November 2005We bought macaroni-and-cheese at Vidalia, the Southern-themed restaurant that has been one of DC's top fine-dining destinations. Then we bought macaroni-and-cheese at Oohhs and Aahhs, a soul-food kitchen on DC's U Street. How would two dishes so different in price and pedigree but bearing the same name stack up against each other?
We replated the two macs in our test kitchen to level the playing field and set them out side by side on square white plates. We asked four randomly chosen Washingtonian tasters which they preferred.
Their favorite? The humble yellow-cheddar-drenched elbow macaroni from Oohhs and Aahhs ($3.50). Our panelists praised its "perfect texture," its "good, cheesy flavor," its "great ratio of noodles to cheese."
The $6.75 Vidalia version--pasta shells in a cream sauce laced with Grafton cheddar and bits of ham and topped with crumbled Ritz crackers--tasted "more like a cheesy pasta dish, with the ham and the sauce" than mac 'n' cheese to one of our panelists. Some found it "too grown-up" or "too busy." Most noted an aftertaste.
The Upstairs/Downstairs Scorecard (out of 100)
Oohhs and Aahhs 85