Sweet Lorraine’s Fabulous Mac n’ Cheez!

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Every year I feel like the cold weather creeps up on me. One day I’m in sundresses and heels and the next I’m bundled in sweaters and boots. My appetite changes with the seasons as well. My Italian heritage may have something to do with my food sensitivity, because as soon as the first leaf falls I find myself craving squashes, crock pot meals, ginger and cloves. Moving onto winter, my salad appetizers turn to soup and main courses becoming hearty and filling. It’s no wonder that my foodie senses brought me and co-workers Brooke and Kalynne to try Sweet Lorraine’s Fabulous Mac n’ Cheez on Grand River in East Lansing on one of the first cold days of November. This is the hub of the ultimate comfort food — with a twist. In place of since closed Wanderer’s Teahouse and Café, Lorraine’s opened its doors to carb lovers in late summer, just in time for the students’ arrival. Walking through the door, I feel like I’ve entered a 1950’s diner. The theme extended from the business sign outside to the colors, patterns and table shapes inside the restaurant. I was hit simultaneously with a waft of cheese and pasta. It was delicious and inviting, we stepped up to the counter and were greeted by several friendly employees. The menu, while following the theme of the diner, can get a little confusing. In an “I Dream of Jeannie” font, the signs offer many of their signature mac n’ cheese combos along with wraps, salads and soups. Luckily, by the smell I already knew which section to zone-in on. Again my Italian instincts took hold. I ordered a mini portion of Green Mean Pesto Mac as well as the Truffle & Mushroom Mac. After placing my order, I watched as the dishes were assembled. They start every mac and cheese order with pre-cooked cavatappi noodles tossed in a basic cheese sauce. Their pasta choice is just one “twist” they put on this classic dish, as the cavatappi noodle is shaped like a spiral meant to capture cheese on its ridged outside and its hollowed inside. From there, the custom toppings in a salad-bar style are piled on and the finished product slides into an oven for caramelized perfection. In under fuve minutes from order time, your dish arrives at the register ready to enjoy. I was pleased before even getting a fork into my bowls of mac just by the price. I had two good portions with unique toppings for about $12. The mini sizes are all around $6 each and mega (which would probably equate to two of the mini sizes) are only $2 more. I didn’t order a drink, but Brooke decided to try one of their original soda fountain drinks and Kalynne purchased Coke offered in a glass bottle, which added to the overall theme. We took a seat on the bar stools at the front of the restaurant, facing Grand River. I’m an avid people watcher, and it was nice to enjoy the natural light while staying cozy with my bowls of steaming mac. Although, as I mentioned, the mac n’ cheese starts with the same base, I found my flavors to be delightfully different. I started with the pesto mini, which was topped with the pesto, spinach leaves, walnuts and Swiss cheese. Excellent choice! The nutty flavor and Swiss cheese were a big hit with me, the pesto was fresh and bright green, full of flavor. There was enough of the base cheese sauce to distinguish this bowl as a cousin of the mac n’ cheese family, but it leans towards a fancy Italian restaurant offering. On to the Truffle & Mushroom Mac. I fell in love with the truffle delicacy during my time abroad in Italy, and I take advantage of its presence on most menus where I come across it. The truffle made its delicious debut in the breadcrumbs, which were the best part of this dish in my opinion. The texture of the toasted breadcrumbs was perfect to top this cheesy bowl. Brooke and I were slightly disappointed with the veggies in our dish, as we would have enjoyed it if they were cooked a bit more. The short time the bowls spend in the oven before they are served is the only cook time the mushrooms topping my mac received. I tried to mix them with the rest of the pasta and sauce to disguise them after my first bite into nearly-raw fungus. I got through about half of both of my bowls of mac before I was full, and that was without chips or pop. I can’t imagine getting a mega portion, unless you are a fan of leftovers. Both of my colleagues finished their bowls, pleased with their selections of the Cubano and Extreme Veggie. On our way out, we took a look at their hours to notice that they are only open until midnight on their latest night. This leads me to believe that while they are catering to students’ late night cravings, some of their sophisticated flavor combinations are meant for an older crowd. Great for lunch or dinner, their choises of two or three combos of mac, wraps and soup are meant to satisfy any size appetite. Come one, come all — East Lansing has a great new place for your childhood favorite with a twist.
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Tags: Cheese, Fabulous, food, Lorraine's, mac, restaurant