Sunday, September 25, 2011

Herb's Mac & Cheese

(NOTE: Herb's Mac & Cheese is now at the Good Food Here pod near SE 43rd and Belmont)

(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
Putting the mac and cheese in that aluminum container and sending it through the oven is an awesome idea. Yes, the container was hot, but we used napkins to carry the dish to a nearby table.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Aaron, thanks for the great review. You are right on all your points. I had a failed heating element in the oven that affected my temperatures and cooking times that week--its fixed now. You are also right about the sauce that week, it was too starchy and not gooey enough. You have an astute palate. I was experimenting with a slightly different roux and different cheese ratios. I'm constantly working on making the sauce spectacular and am sorry it wasn't for your visit. Contact me through my website ( and I'll buy your next meal at my cart. I want to blow your socks off.
    Thanks again,