If ever there was a time for rib-sticking fare to warm our bellies and thaw out our frost-bitten digits, it is now. On one particularly frigid day last week, I set out in search of quintessential comfort food: macaroni & cheese.
The Place: After one limp and lacklustre cup of cheesy ridged noodles scraped out of a cafeteria-style stainless steel pan (sorry Serious Cheese, not serious enough), I made my way to Murray Street in the Byward Market. A few minutes after being seated at the bar at I overheard a woman, who was also dining solo, placing an order for mac ‘n’ cheese. “It’s the same thing I had last time,” she tells her server with a sly grin, “I’ve been dreaming about it.”
The Dish: My cast-iron skillet arrived piping hot, straight from the oven. Forget stretchy strands of gummy cheese clinging to hollow tubes, Murray’s noodles are delicate nuggets of sour cream spaetzle, a splendid nest of handmade pasta pieces with the appealing density and slight chewiness of dumplings. Everything is bathed in a gentle béchamel enhanced with extra old local cheddar and a few other bits of artisan cheese tossed in. Creamy without being cloying, its flavour is sophisticated and resists pungent distraction like stinky blue cheeses or truffle oil. Every once in a while, the fork loosens a gorgeous silky Le Coprin mushroom from amongst the soft springy strands, adding another layer of pleasure. Still more subtle contrast comes from the crunch of golden brown bits of rosemary biscuit crumbled across the top. The mellow nature of this dish belies its decadence, yet a surprisingly light touch manages to turn this old familiar friend into something entirely new: modern comfort food at its finest.
The Deal: In addition to its pimped-up KD, Murray Street offers a straight-forward lunch menu with a handful of sandwiches and a couple of composed salads; everything is priced the same at $14.
The Question: Could this creamy carb-o-licious dish cure a case of winter malaise? Go try it and find out for yourself.
Murray Street, 110 Murray St., 613-562-7244, www.murraystreet.ca
Lunch hours: Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.