We have this place in Columbia called The Whig. The Whig is, well…hmm. It’s a bar, but not a bar. It’s a restaurant, but…not really a restaurant. Unless you were walking past the State House and just happened to slip on the sidewalk down its stairs into the basement-like alley lined with one door adorned with no signs that looks like the backside of a New York City fish market, you’d probably never know it was there. You would, of course, know it was there if you were at least a bit cooler than the rest of the city or, strangely enough, if you were a bit less cool than the rest of the city. What I mean to say is, if you wear one shoe untied and drink craft beer and listen to vinyls while riding your bike, you’d love the Whig. On the other hand, if you’re just a tad quieter and love to listen to conversation and need to feel a bit disconnected from the normal Columbia, the Whig is a nice haven to quench the crave for a bit of quirk. Plus, they have excellent food at really frugal prices.
One of my favorite dishes of theirs is the Gouda Mac N Cheese. It’s actually listed in the starter section of the menu, but it arrives at the table in a huge rimmed bowl filled with a simple combination of pasta and sauce. It’s so generously goopy that each piece of pasta is smothered with the rich blend of gouda and cream. It’s not baked like some mac and cheeses. One could never ever describe this as being dry. The dish almost reminds me of a plate of pasta with alfredo, just amped up a bit. Lawd, it’s delicious.
gouda macaroni and cheese
inspired by The Whig’s gouda mac n cheese in Columbia, SC
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 15 minutes yield: 6 servings
12 oz whole wheat elbows
8 oz gouda
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz heavy cream
salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan, bring about 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Stir in the elbows and cook for about 10 minutes or to desired tenderness.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Shred the gouda and set aside. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the heavy cream and add salt and pepper. When it starts simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens and reduces by about half, about 10 minutes. Add the gouda and stir until completely melted.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour the gouda sauce over the pasta and stir until thoroughly combined. Serve immediately.
We had my sister’s bachelorette party at the Whig. The party consisted of a whopping three people with quite a few others there in spirit, but it was perfect. I’m guessing the tiny venue used to be a bank because they have a little cave in the corner that I believe was probably a safe at some point. Its three walls are lined with very worn, slouchy couches and dusty vintage lighting dimly brightens the space and stuffed animals (no, not Teddy Ruxpin, like foxes that were once alive and are now stuffed) chill next to the ceiling. It provides a very private atmosphere (appropriate for girly bachelorette gifts), but you can still hear the music and order pizzas and sandwiches and drinks. The whole place is just smokin’ with vibe and jives and the eel’s hips, my man. Legit chillin’.