On the menu: Mac and cheese, Bloody Marys in Tampa

Bloody Marys and mac to bring tasty, boozy goodness to Curtis Hixon during Tampa RiverFest.

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click to enlarge The winning jalapeño mac submission from Holy Hog Barbecue last year. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
The winning jalapeño mac submission from Holy Hog Barbecue last year.

Saturday and Sunday, the region's annual RiverFest is set to return to the Tampa Riverwalk, highlighting the city's food joints, music and cultural institutions in a series of free scheduled events.

Roving grub vendors will be featured along the Riverwalk's Kennedy Plaza, which folks can stroll with festival beverages in hand, and Cotanchobee Park's urban carnival will also bring the drinks and eats, but there are two happenings in particular — the Mayor's Mac & Cheese Throwdown and Tampa Bay Bloody Mary Festival — festgoers won't want to miss.

During the mac competition from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, dozens of local eateries will showcase their signature mac and cheese concoctions at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

The title of Bay's Best Mac and People's Choice are at stake, and last year's inaugural battle offered macs with inventive ingredients like tomato jam, duck bacon and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The day of the event, tasting wristbands may be purchased on site.

Curtis Hixon will be buzzing again from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday as brunch enthusiasts explore 12 restaurants' Bloody Marys with their taste buds, casting votes for their favorite.

Boca, Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe (purveyor of the Bloody Ella), Roux and James Joyce Irish Pub are among the festival's competitors, and sampling tickets range from $35 to $80. Brunch fare and mimosas will be available as well.

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