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. 

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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?

Stevens and Stevens Deli serves up local, lunchtime realness

Benowitz When in Doubt and chicken noodle soup at Stevens and Stevens Deli.
Benowitz When in Doubt sandwich and chicken noodle soup at Stevens and Stevens Deli.

Sometimes, I get by with a little help from my friends. These are friends who love food as much as I do and introduce me to their favorite places to eat in the city.

I have Jay and Renee Valentine, fellow bloggers/podcasters and past guests on Deliciously Louisville, to thank for introducing me to Stevens and Stevens Deli, a hidden gem of a lunch spot on Bardstown Road. The Valentines raved about this restaurants wide selection of sandwiches, tasty toppings and good prices and invited me to join them for an early weekday lunch. They had me at sandwiches.

I’ve driven or walked by Stevens and Stevens dozens of times without noticing this restaurant. I blame the odd restaurant/roommate situation. The deli shares a space with Ditto’s Grill near the busy intersection of Bardstown Road and Grinstead Drive. The Ditto’s whimsical sign eclipses the simple Stevens and Stevens masthead on the front of the building. And the entrance to Stevens and Stevens is down a narrow parking lot toward the rear of the building’s left side. The relationship between these two restaurants gets even cozier inside. To my right, I had a clear view of the staff preparing the dining room of Dittos for the approaching lunchtime crowd. To the left, customers had started to pop in and order from the Stevens and Stevens counter and sit in the deli’s smaller dining area.

The selection at Stevens and Stevens is worthy of front-of-the-house attention. There are more than 50 types of sandwiches, which are all made to order right at the counter. There is a sandwich for everyone, and a quirky name to go with it. I’m a sucker for a fun menu. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mr Ziegfeld Mr. Ziegfeld: rueben with corned beef, sauerkraut, Jarlsburg swiss cheese and Russian dressing
  • Hogs and Heffers: hot honey ham, applewood bacon and warmed pimento cheese
  • Arc de Fromage: grilled challah bread with Jarlsburg, cheddar, applewood bacon and tomato
  • Sleeps with the Fishes: hand-sliced lox from New York City, arugula, garden tomatoes, red onions, capers and mayo on toasted challah bread

Don’t worry, picky eaters — you can get plain ol’ sandwiches, too. But who wants a turkey on white when you can get a Dr. Zhivago (turkey, Russian slaw, and Jarlsburg swiss cheese)?

Stevens and Stevens also makes a variety of pasta and green salads and soups that you can pair with a sandwich, but are hearty enough to eat on their own.

The pick two options at the deli are wonderful for trying a little bit of everything they have to offer. Customers can two half portions of soup, salad or sandwich for $6.50 ($7.50 if you pick half of a specialty sandwiches, aka the ones with the fancy names). After much studying and fretting, I picked the Benowitz When in Doubt, a turkey sandwich with Chinese slaw, melted provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, and honeycup mustard on challah bread. I made it a pick two and paired my half sandwich with a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

The Benowitz When in Doubt.
The Benowitz When in Doubt.

Half the reason I ordered the sandwich was the name; I was, after all, in doubt. But I was also intrigued by the addition of an allegedly crazy slaw to a turkey sandwich. The cabbage slaw, trapped under the melted provolone, was sweet and crunchy. The honey mustard slathered on top was tangy and matched the slight spicy kick from slaw perfectly. The stack of turkey was large enough to tango with these medley of flavors. And the challah bread? Dense, soft and heavenly.

Chicken noodle soup.
Chicken noodle soup.

The soup was full of chopped carrots, hunks of chicken and tender noodles. If I had a cup of this for every cold day, I would be a happy woman.

I owe the Valentines big time for introducing me to Stevens and Stevens. This deli quickly became one of my favorite places to grab a sandwich in Louisville. Now, I just need some friends to help me get through that sandwich selection.

Stevens and Stevens Deli

1114 Bardstown Road

Louisville, Ky.

www.stevensandstevensdeli.com

I ate an $8 grilled cheese sandwich at Atlantic No. 5. Was it worth it?

The inside of Atlantic No. 5 on Main Street.
The inside of Atlantic No. 5 on Main Street.

Cold weather and a long line outside of The Main Eatery prompted my first visit to Atlantic No. 5, a new restaurant on Main Street in downtown Louisville.

Last Friday, I had my heart set on a tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich from The Main Eatery. It was the first cold Friday of the fall, so the line for other seekers of that legendary soup-and-sandwich combo was out the door and to the corner of the block.

It was 12:15. I didn’t have time for that.

Atlantic No. 5 was just a few doors down. I glanced inside and saw that the line was contained to the warm interior of the bistro. Customers hovered over cups of soup as they skimmed newspapers. A server walked around the counter with something that could pass for a grilled cheese. That was enough for me to give this restaurant a try.

Atlantic No. 5, named after those old-school lunch boxes that blue collar workers carried back in the day, comes from the mind of the same folks behind Rye on Market. From Insider Louisville:

Located at 605 W. Main Street, the new restaurant will be “very bistro like,” according to Michael Trager-Kusman, who said he and his partners sought to create a relaxed concept.

“We want it to be a place you come and go, stop and have a snack, a light dinner, a beer or a glass of wine,” said Trager-Kusman, who’s also seeking a full liquor license.

The dishes offer fresh takes on traditional Southern ingredients by pairing regional favorites with Eastern-inspired additions, such as a golden beet and couscous salad or the marble potato salad with turmeric-pickled cipollini. The rotisserie pork and beef meatball sandwiches also get a creative splash with the addition of broccoli rabe and carrot-cumin tomato sauce, respectively.

But is this a place where I can get a great soup and grilled cheese?

Sort of.

The menu items at Atlantic No. 5 are a la carte, which is French for, “We don’t do value meals here.” Sandwiches are $6 to $9, and a cup of soup (rustic tomato or coconut squash) is $5. I wasn’t on a $10 Challenge, but my bank account wasn’t in the mood for a $14 lunch. So I compromised with a grilled cheese sandwich ($8) and a bag of potato chips ($1.50).

A grilled cheese sandwich, all snug in a nice to-go box.
A grilled cheese sandwich, all snug in a nice to-go box.

The sandwich was made up of white cheddar, fontina and goat cheeses on country French bread with a balsamic-onion marmalade. Three creamy cheeses on one sandwich are good; a tart onion spread to cut some of the richness is even better. What the small sandwich lacked in size, it made up for in decadent ingredients.

The sandwich, and I imagine the rest of Atlantic No. 5’s menu, is something that I would order when it’s time to treat myself to a little bit of fancy to break up a work day. The price and size of the meal, however, will keep me from making this new downtown restaurant a regular lunchtime stop.

Atlantic No. 5

605 W. Main Street, Louisville

www.atlanticno5.com

The $10 Challenge: The Main Eatery

I’ve discovered my own little quantum of solace at The Main Eatery.

This lunch spot is my destination on the days when I’ve taken too many conference calls, my inbox never empties and my eyes strain under the fluorescent light.

I should keep this place a secret. But judging from the line that spills onto the sidewalk, somebody blabbed.

Main Street Eatery serves simple, wholesome lunches to office drones like me. And the stringent, assembly line operations at the counter and in the kitchen are ideal for getting back to the office in an hour — as long as you can slide into the routine.

Knowing how to order at The Main Eatery can make or break your experience. First, have basic knowledge of the menu:

  • The core of the Eatery’s menu is soups and sandwiches. No croque monsieurs, just ham, turkey, tuna salad, chicken salad and roast beef.
  • Salads, baked potatoes and desserts are also on the menu.
  • Each day, there is a special soup available in addition to the standing selections: broccoli cheese, vegetable beef, chicken noodle and garden vegetable.
  • There are a range of combinations that include a drink and some medley of soup, salad and sandwich. Most are between $5 and $10.
  • There are also Blue Plate Specials each day. Information about the day’s soup and Blue Plate Special is displayed on a white board in front of the restaurant. You can get the Blue Plate Special with chips or soup, but the soup costs a few cents more.

 

Got it? Let’s move on to waiting for your food. As I mentioned earlier, the line is usually out the door by 12:10 p.m. This is prime menu-studying time. Review the white board outside with the day’s specials. Once you make it into the building, there are two large signs that display the entire menu AND another white board full of specials. You’ll be in the line about 10 minutes, so it’s your own fault if you don’t know what to order by the time you make it to the register.

Now, the cashier. This guy (one of the owners) knows how to take an order. But his style of asking a barrage of questions can be daunting. Don’t blurt out everything you want to eat, just answer his questions one at a time. I’ll walk you through some examples:

  1. Here or to-go?
  2. What type of bread?
  3. Chips or soup?
  4. Would you like anything else?
  5. How are you going to pay for that today (more on this later)

 

Easy peezy, right? This efficiency is what will get you back to your desk in an hour. Respect the system.

You will earn a delightful lunch that tickles your insides if you can get into the swing of The Main Eatery’s flow. The food evokes a culinary déja vu — everything tastes like something I’ve had at home, only better. That’s because the ingredients are simple and familiar, yet the dishes are prepared with enough love to transform them into something special. And all this comfort rings up at less than $10.

My favorite Eatery lunch is Friday’s Blue Plate Special — a panini grilled cheese sandwich made up of Wisconsin whole-milk cheese on sourdough bread with a side of bread and butter sweet pickles. I recently had this sandwich with Friday’s soup of the day, tomato bisque, and a cornbread muffin.

Grilled cheese and tomato bisque from The Main Eatery (cornbread muffin not pictured).

This meal is perfect for winter weather. The tomato bisque is creamy and filled with chunks of tomato. I could feel my insides warming up after just one sip. It tasted as good as my Snuggie feels on a cold day.

The grilled cheese is perfect in its simplicity. No fancy cheese. No extra toppings. Just a thick slice of American between hearty bread. The sandwich was toasted to a light brown that was enough to warm the cheese and make it gooey, but not hot enough to make the cheese slide out of the sides.

The cornbread muffin isn’t available every day, but add it to your meal when it is. For 94 cents, I got a muffin that was a struggle to hold in one hand. This cornbread was sweet, which I prefer. There were also corn kernels throughout the bread. I split the muffin in half — I crumbled one half into the tomato bisque and took the other back to the office. Both incarnations were delicious.

Learning the ways of The Main Eatery is worth the good midday meal you’ll get. Find a quiet corner, sip on some soup and let the problems of the corporate world fade away.

Notes on The Main Eatery

  • This business prefers dealing in cash. There’s a $6 minimum to use a debit or credit card. There is also an ATM in the lobby. I recommend going to your bank and popping a $20 out of your account before you get to The Main Eatery. Not only will you avoid the ATM fee, but you also get a small discount on your meal for using cash.

The Stats

The Main Eatery, 643 W. Main Street, Louisville

  • Blue Plate Special (panini with tomato bisque): $6.93
  • Cornbread muffin: $.94
  • Cash discount: -$.33
  • Total (with tax and discount): $8.34

Mission: Accomplished

For love of the Kentucky Derby: New takes on classic Derby dishes

This Saturday, Louisville will be the hot spot for horse racing with the running of the Kentucky Derby.

I love this time of the year. The city puts on its pretty face for the world. We host some (B-, C- and D-list) celebrities. And everyone just seems so excited to be a Louisvillian. That is, until you’re stuck in traffic because of road closings necessary for the Pegasus Parade.

In honor of the best two (or is it three?) minutes in sports, here are a few classic Kentucky recipes and some new takes on the originals. Enjoy, and happy Derby.

Everything is better in tiny portions.

Holy heck, they’ve made a cocktail into a cupcake. This restores my faith in humanity.

This is probably a lot lighter on the belly than a sandwich covered in Mornay sauce.

Kentucky’s homegrown soft drink gets an adult upgrade.

The $10 Challenge: The Cafe

(Blogger’s note: Congratulations to Rob E., who correctly guessed this week’s Challenge location.)

Broccoli cheddar soup from The Café.

My introduction to The Café began like a bad Abbott and Costello routine

Rob: We should go to The Café one day.

Me: Which café?

Rob: No, The Café.

Me: OK … But which café?

This went on for another five minutes before I figured out that The Café is a proper noun. More specifically, The Café is a cozy breakfast and lunch spot off Broadway and Barrett in Louisville.

I’m in this area a lot, but seem to miss the prime dining hours (7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday). Apparently, I’ve been missing a lot of goodness.

Rob and I arrived as the servers were still wrapping utensils in paper napkins and stacking menus. The dining area was as welcoming as the slightly harried but helpful staff. The restaurant feels like stepping into your cooky aunt’s living full of eclectic art, fresh flowers and rainbow table umbrellas. The atmosphere provides a great escape from the hassles of the workday, if you can manage to get away from the office for a bit.

The lunch menu, though not as quirky as the decor, is enough to keep your interest. This menu is built on a foundation of mid-priced, basic soups, salads and sandwiches that you would expect to find at a neighborhood deli – and I mean that as a huge compliment. Some classics include the chef salad ($8.45), a roast beef sandwich (called the Early American, $7.95) and a pimento cheese sandwich (called the Victorian, $7.25). But The Café throws in some interesting combos, such as The Renaissance with salami, ham, Swiss cheese and homemade olive relish ($7.95) and the BLT with guacamole (the Art Deco, $7.95).

The best values at The Café are in the combinations section of the menu. These options, which start at $8.25, are available for folks dining in and people taking box lunches to go. The combinations come with some mix of a whole or half sandwich, side dishes and a cookie. A combo seemed more appealing than just getting a sandwich, which only comes with one side.

While I studied the menu, I munched on slices of French bread that had been taunting me since I sat down. The bread was baby-bottom soft and irresistible with a smear of butter. I would’ve taken a picture, but those crabs disappeared down my pie hole too quickly.

After I wiped the many crumbs off my mouth, I settle on combination #3, a half sandwich with soup, one side item and a cookie. I went with the Country Chicken Salad sandwich, broccoli-cheddar soup (the soup of the day) and a fruit cup.

The number 3.

The soup, which preceded the rest of the lunch combo, was some of the creamiest broccoli-cheddar soup I’ve ever eaten. Chunks of broccoli were swimming throughout the soup. It made me wish that I had some of that aforementioned French bread to dip into the soup. But alas, it was gone.

The heat of the soup was immediately cooled by the crisp chicken salad sandwich. Bits of apple, grapes and pecans were scattered throughout this mayo-based concoction. The salad sat atop a slice of a gala apple and some lettuce. From the wheat bread to the smallest bit of pecan, this sandwich was one of the best I had ever had. The fruit sweetened the salad while the pecans added just enough saltiness to balance the flavors. And the folks in the kitchen were generous with the chicken salad – a fork was necessary to eat the entire thing.

I didn’t think the meal could get any better. Then I ate the cookie.

See those humps? Those are chocolate chips. YUM.

Holy cannoli, that was a moist, chocolate-y treat.

The Café is worth many return visits. Though the prices teeter toward the higher end of a $10 Challenge budget, the food easily justifies spending more than 10 bucks.

The Stats:

The Café, 712 Brent Street, Louisville, Ky.

  • Lunch combination #3 – Half of a Country Chicken Salad sandwich, broccoli-cheddar soup, a fruit cup and a cookie: $8.45
  • Total (with tax and tip): $10.30
Mission: Failed (but completely worth it)


A musical fruit recipe (part 2): This soup will kick you in the throat.


Oh, beans. How I love thee.

 

I’ve bombed every new recipe I’ve tried in the past few weeks.

My banana bread was dry. My fancy mac and cheese was bland. And there is a container pushed to the back of the refrigerator that holds the worst Thai chicken I have ever tasted.

These failures have made me revert back to more simple recipes that include one of my favorite recipes – beans.

I revisited the following recipe that I adapted from Your Highness of All Things Domestic, Martha Stewart.

The majority of the ingredients in this soup are cabinet staples. It’s easy to throw together and hard to mess up. Plus, it only takes one pot to put this recipe together.

Throat-Kicker Sante Fe Soup

Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of corn with bell peppers, drained
  • 1 can of diced green chilies
  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 16 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cilantro (optional)
  • Shredded cheese, sour cream (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a big pot. Throw in the red onion and bell pepper, and cook until softened.
  2. Dump garlic, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and paprika into the pot with the onion and bell pepper. Cook for about one minute until the mix is fragrant, stirring often.
  3. Pour tomatoes, corn, green chilies, black beans, chicken broth and water into the pot. Stir to combine. Bring the soup to a boil, and then lower the heat to bring the soup to a simmer.
  4. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro (if that’s your prerogative – there’s a healthy faction of people who hate the stuff).
  5. Cover soup, and simmer for 30 minutes. This gives all the ingredients a chance to get acquainted.
  6. Serve soup with sour cream and cheese, if you’re so inclined.

 

 

 

Black bean soup – a musical fruit recipe, part one

You know what’s better than writing about beans?

Writing about beans while a Crock Pot full of them stews on my kitchen counter.

Last week, I confessed my love of beans and all their benefits to my health and wallet.

Now it’s time to share a few of my recipes. First up, black bean soup.

I was inspired by this post from Serious Eats, and I’ve added a few of my own touches. I recommend added some shredded Mexican blend cheese and some sour cream to this hearty soup. It’s also good with a tortilla on the side.

Black bean soup

Inspired by Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 (32-ounce) carton of chicken broth
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 slices of bacon, uncooked and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion and green pepper. Sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, cumin and chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  3. Add black beans, bacon and broth. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook 20 minutes.
  5. Use an immersion blender to puree half of the soup. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, I highly recommend buying one – they are pretty handy. In the meantime, pour about half the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot.) Stir until both parts of the soup are combined.
  6. Stir in lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Enjoy.

Bits and pieces: Jewish soul food, food-safety bill and other food news from the web, 12.6.10

Like matzo ball soup? How about matzo ball gumbo? Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Tastes via Flickr.
  • A University of North Carolina professor has written a book that takes a look at how Jews in the South have blended Jewish dishes with Southern staples. Marci Cohen Ferris recently appeared on NPR to discuss her book, Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South. Some interesting hybrids that Ferris discusses include lox and grits, sweet potato latkes and, of course, matzo ball gumbo. I can dig it.
  • A store clerk recently stopped a robbery by throwing a package of empanadas, a Latin American pastry, at the would-be robber, according to a story from the Associated Press.
  • Weight Watchers has changed its Points system, and some folks over in the Gawker comment section aren’t happy about it. According to ABC News, the biggest change to Weight Watchers is that fruits and vegetables have zero points. This probably means nothing to anyone who hasn’t done Weight Watchers, but as a two-time former Weight Watcher, this is pretty major. Thoughts?
  • The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, the first major overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration’s food-safety provisions since 1938, is working its way through Congress. USA Today provides a really good overview of the bill and the changes that would take place if it passes, such as the FDA having the right to order companies to recall tainted food and the first federal oversight of produce.

The $10 Challenge: Dish on Market

I’m a sucker for a nice font and a catchy logo.

 

Take Dish on Market, for instance.


The restaurant’s lime green and black sign with a sans serif font has screamed at me for weeks: “Hey, I’m my modern, yet simple logo is just a preview of my modern, yet simple menu.”

 

Dish on Market’s food lived up to its logo. The restaurant provides simple food with a pop of something special to keep diners interested.

Continue reading “The $10 Challenge: Dish on Market”