On a recent cold, windy and misty evening, I headed over to Liberty State Park to the renowned Liberty House Restaurant to try the best choice of food on a night like this—mac ‘n’ cheese. Liberty House was kind enough to give Jersey Bites a sneak peek of their upcoming Mac ‘n’ Cheese Meltdown, starting on March 2nd and running throughout the month. The creation of Liberty House Chef Phil Campanella, along with Chef Jerry Villa from their sister restaurant, Stone House (in Warren), this meltdown will serve 26 different mac ‘n’ cheeses—a different one every night (except for Mondays, when both restaurants are closed). The chefs were looking to do something fun and different, and thought mac ‘n’ cheese was the perfect comfort food choice to fit the bill. It’s the first “theme” month the Liberty House is featuring, and if all goes well some of the mac ‘n’ cheese favorites will earn a permanent home on the menu.
Some of the varieties that diners can look forward to will include Childhood Redux (sliced kobe beef hot dogs, aged Vermont cheddar), Rib Stickin’ (orecchiette, braised short rib, chives, aged horseradish Cheddar, and a Chef Campanella favorite), South of the Border (chorizo, jalapeños, queso fresco and a corn tortilla crust), and Macaroni Blues (Maytag bleu cheese, smoked bacon, wild mushrooms).
Tonight’s menu included three creations served in individual sized cast iron skillets- The Campanella, It’s Greek to Me, and the Smokey Italian– all of them phenomenal! Each included a couple key surprise ingredients that I’ve never really had in a mac ‘n’ cheese before, but their additions really made the dish spectacular.
First up: “The Campanella”
The name of this one obviously comes from Chef Phil’s namesake, but also because it’s the name of the pasta in the dish. The Campanella is loaded with cauliflower (an interesting choice, but a good one!), black olives, pepperoni and Parmesan cheese, sprinkled with toasty breadcrumbs and drizzled in truffle oil. It smelled amazing, particularly because of the crispy pepperoni on top, and tasted even better. The salty combination of the pepperoni and olives along with the creaminess of the cheese sauce was a perfect combination and literally melted in your mouth.
Taste #2 “It’s Greek to Me!”
This seemed to be the healthier (if there’s any sort of “healthy” option for mac ‘n’ cheese!), lighter version of the three. This Mediterranean combo included penne, roasted chicken, thin strips of roasted red peppers, kalamata olives and feta cheese. “It Greek to Me” was definitely less cheesy than the other two, but still had a really great texture and taste.
Taste #3 “Smokey Italian”
Perhaps the most creative of the bunch, Chef Campanella decided to use gnocchi as the base. Garnished with large sweet slices of plum tomatoes, broccoli rabe, smoked mozzarella, and drizzled in olive oil, this dish was another great combination. At this point, I was ridiculously full, but still couldn’t stop myself from eating just one more gnocchi…
All in all, I ate about a ¼ of each serving and left feeling like I should be taking a long run home instead of driving! It was worth it though, as Chef Campanella has created some unique and absolutely delicious dishes that will leave people full, happy, and probably with a doggie bag in tow.
As the seasons change, Chef Campanella hopes to try out different themed months and has thrown around ideas including ethnicity month, potato month and a month revolving around “the classics.”
To check out the full mac ‘n’ cheese calendar, head to: http://landmarkhospitality.com/pdf/Mac_n_Cheese_Calendar.pdf.
I recommend scheduling more than one night– at $9 a plate, it’s definitely affordable. And budgeters take note—Chef Campanella is planning to continue the budget friendly creations by gearing his spring menu towards lower prices.
Thanks Liberty House and Chef Campanella for fantastic service and even better food!
Check out the Mac ‘n’ Cheese Madness at these two locations:
Inside Liberty State Park- 76 Audrey Zapp Drive
Jersey City, NJ -07304
50 Stirling Road
Warren, NJ 07060
Melissa Yurasits: Grew up on the Jersey Shore and returned to the Garden State after four years of living in Boston for college. Works in publicity/promotions by day but at night loves checking out new restaurants or cooking up new recipes with her boyfriend in their Jersey City apartment. Can’t name a favorite food, except for anything and everything cooked by her Dad, who doesn’t believe in recipes (but it turns out amazing everytime!).