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Carl Hudson
January 23, 2024 | Carl Hudson

Taste of Texas – Mac and Cheese for the WIN(e)

This Taste of Texas event celebrates my favorite comfort food, Macaroni and Cheese, on Sunday, February 25th, 2024, with sessions at 12:30 and 2:30 pm. Featured will be three variations of mac and cheese accompanied by six (6) delicious wines from the TWC portfolio. It will be fun to compare and contrast the rich, creamy flavors in the bowls to the bright flavors in the bottles. For cooler winter weather, or really any weather, mac and cheese is a good mealtime choice, either as a hopped-up entrée or a delicious side. Mac and cheese is now found on the menu in almost every type of food establishment – food trucks, snack stands, and restaurants that focus on family fare as well as high end cuisine.

The mac and cheese variations will be prepared by TWC Operations Manager Amber Saidler and Chef Kyle, of the Cork and Fork Food Truck. The accompanying wines come from the TWC winery partners, Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery, and McPherson Cellars.

Cacio e Pepe (Pasta, Parmesan Cheese, and Pepper)

            TWC Rosé 2021 Texas High Plains

            Brennan Vineyards Three White Chicks 2022 Texas High Plains

Mac and Cheese with Muenster and Bacon

            Lost Oak Winery Roussanne Reserve 2019 Texas High Plains

            McPherson Cellars Sangiovese Sagmor Vyd 2021 TX High Plains

Mac and Cheese with Sharp Cheddar and Brisket

            Brennan Vineyards Protectors N.V. Texas (Tempranillo-based blend)

            Lost Oak Winery Crimson Oak 2020 Texas

Home-baked bread



The history of macaroni and cheese is fascinating and recipes were found in cookbooks from the libraries of founding fathers: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. However, questions remain about who invented mac and cheese and how did a combination of two European cultural exports become one of America’s best-known comfort foods?

The earliest known mention of pasta and cheese being joined together dates as far back as 160 BC in notes by a Roman Senator. Our modern versions trace back to 14th century cheese and pasta casseroles in Italy and medieval England. The Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper on pasta) dish harkens back to a classic Roman macaroni recipe published in a 1465 cookbook. Two wines with noticeable sweetness should pair well with the pepper and cheese.


Texas Wine Collective Rosé 2021 Texas

The fruit for this multi-grape blend was mechanically harvested, pressed after 2 hr skin contact, fermented separately for 28 days at a cool 58oF in SS tanks, no malolactic transformation, aged on its lees in SS tanks; blended, sweetened, stabilized, and bottled @ 12.2% ABV, 0.4% RS (just on the edge of being sweet). Light strawberry color; floral aromas of peach and orange blossoms; flavors of tart peach, raspberry, strawberry, and red watermelon. This wine is light in body with a pleasant sparkle of acidity on the gentle finish. Pair this with spicy Mexican or Thai cuisine and pasta dishes like Cacio e Pape.


Brennan Vineyards Three White Chicks 2022 Texas High Plains

This blend contains Gewurztraminer 64% and Riesling 36% from Reddy Vineyards in the Texas High Plains. The fruit was mechanically harvested, pressed with minimal skin contact, fermented cold at 52oF in SS tanks, no malolactic transformation, aged on its lees in SS tanks; blended, sweetened, stabilized, and bottled @ 13.3% ABV, 1.8% RS (semi-sweet). Light golden straw color; floral aromas of gardenia and orange blossom, fruit forward flavors of sweet cantaloupe, apricot preserves, fresh mango, gooseberry, and cotton blossom honey. This wine is light, refreshing, with an easy finish and well-balanced acidity. This wine should pair well with sushi, spicy fajitas or Asian cuisine, and Cacio e Pape.


Although there is no written record of pasta-and-cheese during the dark ages, mentions surface again in the 13th century indicating that the concept had been carried through from antiquity and the Middle Ages. The 14th century was a time of unprecedented cultural exchange. Aristocratic families in Western Europe intermarried and consequently did a lot of castle-hopping, bringing with them their kitchen staffs who shared recipes, including those for pasta and cheese dishes.

By the mid-18th century, macaroni and cheese had migrated from Italy into France where the French veered towards a creamier style. Recipes of this type found their way to Great Britian and the American Colonies. Recipes from the early 1700s called for a soupy dish with pasta in a rich butter-veal stock gravy, to which cheese often was added. A 1769 recipe called for a Béchamel sauce to which was added cheddar cheese making a Mornay sauce in French cooking—which was then mixed with macaroni, sprinkled with Parmesan, and baked until bubbly and golden. Another recipe from 1784 called for small tubes of boiled macaroni, drained, moved to a frying pan, and cooked with heavy cream, butter, and topped with Parmesan and pepper.

U.S. president Thomas Jefferson has received a lot of recognition, perhaps not all deserved, for introducing macaroni and cheese to the U.S. Jefferson encountered mac and cheese in Paris and had his chef trained to make this dish. James Hemings was born into slavery, trained as a chef de cuisine in Paris, and was later granted his freedom. He was instrumental in bringing the recipe for macaroni and cheese to the U.S. serving as Jefferson’s chef in both Philadelphia and Monticello.

A "macaroni and cheese" recipe was common in American cookbooks in the 19th Century. One had three ingredients, macaroni, cheese, and butter, layered together and baked in a hot oven. Another described macaroni with white cheese flavored with cream, butter, salt, a full dose of cayenne, and mace (a sharp flavored spice from the shell of nutmeg). Elaborating on such a recipe by adding Muenster cheese and bacon brings even more flavor to pair with the following wines.


Lost Oak Winery Roussanne Reserve 2019 Texas High Plains

Ripe Texas High Plains fruit was mechanically harvested, pressed with minimal skin contact, fermented cold at 52oF in SS tanks, underwent malolactic transformation, aged on its lees for 6 months in a mix of new French oak barrels, neutral oak barrels, and SS tanks. The finished wine was bottled @ 14.5% ABV, 0% RS (dry). Roussanne has shown great promise in Texas producing full-bodied wines with depth and richness similar to Chardonnay. The wine has a vibrant straw color; attractive aromas of vanilla, ginger, and buttered toast (highlights from oak aging); flavors of dried apple, vanilla, and butter cream that carry over to a long, rich finish with notes of sage and lavender. This full bodied, well-rounded wine pairs with a wide range of foods, including rich cheeses, grilled or baked seafood, roasted turkey or ham, mushroom and scallop risotto, apple gingerbread pudding, and bacon mac and cheese.


McPherson Cellars Sangiovese Sagmor Vineyard 2021 TX High Plains

The fruit for this reserve-style wine was sourced from the Sagmor Vineyard southeast of Lubbock originally planted by Kim’s father, Doc McPherson, in 1978. The fruit was mechanically harvested, pressed, and fermented in SS tanks over a temperature range of about 60-85oF. The wine underwent malolactic transformation, was aged 12 months in French oak barrels, and bottled at @ 14.3% ABV, 0% RS (dry). The aromas and flavors show black cherry, blackberry, toasted pecans, vanilla bean, creamy baking spices, woodsmoke, and a faint hint of freshly baked shortbread. This has a solid structure with hints of orange rind, porcini mushrooms, and sandy road dust that lead to a palate-pleasing finish with medium tannins. This pairs with roasted meats, richly flavored cheeses, caramel walnut bread, Texas BBQ, and, of course, Mac and Cheese with bacon.


Our modern mac and cheese definitely had a Canadian influence. Macaroni and cheese was brought to Canada by British immigrants coming from various parts of the British Empire. Macaroni and cheese was popularized by Canadian cheese maker James Lewis Kraft who introduced a boxed version, the Kraft Dinner. Sasha Chapman, writing in The Walrus, considered the Kraft Dinner to be Canada's national dish, ahead of poutine – a dish of French-fried potatoes and cheese curds smothered in a gravy prepared from butter, flour, and beef or chicken stock.

Key Note: Prior to 1900, most American wheat was not of the European durum variety, the high protein grain from which semolina is made. With support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, durum wheat was widely planted and became successful on a commercial scale. This timing was extremely fortunate based on what happened over the next 50 years.

Amidst the economic hardships of the Great Depression sandwiched between two World Wars, Canadian cheese maker James Lewis Kraft made a fortune selling his processed cheese to the American government for civilian and military use. In 1937, Kraft introduced Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in packaged form which became an immediate success in the U.S. and Canada. The cheese product packaged with pasta made with high protein durum wheat flour provided an inexpensive and nutritious meal option for many families. During the Second World War, rationing led to even greater popularity as two boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese could be obtained for one food rationing stamp. Enormous amounts of Kraft processed cheese was provided to Allied soldiers in both Europe and Asian theaters.

Many upgrades to mac and cheese can be made and there are countless variations available across the country. Adding a special Texas twist using barbecued brisket, combined with classic sharp cheddar, lifts mac and cheese to entrée status which pairs well with big, richly-flavored red wines, like the following.


Lost Oak Winery Crimson Oak 2020 American

This fruit forward red is a multi-grape blend. With limited grape availability from Texas, winemakers Jim Evans and Angela Chapman reached out to sources in WA and CA to supplement their Texas fruit supply. The grapes were mechanically harvested, crushed, fermented separately in SS tanks at a temperature range of about 60-85oF. The cuvées underwent malolactic transformation and were aged 12 months in mostly used American oak barrels. A final blend was made and bottled @ 14.3% ABV, 0% RS (dry). The aromas and flavors show cherry, blueberry, and toasted nuts with a solid structure and medium tannins. Crimson Oak is at home with charcuterie platters and pairs well with beef stew, blue cheese wedge salad, chocolate chip walnut cookies, pasta dishes like classic lasagna, and Brisket and Sharp Cheddar Mac and Cheese (or course!).


Brennan Vineyards Protectors Red Blend N.V. Texas

This rich, deeply colored red is a multi-grape, multi-vintage blend of primarily Tempranillo, Ruby Cabernet, and Tannat with minor portions of Graciano and Syrah. The fruit was sourced from both Comanche County and Lahey Vineyards in the Texas High Plains. The fruit was mechanically harvested, crushed, fermented separately in SS tank or totes at a temperature range of about 60-85oF. The cuvées underwent malolactic transformation and were aged between 10-34 months in used American and French oak barrels. Various cuvées were evaluated, a final blend was made in spring 2023, and bottled @ 13.5% ABV, 0% RS (dry). Tempranillo brought deep cherry and blackberry fruit while Ruby Cab contributed red plum and boysenberry jam flavors. Tannat added darker color and more substantial tannins to balance the finish. There are hints of cedar cigar box, cinnamon and vanilla spice, and black tea leaves. This pairs well with roasted pork and rosemary potatoes, beef stir fry, bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers, Texas BBQ, and that includes Brisket and Sharp Cheddar Mac and Cheese.


To summarize, macaroni and cheese was not a culinary secret that sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on a ship in 1789 to be propagated from Jefferson’s kitchens in Monticello and Philadelphia. Rather it had germinated long before that and, over the years, had been fine-tuned and interpreted by countless cooks over long stretches of time and distance. Authenticity in a recipe is not necessarily bound to an era, an inventor, or a country. More often, it arises when creative hands invest their expertise in a dish and position it within the folds of a family or regional tradition. Whatever the origin, from Roman Italy to medieval England, from transformation in France to the eventual introduction in the Americas, macaroni and cheese has been completely assimilated into the American foodscape as one of our most popular and cherished comfort foods.



Information was adapted liberally from the following excellent references.


Who Invented Mac and Cheese? This American Favorite Has Ancient Roman Roots by Karima Moyer-Nocchi and Adrian Miller, 26-Sept-2022, https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/who-invented-mac-and-cheese

A Brief History of America’s Appetite for Macaroni and Cheese, an article published in Smithsonian Magazine by Gordon Edgar, May 29, 2018, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/brief-history-Americas-appetite-for-macaroni-cheese-180969185/


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