Hillbilly Tea heads to Portland and West End. What other Louisville neighborhoods need more local restaurants?

A flashback to lunch at Hillbilly Tea in 2010.
A flashback to lunch at Hillbilly Tea in 2010.

First things first. I’m talking about Portland in Louisville, not Oregon or Maine.

And a lot of business owners are starting to point their eyes at this neighborhood as the next frontier in fancy redevelopment à la NuLu on East Market Street.

Hillbilly Tea (which I reviewed back in the day — four years ago!) will open a location at 2425 Portland Ave. and a West End location at 1023 Dixie Highway, according to the Courier-Journal. The restaurant will join the good folks at Gelato Gilberto, who are setting up a wholesale operation in Portland.

Kudos to these local eateries for looking past Ninth Street to operate new outposts. It makes my heart happy to see Louisville business owners taking a chance on an area that’s not Bardstown Road or Frankfort Avenue (no shade to these areas, just sayin’ that they already have a lot).

What Louisville restaurant do you think needs more local restaurants/coffee shops/eateries?

Add a cooking competition to your summer parties

Nine entries in the banana pudding bake-off.
Nine entries in the banana pudding bake-off.

It seemed like a joke — a birthday party/backyard barbecue/banana pudding bake-off? So many slashes, so much to wrap my head around for one afternoon at my friend Christine’s house.

Nine bakers made their version of banana pudding. All the dishes were numbered so guests didn’t know who made each entry. Then, everyone scooped and ate to their heart’s content. Right as our bellies were about to burst, we wrote the number of our favorite entry on a slip of paper. The number with the most votes was the winner.

Somehow, this amalgamation of an event I attended last week not only worked, but stands out as one of the best parties I’ve attended as an adult (because honestly, nothing competes with some Chuck E. Cheese action as a kid).

Kudos to Christine (with 502 Social — contact her for all your event needs!) for introducing a food competition to my sphere of gatherings. A good ol’ fashioned cooking contest makes a party more fun. Guest participation? Check. Prizes? Check. Free, homemade goodies? Double check, underline, bold, italicize.

Here are some tips for introducing a culinary competition to your party this summer:

  • Choose a food that can have a bunch of variations. Though they share the same DNA, banana puddings are not created equal (but they are all created DELICIOUS). There was a chocolate entry, one with rainbow sprinkles, one with meringue, and some with those Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies instead of the Nilla Wafers. My world expanded, and I shall never be the same.
  • Pick a dish with wide appeal. Now, everyone didn’t like banana pudding. But enough people at the party were keen on this dish to make it a real competition. You don’t have to please everybody, but you probably won’t make friends with a sardine-sandwich contest.
  • Don’t get too fancy. Whatever you decide to focus your contest one, make sure it’s something an amateur cook or baker can tackle in his or her kitchen. If I have to buy a pizza stone, you’ve gone too far.
  • Keep your surroundings in mind. For the banana pudding bake-off (or make-off, since most entries weren’t baked), we needed plenty of refrigerator space to keep the goodies cold and only brought them to a table in the backyard for judging. As the summer wears on, keep cold dishes for inside parties.
To the victor goes the spoils.
To the victor goes the spoils.
  • Have some prizes. You don’t need a garland of roses. Pick something inexpensive and related to the competition. For example, Christine had some nifty fake bananas spray-painted gold and a certificate for the winner.
  • Consider beverages. The internet has given me many gifts, some of which include a boatload of sangria recipes. Find a drink that can be made by the pitcher or punch bowl, with our without alcohol. How about lemonade, or margaritas?
  • Keep it friendly. Yes, this is a competition. But the most important part of adding food as a focal point at a party is the fellowship that comes when a bunch of people are standing around eating, talking and having a good time. At the banana pudding contest, I learned the merits of using real pudding versus instant, what happens when a child decides to “help” cook and creates her own tasty variation, and just how often you can include liquor in banana pudding (answer: a lot).

What food (or beverage) competition would you like to participate in this summer?

Save your quarters for 25-cent scoops at Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen

Gadzooks, that's a lot of chocolate.
Gadzooks, that’s a lot of chocolate.

The mosquitoes are humming, the air has grown stagnant and the sweat has stopped evaporating from my brow.

Yep, it’s almost summer in the Ohio Valley.

Now, we all promised that we wouldn’t complain about the heat after such a long, dreary winter (I wasn’t complaining in the opening — those were scientific observations). Instead, let’s cool off with the Ninth Annual 25¢ Ice Cream Social at Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen.

From noon to 5 p.m. this Saturday, May 31, all single scoops of ice cream are 25 cents at any of the 10 Pie Kitchen locations. There is some fine print: waffle cones and all other scoops such as doubles and triples are normal price.

So go forth with your change, friends, and treat yo’ self to a scoop. Just don’t complain about the heat.

Carve out time for these free Louisville events this weekend

Once upon a time, I was a surly teenager. Not a problem child, mind you, just an adolescent who thought there was nothing to do in this town and couldn’t wait to get out.

Me and the Hubs at 16. We were ready to blow this popsicle stand.
Me and the Hubs at 16. We were ready to blow this popsicle stand.

Jump ahead 10 years. Is it me, or is Louisville a lot more bustling than it used to be? There always seems to be some kind of fair or concert or free something-or-the-other that pile up and fill my Google calendar. Or maybe it’s me who has changed, and I can see how fun this city has been all along. /introspection

Anyhoozers, there are a couple of free events that will take place this weekend in our fair city. So if you can’t find something to do, don’t look at me.

Old Louisville SpringFest

  • What: Vendors, food trucks, artists and 10+ hours of local music; named as one of the Top Roadtrip Destinations for Spring 2012 by Travel+Leisure Magazine
  • When: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 16, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 17
  • Where: Old Louisville
  • More information: oldlouisvillespringfest.org

 

Buy Local Fair

  • What: More than 150 booths showcasing goods and services from a variety of local businesses, musicians, artists and craftspeople, community organizations, and farmers; includes cooking competition between Milkwood’s Chef Kevin Ashworth and RYE on Market’s Chef De Cuisine Joe Bane
  • When: Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 18
  • Where: Louisville Water Tower
  • More information: keeplouisvilleweird.com/buylocalfair

Need a last-minute Mother’s Day gift? Go for edible gifts (with a side of flowers)

The ol' dyed pasta necklace isn't going to cut it when you become an adult. (Photo courtesy Selena N. B. H. via Flickr Creative Commons)
The ol’ dyed pasta necklace isn’t going to cut it when you become an adult. (Photo courtesy Selena N. B. H. via Flickr Creative Commons)

The horses have barely finished kicking up dirt at Churchill Downs, yet it’s time to turn around and celebrate another big occasion.

I’ve always thought that the Kentucky Derby and Mother’s Day are just a little too close together to give moms in the state proper justice. You want me to pick a horse, down a couple of mint juleps, AND plan a bomb brunch and buy a fabulous gift for my beyond-fabulous mother all in one breath?

Month of May, have mercy on me.

Since I’m a little too old to hand out pasta necklaces to the woman who co-signed on my creation, I’m searching for the perfect gift. Yes, it’s last minute. But I pray to the gods of Better Late Than Never.

Here are some great items I’ve come across in my search for the perfect Mother’s Day gift, from the traditional to practical and back again.

  • Grocery delivery.
My first bunch of produce from Green BEAN Delivery.
My first bunch of produce from Green BEAN Delivery.

Taking care of a week’s worth of groceries isn’t the most sentimental thing you can do for your mother/mother figure. But for the practical person in your life, a gift like a Green BEAN Delivery gift certificate would give a busy lady one less thing to think about. I’ve touted this organic grocery delivery service before, and the fine Green BEAN folks have a special offer if you want to treat your mom. Visit Green BEAN’s website and use the code 15AEml for $15 off your first order (for new members/reactivations only; expires a week from today).

  • Chocolate.
(Photo courtesy of EuroMagic via Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo courtesy of EuroMagic via Flickr Creative Commons)

I’m not talking about the stuff you get at the gas station on your way to visit your mother. Stop by Cellar Door Chocolates in Butchertown Market (1201 Story Ave.) or Oxmoor Mall (near Starbucks) for some decadent, small-batch chocolate.

  • Meat.
A box of meat from Mattingly.
A box of meat from Mattingly.

Sure, you can take your mom to brunch. Just be prepared for loud crowds, long waits, and at least one unsatisfied grandma. How about getting some quality meat from Mattingly Foods – A. Thomas Meats and cook your mom a nice dinner?

  • Flowers.
(Photo courtesy julie via Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo courtesy julie via Flickr Creative Commons)

I once got my mother flowers for the big day. Her mouth said, “Thank you.” Her eyes said, “Is this it? They’re going to die in a week.” I’ve learned that flowers are a present that serves better as a supplement to something else rather than the big sha-bang. Stop by Nanz and Kraft Florists (they make arrangements beyond the KFC corsage) to see if they can help you find something pretty to go with the “real present.”

What are you doing for your mom this Mother’s Day?

Event: Time to learn on the fly at the How-To Festival, 5.10.14

 

Want to learn how to make your own chicken and dumplings?
Want to learn how to make your own chicken and dumplings?

Have you ever wanted to learn something new and fun, like how to build a vertical garden or cook chicken and dumplings?

The Louisville Free Public Library has a day of events to tickle your adventurous fancy.

The library will present the How-To Festival at the main library branch this Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The family-friendly event was a big hit last year. According to the library, “nearly 3,000 people learned more than 50 things in 5 hours for free.” Yep, friends — all this learning is free.

Many of the food-centric sessions that caught my fancy.

  • How to eat intuitively and give up diets for good
  • How to make vegan biscuits and gravy
  • How to grind your own cornmeal
  • How to grow herbs and garlic
  • How to pair wine with food
  • How to decorate cupcakes
  • How to make baklava
  • How to choose, sample and serve terrific cheeses

Click here for a complete schedule of classes and map of the library.

How-To Festival

Louisville Free Public Library Main Branch

Saturday, May 10

10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

301 York Street, Louisville, Ky.

It’s that time again. Let Them Tweet Cake, 5.7.14

I’m in the mood for some cake and some ladies.

Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talkin’ ’bout Let Them Tweet Cake.

This event that I try to regularly attend is just a bunch of ladies (and a few gents) talking tech at a dessert shop, Sweet Surrender Dessert Café. We let our geek flags fly HIGH.

It’s been a while since the last Tweet Cake, but this tweet-up is right on time for me. I’m excited to see old friends and meet some new ones.

See you then, yes?

Let Them Tweet Cake

6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 7

Sweet Surrender Dessert Café, 1804 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, Ky.

A few wishes on this Kentucky Derby Day

A view of the paddock from the fifth-floor balcony of Churchill Downs.
A view of the paddock from the fifth-floor balcony of Churchill Downs.

Happy Derby Day, readers. I hope you have fun, whether you’re at Churchill Downs or chilling in a patio chair in front of a grill (which I will be doing shortly). But first, a poem:

May you skip the mint juleps and go for straight bourbon.

May your benedictine sandwiches be especially verdant.

May you wear seersucker proudly and carry a Tide pen.

May you enjoy ribs, baked beans and coleslaw on a plate that doesn’t bend.

May you avoid smelling like smoke when you stand near the grill.

May you treat yourself to two slices of Derby pie, but only the real deal.

But here’s what matters most on this special day,

May your 140th Kentucky Derby be decadent and depraved.

 

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?

A Passover Seder, a fish fry, and how food brings us together

A Seder plate. (Photo courtesy Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr)
A Seder plate. (Photo courtesy Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr)

Sometimes, I can be pretty naive for my own good. Take this blog post, for example.

I’ve had a case of the warm fuzzies all day after attending my first Passover Seder on Monday. I spent a wonderful evening learning about the Jewish holiday, drinking a lot of kosher wine, eating my weight in matzo, and having some great conversations with folks I would’ve never met otherwise.

A few weeks ago, I had the tinglies after a trip with two of my best friends to Holy Family Catholic Church’s Friday fish fry, a Catholic tradition during the Christian holiday of Lent. There I was, in a gym full of strangers, eating a fish sandwich, listening to someone holler out Keno numbers over the crowd. It was the best Friday night I’d had in ages.

I’m not Catholic. I’m not Jewish. But both communities welcomed me with the one event that has the formative power to bridge divides — a good meal.

A plate from Holy Family Catholic Church.
A plate from Holy Family Catholic Church.

It gets hard to see the good in life sometimes. Heck, somebody might even read this post and leave with a frown because I even touched the topic of religion (this, along with sex and politics, are usually areas I try to keep my two pennies out of). But when you sit down and share a meal with old and new friends of all different religions, cultures and beliefs, and EVERYONE gets along, it’s worth blogging about.

Food might not be able to solve all the world’s problems, but I’ve taken a few things away from the Seder and fish fry that I can use every day:

  • Welcome newcomers with open arms (and plates). I only knew a couple of people at both the fish fry and the seder. But there was an open seat for me at both. I felt equally welcome even though I don’t identify as part of either group. Isn’t that all you can ask for?
  • Encourage dialogue about your ceremony/traditions/beliefs/etc. Shout out to Ben and Rachel, the hosts of the Seder, who printed a guide to the observance, used a smartphone to play traditional songs, and answered questions throughout the evening.
  • Be nice. The Catholic school gym in which the fish fry took place was PACKED. Yet there were volunteers handy to squirt cups of tartar sauce and pick up your dirty plates. People were polite as they squirmed around folding chair, angling toward an empty seat. Large crowds can, indeed, keep it together and still have a good time.
  • Alcohol never hurts. There was beer at the fish fry. There was wine at the seder. Draw your own conclusions.

 

Have you ever attended an event or observance of a culture not your own? What did you take away?