Which local spot will have ice cream, pie and a wide range of liquor?

This was a big week for ice cream in Louisville.

Relative-newcomer The Comfy Cow opened its third location on Frankfort Avenue at the location of the old Genny’s Diner Wednesday. And late Thursday night, this tidbit popped up on my Facebook timeline from Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen:

According to comments from the folks who operate Pie Kitchen’s Facebook page, this cafe will also be on Frankfort Avenue. I have a feeling the dessert scene is about to get HOT.

Highlights from Taste of Louisville, or, Learning to embrace my inner Kathy Griffin

I feel like the Kathy Griffin of Louisville fine dining.

Griffin achieved comedic fame by exploiting her “on the periphery” celebrity. She’s famous enough to make it to red carpets, but D-list enough to be ignored by bigger-name stars.

I can sympathize.

Having the “food blogger” label attached to my name has gotten me into some events that I would never have exposure to otherwise. But I still feel like an outsider, the dorky kid who somehow made it to the popular kids’ lunch table because a cheerleader owed her a favor.

Case in point, Taste of Louisville.

Last week’s event gave attendees the chance to sample some of the city’s most creative cuisine from notable restaurants. These are the types of places that serve ping-pong ball-sized entrees in the middle of blinding-white plates. It was a huge departure from my usual $10 Challenge meals.

I stood out at Taste of Louisville from the start, and not just because of my honkin’ “Press” badge. The theme of this year’s event was “Speakeasy,” a nod to the Roaring 20s, so there were plenty of gals in flapper dresses and guys in zoot suits.

Two Taste of Louisville attendees in full 20s gear. Heads cropped out to protect the innocent.

I, however, wore skinny jeans, flats and a cardigan, aka my “trying to look nice” uniform. Who knew folks would stick to the theme, even with their wardrobe?

General awkwardness continued throughout the night as I Tweeted and took pictures with my phone with one hand, balancing tiny plates with of bite-sized goodies in the other, and stuffing my clutch purse with business cards and menus from the vendors.

Then, on a stop in the ladies’ room, I discovered a sprig of something green stuck in my teeth. Who knows how long it was there and how many servers recoiled as they handed me an hors d’oeuvre. That marked the point in the evening when I threw up my hands to trying to fit in with this upper-crust crowd and just be the best budget food blogger I could be.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about the food.

  • I would highly recommend saving up the $55 to attend Taste of Louisville next year. This event gave me an opportunity to try foods from excellent local restaurants that I would never have had exposure to otherwise.
  • My favorite dish of the night was the chipotle-marinated skirt steak with cilantro-jalapeno mayo and pickled red onions from Varanese. I’ve never had a piece of meat that was so tender and injected with spicy flavor.
Skirt steak from Varanese.
  • Bristol Bar and Grille’s cranberry bread pudding was divine. My little bite was moist and just sweet enough to wipe my palate of the more savory dishes of the evening.
  • Mitchell’s Fish Market might win Ashlee Eats award for “Best Dish — Not Local Division.” I may or may not have made multiple trips to this restaurant’s booth for its crab cakes.
  • At events like Taste of Louisville, pay attention to which tables are the busiest and which are having a tough time attracting a crowd. That’s how you can find the good food and avoid the culinary missteps.
  • The “Most Pleasant Surprise” award goes to SaE Cafe, a breakfast and lunch spot in downtown Louisville. In a sea of hot entrees, this cafe’s platter of cold sandwiches was a nice, lighter alternative. I had a couple of helpings of their Mexi Mama wrap, a mix of ancho-chile cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, pepper jack cheese, green pepper, turkey, avocado spread and red onion.

Guest $10 Challenge: Big River BBQ at Harley’s Main Street Tavern

(Blogger’s note: This is Ashlee Eats’ first guest $10 Challenge from reader Matt Ruben. Want to get in on the fun? Here’s how.)

Like most of the businesses along this stretch of Whiskey Row, Harley’s is relatively new. Catacorner from the KFC/Yum! Center, it’s situated where a former blues bar, Zena’s Cafe, lived for many years. It’s easy to miss as a lunch option, with the flashier quartet of Patrick O’Shea’s, Doc Crow’s, Bearno’s and Los Aztecas across the street. But if you’re like me, you have an inner radar that sniffs out bars. And this bar does have a kitchen. Much like Denny Crum’s name adorns the court at Freedom Hall, Harley’s kitchen is the Big River BBQ.

It’s been my experience that bar food has a better chance of being good when the menu is smaller, and the Big River menu is nothing if not brief. There are a several lighter options like onion rings and soup, but for a full meal, your choices are pretty well narrowed to a meat sandwich – pulled pork, chicken, or brisket – with a choice of sides. Spare ribs or the bourbon brownie are an option if you aren’t restricted to a $10 tab. Plenty of tap options and a full bar for the happier hour crowd.

The pulled pork comes undressed on plain white toast, which is nice, since it gives you the option of trying several sauces on the table. The basic sauce is tangy and a little smoky, with options varying in the amount of heat they provide. My pork meat was maybe a little lean, but not too dry. Sadly, no vinegar-based sauces for this Carolina boy, but I know better than to expect that. My side of fries was pretty standard. The slaw was the one disappointment, standard cafeteria-style-in-a-jar. It’s as though they were trying to hide the cabbage. But the main act, the barbecue, was fine for the price. On the whole, a satisfying and casual lunch.

It definitely meets my criteria for a good business lunch in that service is quick and portions are reasonable (not too big, not too small). Traffic was light on the day I came, but my food was on the table less than 10 minutes after I ordered, and I paid the bill and was out the door in well under 30. The servers were very friendly. My waitress was experimenting with dissolving a sweet tart in some vodka, in fact. You’ll have to ask her how that turned out, since I never did stick around for the ending.

I’m always surprised at how much space there is in these old brick buildings. Ceilings are probably 15 feet high. Seating is plentiful and unpretentious, and there are pool tables and TV sets. But no one would mistake Harley’s for a dive bar either. I like the old Actor’s Theater headshots that line the walls. The waitress told me they used to decorate the walls at Zena’s, so they kept them.

The Stats:
Big River BBQ at Harley’s Main Street Tavern, 122 W. Main St., Louisville, Ky.
A sandwich plus two sides: $7-8 (lunch or dinner, tax included)
Total (with sweet tea): $9
Mission: Accomplished

An open letter to U of L students with easy access to great food

University of Louisville students will live within walking distance to Papalino's pizza. Lucky dogs.

Dear University of Louisville students,

Judging by the increased number of people wearing backpacks and jay-walking around the main U of L campus, I take it that classes are back in session. Yay for higher education!

Anyhoo, I need to confess something to all you eager young learners — I am insanely jealous of what you will experience this year. Not in classes, mind you, but in your bellies.

If you haven’t ventured to Cardinal Boulevard between Third and Fourth streets, a new residential/retail space called Cardinal Towne has opened, and with it comes some of the best eatin’ in Louisville.

Let’s begin with some of the local food options located on the bottom floor of Cardinal Towne. If you have a sweet tooth, there’s Comfy Cow ice cream. Then there’s Papalinos if you just want one slice of pizza instead of a whole pie. And for those all-nighters? Heine Brothers coffee. HEINE BROTHERS, for crying out loud. Jimmy John’s and Qdoba are also located in Cardinal Towne. They’re chains, but dang it, they’re good chains.

You students don’t know how good you have it. There’s some great food just ACROSS THE STREET from campus. If I was a U of L student circa now, my Freshman 15 would have turned into a Collegiate 50.

In my day, when I worked at the student newspaper at Western Kentucky University, Subway was the closest place to eat near the office that was opened the latest. It took me two years after graduation before I was able to enjoy Subway again. The staff of the College Heights Herald had no choice but to be on the Subway diet.

I’m envious of you guys. But I will make it a point to make a few visits to Cardinal Boulevard, pretend like I’m an undergrad and have a cup of coffee, slice of pizza and bowl of ice cream. If you spot me, remember to respect your elders and say hi.

Hugs, kisses, Care Bears and rainbows,

Ashlee

 

 

Reading The Louisville Paper is good for your brain

A good thing has come to Louisville in the wake of much crappiness.

Partially in response to the Courier-Journal laying off a huge portion of its staff, a couple of folks decided to start a publication to address the growing void in our city of coverage of arts, culture and good news about Louisville. That publication is The Louisville Paper, and the first issue is available now.

I was fortunate enough to get connected to Paper editor Matt Dobson through Michelle at Consuming Louisville, and I get to write about the people who make Louisville food so fantastic. In the first issue, I wrote a feature about Nord’s Bakery, quite possibly the best bakery in town. Here’s a taste of the story:

The bacon doughnuts had disappeared from their shelf by 11 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning at Nord’s Bakery.

The sweet and savory delight that created by co-owner Mike Nord began as a joke, but continues to be a quick seller at the bakery.

The bacon doughnut brought local fame to this family-owned bakery on South Preston Street. But a blend of reliable recipes, friendly faces and an old-time charm on which small businesses rely keep customers pouring into Nord’s.

Some great folks contribute to The Paper, such as Grace Simrall from LVL1 (a fellow Let Them Tweet Cake attendee) and Joe Lord, a former Velocity writer (and my first college newspaper editor at Western Kentucky University).

Here is a list of places where you can pick up a copy of The Paper. It’s worth your 50 cents.

Get some local brews, good bourbon and free appetizers at Four Roses Bourbon Loft opening

Got some free time tonight?

The folks of Bluegrass Brewing Company and Four Roses Distillery will celebrate the opening of the Four Roses Bourbon Barrel Loft with a party today from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on the third floor of BBC at 300 W. Main Street across from the Yum! Center.

The 3,000 square-foot loft will be “an upscale, contemporary location for private parties, luncheons, wedding receptions and dinners,” according to the companies. And BBC will also “age some of its specialty beers in barrels that previously aged Four Roses bourbon.” That sounds downright tasty.

And this event sounds like it has a lot going for it, especially if you’re like me and probably can’t afford to rent the space:

  • Free and open to the public
  • Free appetizers
  • A chance to talk to BBC Brewmaster Toby Hunt and Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge

Man v. Food Nation to feature Louisville on tonight’s episode

I have a not-so-secret crush on Man v. Food Nation host Adam Richman. 

I mean, come on, look at this guy:

What’s not to love?

Anyway, Richman stopped in Louisville during the Kentucky Derby Festival to film an episode of the Travel Channel‘s Man v. Food Nation, the latest incarnation of the show Man v. Food. In case you haven’t checked out this show, it basically follows Richman around the country as he explores local restaurants and participates in ridiculously awesome food challenges.

The Louisville episode airs tonight at 9 p.m. on the Travel Channel. Richman lived in Louisville from 1997-1998 (too bad I was just a child at the time), so the episode is a mini homecoming for one of my favorite food stars.

During the episode, Richman visits the Brown Hotel to reveal the history of the Hot Brown, Lynn’s Paradise Café and The Comfy Cow, the Courier-Journal reports. You can check out some behind-the-scenes photos of Richman’s Derby City trip here.

The Sweet Fix: Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen

(Blogger’s note: The Sweet Fix is an occasional feature that will run throughout the summer featuring ice cream and dessert places in the Louisville. Have a suggestion? Let me know.)

Gadzooks, that's a lot of chocolate.

There’s always a line when I visit the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen on Bardstown Road in the Lower Highlands.

The shop, one of nine locations throughout the area, is near the intersection of Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road, a corridor filled with bars, restaurants and plenty of people who want some dessert after an evening out.

Though Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen is open year-round, this location is bustling during the summer as customers skip the cakes, pies and cookies and head toward the only dessert that can provide some relief from this monstrous humidity — ice cream.

Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen employees begin churning the ice cream each day at 7 a.m. They spend the rest of the day with their arm halfway down the dozens of buckets, scraping up scoops of delectable dairy to pack into cones and cups.

My favorite thing about this dessert shop is its 25-cent ice cream scoop day about which I have previously blogged. For one day in the summer, Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen sells scoops of ice cream for a quarter each. As you can imagine, the lines are long and the employees are tired. But is it worth it? INDEED.

Rob, Roscoe and I made our way to Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen near the end of the 25-cent scoop day. Since Rob had to wait outside with Roscoe (sorry, no pups allowed inside), he requested that I surprise him with a scoop of something with chocolate in it. I fulfilled this request fourfold when I brought Rob a scoop of Peace, Love and Chocolate, a flavor that is made up of four different kids of chocolate.

Scroll back to the top of the page to take a look at Rob’s reaction to all the chocolate-y goodness of his scoop. I took a lick (or two) myself. I didn’t know you could pack so much chocolate into ice cream. It tasted like the dairy equivalent of eating a handful of Hershey’s Kisses drizzled with chocolate sauce with chocolate shavings sprinkled on top. Yum.

Though the 25-cent day is over, it’s still worth swinging by Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen for something sweet. That Peace, Love and Chocolate was definitely delicious enough for me to shell out the full price.

Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen

1041 Bardstown Road, and eight other locations throughout Kentuckiana

 

Garage Bar opens tonight in NuLu on East Market Street, features pizza, ham bar

The chef behind Proof on Main in the swanky 21c Museum Hotel will debut a new restaurant in NuLu at 5 p.m. today.

Chef Michael Paley has transformed a former auto service garage at 700 East Market Street into Garage Bar, a casual restaurant with a menu featuring artisan pizza, ham, oysters and a variety of Southern food.

Here’s a blurb about the restaurant’s pizza selections:

Pizza is the heart of the menu. Each pie is 100 percent handmade, naturally leavened, and cooked in a wood-fired brick oven that was built in Naples, Italy by Stefano Ferrara. Pizzas are baked quickly at 850 degrees to produce a thin, chewy crust that is lightly blistered and crisp on the outside.

I love pizza, but there is something more intriguing in the restaurant’s repertoire — A HAM BAR.

The rest of the menu is anchored by the ham bar, which serves up local and regional Country Hams served with Toast and Red Eye Aioli alongside an ever-changing selection of freshly shucked oysters. The ham bar seats seven diners and offers full menu service with a view of the open kitchen and pizza oven.

YES, PLEASE.

Visit The Root Cellar for some great fresh, local groceries

Don't let the garage-like appearance deceive you. There's awesomeness inside.

I’ve only been out of Old Louisville for a couple of weeks, but there’s a lot I miss already.

Pizza night with my roommates. Burger Boy right down the street. The beautiful scenery that made my walks with Roscoe pleasant.

But a relatively new local produce market will keep me coming back to my old neighborhood.

The Root Cellar opened this May at the corner of Third and Hill streets in what appears to be a former garage or gas station. The business’ aim is simple – provide only locally raised food to a section of Louisville missing a retail outlet for fresh, local produce.

Here’s a blurb from The Root Cellar’s website:

The idea for The Root Cellar was born out of a desire to be part of the local food chain in an environmentally positive and socially conscientious way … The neighborhood of Old Louisville has been in need of a small, Mom and Pop retail store for many years.  The people have longed for just such an new idea in retailing that The Root Cellar provides.  We also are anxious to reach out to the other surrounding neighborhoods like California, Park Hill, Algonquin, Smoketown, Shelby Park, Limerick and Germantown, as well as, serve the University of Louisville and its unique blend of faculty, staff and students.

The Root Cellar provides a generous variety of local food that extends beyond fruits and vegetables. On a couple of recent visits, the shelves and refrigerators have been stocked with items such as milk, honey, bison meat and yogurt. I am a big fan of the eggs that The Root Cellar offers.

It’s wonderful to have this market in this part of town. I hope that kids and adults without regular exposure to the joys of local eating will benefit from The Root Cellar’s presence. Find out more about The Root Cellar on Facebook and Twitter.