What's Not to Like About Frozen Mac ’N’ Cheese?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

What: Three brands of frozen macaroni and cheese, mostly local. Where I ate them: At home. Official tasting notes: In a blind taste test, I served a group of friends three containers of macaroni and cheese that I'd purchased and heated up according to the directions on their packages. The responses were resoundingly unanimous. Eat Local, a Queen Anne–based store, sells frozen entrées using sustainably grown, local ingredients, many in reusable glass Tupperware dishes. However, the consensus on its macaroni and cheese (14 ounces for $6.98) was: bland. Made with curly pasta and white cheese, the dish failed to brown in the oven, and didn't have enough cheese or sauce to hold it together. One taster described it as "not much more than noodle flavor." The mother of a young child thought it might appeal to kids. Next was Stouffer's (20 ounces for $3.89 at most major groceries), that familiar orange goo common to cafeterias and the heat-lamp section of grocery store delis. The Stouffer's mac and cheese evoked mixed responses, though its intense color and elbow noodles immediately identified it to the tasters as a national brand. It did have a creamy sauce with a nicely crusty top, though some tasters found it too soupy and a bit chemical-flavored. One person said, "I don't know why I keep eating it, but I do." This was the only brand that didn't get polished off, though it was the same portion size as the Beecher's entrée. The resounding winner was Beecher's mac and cheese ($10.79 for 20 ounces at QFC and Metropolitan Markets; you can also buy a warm, lunch-size portion at Beecher's Pike Place Market shop). With a gorgeous browned crust and white-sauced penne noodles jutting every which way, this version was easily the best-looking. The Beecher's dish possessed a genuine, cheesy tanginess and a creamy sauce. We scraped our plates. Seconds were requested. Would I eat it again? Only the Beecher's. Though if the super-orange Stouffer's was the only mac and cheese on offer, I might consider it: This one's got that nostalgic, creamy, comfort-food thing going for it. Insider tip: Transfer the frozen entrée to another baking pan and you might be able to pass the Beecher's off as your own. 

 
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