Friday, Jan 31 2014 01:44 PM

The dish: Mac 'n' cheese? Yes, please!

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    By Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

    Who doesn't like mac 'n' cheese? If you like it a lot, the Macaroni and Cheese Festival on April 12 at Cal State Bakersfield is the place to be. Wines and brewskis will be offered to wash down all the pasta.

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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

Bakersfield likes to eat, so it's no surprise we're drawing new food events to the county. First up is the Macaroni and Cheese Festival on April 12 at Cal State Bakersfield. And this event, sponsored by American General Media, is no blue-box special. Organizers tout more than "two pounds of tastings" per guest with unlimited, one-ounce samples of gourmet mac 'n' cheese, to say nothing of the offerings from more than 40 wineries and breweries.

Guests (21 and over only) can vote for their favorite cheesy pasta, and the top three chefs will win prizes. Vendors will be on hand selling olive oil, gourmet cheese, gelato and more. Entertainment includes performances by local band Truxton Mile and fellow country-rock act Chris Gardner Band as well as a cornhole (bean bag-toss) tournament. Along with social media and experience lounges, the festival will offer Go Green, a "vegan eatery grotto." Tickets are $45 (plus fee), available at eventbrite.com.

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Something to dish?

Do you have a tip, question or recommendation on Bakersfield restaurants, trends or food news in general? Email thedish@bakersfield.com, and your input might wind up in a future column.

Add a little more sizzle to your summer at the first-ever Tehachapi Mountain Brew and Grill Fest on July 19 at Benz Visco Youth Sports & Cultural Park. Catering to our love of barbecue and brews, the event will host a grilling and craft beer competition. Grill teams of four can compete in tri-tip, chicken and pork categories while brewers will face off in a contest featuring IPAs, pale ales, browns, stouts/porters and hefeweizens. Would-be competitors can find more details at tehachapibrew.com.

No matter who comes out victorious in the competitions, the real winners are the attendees, who will be able to sample some of the beers and meats as well as enjoy a full meal from one of the participating restaurants. Admission is $45 or $100 (both plus fees) for VIP, which includes preferred proximity parking (with paid fee) and access to the tented VIP section with mixed drinks, wine, beer and full catering. Because the event will be held in a park setting, organizers are offering shuttle service to select area hotels as well as RV parking for those who can camp out.

And a new favorite is back with the Bakersfield Craft Beer Festival, which will take place May 24 at Cal State Bakersfield. Imbibe Wine & Spirits Merchant announced the date in an email, but no further details were disclosed. Keep an eye on bakersfieldcraftbeerfestival.com for more information as the date nears.

-- Stefani Dias, assistant lifestyles editor

Food news

Yogurtland will celebrate National Frozen Yogurt Day on Monday with free yogurt and toppings from 4 to 7 p.m. Guests also will receive a special color-changing spoon and commemorative cup. And those who register for the store's Real Rewards program by Feb. 7 will receive a free 6-ounce frozen yogurt. ... Starbucks recently rolled out its revamped La Boulange baked goods, inspired by the San Francisco bakery and cafe the company acquired in 2012. Items include flavored croissants, a caramel pecan sticky bun and savory squares. ... There are a couple of exceptional values available on Mondays only at local Mexican restaurants. Que Pasa at the Marketplace is offering a two-item combination dinner for only $5.95 from 3 p.m. to close, with the purchase of a drink. House margaritas that night are only $3. And Rancho Grande Mexican Grille at the corner of California Avenue and Stockdale Highway is offering one- or two-item combo plates two for the price of one on Mondays from 4 to 9 p.m. ... ... Based on customer requests, Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar will be including steak au poivre, rosemary cheese tartlet, fresh seafood, house-made pates, and a classic simple green salad "almost always," according to an email that said "in addition, you'll see your favorites, like sake-braised short ribs, more often than not." ... ... All-you-can-eat pancakes for $4.99 are back at IHOP for a limited time ... Wienerschnitzel is offering a new cake batter-dipped cone, vanilla soft serve dipped in a cake batter and rainbow sprinkles as well as daily deals, including chili cheese curly fries, jalapeno poppers and specialty hot dogs ... Coco's Bakery Restaurant is now offering New York steak dinners for $13.99 with never frozen Angus beef ... Del Taco is once again offering ground turkey meat in its tacos ... Denny's has brought back the build your own breakfast skillet special it offered last year for a limited time ... Red Lobster is temporarily offering three seafood bakes (shrimp Portofino, bar harbor lobster with shrimp, scallops and mussels and a crab and roasted garlic).

What's new at Moo

Moo Creamery is celebrating its fifth anniversary, with the staff wearing special baseball shirts to commemorate the event and an updated menu. We visited on a Friday night and were pleased to see a wait for a seat despite the difficulty to get to the place since the Westside Parkway opening. I think it's rather easy -- just follow the green signs on Commercial Way to the businesses cut off from the Truxtun Extension by the project -- but my companion thought the print was too small. I just use the arrows, and apparently regulars are getting comfortable with it.

Menu additions include a number of former happy hour and special dishes, including garlic pita chips with red pepper hummus, sweet potato chips and spiced nuts for sides and their variety of deli salads taking a lead role with a three-salad plate and soup and salad combo.

If you haven't been lately, one of the must orders on the daily specials was the grilled wild salmon tacos, an exceptional value at $8. You get two with a fantastic jicama slaw, chopped jalapenos (my companion found it quite spicy due to those peppers) and a graceful lemon-capers aioli. Those who think chili should have no beans and only meat need to get a bowl of the Moo version ($6.50), served with cornbread and honey butter. Topped with cheese and chopped purple onions on the side, it's an amazingly satisfying repast on a Bakersfield winter night.

Wednesday's specials are "wine and a wrap" for $5 for a sauvignon blanc and $3 for a house cab. Other interesting items new to us were the vintage sodas in the case near the door (including childhood favorite Bubble Up and Pennsylvania Dutch birch beer), specialty grilled cheese sandwich specials on Saturday, an apple pie with an oat pecan streusel on top and spicy pumpkin or sticky toffee bread pudding.

It's hard to beat the s'mores sundae ($4.50 for a small) that my companion ordered, though, with its house-made graham cracker and the toasted marshmallow topping which she put over scoops of chocolate caramel ice cream. Wow.

Moo is also promoting a Super Bowl party that begins at 3 p.m. ($20, $8 children 10 and under) and includes appetizers throughout the game, a buffet at halftime and dessert throughout the game.

Orchid Thai Cuisine closes

The fusion Thai restaurant that started in Rosedale and moved to a smaller location at the corner of California Avenue and Stockdale Highway over a year ago has closed. We stopped by to see a closed sign on the door and one of the people working on a remodel said it will reopen as a barbecue restaurant in about four weeks.

-- Pete Tittl, Californian contributor

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