Grad school is hard, and other things I learned during my blog blackout

You remember that scene in Jumanji in which Robin Williams emerges from the board game after 20 some-odd years and has NO IDEA what’s going on in his hometown?

Other than the whole trapped-in-a-jungle-board-game hell, I can completely relate.

In November, I started my first semester in the Master’s of Fine Arts program at Spalding University. My concentration is creative nonfiction. I’m not gonna lie — I thought this would be relatively easy-peasy to fit into my life. I was a journalist. I have a food blog. I got this creative nonfiction thing in the bag, I thought.

Holy shiitake, was I wrong.

I underestimated how challenging grad school would be, even if it was studying a topic that I loved in a low-residency/independent study. And I was naive enough to think I could “have it all” and go to school, blog, freelance, work a 9-to-5, play with my dog and give my husband some attention. That meant the blog went dark for longer than I anticipated.

Fortunately, I’ve just sent my last assignments for the semester, so school will be on hold until the fall. I’ll be back on the blog, eatin’ cheap and writing about it.

Before I dive right into food blogging, let me share a few lessons I’ve learned from my graduate school experience thus far:

  • I’m too old for all-nighters. I stayed up past midnight two nights in a row before one of my deadlines. I was tired and cranky for four days after that. But when I got my undergrad, I was staying up until 3 a.m. at least two nights a week and would turn around and go to class the next day. These days, mama needs a proper bedtime.
  • Coffee is king. My heart has always yearned for coffee, but the addiction has only solidified this semester. A little math:
    • Instant coffee > no coffee
    • Bad coffee > no coffee
    • Reheated day-old coffee > no coffee
    • Shame = 0
  • Pizza is the perfect food for higher learning. Pizza incorporates major food groups (if you get a supreme), you can get it just about anywhere at any time, and it’s good lukewarm. Nuff said.
  • Friends are important. My grad school friends get me. Not just because we’re tortured writers committed to documenting life as we see it (seriously, these are the conversations we have), but you need someone to bitch to in a Facebook message at 11 p.m. when you have no idea how to end an essay. Non-school friends are equally as important, especially when they forgive you for flaking on plans to stay inside and peck at a computer.
  • So is a supportive life partner. Poor Rob. At best, I’ve been inattentive. At worst, I’ve been a terror to be around, especially if caffeine hasn’t hit my nervous system. Rob not only restrained himself from fleeing in the night, but he has also been the most encouraging husband a gal could ask for. /mushielovetalk
  • Writing about food is easy. Writing about myself is hard. Need me to write a 500-word essay about the joys of a Panera bagel? DONE. Need me to write an essay about what my parents’ marriage taught me about love? HOLD ON THERE WITH YOUR HIPPIE REQUEST. Creative nonfiction is a lot of self-reflection. I could float by and get a degree by writing a grand piece about the joys of oatmeal, but higher education is supposed to be about challenging oneself. (Look at me, using words like “oneself.” Who do I think I am?) So please forgive me if I’m a little more reflective, self aware, and a general pain in the ascot.
  • Antiques Roadshow is the perfect program to play in the background while you write. Give it a try. That show is GOLDEN.

Bits and Pieces: Grind food truck, Gelato Gilberto and other Louisville food news from the web, 2.17.14

Blogger’s note: Y’ALL. I have been buried in the delightful terror that is grad school. I’ll have to tell you about it one day. I’m blogging while I’m up for air.

News

  • Louisville loves Liz and Jesse Huot. How do I know? I linked to a story about the pair behind Grind food truck opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and it’s the most read post EVER on the Ashlee Eats Facebook page. The couple plans to open a restaurant in the building that used to house Oasis Sushi on Preston Highway. Congratulations, you crazy kids. (Courier-Journal)
Picture courtesy of Kristin Gilbert.
Picture courtesy of Kristin Gilbert.
  • Gelato Gilberto, a gelato shop in Norton Commons, will head to Portland (Louisville, not Oregon) for wholesale production of its sweet, sweet deliciousness. (Business First of Louisville)
The Chicken Peppadew pizza at Boombozz in Westport Village.
The Chicken Peppadew pizza at Boombozz in Westport Village.
  • Boombozz Pizza will open a new location in the planned Middletown Commons, a shopping outlet that is being built on Shelbyville Road near the Gene Snyder Freeway. The restaurant plans to open in late 2014. (Business First of Louisville)

 

Events

  • We’re in the middle of The Comfy Cow’s fourth annual Chocopalooza. The ice cream shop is offering 10 flavors of chocolate ice cream at its three locations, and 10 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Make a Wish Foundation. I’ve got my eye on the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie. (Comfy Cow website)
  • Tomorrow is National Drink Wine Day, which begs the question, “What day isn’t National Drink Wine Day?” But anyway, Eddie Merlot’s is celebrating with half priced pours of the restaurant’s vintages from 4 to 11 p.m. Feb. 18 in the lounge and bar area. The restaurant is at 455 South Fourth Street in downtown Louisville. (Eddie Merlot’s news release)

 

Etc.

  • Here’s a fun little tidbit about Kentucky’s most famous native son, Abraham Lincoln (sorry, George Clooney): he knew his way around a kitchen. A new book called Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times, “looks at our 16th president’s life through the extraordinary stories of what he ate, cooked and served, along with recipes modified for the modern kitchen.” (NPR)

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?

Forget recaps. Here are 10 ways I will rock my foodie life in 2014.

Is 2013 already over? 

There’s so much food I didn’t get to. So many recipes I didn’t try. So many things I didn’t write about.

As this blog post title indicates, I’m not going to spend my time recapping. I like to take the occasion of a New Year to look forward, not back. I like having things to look forward to — new goals, new adventures, new restaurants.

Here’s a collection of some of the things I’d like to accomplish in life and on this blog in 2014. Let’s not call this a list of “resolutions” — I’m allergic to that word because it sets me up for failure by March. How about this handy dandy headline:

10 Ways I Will Rock the Glasses off 2014

1. I will not be such a beast before I’ve had my first cup of coffee. 

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
My life blood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To those mighty giants who can operate without a hot splash of caffeine, I salute you. I have an addiction, and I can be pretty mean if coffee doesn’t hit my lips before 9 a.m.

2. I will finally complete my $10 Challenge on Simply Thai

Short rib nachos.
Short rib nachos at Mussel & Burger Bar. Now if only I can get to Simply Thai…

Remember when I had the reader’s choice Challenge? I sampled one restaurant, Mussel & Burger Bar, that you guys selected. The other, Simply Thai, has been outside my grasp lately, because of a busy schedule and long waits. That ends in 2014, friends. I’m going to make this happen.

3. I will make an edible batch of biscuits. 

One of my unsuccessful batches of biscuits that was transformed into stuffing.
One of my unsuccessful batches of biscuits that was transformed into stuffing.

I consider myself a pretty good cook and a decent baker. I can’t, however, make biscuits if my life depended on it.

4. I will accept the fact that pizza, no matter how many vegetables I pile on top, does not count as a well-rounded meal.

The Chicken Peppadew pizza at Boombozz in Westport Village.
The Chicken Peppadew pizza at Boombozz in Westport Village.

This is going to be a tough one. I will, however, eat pizza at Loui Loui’s Authentic Detroit Style Pizza, Bonnie & Clyde’s Pizza Parlor and Angilo’s Pizza. These places need some more love and attention, and I’m the lady to give it.

5. I will become more efficient at using chopsticks.

I'm this close to eating these with my hands.
I’m this close to eating these with my hands.

Also, I will eat more sushi because IT IS DELICIOUS.

6. I will stop giving my dog, Roscoe, so many table scraps.

He's very food motivated, especially when it comes to Moby Dick.
He’s very food motivated, especially when it comes to Moby Dick.

I know, I know, this is bad news bears, and I don’t recommend it. But if you see these puppy eyes looking up at you, it’s hard to resist sliding Roscoe a bit of pork chop.

7. I will wait to eat long enough to post more pictures on Instagram and Facebook.

Ahh, the wonders of Instagram. Doesn't the app make this corn dog look delicious?
Ahh, the wonders of Instagram. Doesn’t the app make this corn dog look delicious?

This feels counterintuitive. I know that most people make fun of folks like me who take pictures of my meal and plaster them all over social media. But I’m a food blogger, darn it. I gotta show you what I’m eating. I just have to pause long enough to snap a pic. When a full plate is put before me, I lose my mind and dig in.

8. I will take pictures using my good camera, not the crappy one on my phone.

Taquitos and sweet potato fries at Mussel & Burger Bar.
Taquitos and sweet potato fries at Mussel & Burger Bar.

Let this picture speak 1,000 words.

9. I will eat correct portion sizes.

The meatloaf special at The Irish Rover.
The meatloaf special at The Irish Rover.

For example, not eating all of the plate above in one sitting.

10. I will keep my commitment to exploring good, inexpensive food in Louisville.

Cheers to a New Year.
Cheers to a New Year.

Happy New Year, y’all.

Bits and Pieces: Grasshoppers, tacos and other Louisville food news from the web, 12.6.13

Closing

  • RIP Grasshoppers Distribution. This local service that provided produce from area farmers to Louisville customers will shut down today. (WDRB)

News

  • Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer created a super-official work group to figure out how to make a hot spot for good food and spirits. The 34-member group includes local chefs and restaurateurs, local distillers and bourbon aficionados, and tourism officials. I assume my invitation got lost in the mail, Greg… (Insider Louisville)

Openings

Photo courtesy Wild Rita's Facebook page.
Photo courtesy Wild Rita’s Facebook page.
  • Tacos are having their moment in Louisville right now.
    • El Taco Luchador, from the genius minds behind Guaca Mole and Mussel and Burger Bar, will open at 938 Baxter Avenue sometime in December. The restaurant in a particularly bad-luck spot, the same building the once housed the former Lil’ Cheezers restaurant and 14K Cupcakes. (Consuming Louisville)
    • Wild Rita’s will open in the former location of Mozz at 445 East Market Street. This restaurant bills itself as a “modern Mexican and tequila bar” and is the latest creation from the Wild Eggs people (if you couldn’t tell by the logo). (Megabites Louisville)
  • In non-taco news, Big Four Burgers + Beer has opened in downtown Jeffersonville. Once the Indiana side of the Big Four Bridge is open, I’d be tempted to walk over for a gourmet burger. But isn’t that defeating the purpose? (News and Tribune)

Review: Premium meat from Mattingly worth the investment

A box of meat from Mattingly. Christmas came early?
A box of meat from Mattingly. Christmas came early?

Let’s get the tough part out of the way. This blog post is going to feature expensive meats firmly settled in Treat Yo’ Self territory.

Mattingly Foods – A. Thomas Meats invited me to review a selection of their products – hamburger patties, steaks and pork chops, to be exact. This local operation supplies high-quality meat to restaurants in the region and individual customers on a cut-to-order basis. It was hard to say no to a review request from a company with such deep roots in the city.

Yet, I was torn. The selection of meat from Mattingly is of premium quality with prices that reflect that commitment. Of the meat I sampled, the New York Strip is $13.75 a pound, pork chops are $5.50 per pound, and the hamburger patties are $3.50 per pound.

We’re all regular folks, here. You know and I know that the prices made us gulp. But if you’re going to go big, go with Mattingly.

Bringing home Mattingly Meat was like sneaking into the kitchen of my favorite steakhouse, clunking the chef over the head, and stealing slabs of beef from the fridge. My galley kitchen was instantly upgraded when I cooked a New York strip.

New York Strip with peas and mashed potatoes.
New York Strip with peas and mashed potatoes.

The steak cut like velvet, juicing sliding down the glowing pink grains. I only seasoned it with salt and pepper, and that was all that this strip needed.

Pig, meet cow.
Pig, meet cow.

The pork chop was equally succulent, with little fat and lots of tender meat.

A burger from Mattingly meat.
A burger from Mattingly meat.

The hamburgers were juicy and retained their size as the fat cooked off.

So how can you make this price point work?

Stretch out your meat:

  • The hamburger patties I received were SUPER HUGE. I took two of the patties and cooked them with a can of red beans and taco seasoning for burritos.
Beef and red beans.
Beef and red beans.
  • I took the three remaining patties and reshaped them into four smaller burgers.
  • The New York strip was large enough to share between two people, along with a couple of side dishes.
  • Future possibility for the remaining steak: stir fry.

Deciding to spend the money on Mattingly’s selection is hard. Fortunately, Mattingly’s offers a variety of packages and cuts of meat, and they even have a bargain outlet. Treat yo’ self to a belly full of premium protein.

For information on ordering, visit the Mattingly Foods – A. Thomas Meats website

Last-minute event alert: March of Dimes to celebrate good food to help babies

This is SUPERSONIC last minute, but the March of Dimes will host a foodie event tonight to raise money for the non-profit’s efforts to fund research to find the causes of premature birth and developing strategies to prevent it.

The March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction will take place today, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. at the Marriott Louisville Downtown. Here’s a rundown of the event, courtesy of the March of Dimes:

  • Guests sample culinary creations from 25 of Louisville’s finest white tablecloth restaurants followed by an exciting live auction featuring experiential dining packages and unique items. The Lead chef is Josh Moore of Volare Italian Ristorante.
  • Participating restaurants include: August Moon Chinese Bistro, Bistro 1860 Wine Bar, Bourbons Bistro, Buck’s Restaurant and Bar, Corbett’s, Jack Fry’s, Lilly’s Bistro, Napa River Grill, Rivue and Varanese.
  • To reserve your table or seat, contact Kim Ulrich at kulrich@marchofdimes.com or 502-473-6683.
  • Want to help March of Dimes? Make a donation (https://www.marchofdimes.com/kentucky/support_giving.html) or call March of Dimes Ohio Valley Division at (800) 255-5857 for volunteer opportunities.

Speaking of openings, Papalinos to debut second location in Springhurst this month

A slice from Papalinos.
A slice from Papalinos.

Papalinos Pizza serves some of the best New York-style pizza in the city with a bevy of house-made toppings.

The pizzeria’s first location on Baxter Avenue has  thrived since it opened in 2010, and I’ve rooted for Papalinos to open another storefront since I wrote about the closing of their second location in Cardinal Towne adjacent to U of L’s campus.

Did someone hear all my cheerleading for this restaurant?

Papalinos plans to open a location sometime this month near Springhurst Towne Center in the East End, Business First of Louisville reports. The restaurant, which will operate at 3598 Springhurst Blvd., will be different than the Baxter Avenue store. From Business First:

The restaurant will offer table service and will have a bar and expanded menu, including more salads and appetizers than the first store.

For more information on the Springhurst opening, keep an eye on Papalinos’ Facebook page and Twitter feed.

As a couple of restaurant doors close, many more open in Louisville

El Camino. Photo courtesy of ConsumingLouisville.com.
El Camino. Photo courtesy of ConsumingLouisville.com.

I feel like I’m missing something.

Restaurants are opening up around town like gangbusters, and I can’t figure out why. Is this a sign of the economy bouncing back? Has Louisville’s appetite for eating out reached epic proportions? Am I just noticing this uptick more because I write about food? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I’m going to take a Dayquil and ponder this. In the meantime, here is a round-up of some notable openings (and a closing or two). Click the source links for more info.

Butchertown

Douglass Loop/Highlands

Downtown/River Road

Employees assemble orders at Atlantic No. 5.
Employees assemble orders at Atlantic No. 5.
  • Open: Atlantic No. 5 (Ashlee Eats)
  • Opening: Unnamed restaurant from the same management company behind Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar and La Coop: Bistro a Vins (Business First of Louisville)

Fourth Street

Outer Loop