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Mac 'N' Cheese Pizza Exists! 

Wednesday, Jul 22 2015
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It sounds straight out of the Fried-Starbucks-and-Twinkies Minnesota State Fair, or from some wow-factor listicle mentioning crazy culinary ideas that your boss catches you reading: mac 'n' cheese pizza. It is a thing that exists.

While it sounds like total schwasted college drunk food, Jamber Wine Pub in SoMa is doing it right. Jamber's regular, non-pizza mac 'n' cheese has to be considered one of the city's finest; its lone listed ingredient is "yes." And it's thoughtfully composed, a smart, easy-to-share appetizer that's miles away from gluttony. I'm not saying it's as virtuous as quinoa or cold-pressed beet juice, but this isn't some Guy Fieri stunt.

Anytime you step into the three-year-old wine "pub," you're bound to find diners of all ages and backgrounds spooning into the overstuffed ramekin like it's an ice cream sundae. When I was writing about the mac 'n' cheese for another publication, co-owner Jess Voss once told me that little unicorns live in the shell pasta. I don't know about that, but there is a captivating savory edge to the cheese, an unstoppable combination of cheddar, blue, and parmesan. 

It turns out the mac 'n' cheese pizza ($12) is more of a thin, pita-like flatbread, or "piadini," that may be topped with a salad at a fast casual venue. The shell-shaped pasta Jamber uses isn't even proper macaroni, but that is for the better because the tiny contours of each concave shell nicely hold either nuggets of blue cheese or pockets of the three-cheese coating blend. 

Clearly someone in the kitchen loves sriracha. (I don't mind but spice-averse palates may.) Then there are the arugula and blue cheese, that seemingly woebegone, dreadfully tired California salad duo. They find new life here, partly from the sriracha, and partly from the quarter-pound or so of caramelized onions thrown on top. (I can't get enough of them because as my father would always tell me when I was young, onions are just like candy. But so much healthier and better than Pez!) 

Finally, a cheesy ale sauce based on the Rustic Horizon Red Ale by Twisted Manzanita Brewing Co. provides a rugged dimension à la the soupy cheddar sauce found on Welsh rarebit. This pasta topping isn't particularly cheesy — a blessing in disguise — because if it were, it would pull attention away from all of these complementary ingredients.

(Given that the dominant note is blue cheese, it led me to wonder where the purely bleu mac 'n' cheeses are in this town. This is the closest I've found.)

A dab of cheesy ale sauce from Jamber's soft-pretzel snack can work wonders in applying the clincher to the pizza. Don't add much, because as I mentioned before, too much cheese covers everything. Just alternate between a little dip of the pizza in the sauce and bites of pizza on its own. Brush a little salt off and this pretzel might just be the leader of the city now that St. Vincent discontinued its version after a chef change last year. 

Granted, mac 'n' cheese pizza isn't the greatest invention of all time, but it's a winner, and it shows some kitchen brains and execution. After all, this is a wine pub. We should expect only fancy things.

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Trevor Felch

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