Last week I attended the first-ever Mac and Cheese Fest in Binghamton.
aka one of the best festivals ever.
It was an extremely cheesy event, but in a very wonderful way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different kinds of mac and cheese in one room before. And there was quite the variety. The Binghamton Philharmonic decided to create this event as a fundraiser, and I’m honestly not sure how no one thought to do this kind of festival in our area before. It was a smash hit, and tickets sold out just a few days after they were announced.
32 restaurants from the local area participated, bringing their best mac and cheese for festival-goers to sample. Guests were given a score card to rate how they felt about each one they tried, and then were able to vote for their favorites in different categories such as “out of the BLUE box” (creativity), “kids’ choice,” and “the BIG cheese” (grand overall winner). I was only able to try 19/32 restaurants before I was way too stuffed, but I did get to taste a really big variety. Some that stuck out to me were a pulled pork BBQ topped mac and cheese (there were actually a few restaurants that did this!), a reuben-inspired mac and cheese, loaded nachos mac and cheese, Philly cheesesteak mac and cheese, and even lobster mac. If you can dream it, it was probably present at this festival.
When you weren’t sampling cheesy goodness, there were other things to do, too. There was a live DJ, and a fun photo area with a backdrop and props, that printed your photos right out a la photo booth style. There was also lots of tables for local organizations, a spin the wheel game table, and a crafts table to make macaroni necklaces! That one seemed pretty popular – I saw kids and adults alike over there.
One thing that I can’t forget to mention, is that of course, there were a handful of local breweries at this event as well. While the beer wasn’t the focus, they made sure to include it. Anyone 21 or over that attended had the opportunity to get six free beer vouchers, good for any of the samples that the breweries had (I believe there were 6 breweries present, too, so you could have one from each). Me not being a beer person, I only had one. It was very mild and actually pretty good for a beer, but it’s still not my cup of tea (or beer mug). I did see plenty of people enjoying their samples though!
Overall, I think this festival is a really neat addition to our area, and I hope they continue to do it annually in the future. The food was good, the atmosphere was fun, and at what other time can you potentially try 32 kinds of macaroni and cheese for one flat price? I say if they do this festival again next year, definitely consider attending. But be quick about it – this cheesy festival sells out fast.
For more photos from the festival, visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/playfingerlakes.
I was given my ticket to the event in exchange for this coverage. All opinions in this article are my own.