The Hilltop Has Aye’s

Jen and I decided to try Parker’s Hilltop Brewery in Clarkston on Saturday night. We had heard many good things about it and the reviews were always stellar. We were not sure how the visit was going to be because when we called to make a reservation they said that they were not taking any reservations. Jen asked the person on the phone why can’t we reserve a table, the website says you take reservations? The person told Jen that yes, they do take reservations, but not tonight because they expect the restaurant to be busy. Huh? Anyway, we were not going to be deterred by this dumb answer.

When Jen and I arrived, we were impressed by its spaciousness and rustic appeal. Some of the walls are ordained with pictures of Michigan music icons like Bob Seger, Diana Ross and Alice Cooper, etc. We sat down at the bar and were met by a very affable young man named Sean.  He brought us our waters while we looked at their beer list. Jen and I could not decide so we each ordered a flight of beers. Our flights were the same except for one choice. We both agreed that the Pirates Porter and Sleeping Monkey were great choices. Jen had a Mr. Hockey Irish Red which was also quite tasty. We both determined that the Ry-no Head Belgian Ale was just okay and the FNG American Stout with its extra hoppiness was not to our liking. Look, we try and we want to like IPA’s but we just don’t their just too bitter and lack the robust roasted maltiness of porters and stouts. Overall, the beer is good but unfortunately it is limited and half the choices are IPA’s.

We were hungry so we decided to split prime rib and a prosciutto and arugula pizza. The prime rib dinner came with mashed potatoes and broccoli but Jen and I upgraded to different sides. We opted for mac and cheese and fries. The fries were just okay nothing special and even though Jen really liked the mac and cheese it didn’t blow me away. But that’s not unusual for me, I am someone who can take or leave mac and cheese. Now the prime rib was cooked perfectly at medium rare and bursting with meaty goodness. Please people do not go beyond medium rare when you order good cuts of meat if you want it well done just eat Salisbury steak.

The pizza was phenomenal, salty, garlicky and beyond savory. Wow what a good choice. As we sat at the bar, we watched group after group of people come. Like I said, the place is big but does fill up fast. My advice, if you like good beer and good food, go to Parker’s Hilltop. But go early and save us two seats at the end of the bar cuz we are going back.

Facebook Crock Pot Mac and Cheese – Is it Gouda??

A little while back, I “shared” a recipe on my Facebook page that I wanted to try. It was for crock pot mac & cheese. As I attend a lot of potlucks, I thought this may be a good recipe to have in my arsenal. However, reviews were very mixed. Some thought it was great, some thought it was horrible and some kind of middle of the road. I thought I would give you an accurate review.
First, the recipe was posted on this site (click here).IMG_1813

And it reads as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 3 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 2 1/2 Cups Milk
  • 12 oz. Evaporated Milk
  • 8 ounces Cream Cheese
  • 16 ounces elbow Macaroni

Directions:

  • Put All ingredients into the Crock Pot, EXCEPT the 1 pound bag of Macaroni noodles!
  • Leave on Low for an hour. After 1 hour, stir the sauce in crock pot.
  • Make Macaroni & then Drain after sauce has been “crock potting” for about 45 minutes.
  • Add Cooked Macaroni to sauce after drained.
  • Add any extras you would like. Ham, Bacon, etc.
  • Cook on LOW another 45 minutes
  • Feeds approximately 6-8

Tip: YOU DO NOT have to add all evaporated milk or cream cheese if you do not like it VERY CHEESY!

Ok, that’s it. Seems easy enough. I purchased all ingredients and packed them up for my work potluck the next day.  First thing I noticed, no spices whatsoever? Well that won’t do.  So I added the following spices:
1 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp salt.

Next, 3 C shredded cheese seems to little.  I actually added two and a half bags!! what is that 5 1/2 Cups??

So, I added all ingredients (sans PRE cooked pasta) to crock pot and set for 1 hour on low. I decreased the milk to about 1 3/4 C because 2 1/2 seemed like a TON.  After an hour, the mixture was barely warm and looked like soup.  Ahh I was panicking!! adding noodles to the milky soup did not look appealing.  I actually got the inner crock out and microwaved for 6 minutes.  That did the trick.  One HOT, the cream cheese melted through and thickened the sauce nicely.

BTW, one comment on this dish was “omg this was sooo sweet – gross mac and cheese shouldn’t be sweet”. My guess is that this master chef wanna be put CONDENSED milk instead of evaporated.  Yes blog peeps. there is a HUGE difference.

So, this step? My recommendation, try an hour on high, or a couple hours on low.  Or, if access to microwave like I had, wing it!

When the sauce thickened, and it finally did.  (Use a whisk.  A whisk is your friend!) I added my PRE cooked noodles.  This is important.  Cook your pasta and leave rather al dente (which means to the tooth, or has a slight bite to it) I cooked mine the night before and had in a gallon plastic zip lock for convenience. The picture is deceiving.  The noodles in the picture are clearly uncooked.  If you mistakenly add them uncooked (as many more of the “bad reviewers” must have) it just wont cook the same either. Also note, I cooked like a box and a half of noodles.  One box just didn’t seem like enough.

Give yourself plenty of time for the noodles and sauce to heat back through.  I had again, an hour on low, which simply was not enough time.  Do an hour on high, or a couple hours on low. Or, zap in microwave again as I had to!!

My final thoughts?  It was ok. Not great. The melted cheese (I used the thin shredded three cheddar blend) was grainy. It didn’t have that creamy consistency I expected.  Next time, I would shred cheddar myself. I think it melts and tastes better. Or try the cheese with cream cheese specially designed to melt nicely.  Just a thought. This is ok if you have a pot luck to go to and HAVE to bring mac & cheese.  One person posted “I have to cook my noodles first?? What is the point of doing in a crock pot” Well the answer is, at work, I do not have access to a stove top, or an oven, so this is my only option.

This was certainly not the disaster or the disgusting results that were posted. It was, as the kids would say “aaaight”.  Now you want to make a good baked mac and cheese? Try the copy cat recipe my brother posted on his recipe blog for the Clarkston Woodshop’s FAMOUS mac and cheese here.

My brother did an excellent post already about this mac and cheese, so instead of trying to reinvent, I will direct you to his blog.  He has a lot of interesting recipes and directions there.

So, carry on Facebook friends.  You may comfortably recreate this Facebook recipe, tweak it a bit, and you will do just fine.  I guess my overall rating is one of the middle of the road ratings.  Not great, not bad.  But eatable.