A Valley News Publication

Here’s the Very Important follow-up to today’s mac and cheese story: the winning ingredients!

Hint: There was more than macaroni and cheese. 

The five official macaroni and cheese judges compare tasting notes on one of the 17 entrants in the Vermont Mac and Cheese Challenge at Artisan’s Park in Windsor, Vt., Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. The judges were, clockwise from left, Meredith Fitzgerald, of Haverhill, Mass., member of the American Cheese Society, Graham Kist, of Hartford, Conn., a food writer and barbecue judge, Ben Parker, of New York City, a sales rep with salami maker Charlito’s Cocina, Mary Tuthill, of Waitsfield, Vt., head cheesemonger at Mad River Taste Place, and Faith Raymond of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. (Valley News – James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

The entry that judges said was the best macaroni and cheese at the 6th annual Vermont Mac & Cheese Challenge in Windsor on Sunday had everything from wild boar to edamame in it. Chef Joseph Madzia of the Omni Mount Washington Resort said the winning Wild Boar and Short Rib Mac and Cheese included smoked Tilsit Cheddar cheese, tomatoes, smoked baby carrots, edamame and mushrooms.

“We made a barbecue sauce for it. It was a Harissa and pineapple barbecue sauce, and then we did fried onions on top that we dusted with the maple Castleton crackers,” he said in a phone interview on Monday.

“There was a lot going on,” he added.

Chef Joseph, who grew up in Ohio and has been at the Bretton Woods, N.H., hotel for three years, said it was his first time at the Windsor-based competition.

“It was very exciting. There were more people then what we expected, but we were ready for them,” he said. “I think I looked down once, and looked up 10 minutes later and there were probably 1,000 more people in the room.”

Madzia said the resort regularly offers mac & cheese, but the winning entry is only available periodically as a special.

Ch-ch-changes in WRJ, as the Polka Dot sign comes down and the Phnom Penh sign goes up (video)

A man prepares to remove the Polka Dot sign in White River Junction, Vt., on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018. (Maggie Cassidy photograph)

White River Junction! You’re movin’ so fast!

In May, we told you about plans for Lebanon-based Phnom Penh Sandwich Station to open a second location in White River Junction at the former Polka Dot Restaurant site.

This afternoon, those plans became more visible as one sign came down and the other went up.

Check out video from our Facebook page below.

But what will happen to the Polka Dot sign?

In an email Monday morning, property manager Tim Sidore said that the Polka Dot sign will be displayed inside the new Phnom Penh. And he said that “things are shaping up inside!” (No word on a target date for Phnom Penh opening.)

Building owner Mike Davidson noted that that’s the same setup as the old Gulf sign displayed inside Lucky’s Coffee Garage, which was one of his many re-development projects throughout the Upper Valley.

(This section about the fate of the Polka Dot sign was added to this post on Monday morning.)

Customers drink their coffee on Jan. 19, 2018, at Lucky’s Coffee Garage in Lebanon, N.H. Mike Davidson, who renovated the former Gulf gas station, said that the old Gulf sign displayed at the coffee shop is a template for how the old Polka Dot sign will be displayed at the new Phnom Penh restaurant in White River Junction, another project of his. (Valley News – Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Of course, this scene played out against the backdrop of new construction.

Developer Bill Bittinger recently finished construction on that new building behind the restaurant, and it includes a mix of apartments and first-floor businesses, including JUEL Juice + Smoothies and Little Istanbul, a shop of Turkish wares run by the same folks who run the Tuckerbox Restaurant across the street. I can personally attest that JUEL Juice + Smoothies (which started out as a sweet little food “truck” and is now a full-on “modern apothecary cafe” with coffee, snacks and more) was bustling on Saturday!

So long, Polka Dot sign.

See you on the inside.

The Polka Dot building in White River Junction, Vt., on May 8, 2018, is one of the properties owned by developer Mike Davidson’s Execusuite. (Valley News – Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

More special Polar seltzers spotted in the Upper Valley


Thank you to colleague Matt Clary for dropping these off at the Valley News (!!!). Super glad to have cemented my role as workplace seltzer nut (see: Exhibits A, B, C and D). I’m gonna see how many coworkers I can get to do a fizzeo (… a seltzer review video, OBVIOUSLY). And for my fellow devotees, apparently these are from the Co-op Food Stores (again!).


p.s. If you don’t know, now you know.