Andre SalvailThe Aspen TimesPost IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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September 7, 2012
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So cheesy: Aspen Mac & Cheese Festival on Saturday

Rustique Bistro chef Tico Starr will attempt to defend his title when the second annual Aspen Mac & Cheese Festival gets under way at 2 p.m. Saturday in downtown Aspen.Patrons of last year's inaugural event on East Hopkins Avenue's restaurant row were given two tickets and asked to use them to vote for their favorite offerings of the comfort food by dropping them into boxes at each vendor's serving station. Starr's macaroni-and-cheese dish was a hit with the crowd last year, pulling 506 votes. Jimmy's, with its popular "Jimmy Mac" concoction, was second with 417 votes.Expect this year's winner to top Starr's 2011 tally. Organizers have stepped up their marketing efforts following what was essentially an 11th-hour production for an event that catered to local residents in 2011. On Tuesday, Starr and the event's organizer, city of Aspen parks and recreation supervisor Keith Bulicz, were on Denver's KDVR-TV (Fox 31) for a four-minute morning-show segment to tout the festival. During the "Good Day Colorado" show, Starr prepared Rustique's mac and cheese, which centers around roasted mushrooms, truffle oil, Gruyere cheese, cream and gemelli pasta. The mixture is melted down a bit and then baked or broiled for three minutes until golden brown.Bulicz told the TV audience that the idea for the festival was borne out of an office conversation. He works in Aspen's Red Brick Building on East Hallam Street."My co-workers and I were sitting around the office and we were eating mac and cheese for lunch," he said, "and we figured, why not make a festival out of it?"The peppy morning-show personality, Melody Mendez, implored the station's viewers to head to Aspen on Saturday."Trust me, you are going to want to head up there, not only for the beautiful views and the changing of the colors, which is happening earlier this year. Try the mac and cheese, it's amazing," she said.Last year, Bulicz ordered 10,000 small, biodegradable serving cups and 3,000 sporks (plastic utensil, a cross between a spoon and a fork). The organizers ran out of cups before the event was over. This year, he's more prepared: There will be 80,000 2-ounce cups and a like number of sporks on hand.Organizers also have announced that celebrity chef Susie Jimenez will return for the occasion, which is free and open to the public. Also, an online reporter for the food-travel production "Blue Ribbon Hunter" will conduct interviews with servers at each of the 20 booths. The event, set to end at 5 p.m., also will feature an ice sculpture and entertainment from DJ Echo Dafunk. Twenty restaurants and other types of food vendors have been lined up this year, including: Cache Cache, Finbarr's Irish Pub, Viceroy Hotel, Red Onion, Elks Lodge, Rustique Bistro, Boogie's Diner, Steakhouse No. 316, Jimmy's, Syzygy, Ute City, Smoke, Clark's Market, Meatball Shack, Elevation, St. Regis, The Snowmass Kitchen, L'Hostaria, Justice Snow's and 520 Grill.East Hopkins Avenue, between South Mill Street and South Monarch streets, will be closed to traffic for most of the day. Vendors are allowed to start setting up their booths at 10 a.m. and must leave the street by 6 p.m.Several hundred people attended the inaugural Aspen Mac & Cheese Festival last year. Bulicz said he's expecting between 1,500 and 3,000 people this year. Other Saturday events in Aspen include the Aspen Saturday Market in the morning and early afternoon and the Little Annie's restaurant 40th anniversary celebration in the

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The Post Independent Updated Sep 7, 2012 01:12AM Published Sep 7, 2012 01:10AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.