WINNER ANNOUNCED: Celebrity chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Michelle Bernstein enjoy Louisville, Southern cooking

UPDATE: Congratulations to Keith and Linda, the winners of the giveaway! Check your emails soon for more information.

Blogger’s note: Man, I have had so much good stuff to give away lately. I have a signed copy of Chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s memoir, Yes, Chef, and a signed copy of Chef Michelle Bernstein‘s cookbook, Cuisine a Latina, up for grabs. For a chance to win, leave a comment at the end of this post telling me why you would like to win one of these books. For an additional chance to win, like the Ashlee Eats Facebook page, then leave a comment telling me you like the page. You have until Tuesday, May 7, at 11:59 p.m. to enter to win. I’ll contact and announce the winner Wednesday, May 8.

And in full disclosure, Everywhere Society social network provided me with compensation for this post about Macy’s Culinary Council.  However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson, me and Chef Michelle Bernstein at the Macy's Culinary Council demonstration.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson, me and Chef Michelle Bernstein at the Macy’s Culinary Council demonstration.

Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson knew how to win over the crowd at his cooking demonstration at Macy’s last week. He brought a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon and handed out shots to the audience.

Samuelsson and chef Michelle Bernstein stopped by Louisville last week to share recipes and discuss cooking as part of the Macy’s Culinary Council demonstration at Macy’s at Oxmoor Mall.

Samuelsson is the winner of Bravo Network’s Top Chef Masters and a judge on the Food Network competition show Chopped. He is the chef/owner of Red Rooster Harlem, Ginny’s Supper Club and American Table Café and Bar in New York City.

Bernstein is has been a judge on Top Chef and competed on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. She is the chef/owner of Michy’s and Crumb on Parchment in Miami.

The demonstration was free and open to the public, there were only about 75 seats available, which made the show intimate and fun. The chefs whipped up dishes, talked a little about their background in cooking and took questions from the audience.

The Macy’s folks invited me to attend the event and interview the chefs (and provided the signed books — thanks, Macy’s!).  Here are some highlights from the evening:

  • Samuelsson and Bernstein are big fans of Louisville’s culinary scene. “Those of us who don’t live here will always want to come back,” Bernstein said. Some stand-out restaurants they mentioned included 610 Magnolia, Proof on Main, Holy Grale and Seviche. Samuelsson compared Louisville to cities like Austin and Brooklyn, places “where craft and artisanal matters.”
  • Think you’re too busy to cook for yourself? It might be time to change your priorities, Samuelsson said. People have put too much value in food being convenient instead of healthy and homemade. “It’s a matter of where you put food on the value ladder,” he said.
  • The chefs cooked Southern dishes with their own personal twists. “Everything that is comfort food (in the South) is $36 in New York,” Samuelsson said. Samuelsson made coconut fried chicken with collards and gravy using chicken from a leftover curry stew. Bernstein served shrimp braised with jerez wine, creamy grits, gremolata and crunchy garlic.
  • Even though she’s an award-winning chef, Bernstein still has trouble getting her toddler son to eat. “He’s my worst critic,” she said. “He spits (my food) out at me.”
  • Macy’s will feature 610 Magnolia and Milkwood chef Edward Lee at its next cooking demonstration. Get more information about that event here. Also, Samuelsson and Bernstein kept referring to Lee as just plain “Ed.” For some reason, this amused me.

Bits and Pieces: Chef Edward Lee, Lynn Winter and other Louisville food news from the web, 1.29.13

News

  • Lynn Winter, the owner of the now-closed Lynn’s Paradise Café, said she mourns the loss of the restaurant and apologized to its employees. (Courier-Journal)
  • The New York Times took a good look at the Louisville origins of Henry Bain sauce. (New York Times, Business First of Louisville)

 

Openings

  • Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia and Top Chef fame will open a restaurant called Milkwood at Actor’s Theatre. Milkwood will open Feb. 8 and serve “comfort bar food with an Asian pantry.” (Consuming Louisville)
  • The family who opened Guaca Mole restaurant last year will open their second restaurant, Mussel & Burger Bar, on Feb. 4. The restaurant, an upscale take on American bistro, is located at 9200 Taylorsville Road in Jeffersontown. (Insider Louisville)
  • A new Qdoba opened in Middletown at 13006 Shelbyville Road. (Qdoba email)

Bits and Pieces: KFC, Pappy Van Winkle and other Louisville food news from the web, 12.3.12

Events

  • Wednesday, Dec. 5 is Repeal Day, the day that marks the end of Prohibition. Consuming Louisville has a list of places to celebrate this glorious occasion, and Insider Louisville has the scoop on the happenings at Meat in Butchertown.

 

News

  • Ladyfingers Catering is out, and Upper Crust Catering is in at the Barnstable Brown Derby Gala. (Insider Louisville)
  • Word on the street is that KFC is testing Original Recipe chocolate chip cookies. Somebody call me when they bring back those chicken nuggets from the early 90s. (Business First of Louisville)
  • Chef Edward Lee of Top Chef and 610 Magnolia fame is writing a cookbook, Smoke & Pickles. (Eater Louisville)

 

Openings

  • Beer Engine, a craft brewery out of Danville, plans to open a second location in Germantown at the former Zeppelin Café in mid-2013. (Business First of Louisville)
  • A group of investors plans to open a pub/restaurant on Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville called Sidecar. (Courier-Journal)

 

Etc.

The $10 Challenge: Lilly’s — A Kentucky Bistro

Photo courtesy of Southern Food Alliance via Flickr.

First, an apology to Lilly’s — A Kentucky Bistro.

I had dismissed this upscale Highlands restaurant long before my first visit this week.

Lilly’s evaded my list of future blog subjects because of my prejudices against the more tony qualities of this establishment — crisp tablecloths, reservations recommended, even an endorsement from Emeril Lagasse. This type of fine dining seemed out of my reach. I had resigned myself to the fact that my budget is more suited toward casual eateries, diners and cafés.

Lilly’s lunch menu, however, revived my faith that fine dining at affordable prices is attainable in Louisville — as long as you have time for lunch.

A midday meal is a gateway into the fancier side of eating in our fair city. Check out the lunch menus of some of the big-name restaurants — Proof on Main, Bristol Bar and Grille, and Equus & Jack’s Lounge, to name a few. A $10 bill goes a long way between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Lilly’s is no exception. The restaurant provides a respectable selection of food on its lunch menu that will please the dollar-conscious diner and provide an accurate impression of what evening meals there have to offer.

The prix fixe lunch alone is a frugal way to sample a selection of Lilly’s cuisine. During my lunch this week, the prix fixe included vichyssoise, seared ruby red trout on eggplant and sherry salad topped with gremolata, and dulce de leche cheesecake. This is three courses of food I’ve only seen on Top Chefand it was just $16.

The prix fixe and other lunch menu items combine Southern tastes with French staples. I was tempted to try the Kentucky pulled pork barbecue sandwich made with local pork piled on a pretzel bun ($9) or the crepes ($9), a savory dish of sautéed spinach, mushrooms, Gruyere cheese and shrimp.

After a chewing on a couple of slices of warm bread (it was so good, my friends and I ate two plates of it), I settled on the grilled croque-monsieur with Gruyere cheese, Béchamel sauce, Preacher Ham, caramelized onions and bacon ($8). In $10 Challenge terms, this was a fancy, hot, ham-and-cheese sandwich, a dish that began with as proudly French and ended in down-home Southern charm thanks to the addition of Kentucky ham and onions.

The taste of the croque-monsieur lingered on my mind and tongue for the rest of the work day. My infatuation began with the bread, two crunchy slices thick enough to hold the pile of pork and dairy. Then there was the salty bacon, thick cut and perfectly fatty. And the ham, salty hunks that were carefully arranged. And the onions, sweet rings of brown delight. And finally, the Bechamel, the sticky sauce that married the ingredients together into the best sandwich I’ve ever tasted. The Béchamel combined with the Gruyere and oozed from the corners of the bread and coated my mouth as I chewed. Its creaminess balanced the rough texture of the ham and bacon and took the sandwich to a level of perfection I had never experienced at lunch.

The croque-monsieur was a dream.

Unfortunately, my camera on my phone froze before I could take a picture of my dish. But no worries — I will return to Lilly’s, and I will have the croque-monsiuer again.

It turns out that I can afford another lunchtime trip. I just hope Lilly’s accepts my apology.

Lilly’s — An American Bistro, 1147 Bardstown Road, Louisville

Grilled croque-monsieur: $8

Water: $0

Total (with tax): $8.48

Mission: Accomplished

The sweet and the sour: Churchill Downs hosts inaugural Fork, Cork and Style event

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It was hard to predict what would happen at the Fork, Cork & Style festival that descended upon Churchill Downs Sunday. This was the inaugural year for the celebration, which was designed to showcase food and wine from area restaurants and vendors from across the country.

There was a lot to write home to Mom about at Fork, Cork & Style. The food was hot, the wine was flowing and the chefs entertained  crowds of Louisville foodies. There were a few sour grapes, but they didn’t ruin what Churchill Downs had to offer the burgeoning local food community.

Sweet

The chefs. Yes, superstar chef Emeril Lagasse headlined the event and put on a great show. But so did former Top Chef contestants Brian Malarkey, Betty Fraser and Eli Kirshstein, along with local chef Michael Paley of Proof on Main. It was great to actually smell what these chefs were cooking, a gift modern technology still hasn’t been able to supply (it’s 2010 – where’s Smell-o-Vision?).

The food. Local restaurants set up booths alongside restaurants from across the country to showcase highlights from their menus. The variety was excellent – where else can you get a genuine hot brown from The Brown Hotel and onion rings from The Fishery?

The weather. Churchill Downs didn’t have anything to do with this, but it’s worth noting how gorgeous the day was during the outdoor event. The skies were clear and there was a break from the humidity that has hung in the Ohio Valley air for the past few months.

The Sour

The voucher limit. The basic ticket to the festival cost $25, which allowed access to the cooking demonstrations and one dish from one of the restaurant vendor. But only certain items qualified for the voucher, so you had to pay about $5 to get something else. I heard a few grumbles in the Central BBQ line from a woman who wanted barbecue sliders, but reluctantly chose the barbecue nachos because that’s all her voucher would allow.

The parking. The good news? Free parking was available. The bad news? Lots of people didn’t know about it. When attendees turned into the Churchill Downs parking lot off Central Avenue, the first lot visible cost $5 to park in. Judging by how quickly those lots were filling, most people didn’t know that a free lot was available at Gate 10, farther away from the action, but still free.

The crowd. Yes, tickets were as much as $200. And yes, there were some confused volunteers who didn’t know where to direct attendees trying to find some good wine. But that doesn’t excuse some huffiness that occurred early in the day when some VIP guests were upset that they had to wait in line to get their vouchers. Hold your horses, folks. This is Churchill Downs, after all.