Visit Insider Louisville for a round-up of Mardi Gras events and specials

Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans: Krewe of Kosmic D...
Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans: Krewe of Kosmic Debris revelers on Frenchmen Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s time to get fat and happy before we give it all up for 40 days.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Over at the blog Insider Louisville, Melissa Chipman, aka Loueyville, has created a list of Mardi Gras events and Louisville restaurants with New Orleans-themed food specials. You can trust Melissa — she lived in New Orleans for nearly a decade. View the listing here.

I’m tempted to grab a king cake, lock my bedroom door and gorge on the sugary delight. Instead, I’ll probably end up at Café Lou Lou slurping up some red beans and rice. How will you celebrate Mardi Gras?

The $10 Challenge: Cafe Lou Lou

In light of my personal recession, I’ve started giving friends the gift of food – specifically, taking a loved one out for a birthday dinner.

This was the case this week when my buddy Samantha and I took our friend and roommate, Susie, to Café Lou Lou on Bardstown Road to celebrate another year of being awesome. Fortunately for me, Susie is a big supporter of Ashlee Eats and was excited that her birthday meal could be the subject of a $10 Challenge. This one’s for you, Suz.

I had never visited Café Lou Lou until friend and reporter Joe Lord wrote about the restaurant  in Velocity, the weekly Louisville tabloid for which he writes. In the article, Joe discussed his love of the chicken portabello wrap, a “rich and tangy” dish that is “big enough for two — a great deal at $10.25.”

You had me at “great deal,” Joe.

The restaurant’s menu offers an unusual but successful blend of Italian fare and Southern favorites with deep Cajun influences. The appetizer menu alone bounces from New Orleans (shrimp and grits for $8.50) to the Mediterranean (hummus and pita for $6.50; a platter of hummus, plaki, bruschetta and muhummara for $10) and back again (chicken wings with hot sauce or Jamaican-style for $8).

The variety is inspired by chef-owner Clay Wallace time in New Orleans (Lou Lou = Louisville/Louisiana), according to food writer Robin Garr at Louisville Hot Bytes

Thank goodness the chef made his way back to the River City.

Continue reading “The $10 Challenge: Cafe Lou Lou”

Emeril Lagasse loves Louisville, and so should you

Chef Emeril Lagasse cooks some pork chops, potato salad and cucumber cocktails during a demonstration Sunday during the Fork, Cork & Style festival at Churchill Downs.

Emeril Lagasse’s history with Louisville is as rich as the cherry cornbread pudding he created during his visit to Derby City.

The chef, TV host and creator of kickin’ it up a notch was in town Sunday for the inaugural Fork, Cork & Style festival at Churchill Downs. I had the opportunity to ask Emeril a few questions before his first cooking demonstration at the finish line of the Churchill Downs track.

In person, Emeril is more toned down than what viewers saw on Emeril Live, the show that catapulted the chef into superstardom. Instead, the Emeril I met reminded me of the man I watch on Essence of Emeril – passionate about food, but more approachable and subdued.

During my few minutes with the chef, I learned a lot about his relationship with Louisville, his charitable works and his desire to promote more farm-to-fork eating:

Emeril’s connection with Louisville goes way back. Emeril said he was on the board of Sullivan University “back in the day” (a gentleman never reveals his age, I guess). At the time, Lilly’s Bistro was the go-to spot for culinary innovation. Since then …

“Louisville has just evolved tremendously as an American city,” Emeril said. The chef, who has 12 restaurants of his own, said he is impressed with the gastronomic presence that has emerged in Louisville. The night before Fork, Cork & Style, Emeril had a meal at Proof on Main. “I felt like I was in SoHo,” he said of the restaurant.”It’s incredible what’s going on in town. There’s a lot of exciting things happening in Louisville.”

He’s never been to a Kentucky Derby. Emeril hasn’t witnessed the most exciting two minutes in sports because the race takes place during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He’s lived in New Orleans for 28 years, so I understand his allegiance.

Emeril’s favorite Kentucky dishes? Spoonbread and trout. Emeril is also a fan of bourbon, which he said he poured on his French toast that morning (just joking, right?).

Anyone can be a good cook. For chefs-in-the-making, Emeril said it is important to find a mentor, listen to their advice and taste everything you cook. Follow these tips, and “you might be able to whip up a sandwich,” he said.

Between building a cooking empire, Emeril gives back to the community. The Emeril Lagasse Foundation “supports non-profit organizations that provide educational programs, life skills development, culinary training and cultural enrichment, creating opportunities in the communities where Emeril’s restaurants operate,” according to the foundation’s website. Emeril said the foundation is in the process of buying a farm to teach kids about where their food comes from and the importance of local agriculture. “They have to know that orange juice doesn’t come from a carton, it comes from a tree,” he said.

The chef promoted farm-to-fork eating before it was trendy. Emeril said he has always been passionate about using seasonal, local ingredients at his restaurants. “If you have great ingredients, you have great food,” he said. His latest book, Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh, is a testament to his work.

Bits and pieces: Hurricane Katrina aftermath, Salvador Dali and other food news from the web, 8.30.10

A McDonald's in the Mississippi gulf coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Photo courtesy Gary Mark Smith via Flickr.
  • It’s been five years since Hurricane Katrina encroached on the gulf coast, an anniversary that network news has observed with specials looking back at the devastation. It’s still hard to watch the footage and think of the misery so many people experienced in the world’s most powerful nation. Though it seems trivial compared to the human toll, the hurricane also changed the food culture of the area. The New Orleans Times-Picayune compiled a list of 13 ways Katrina changed the food culture of New Orleans. Number three was particularly heartbreaking:

Locals’ appreciation for food deepened. “In a very intense, concentrated space of time, people found out what really mattered to them… Food became the most important rituals of our lives.”

  • Baby carrots are looking to lay the smackdown on its unhealthy competition. According to this article in USA Today, almost 50 carrot growers will launch a $25-million marketing campaign that “sets its sights on a giant, big-spending rival: junk food.” The plan of attack includes packaging carrots in Doritos-like bags, making carrots available in vending machines and introducing an app featuring people crunching carrots. Crispin Porter + Bogusky is the ad agency handling this campaign, but I’d advise the carrot growers to turn to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
  • The Huffington Post has a slideshow that features nine of the world’s most expensive cookbooks. If I had bottomless pockets and exuberant tastes, I’d fancy Les Diners De Gala, a cookbook written by artist Salvador Dali that can fetch as much as $4,400. I’ve been to the Dali museum in St. Petersburg, Fla. If his food was anything like his art, I’d put that cookbook in my rotation.
  • Someone call the Man v. Food guy – I have a challenge for him. Owners of a British mail-order seed company say they have developed the world’s hottest pepper, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune. Michael and Joy Michaud created the Dorset naga pepper, which was tested at 1.6 million Scoville heat units. How hot is that? Well, a jalapeno tops out at only 8,000 Scoville units.