Scarlet’s Bakery provides hope, second chances and bomb cinnamon rolls

IMG_3084

Inspiration for blog posts reaches me at the oddest moments, like a couple of weeks ago when I was trapped in the hell that is the Shelbyville Road Plaza parking lot on a Saturday afternoon. There was a segment on NPR about the memorial service for the anti-war activist Father Daniel Berrigan. A friend once asked Berrigan what the meaning of life was. His response: “If you want to be hopeful, you have to do hopeful things.”

That’s a pretty heavy observation on a Saturday in the suburbs.

Berrigan’s instruction about hope made me think about a local business I had just visited the day before: Scarlet’s Bakery in Shelby Park. This new sweet shop and café blends baked goods and business acumen to give women an opportunity to improve their lives and, in turn, build hope for a better future.

IMG_3086

Scarlet’s Bakery is a brick-and-mortar culmination of “Scarlet Hope,” a non-profit organization/ministry that began eight years ago that “helps women in Louisville who have been victims of trafficking and exploitation,” WDRB reported. Women from that program work at Scarlet’s Bakery to learn work skills that will help them build new careers. 

I can’t speak to the business savvy these women learn at the bakery. But I can comment on the area I know best, aka the end results of their labor: baked goods.

IMG_3085

On my first visit to Scarlet’s, about a dozen different kinds of pastries covered the gleaming white countertops. There was a little something for everyone, from the bite-sized doughnut holes that would fit perfectly into the hands of Scarlet’s youngest customers to the more grown-up, savory combinations like the spinach-feta turnover or bacon-cheddar-chive muffins. Though I was there in the morning, selections such as bourbon-ball macarons and horseshoe-shaped iced sugar cookies made me think ahead to afternoon snacking opportunities.

I thank the pastry gods for leading me to the cinnamon roll that day. I could barely see the cinnamon swirl of the roll through the hearty schmear of cream cheese frosting. Each bite was as smooth as velvet as my teeth sank into the airy dough. It was a rich pastry, but managed not to be too sweet. This cinnamon roll was the perfect sort of decadent to get a good day started.

IMG_3083

Everyone who is a part of Scarlet’s Bakery should be proud of the work they do. It turns out that hope is a dish best served sweet (or savory, if that’s what you’re into).


Scarlet’s Bakery

741 E. Oak St., Louisville

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

For more information, visit the Scarlet’s Bakery website or Facebook page

Event Alert: TropiCuba celebrates opening with specials, live music Friday, 4.24.15

 

This looks heavenly. (jeffreyw, Flickr Creative Commons)
This looks heavenly. (jeffreyw, Flickr Creative Commons)

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

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

For more information: TropiCuba’s website and Facebook page

 

The Post livens up Germantown with quality pizza

The Post in Germantown.
The Post in Germantown.

Germantown is a fascinating part of Louisville where neighborhood staples live alongside an influx of new development and business. Developers will transform the Goss Avenue Antique Mall into Germantown Mill Lofts. An onslaught of young people have taken advantage of affordable housing and share sidewalks with folks who have been here for a generation or two. The collision of new and old is most evident in neighborhood’s restaurants.

My friends Susie and Sam split a pizza. I went rogue and bought the slice of the day.
My friends Susie and Sam split a pizza. I went rogue and bought the slice of the day.

The Post is the latest addition to the Germantown dining scene. This restaurant serves New York-style pizza with an array of thoughtful topping combos on top of a crisp yet bendable crust. There are also subs, salads and calzones if you want something a little different. And if you’re into grown-up drinks, there’s a full bar with a robust selection of drafts.

The Post embraces Germantown history while adding a new flair to the neighborhood, which will hopefully bode well for this business’s future in the area. Check out food writer Steve Coomes’ overview of The Post in Insider Louisville:

Owners Nash and Laura Neely have worked for the better part of a year to convert the aged VFW Post on Goss Avenue into a neighborhood pizzeria that, in theme, acknowledged its initial reason for being, albeit subtly. Outside of a lone American flag hanging in the dining room, there’s no military décor, but the menu is replete with wartime themes and names: The Allies is a topped with pepperoni, sausage, ham and bacon, while the Victory Garden is a veggie fest with artichokes, olives, sundried tomatoes and more. And you have to love the Army Brat, which combines bratwurst, garlic, jalapeno, cheddar, sauerkraut and brown mustard.

These pizzas cost more than your average Papa John’s pie. Pizza prices range from $7.95 for a 12″ cheese pizza to $35.95 for a 20″ pizza called The Victory Garden that comes with green bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives, roasted red peppers, broccoli, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes and feta cheese. However, costs aren’t so bad if you split the pizza or buy pizza by the slice ($3-$4).

My giant slice which included onion and bacon. Yes, please.
My giant slice which included onion and bacon. Yes, please.

During my first visit, I had the giant slice of the day ($4) and a small caesar salad ($5.45). I spent less than $10, but I probably could’ve gone for another slice. That might be because I can’t stop myself when it comes to pizza, but I digress. The pizza is bendable with a chewy crust with crisp edges. The cheese oozes and is perfectly toasted. This is special-occasion pizza that tastes too delicious to waste on an all-nighter or eaten cold for breakfast. This is pizza worth putting on pants and leaving the house for. The taste and quality will make you understand why it’s worth going for a more expensive pie.

On a recent visit, I noticed a lot of new- and old-school Germantown residents. There were plenty of pairs of young professionals, but there were also a couple of families with kids. The Post offers something to please everyone, from a healthy list of craft beers to $3 big-name domestics, specialty pizzas with delicious toppings and giant slices of just cheese and pepperoni. The dining area is compact and bustling, and you might catch a ball game projected on a wall. Everybody, young and old, hip and square, is jammed together enjoying pizza, which is a pretty fun way to spend an evening in Germantown.


 

The Post

1045 Goss Ave., Louisville

For more information: The Post’s website and Facebook page

 

Chick Cow food truck brings farm-fresh dishes to the streets

Chick Cow food truck at Fifth and Market streets.
Chick Cow food truck at Fifth and Market streets.

Food trucks brighten up the dreariest days of cubicle life. These mobile eateries are pretty easy to find in downtown Louisville — just look for the huddled masses. The trucks are often parked along Main, Market and Fifth streets to attract the cubicle crowd from the surrounding offices. My brethren and I welcome the options with open wallets.

Recently, I came upon a food truck called Chick Cow on my way to grab some lunch. I had my sights set on taking a little drive to get an Ollie’s Trolley burger, but this new-ish food truck caught my eye and stomach.

Since I was meeting someone for lunch, I bought the Kentucky Klucker, aka a chicken wrap, and the Uncle Henry’s Heehaw Burger, aka a cheeseburger, so me and my lunch companion could get halfsies of each. It was a wise decision, if I do say so myself. The chicken was grilled, juicy and tender, so it kind of felt like I was eating a healthy meal. I can’t say that about the angus burger that comes on a buttered bun — it tasted too good to be good for me, too. The burger and the wrap were $7.53 apiece, and they each came with an order of steak-cut fries.

A sandwich and fries from Chick Cow food truck. (Photo courtesy of Chick Cow's Facebook page)
The Raging Bull and fries from Chick Cow food truck. (Photo courtesy of Chick Cow’s Facebook page)

 

Chick Cow owner Amanda King was nice enough to talk to me about her unexpected inspiration for the truck, the business’s farm-to-table food and what’s next for one of the newest additions to the Louisville food truck scene.

Tell me about how the food truck started.

I have been in clothing manufacturing for years and owned two retail stores here in Louisville. Last summer, I told my husband that I was ready for a change. I ended up selling my clothing line in August. (I had) no idea what change was coming until I had a dream that I owned a food truck and was selling everything for a $1 in low-income areas. The next morning, my husband was at work and he had no clue what was going on at home. I broke apart our grill in the backyard, loaded in my car, went to Taylor Boulevard and called up a friend to start grilling. We set up shop on the side of the road. Later that evening, after discussing the day’s shenanigans with my husband, he agreed we could embark on the journey of owning a food truck. Mind you, neither one of us are chefs.

Food trucks have exploded in Louisville, and competition for customers is fierce. Why did you decide to go into the food truck business?

Besides the dream, I love competition, no matter what field it may be in. I studied the industry for about four to five months before hitting the road, and I noticed a major flaw in our local industry. Most food trucks on the street are just another bite to eat for lunch, like going through a McDonald’s drive-thru line. They were lacking an experience for their customers. It takes more than good food to keep customers coming back.

Tell me about a typical day. How long does it take to load, cook, prep, etc.?

This is the most important part of our success, and I strive to tell every one of our guests about this. Everything on our menu is not only local, but farm fresh. My family has been farming for years in Nelson County. We have a butcher that cuts all of our meats and cheese on a daily basis. Our bread is sourced from a Louisville local baker, and the produce comes from a local farm. Come summer months, the produce will come from our own farm, which we are really excited about. We have a team of three culinary chefs who are masterminds in the kitchen. One only works on the truck. It takes about two hours before lunchtime to prep the fresh veggies and get the meats juicy and ready to go. Everything on the menu is served with King Rd Taters, which are fresh-cut fries we cut on the spot from the largest potatoes you have ever seen. Lunch normally starts around 11 and ends at 1:30. Then it takes another two to three hours to clean the truck and stock for the next day.

What makes Chick Cow’s food stand out?

Besides having the freshest food, it’s the experience. I have a goal to know your name by your second visit to Chick Cow. I try to pay attention to all of the details the guest wants. If I don’t have something the first time you ask, I can promise you it will be there the second time you come. We placed outdoor heaters for the really cold days while you wait for your made-to-order meal, and the first guest of the day starting at 11 a.m. gets a free lunch.

What is your favorite dish on the menu?

Our team did such an over-the-top job with everything on the menu. I eat lunch from Chick Cow every day, and I’m not tired of it one bit. My top favorite would be the Big Bird — a 7-ounce juicy chicken breast with parmesan bread crumbs on a toasted buttered bun with provolone cheese. My next favorite would be Uncle Henry’s Heehaw Burger. (It’s) 100% angus beef, and I’m not sure what those guys have done to it, but I could eat one every night for dinner.

What’s in store for Chick Cow in 2015?

We are working hard on that perfect veggie lunch and gluten-free meal!

Strati Wild Italian unites the Pasta Partners

Me and my friend Beth in 2006. HOLY CRAP, THAT WAS NINE YEARS AGO.
Me and my friend Beth in 2006. HOLY CRAP, THAT WAS NINE YEARS AGO.

When I was a student at Western Kentucky University, my friend Beth and I dubbed ourselves Pasta Partners. The name came from our affinity for the pasta station in the dining hall in Garrett Conference Center. The student newspaper office was located in this building, which meant I spent more time here than any location during my undergraduate education.

The dining room was in the basement of Garrett. The pasta station was located right between the door and the cash register at the end of a half-circle of meal stations. The Pasta Ladies were suited up in stained white chef’s jackets and hats to match. Their demeanor was more lunchroom lady than Top Chef.

The Pasta Ladies had their system down. They squirted oil into a skillet and plopped in a small spoonful of garlic to begin each order. They scooped the meat and veggies we wanted for our pasta from black plastic containers nestled in ice. Penne noodles went in next, followed by a ladle of marinara, alfredo sauce, or a combination of both for the adventurous among us. Once the Ladies tossed everything together over their individual burners, they slid the pasta onto black plastic plates and sprinkled a handful of cheese on top of it all. A hearty helping of carbs got Beth and I through many long afternoons and evenings in the newspaper office.

Several years later, Beth and I have rekindled our partnership at Strati Wild Italian, a fast-casual Italian restaurant at 1702 Bardstown Road (where Sitar Indian Restaurant used to be). The setup calls upon our collegiate carbo-loading days but expands on the little pasta station we loved. The concept is similar – customers at Strati can build their own small or large pasta dish from the viewable selection of pasta shapes (cavatappi FTW), meat, veggies and sauces. Small pans are stacked on a big hot plate near the beginning of the line. The cooking of the pasta and vegetable prep happens in the back kitchen, which leaves a Subway-like assembly line behind a sneeze guard at the front of the house. I didn’t mind waiting a couple of extra minutes for fresh pasta to cook in the back kitchen – it appeared that the selections out front were purposefully small to ensure constant freshness. Employees are friendly and patient when they walk newbies through the pasta-creation process. And if you freeze with so many options before you, there is a selection of  pasta dishes that the restaurant has put together on the menu.

A selection of fresh veggies and at Strati Wild Italian.
A selection of fresh veggies and at Strati Wild Italian.

Strati also has wraps and salads if you’re so inclined. However, it would be a shame to bypass the build-your-own pasta option. I made a creation with a spicy marinara, chicken and plenty of vegetables that was a little bit heavenly, mainly because I got to choose exactly what I wanted. Add a tiny bottle of wine ($3.99), and a small pasta order ($7.29) made for a satisfying weekend dinner.

A small pasta bowl at Strati Wild Italian. And yes, it pairs well with a little bottle of wine.
A small pasta bowl at Strati Wild Italian. And yes, it pairs well with a little bottle of wine.

I was inherently biased to like Strati – the same folks responsible for Wild Eggs opened this restaurant, and I, indeed, love me some Wild Eggs. Fortunately, the company’s commitment to fresh, friendly service has spread to this latest offering, and the restaurant gives Beth and me a reason to get the band back together.


Strati Wild Italian

1702 Bardstown Rd., Louisville

More information: Strati Wild Italian’s Facebook page

Bobby who? Here are the celeb chefs I want to see open a restaurant in Louisville

Bobby Flay. (Photo courtesy of Food Network)
Bobby Flay, bein’ all cool. (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

It’s a good thing I’ve settled my imaginary beef with Bobby Flay. It looks like this celebrity chef is making serious googly eyes at Louisville.

The Courier-Journal reported back in September that Flay was scouting possible locations to open a restaurant in Louisville. And Insider Louisville is hearing some buzz that Flay’s going to set up in the former Burger’s Market on Grinstead Drive.

I used to have an unreasonable dislike for Flay. I didn’t like how he rolled into town with his Food Network show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, like he owned the joint and challenged chefs. Quit showing off, Flay. Then I met him in person when I was a reporter on the red carpet at the Barnstable Brown party. He was actually pretty nice, which completely squashed the rivalry I had built in my head.

So, I’m cool with Flay coming to Louisville. It’s just that there are a few other celebrity chefs and TV personalities that I would like to see make a restaurant home in Louisville. Come along with me as I play pretend with folks I’d like to see in our city:

You better WERQ, Ree Drummond. (Photo courtesy Food Network)
You better WERQ, Ree Drummond. (Photo courtesy Food Network)

I love me some Ree Drummond. The woman cooks, writes and takes beautiful pictures on her blog, The Pioneer Woman. Her approachable demeanor and hearty meals fit for life on the ranch make her a wonderful addition to the Food Network lineup. I’d welcome Ree’s downhome charm in a Louisville restaurant. Picture it: Ree greeting guests, her husband stopping in from the ranch with some kind of carcass he killed himself, and lots of wood paneling.

Not your most crisp collar, Ina. (Photo courtesy of Food Network)
Not your most crisp collar, Ina. (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

One of the loftier goals of my life is to become the black Ina Garten. My closet will be filled with crisp button-down shirts. I will pop collar of said shirts. And I will whip up meals that include lots of lemon zest for the wonderful moments when my Jeffrey pops in to see what I’m up to. I imagine that Ms. Garten’s restaurant could fill the shoes that La Coop in NuLu will leave. Ms. Garten would serve food of the French countryside in a candlelit dining room with citrus centerpieces. And she would never spill ratatouille on her fresh shirt.

Oh, Alton. You slay me. (Photo courtesy of Food Network)
Oh, Alton. You slay me. (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

Alton Brown is a great teacher on the show, Good Eats. You get a little history, a little science and a lot of fun in each episode. Why not show off his teaching skills with a lot of science in an open-concept kitchen? I see foam garnishes, dry ice and lots of sous vide.


What celebrity chef or food personality would you like to see open a restaurant in Louisville?

I ate all the tacos so you don’t have to (unless you’re really into that)

A sampling of tacos from El Taco Luchador on Baxter Avenue.
A sampling of tacos from El Taco Luchador on Baxter Avenue.

It was an assignment not for the weak of stomach: write about the burgeoning Louisville taco scene.

Journalism school taught me that a good reporter must do his or her research, so I embarked on a two-week taco taste test across the city. I documented some lessons learned and some stand-out taquerias in a story I wrote for the WFPL news blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The components of a taco sound simple enough—a tortilla, some meat, a few veggies, a sauce, and a wedge of lime on the side. But the best tacos in the city are thoughtfully crafted by chefs willing to explore flavor combinations that call on tradition yet seem refreshing and new. The tortilla should be soft, warm, made of corn and sturdy. The meat is best when it’s marinated and slow cooked, as evidenced by tender strips that fall apart as you chew your way through. The veggies should be crisp and handled with a light hand to not overwhelm aforementioned tortilla. And the sauce can make or break this little handheld dish—too much, and it’s sloppy and overbearing, too little, and the dish is  dry. And don’t forget to squeeze that lime, for it adds a final citrusy pop to make the tastes come alive.

Read the rest of the article here. Gluttony jokes aside, I had a fun time writing this one. Louisville has turned into a great place for tacos.

Where do you go when you need a taco fix?

It’s cold. We’re cranky. Bring on the delivery guys and gals.

Dressing for this winter weather makes me as miserable as the little squirt from “A Christmas Story.”

Courtesy of moots.com
Courtesy of moots.com

There are tights, socks, pants (preferably corduroy). A tank top, a long-sleeved blouse, a cardigan. Boots, down-feather coat, hat, scarf. Maybe another scarf for good measure. I look like a stuffed sausage by the time I’m fully clothed.

This routine makes me hesitate to venture outside, even to go out to eat. There are new restaurants I still haven’t tried (looking at you, El Camino) and favorite restaurants that I’ve missed (oh, Mussels & Burger Bar, I’ll be back as soon as I thaw) all because the cold brings out my inner curmudgeon.

God bless delivery people.

These folks take it to the streets to deliver the goods to weather wusses like me. I have a genuine admiration for the work they do to bring home a paycheck.

If you hate the cold like me, here are some places to consider for your next night in:

 

Bearno’s/Spinelli’s/Wick’s

Wick's.
A pie from Wick’s.

Oh, pizza. How I love you so. With all those toppings, you dominate the food groups. Bearno’s Pizza and Wick’s Pizza Parlor pile on the toppings Louisville-style with a layer of cheese on top. Depending on your choice of toppings, you might be tempted to eat a slice with a fork and knife (hint: don’t). Spinelli’s Pizzeria operates well through the night and into the morning (delivery until 4:30 a.m.!), should your cravings strike at odd hours.

 

Café Lou Lou

A meatball sandwich with a side of Cajun crisps from Cafe Lou Lou.
A meatball sandwich with a side of Cajun crisps from Cafe Lou Lou.

Maybe the guy who answered the phone that day didn’t realize that my apartment is just slightly out of the delivery area for the Café Lou Lou in St. Matthews. Maybe he took pity on me. Either way, nothing beats a hot meatball sandwich at the door.

    • Café Lou Lou has a location in the Highlands along with the St. Matthews restaurant. Click here for information on delivery.

 

Baby D’s Bagel and Deli/Jimmy John’s

A happy message, courtesy babydsdeli.com.
A happy message, courtesy babydsdeli.com.

Baby D’s “will gladly deliver” its bagel sammiches to Downtown, UofL/Bellarmine Campus, St. Matthews, Clifton, Germantown, Butchertown, and of course, the Highlands,” where the deli is located. I’m not sure how glad Jimmy John’s is to deliver sandwiches, but they’re freaky fast about it.

 

Manhattan Grill

I’ve never visited this downtown eatery. But the dedication of the older gentleman I see delivering breakfast AND lunch to folks in my building makes me want to give this place a try.

    • See a Manhattan Grill menu and order online here.

 

What restaurant do you turn to for delivery?

Take it to the comments!

Five bowls to thaw the Polar Vortex off your bones

Thank you, Louisville, for not asking, “Is it cold enough for you?” during this Polar Vortex madness. 

ecard

Fortunately, this cold snap will be gone by the end of the week. Now, it’s time to shake the ice off and get back to school and work. What better way to warm up than a nice, hot bowl of soup or chili?

Here are a few of my favorite cold-weather foods that will make this week bearable. Added bonus: not only does soup magically warm the insides, all of these bowls are less than eight bucks and hearty enough to be their own meals.

1. Tomato bisque soup, The Main Eatery, 643 W. Main Street, Louisville

Grilled cheese and tomato bisque from The Main Eatery.
Grilled cheese and tomato bisque from The Main Eatery.

This downtown lunch spot has a rotating medley of soups, but the tomato bisque is by far the best. The creamy concoction is dotted with hunts of tomato, but still manages to go down smooth. This soup is only available on Fridays, and it would be a shame if you don’t order it with the other Friday special — a grilled cheese sandwich. Make sure you get to the Main Eatery a little before noon, or you’ll face a line out the door.

2. Hot and sour soup, Annie Café, 308 W. Woodlawn Avenue, Louisville

Don't stare too closely. The heat might singe your eyebrows.
Don’t stare too closely. The heat might singe your eyebrows.

This soup should come with a warning label. The bowl from this Vietnamese restaurant in South Louisville is filled with vegetables, tofu, and the hottest broth I’ve ever tried. Have a tissue or two ready, because this is bound to clear the nostrils.

3. Chili con Frijoles, The Silver Dollar, 1761 Frankfort Ave., Louisville

A coaster at The Silver Dollar.
A coaster at The Silver Dollar.

I don’t have a picture of the bowl of chili at The Silver Dollar. Why? Because I DEMOLISHED that bowl before I could take photographic evidence. Take my word for it, this is a meal fit for a cowboy — meat, beans, no noodles, all business. And you can’t beat a big bowl of that for only $6.

4. Chicken noodle soup, Wagner’s Pharmacy, 3113 S. Fourth Street, Louisville

That's a mighty big noodle.
That’s a mighty big noodle.

Wagner’s Pharmacy, located right across the street from Churchill Downs, has served the horse industry and the rest of Louisville since 1922. Decades of experience has made this lunch counter a hot spot for a down-home breakfast and lunch. Slide into this often crowded diner and pray that you made it in there when the chicken noodle is the soup of the day.

5. Black beans, Havana Rumba, multiple locations, Louisville

Forget the main dish, I'm talking about the side.
Forget the main dish, I’m talking about the side.

Everything is delicious at Havana Rumba, but the side dish of black beans never gets enough play as the restaurant’s more exciting entrees. You can get a whole bowl of black beans, simmered to a perfect consistency that’s not quite a soup, and leave more than satisfied.

What are some of your favorite soups, stews and chili bowls in the Louisville area?