Join me today, Aug. 21, at the Kentucky State Fair bourbon cooking competition

Funnel cake because it's time for the Kentucky State Fair.
Funnel cake because it’s time for the Kentucky State Fair.

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

Non-profit to open kitchen incubator in former Jay’s Cafeteria space, good food to follow

Photo courtesy RunSwitch PR.
Photo courtesy RunSwitch PR.

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.

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

 

Event Alert: Vinyl Brunch at the Tim Faulkner Gallery, 4.19.15

The stage at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Portland.
The stage at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Portland.

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.


Vinyl Brunch

When: Sunday, April 19, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Where: Tim Faulkner Gallery, 1512 Portland Ave., Louisville

Cost: $5

Event Alert: Today’s PechaKucha Night presentations focus on food

pechakucha

I get to participate in a great event tonight, and I’m still struggling with the proper pronunciation. 

PechaKucha Night will take place from 8-10 p.m. today, April 14, at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Portland. PechaKucha Nights, which take place in more than 700 cities in the world, are “informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and share their ideas, works, thoughts, holiday snaps — just about anything, really — in the PechaKucha 20×20 format,” according to the PechaKucha website. That format is a presentation of 20 images for 20 seconds each.

Tonight’s theme is “Food for Thought.” The line up is impressive, and I’m not just saying that because I’m one of the presenters. Scheduled speakers include Karter Louis of Hillbilly Tea, Edgardo Mansilla of the Americana Community Center, and Erika Chavez-Graziano of Cellar Door Chocolates.

I’m excited to participate in this event. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll be talking about one of the reasons while diners are important to the Louisville community (hint: there are sporks involved). I expect a lot of thought-provoking discussion about food this evening, which is right up my alley. Now, excuse me while I practice my pronunciation.


PechaKucha Night

When: TONIGHT, April 14, 8 p.m. (doors open at 7)

Where: Tim Faulkner Gallery, 1512 Portland Ave., Louisville

Cost: $5 suggested donation

For more information: PechaKucha Louisville’s website

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

 

Celebrate Clifton’s Pizza’s 25th birthday with discounts on pies

Pizza is the perfect food. Think about it. You have some carbs, a tomato sauce, dairy and a medley of meat and vegetables to top it all off. The food pyramid should have been a pizza, I tell ya.

A sample of Clifton's Pizza's product.
A sample of Clifton’s Pizza’s product.

If you appreciate pizza as much as I do, make a stop at Clifton’s Pizza this weekend. The restaurant, which is located at 2230 Frankfort Avenue, is celebrating 25 years in business from March 20-22. Owner Mark Langley tells me that festivities will include giveaways and discounts, like 25 percent off large pizzas. That means you could get a large, one-topping pizza for $13.31, which is $3.33/person for a party of four. Pretty good deal, if you ask me. Very $10 Challenge friendly.


Clifton’s Pizza’s 25th Anniversary Weekend

When: March 20-22, 2015

Where: 2230 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville

For more information: Clifton’s Pizza’s menu

Louisville Diners is out TODAY!

The look of pure glee when I received promotional posters for Louisville Diners in the mail. Thanks, History Press! PS, excuse my haggard appearance. It was a work from home day, y'all.
The look of pure glee when I received promotional posters for Louisville Diners in the mail. Thanks, History Press! PS, excuse my haggard appearance. It was a work from home day, y’all.

All the exclamation marks. All the confetti. None of the pants. That’s how I will celebrate today’s release of my first book, Louisville Diners. Unless I pull a Harper Lee, I hope this is the beginning of a fruitful career in the publishing world. Louisville Diners is available online and in local Louisville retailers. You can also get the goods straight from me at upcoming events. Don’t see Louisville Diners at your favorite store? DEMAND they stock it (seriously, guys, let’s throw a few hissy fits and get this book to the masses). Let’s mark this special occasion with a couple of shameless self-promotions, yes? First, here is an excerpt from Louisville Diners. This little section comes from a section about the diners of Dixie Highway. Consider it an amuse bouche, if you will. You have to buy the book to get the whole meal. *clears throat* *lowers voice an octave to obtain a proper writer’s tone* Let’s do this.


Growing up, fast-food giants were the guests of honor at the dinner table every Thursday night. My mother worked at the beauty salon until 8 p.m. on those days, which was her one late night of the week. As an adult, the 8 p.m. cut-off time doesn’t seem too bad. As a kid, my mother’s late night stretched through homework time and snack time and TV time until it finally collided with bedtime. My mother needed something quick, easy, and portable to bring to the table before I had to go to bed. Convenience eclipsed local ownership. So the fast-food restaurants scattered along Dixie Highway, the main thoroughfare for my southwest Louisville community of Shively, became reliable dinner companions. My family’s omission of local Dixie Highway diners from our meal rotation was an understandable oversight. When I was a kid, it was a big deal when a major restaurant or retailer arrived on Dixie Highway, and an even bigger deal when they left. Not much has changed in 20 years. There are just as many chain restaurants as I remember – maybe even a few more. It’s still a boon for Shively and the other communities in the South End when a national giant takes notice of Dixie Highway and validates the buying power of this area. Big names in casual, fast-casual, and fast-food dining continue to take root along this roadway with the hopes of growing this region’s restaurant appeal. In the years of my childhood and a healthy portion of my adult life, the corporate signage was so big that I missed the perennial diners that give substance and pride to the South End. There is a lot of good, local eating at the diners that dot the Dixie. You just have to spot them amongst the abundant collection of chain restaurants, used-car dealerships, big-box retailers, cash-advance storefronts, and car washes that populate the roadway… Dixie Highway is long enough to put some space between these diners and let them nourish their own distinct communities of regulars. These eateries thrive in the shadows of their big-name competition by preserving the flavor that’s unique to this chunk of Louisville. Diners here have gained a clientele so faithful that fanfare follows renovations and re-openings on a level once reserved for the big boys in the restaurant industry. The food here is borne of necessity rather than innovation, but there’s also a healthy dusting of novelty and creativity…


Like it? Want to read more? To commemorate today’s book release, I’m going to give away a signed copy of Louisville Diners. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post that answers the following question: What is your favorite diner and why? You have until Saturday, March 21 at 12:01 a.m. to leave a comment. I’ll announce a winner Monday, March 23. Good luck!

Updated: The original question was, “What is your favorite Louisville diner?” However, our first commenter kindly reminded me that there are folks who will read this book that aren’t from Louisville. *face palm* So let me know about your favorite diner, wherever you’re located. 

#LouisvilleDiners is out March 16. Here is everything you need to know.

The first copies of my first book have arrived. Excuse me while I throw confetti around the house.
The first copies of my first book have arrived. Excuse me while I throw confetti around the house.

The Us Weekly was enough to make my Saturday a little brighter. Then I made it up the steps with my mail in one hand, my Chinese takeout in the other, when I saw a History Press/Arcadia Publishing box at my apartment door.

I’ve spent the past few weeks handling the business side of the publication of my first-ever book entitled Louisville Diners (brace yourselves, this is the first of many mentions of the book title). The work isn’t as sexy as you’d think. Writing is easy, but I’ve learned that you also have to handle your business like a boss.

So anyhoodles, a March 16 publication date had been floating around for a few weeks, but the arrival of my first copies from the publisher and confirmation of that date put everything into place. If I hadn’t been so hungry for Chinese and celebrity gossip, I might’ve dropped everything in my arms and ripped open the box right at my threshold. There was also an 18-pound terror terrier waiting for me who was more worried about a potty break than my debut into the publishing world. Eventually, I ripped through the box with my car key, jumped up and down without shaking anything to the ground, and shed a couple of happy tears as Roscoe gave me the stink eye for not leashing him up fast enough. I didn’t care about his judgement — a hard copy of my first-ever book was in my hands.

It's me!
It’s me!

There is still a huge part of me that is having a hard time grasping that this book has happened. There is are two covers with words between them that I wrote. There’s a page in the back with my picture under about the author and I’m that author. It’s all so surreal. There aren’t enough hashtags to express all the emotions, but here are a few:

#humblebrag

#blessed

#YAAAAAS

Now that Louisville Diners is in hand, it’s time for some shameless self-promotion. *clears throat, cracks knuckles*

  • Louisville Diners will be released Monday, March 16. You can buy it online at the publisher’s website, HistoryPress.net, and at retailers around Louisville. I’ll have a more solidified list of stores carrying Louisville Diners in the coming weeks.
  • Louisville Diners is about Louisville diners — the places, not the people. I wrote about more than a dozen diners in the area, interviewed some other food writers and community folks and got to know the people who make great, down-home food in our city. The back of the book says it best: “Packed with insightful interviews and helpful tips that only a local can provide, Louisville Diners is a delectable look into the best the city has to offer.”
  • My first official signing will be from 3-4 p.m. March 21 at McQuixote Books and Coffee inside the Tim Faulkner Art Gallery in Portland (1512 Portland Ave.) I will have books for sale and I’ll sign your copy with something rich and thought-provoking (just kidding, I’ll do this by the seat of my pants). Click here for more info.
  • Then, I’ll pack some snacks for a journey out of the county. I’ll be at the Oldham County Library on April 2 (the Mahan Library, 12505 Harmony Landing Lane in Goshen, to be exact) for a talk and signing. I love libraries AND I’m regionally friendly, folks.
  • On May 14, I’ll be at Carmichael’s Bookstore at 7 p.m., selling my wares and maybe getting a laugh or two.

Those are all the events that are set in stone — FOR NOW. In the meantime, the lovely folks at History Press will be convincing various local retailers that Louisville Diners is worth a spot on the shelf along with scheduling more signings and events. I also have a crack team of talented friends who are helping me plan a fun party to celebrate the book. Stay tuned for more details.

I’m still just shy of Oprah levels of a full schedule, so you can reach out to me directly if you’re interested in having my book and/or me pop up at your business. Just send me an email at ashlee [dot] eats [at] gmail [dot] com.

Now, it’s time to cozy up in my reading chair with my Us Weekly. Celebrity gossip waits for no author.

Event Alert: Moth GrandSLAM, Friday, Feb. 27 (PS, I’m co-hosting)

That one time I hosted The Moth StorySlam at Headliners.
That one time I hosted The Moth StorySlam at Headliners.

I am the worst tooter of my own horn. It would be more noble to say it’s because I am modest. Really, it’s because I’m forgetful. I get so caught up in living that I forget to share the love with friends and family. My bad, guys.

Anyhoozers, here is an attempt to remedy that.

I’m co-hosting The Moth GrandSlam at 7 p.m. this Friday at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. I’m usually at the merch table at the Moth StorySlams at Headliners Music Hall, which usually take place on the last Tuesday of every month. I hosted one show in December, and the crowd was great, so I’m thrilled to have a chance to emcee the big event.

Where you can usually find me during a StorySlam.
Where you can usually find me during a StorySlam.

 

For those new to The Moth, a StorySlam is a show in which regular folks from the audience are picked at random (they volunteer to have their name in the bag, so you can exhale) to tell a five-minute story based on a theme in front of an audience. The stories can be funny, scary, weird, heartbreaking or all of the above. More than anything, however, is that the night’s stories are always unpredictable.

This week’s GrandSlam gathers up the winners of the past year’s monthly StorySlams for a battle royale. And by battle royale, I mean they tell new stories about a new theme, which is “Once in a Blue Moon.” But still, INTENSE.

If I’m not enough to bring you out to the Kentucky Center, the delightful Erin Keane (formerly the arts and culture reporter with WFPL, currently a writer for Salon.com) will co-host with me. I predict good times with a healthy dose of feminist humor.

Tickets are on sale now, and you better hurry – the past two GrandSlams have sold out.

Is that enough horn tooting?


The Moth GrandSLAM

  • 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27 (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Kentucky Center for the Arts, 501 W. Main St., Louisville
  • Tickets: $23; click here to buy tickets
  • For more information on The Moth and StorySlams: themoth.org or Headliners Music Hall