(Second Review -- June 2012)
Herb's Mac & Cheese may be found at the D-Street Noshery food pod in Portland, Oregon. In a way, to me, it resembles a 1950s form of a diner food cart.
Herb's runs specials all the time, but customers also have the option to build their own. If building your own, the regular starts around $5 and the "double" option at $7.
It starts with a nice helping of penne pasta and Herb's secret Mornay cheese sauce (which probably has a bechamel base). From there, one can add meats (bacon, chicken, or pepperoni); vegetables (garlic, spinach, broccoli, jalapenos, sun-dried tomatoes, or diced tomatoes); and different types of cheeses (Asiago, Parmesan, pepper jack, cheddar, blue cheese crumbles, or feta cheese crumbles). Meats are $1 each for a regular and $2 each for a double. Vegetables are 50 cents each for a regular and $1 each for a double. Cheeses are 50 cents each for a regular and $1 each for a double.
A friend and I split one of Herb's specials: the Garlic Portobello Mac ($6.50 for a regular): minced garlic and organic Oregon portobello mushrooms on penne pasta and Herb's secret cheese sauce. Herb scoops some penne pasta into an aluminum container, puts on the cheese sauce, garlic, and mushrooms, then sends it through the oven conveyor belt (a smaller version of what pizza joints have for sending pizzas through).
|Garlic Portobello Mac|
This was a pleasant mac and cheese experience. The garlic was not overpowering, so the flavor from the mushrooms had that co-starring role. The penne was al dente, just perfect for me. It was lukewarm on the top, but much more temperature-hot on the bottom.
A few concerns or suggestions here. First, the cheese sauce, while good, is a bit starchy and does not possess the gooey, stringy, food-porn worthy mac and cheese look. Next, it needed a little heat and perhaps more bold flavors overall. Finally, I would think of putting breadcrumbs or something crunchy on top for the ultimate texture contrast.
Overall, I liked this meatless dish, but my friend said she would prefer bolder flavors (bacon, blue cheese, etc.) to satisfy her appetite...gotta love that! If we try this cart again, we're likely making our own and piling on the big, bold flavors.