locally, there are several restaurants that serve it up. Dish Aspen is the newest restaurant to put it on its menu and its very good. Boogies Diner and Cache Cache also have won me over. Zanes gives you the ultimate bar version: Mac & cheese wedges, basically the good stuff fried.
There isnt a macaroni and cheese dish I havent liked. Ive had it just about every way you can eat it. But at the end of the day, I prefer it to keep it simple just like my mom used to make. My childhood memories of baked macaroni smothered in Velveeta cheese and heavy cream are as comforting as the food itself.The Kraft dinner in a box has always been the second choice when my mother wasnt around to make the homemade version. After trying literally hundreds of different kinds of mac & cheese, the only restaurant that has come close to replicating my moms is Jimmys An American Restaurant and Bar in Aspen.We treat mac & cheese exactly like it is, mac & cheese, Jimmy said. This is mac & cheese is in honor of the kid inside you.Ive been enjoying Jimmys mac & cheese for nearly a decade so imagine my surprise when I was recently told that I could have my macaroni however I wanted it. Jimmys chef, Tico Star, will make it to order. Whatever is in the kitchen can be a part of your mac & cheese experience. Is it tomatoes you want? Bacon? Crab meat? Jalepenos? Crumbles of Jimmys signature meatloaf? It can all be baked right into the dish. And if you want it crispy on top, Star will sprinkle a layer of parmesan and bread crumbs, then throw it back into the oven, creating a delicious, golden brown crust. Beneath it, macaroni is drenched in creamy cheesy sauce, accented by your favorite ingredients. The basic recipe is simple: macaroni, warmed cream, cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper. Its up to you to top it off, if you so choose.Jimmy Yeager, proprietor, came up with his own version by accident when he saw a customer order jalepenos in his macaroni. Jimmy, a bacon-only guy, combined the two and realized he had blended the perfect two ingredients. The Jimmy Mac is now a signature dish there.It was like discovering chocolate and peanut butter, Jimmy joked.My favorite is crispy and plain. I order it that way because I usually accompany it with the Mad Dog salad, which has the bacon and tomato I need to accent my pasta. And if I want crab, I make sure I go on a Thursday when Jimmys has a $12.50 crab leg special. The mac & cheese is the perfect side dish.Jimmys mac & cheese also has won over many of my friends who dont hold it in the same regard as I do and wouldnt typically order it. So what makes the mac & cheese there so special? Its price for one. At $6, its the best mac & cheese for your buck.
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