If you'd rather be hunting for a good time than eggs this weekend, check out the sixth annual Macaroni & Cheese Festival. It’s got all you want in a food event: plenty of vendors dishing gourmet samples, free-flowing beer, wine tasting and live music.
"I like seeing everybody just enjoying themselves," said Katie Barton, local sales and marketing manager for American General Media, which puts on the festival.
"Bakersfield events are a very fun environment. People come in groups with their friends and enjoy a day of beer and wine tasting. ... It's great food, great beer and wine."
This year, the festivities are spreading out a bit, moving from the Cal State Bakersfield Amphitheatre, where it's been held the past five years, across Don Hart Drive East to the spacious soccer fields.
"Last year we sold out early in the day of the event," Barton said, estimating attendance at about 3,000. "We had the ability to grow, lay it out how we want it. We moved to accommodate people more comfortably."
Expecting a crowd of about 3,500 on Saturday, organizers mapped out a centralized spot for the nearly 30 mac and cheese vendors. That way attendees can head to one hub for their grub.
Some of the restaurants that have already shared what they're serving include Better Bowls, serving the event's first plant-based mac, Countryside Market and its award-winning chile verde mac, Prime Time BBQ, Meats & Deli (hot link mac and cheese), California Pizza Kitchen (ancho chile-braised short rib mac and cheese), Mr. Clamato (shrimp mac), Crab in a Bag (Cajun mac), The BLVD (bacon and Chinese hot mustard mac and cheese), Murray Family Farms (organic brambleberry mac and cheese), Just Wing It ("dead man walking" mac and cheese) and Fresco Mexican Grill, offering mac with cream of mushroom, pesto, Romano cheese, and crushed peppers.
The "Game of Thrones" fans at Sonder came up with fire and ice mac and cheese, featuring ranch spices and ghost pepper in the cheese sauce and topped with Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Cool Ranch Doritos.
Additional vendors are Chuy's, Hooters, The Tower, Jerry's Pizza, Dickey's BBQ, Romano's Macaroni Grill, Mossman's, Salty's BBQ, The Mark, Stockdale Moose Lodge, Bootleggers, FireHouse Subs, Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, The Bank in Taft and Walter Salt, which will top its mac with beer salt-infused meats.
"I love seeing what the restaurants come up with," Barton said. "This brings out some creativity from these restaurants. It’s great to see them come out and be competitive with each other."
Restaurants vie for the people's choice (awarded to vendor receiving the most vote tokens from attendees) and the judges' choice, selected by a mystery panel. Barton did share that there's an entirely new slate of judges this year.
Shaded areas will be available for general admission attendees, who are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. There will be a full tent for VIPs, who will also receive a catered meal by Countryside and access to private beer and wine sampling area and private restrooms.