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August 25, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
ALERT: You have through Aug. 30 to visit the Kentucky State Fair.
If you still need some convincing, here are 30 reasons why you should visit the fair, also known as the most exciting event of the year. And once you make the correct decision to go to the fair, here are some tips to make the most of your visit:
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August 21, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, guys. The Kentucky State Fair is in full swing.
This year’s fair runs Aug. 20 through 30. Find out all the info about admission and hours here. I’ve documented my love affair with the fair for the past five years, so I won’t waste time running my list of reasons why you need to set aside some time to make it out to the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center. But I will mention one event that’s worth making a trip to the fairgrounds this evening.
I will be one of a great group of judges at this year’s 30th annual Evan Williams Cooking Contest, at 6 p.m. today, Aug. 21, on the Gourmet Garden culinary stage in South Wing Lobby A of the expo center. The competition pits amateur and professional chefs against one another to find out who can prepare the best entree, soup, stew, barbecue or casserole that features Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The Courier-Journal reports that there will be more than 80 dishes entered in the competition. That’s a lot of eatin’, friends. But someone has to judge these dishes, and I’m the lady for it. And you know I love judging a cooking competition — it’s like Chopped come to life.
Evan Williams Cooking Competition at the Kentucky State Fair
When: 6 p.m. today, Aug. 21
Where: South Wing Lobby A, Kentucky State Fair and Exposition Center
For more information: Kentucky State Fair’s website
July 24, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
This year, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut.
I’ve become a creature of habit when it comes to eating out at Louisville-area restaurants. Part of this stagnation is because of (shameless plug alert) my book, Louisville Diners. I was doing nothing but eating at new-to-me restaurants ALL THE TIME while I wrote it last year. When I finally turned in that manuscript at the end of 2014, I happily settled into a restaurant rotation that I haven’t strayed from in what feels like forever.
I also blame my own laziness for my lack of restaurant exploration (and, consequently, a lack of $10 Challenge posts). With grad school and a new job at CNET and a husband and a Roscoe, it’s just easier to pick a restaurant that doesn’t require much planning and anticipation. I think a lot about a restaurant before my first visit, and I’ve just let my daily life tire me out so much that I haven’t had much mental energy to devote to finding new eating places. Is their menu online? How big are their entrees? Is it worth the trip? It takes a lot of work to love food as much as I do.
I know, I know, excuses that I’ve made before. But my new role at CNET has given me a perk I didn’t anticipate: a new work location with new neighborhood restaurants to try. My awesome co-workers have introduced me to some great restaurants in the area, and Thai Noodles on Preston Highway has quickly become one of my favorites.
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July 10, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
I appreciate agriculture. It’s hard not to when you love food as much as I do. Sure, there’s the food stuff that’s scientifically modified and pushed down an assembly line that’s engineered to be DELICIOUS (Oreos, I can’t seem to quit you). But there’s nothing quite like a bite of fresh produce from a farmer, especially if s/he is close enough to call “neighbor.”
If you share my appreciation or just want to learn more about local farming, Oldham County’s tourism and convention board will host Kentucky Farm Fest this weekend, July 11-12 in Crestwood at a farm called The Maples (because all good farms have names, dontchaknow). The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Kentucky Proud are also sponsoring the event with the goal of celebrating agriculture.
Some of the Kentucky Farm Festival’s activities will include animal demonstrations about shearing and milking, cooking demos, and workshops from chefs, distillers and farmers. You can take a look at the impressive lineup here. I’m pretty excited about the products that will be at the Foodie Market.
Admission to the Kentucky Farm Festival is $5. For more information about getting there and where to park, visit the event’s website.
When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. July 11, 2015; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. July 12
Where: The Maples Farm, 6826 W. Highway 22, Crestwood, Ky. 40014
July 1, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
It’s fitting that a non-profit would open a kitchen incubator in the space that once held Jay’s Cafeteria. Jay’s, which was located in the Russell neighborhood of the West End, was a Louisville institution for decades, and the restaurant was a prime example of how small business can thrive and help bring attention to an often overlooked part of our city.
The non-profit organization Community Ventures will bring resources to new food-related businesses with Chef Space, a kitchen incubator that the group plans to build in the space that once belonged to Jay’s at 1812 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. The group announced the project this week. Let’s take a peek at the media release:
Chef Space … will provide commercial kitchen space and business support services for up to 50 food-related early stage businesses. The facility will also house a retail outlet and meeting spaces open to the community. Community Ventures is renovating the 13,000-square-foot site with a late October opening planned as the first phase of a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization project.
I’d never heard of a “kitchen incubator” before this announcement. According to the Chef Space website, the incubator will provide a shared, licensed commercial kitchen that early-stage catering, retail and wholesale food entrepreneurs can rent at affordable rates. Chef Space also plans to provide support services, advice and programs to help grow these businesses so they can ultimately move out of the incubator and fulfill the incubator’s goal:
We want to add to Louisville’s already vibrant local food scene by creating a community of like-minded entrepreneurs dedicated to producing top-notch products. We want to help you do better, what you do best.
Chef Space will accommodate as many as 50 food entrepreneurs at a time. Folks who are interested in participating in the program can apply here.
I’m excited to see a new venture take over the Jay’s Cafeteria. But I’m even more excited about what the budding businesspeople who participate in Chef Space will provide for the Russell neighborhood. This project can’t do anything but help the area and our entire city.
June 19, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
What is the word to express how I felt when I opened my laptop to see that nine people were killed at a Wednesday night Bible study? What word can describe the sorrow that washed over me as I saw the release of the victims’ names and thought about the lives that hate cut short? Is there a word better than unsurprised? Frustrated that hate once again rears its ugly head? Angry that I live in a country where someone can harbor and act upon racist ideology with lethal force in a sacred place?
I am weary.
I’m weary because I am black, I am an American and I’m a human being who is tired of seeing a world in which other humans harbor inexplicable anger toward a group of people for looking different.
I spent a lot of Thursday on Twitter retweeting folks who captured the frustration I felt after the church massacre in Charleston, S.C. late Wednesday night. I didn’t know what to say. Do I have a place to say anything? I’m just a food writer and oven reviewer, for crying out loud. But I’m a human. And I have a platform. And this is the time for the weary among us to step up for Clementa, Sharonda, Cynthia, Susie, Ethel, DePayne, Tywanza, Myra and Daniel.
Racism is real. It is both subtle and overwhelming. It’s hiring managers passing you up for jobs because of the “ethnic-sounding” name on your resume. It’s store managers following you around their business because of the color of your skin. It’s strangers assuming that you are an unwed mother. It’s sitting by as someone tells a racist joke. It’s not telling authorities that your roommate is planning a shooting spree on a group of innocent people. Racism ranges from inconvenient to deadly with lots of gray areas in between.
For my white allies: Recognize racism. Call it by its name. Acknowledge that racism and unequal treatment didn’t end with the Civil Rights Movement. Identify your own prejudices and ask yourself why they exist. Stop accepting casual racism by remaining silent. Have the tough conversations with your kids about how adults can hate other adults just because they look different. Empathize with someone who doesn’t look like you. Try to imagine the pain and frustration and weariness, and feel all of that, too. Use those feelings to propel you to take action.
For my black folks: We can’t just survive. We must thrive in the face of domestic terrorism. We might be weary, but we are resilient, too. Centuries of struggle have taught us to keep pushing. We must succeed in spite of hate. And we can’t let hate build and fester in ourselves.
I’m tired of being weary. You should be, too.
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June 12, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
I’m beginning to think I have a problem with filling my agenda. That is, I fill it too much.
Along with the new job (hey, CNET!), I’ve also returned to grad school this semester. And I’m still promoting Louisville Diners. And I still write on this blog. And somewhere in the middle, a husband, a dog, friends and family. So you know what that means.
May 13, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
A dream job seemed like a fantasy. For the past few years, I’ve assumed that a job was something I had to tolerate for eight hours a day so I would have enough money to pursue the activities about which I was really passionate. I was lucky enough to land somewhere that wasn’t too bad. My co-workers were fun. The work was new. I gave up the idea of earning a paycheck from doing what I love and loving what I do (a first-world mantra that glosses over things like taxes, rent and savings accounts) and settled into a content cubicle life.
Then my dream job showed up, slapped me in the face and reminded me that you can do what you love and get paid for it.
Last week, I began working at the technology and review website CNET as a senior associate editor. I test and review ovens for a living. Seriously. I can’t make this up. A food writer landed in a job that requires boiling water, broiling burgers and baking biscuits in order to recommend which ranges are a good fit in consumers’ homes.
Y’all, I’m living the dream. Let’s pause for a praise break.
April 23, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
A sandwich becomes a work of art when it’s made Cuban-style. A cross-section of a Cuban sandwich looks like a delicious landscape — layers of ham, pork, cheese, mustard and pickles compressed between two dense, toasted slices of bread. So I’m pleased as punch that a new Cuban restaurant has opened in Louisville so I continue to admire and eat one of my favorite types of sandwiches.
TropiCuba Restaurant and Bar has been open for a few weeks on Frankfort Avenue, but the restaurant will celebrate its grand opening this Friday, April 24, along with the regularly scheduled Frankfort Avenue Trolley Hop. Appetizers will be half price, happy hours specials will last all night long and there will be live music.
TropiCuba serves traditional Cuban food such as ropa vieja (shredded beef pan-fried with green pepper, paprika and red onions, $12.99), lechón asado (slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus juices and spices, $13.99) and the Cubano sandwich ($8.99). I’m pretty interested in the spaghetti portion of the menu, specifically the spaghetti con jamón with ham and mozzarella cheese ($8.99). I hope this dish comes with a history lesson about how spaghetti ended up in Cuban cuisine, because I sure couldn’t find anything.
I can’t make it to TropiCuba’s opening, but I’m eager to try Louisville’s latest Cuban fare. If any of you guys go, please report back.
TropiCuba Grand Opening Celebration
When: 6-10 p.m. Friday, April 24
Where: TropiCuba Restaurant and Bar, 2206 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
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April 17, 2015 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Tim Faulkner Gallery, a cool art gallery and event space in Portland.
The lovely folks at the McQuixote Books & Coffee inside the gallery hosted my first Louisville Diners book signing. Then I was back this week for PechaKucha Night. And it looks like I need to make it back to the gallery for their monthly Vinyl Brunch series.
The concept is borderline genius. For just $5, you get to eat breakfast and lunch items that Trevor of McQuixote Books & Coffee cooks. Plus, the gallery will play the vinyl records that brunch attendees bring. Bacon, eggs and a little Carpenters on deck? Yes, please.
When: Sunday, April 19, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Tim Faulkner Gallery, 1512 Portland Ave., Louisville