Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dear Louisville....Did you know you have a restaurant that serves up traditional Dim Sum??? It's Jade Palace and it's fantastic.

Dear Louisville,

You are one lucky city. For a town of your size you've got some big city perks. You have a wonderful park system. You're chock full of culture. You have bourbon. You have baseball bats. And yes...oh yes...you have a restaurant that serves traditional Dim Sum.

You never cease to amaze me,
Love and Sui Mai,

I'm serious when I say that Louisville keeps pleasantly surprising me. And my latest surprise is something that felt I MUST share with all of you...Dim Sum at Jade Palace.

The hubby and I simply adore Dim Sum. For a time while living in Philly we were borderline obsessed with it. I don't have the exact figures but I would be willing to bet that my husband ate at our favorite Dim Sum restaurant dozens and dozens of times in two years.

Dim Sum, for those unfamiliar with it, is a traditional Cantonese breakfast/lunch consisting of many small plates of food and accompanied by the all important tea.

The dishes served are not your typical "Americanized Chinese" but more traditional dishes...things like turnip cake, chicken feet, sweet rice wrapped in lotus leaf, etc. And since they're practically all savory and very unlike a good 'ol southern fry up, I think that some people are hesitant to partake in the meal before lunch. Perhaps that's why Jade Palace doesn't start serving until 11:30am. But let it be known that it is often eaten very early in the morning as well.

The hubby and I showed up at Jade Palace a bit earlier than 11:30(10am), as we used to eat Dim Sum at a typical breakfast hour, but killed some time doing last minute Christmas shopping and returned at 11:31 with ravenous appetites.

We were seated immediately in a large dining room with a few other full tables and were happy to see that other people were as ready as we were to get their Dim Sum on. We were asked what we would like to drink and ordered hot tea, as it is the traditional beverage, and actually, how Dim Sum came about at all.

We then asked the waitress if they offered cart service or if we had to order from the menu. Most Dim Sum restaurants use a cart or conveyor belt method to display and distribute the food. She told us that we could either order from her or ask the cart waitress to bring around a variety of dishes. Since the cart server was not in the room at the time we ordered some dishes from her and then grabbed some more off the cart when she came around.

I was glad to see cart service, however, they only had one cart while we were there. I was happy that we didn't have to wait long or fight with other tables for the cart to come to us. Also, the waitress that was running the cart service spoke perfect English(I've had issues with not knowing what I was getting in the past and simply had to point and smile) and wasn't so busy that she didn't have time to bring out different carts so we could peruse them(she was very, very helpful). But it was missing that wonderful bustle that I love when eating Dim Sum. Half the fun, after all, is looking around the room as the carts dance around the tables and picking out what delightful dish you'll share next. That being said...beggars can't be choosers...and I was very, very, very happy to see cart service at all and loved every minute of it.

Now for what really matters...taste.

The food was, honestly, some of the best Dim Sum Nick and I have ever had. Some things we ordered were far an away the best of that particular dish that's ever crossed our lips. And forgive me Louisville, but I never expected to say that about a Chinese Restaurant that wasn't in New York or San Francisco. I'm still in shock that I found it nestled in Westport Village. Kudos Jade Palace. Well done.

We ordered..........

- Sui Mai (a pork and shrimp dumpling that is open at the top). This is a Dim Sum staple for many people. It's delicious and the perfect thing to start with.

- Yeong Pek Koo (minced shrimp in a black mushroom). This was a new one for us and we loved it. The minced shrimp was sweet...the mushroom was full of umami...put them together and you've got a great flavor combination.

- Steamed Pork Bun (pork steamed in a soft, almost sponge-like bun). This steamed bun won me over. The bun was moist and fluffy. The pork inside was rich and delicious. I've had some so-so steamed pork buns in the past...this one was the best I've ever had.

- Beef Tendon (melt in your mouth bits of delicious beef tendon in a spicy sauce). Do me a favor...try this. It's fatty and beefy. It's rich and delicious. The texture may throw you at first but you'll find yourself immediately going back for more..

- Seen Chuck Kn (pork and shrimp wrapped in tofu skins). This was another mind blowing dish for me. The tofu skins packed so much flavor in a thin little package, and there was an explosion of tastes inside. Delicious.

- Nor Mai Gai (pork, chicken, shrimp and other things mixed with sweet rice and wrapped and steamed in a lotus leaf). This dish is high on my top 5 Dim Sum list. You open this little lotus leaf packet to find a mound of sweet rice cooked with all sorts of yummy bits of meat. You know how maple syrup goes so well with sausage? The same sweet and savory thing is happening here. It's one of the best Dim Sum dishes ever created.

- Red Bean Paste Bun (a sweet red bean paste in a steamed bun). You must try at least one dessert before you leave Jade Palace. This red bean paste bun may not sound like your typical dessert but it's got all the makings of a sweet treat. The paste inside is rich and satisfying and if I didn't tell you there were beans in it you would never know.

If you're a Dim Sum newbie I would recommend trying any of these dishes. They're all relatively approachable if you're not used to traditional Chinese fare and they offer a mix of many different flavors as well as cooking techniques. I would also try Cheung Fun if you're new. It's shrimp (or pork or chicken) wrapped in a very thin rice paper roll. Very traditional Dim Sum and very good for a not so adventurous palate.

Looking for an adventure??? You must try the chicken feet at least once. Get them in a sauce. Also, tripe is amazing if you've never had it. I personally love the turnip cakes. They're like Cantonese comfort food to me. And I know some people who are addicted to the fried tofu, although I'm not the biggest fan. Honestly...of all the Dim Sum dishes I've ever tried(and we're talking over 50) I think I've only disliked one or two. So the odds are good that you'll love almost anything you try.

Interested in giving Dim Sum a try? Here's how to do it...

It's meant to be shared. Most dishes have 3 or 4 pieces on them and each plate also has a corresponding size and price.

The waitress will mark the price on a card that is kept in the center of your table. When you're done with your meal she'll tally it up.

Don't be scared to order A LOT. Nick and I ate and ate and ate for $20 last Sunday.

And be sure to give yourself plenty of time. Go ahead and use the cart service the whole time if it's your first time. There are so many things to try so go slow and let your eyes and your stomach do the deciding for you.

Don't listen to the names...I know tendon doesn't sound great...but it's delicious. And chicken feet taste just like chicken wings...just with a bit less meat.

So be daring. Be bold. Be Cantonese for the day. Go to Dim Sum and try a few new dishes at Jade Palace next weekend. I promise you'll love it.

Jade Palace on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Erika's German Restaurant - What You Crave On A 20 Degree Day

The weather channel said it was 8 degrees when I woke up this morning. All of the sudden it felt like fall passed right by Louisville this year and the dead of winter filled it's place.

When cold weather rolls in to stay I find myself craving completely different types of food. I could eat fish and raw veggies every day during the warm months but come winter I turn into a bear preparing for hibernation. I'm looking for rich, satisfying dishes. Give me some meat...then braise it, stew it, roast it. Add some root veggies to the plate...au gratin pretty much anything...and throw a small arugula salad on the plate to make it look a teeny bit healthy and you've got a winter weather dish to satisfy.

So needless to say, I'm not looking for sushi on an 8 degree day...I'm looking for comfort food.

Are you looking for comfort food? Why not give Erika's German Restaurant a try. It's inexpensive. They serve hearty home made fare. And nothing says winter like gulasch, spaetzle and pretty much anything prepared a la schnitzel.

The hubby and I love us some German cuisine. When we were in Munich I think my husband ate his weight in schweinshaxe ("pig knuckle") and I ate enough kaesespaetzle (German noodles (spaetzle) in cheese) to put me into a mid-day-coma. We also enjoyed an amazing variety of head cheeses (I know...not everyone's cup of tea but Nick and I love the stuff) as well as some other offal-type dishes.

Unfortunately Erika's doesn't have schweinshaxe on it's menu...nor does it have some of our other, what some would consider "crazier" favorites. It does, however, succeed in offering a small variety of well made German dishes that I'm sure even the pickiest of eaters would enjoy.

After perusing the menu and preparing ourselves for a gut busting experience Nick and I passed on starters (although they had two amazing sounding soups and a potato pancake platter that was hard to pass up) and headed straight for the mains.

I'm eternally indecisive so I told myself if they made their bratwursts in-house I would choose that...otherwise I was going for the sauerbraten. I ended up with the bratwurst platter and was happy about it. For the low, low price of around $10 I was treated to two wonderfully crafted brats, a side of warm German potato salad (chock full of flavor and bacon) and a heaping helping of sauerkraut.

As much as I enjoyed my bratwursts dipped in German mustard and my warm bacon-y potatoes, I have to say that my favorite item on the plate was actually the sauerkraut. Sometimes the simplest things turn out to be the best. Typically something that gets overlooked, this side dish was really amazing. It was more reminiscent of a braised cabbage than a pickled one. It was sweet and savory with just the right amount of acid. Even after the meal, sitting there with a stuffed belly, I found myself picking at it over and over again.

Nick had the jagerschnitzel...two thinly pounded, breaded and fried pork chops smothered in a rich mushroom gravy. His pork was tender and flavorful. He commented that it was slightly over salted but he enjoyed it all the same.

Both he and I wanted to order the kartoffelknoedel, however the menu said to allow 20 minutes for preparation, and although 20 minutes really isn't all that long to wait, neither of us were interested in doing so. I somewhat regret passing the kartoffelknoedel by as it's one of our favorite side dishes. Essentially a potato dumpling, the kartoffelknoedel is a large, almost gelatinous ball of potato that is boiled and served as a very traditional side dish (see stock photo). I think it would have gone wonderfully with Nick's dish as the dumplings typically beg to be dipped in gravy. I'll be sure to order some next time I go.

As for the rest of the experience.....

The wait staff...which consisted only of one very pleasant woman(whom I suspect is Erika) and someone who bussed plates to and from tables...were courteous and warm, even though they had their hands more than full with a jam packed dining room.

I was somewhat disappointed with the salad that they served as a starter and might have rather been given the option to just add a second side dish to the plates as they all looked delicious and it was hard to choose! I have to say, I didn't actually ask if that was possible or not. It's entirely possible that all you have to do is ask...perhaps I should have.

I would have also liked to see a larger German beer selection, but weiss and dunkels were represented, and to be honest, most restaurants we went to IN Germany only served one or two brands of beer at the most. So I suppose as far as authentic goes, it's not far off.

As far as reservations go...I highly recommend them. We ate VERY early on Friday night...like 6:15...and I'm happy we did because not 10 minutes later there was a wait for those without reservations.

Erika's German on Urbanspoon
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I'm back!

Hi all!

I'm back! Sorry for being gone so long, but between the holidays and buying a new house (new...AWESOME...house) my mind has been elsewhere. Fortunately, my appetite hasn't been and I've got a few new places to write about!

I'll be sure to put up a new post...post haste, but in the meantime, I've got a question. What's shakin' around town as far as New Years Eve celebrations go??

The hubby and I typically visit a new city each year for New Years Eve, however, this year it looks like we'll be smack dab in the middle of moving, so all trips are off. But the more I thought about it the mores I realized that we still will be spending New Years Eve in a new city...because this will be our first New Years in Louisville! So if anyone has good tips I'm all ears!
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Food Flight

Holiday travel for Nick and I these days isn't exactly just over the river and through the woods. Both of our families live up and down the east coast, so unless we want to drive for 12 hours over many rivers and through plenty of woods, we choose to fly.

No one really WANTS to spend hours and hours in airports or on planes. There are lines...delays... full body scanners...pat-downs(Nick and I were lucky enough to go through a full body scanner AND get a pat down in Amsterdam...they were very thorough), and more. And when you finally get on the plane the cuisine is notoriously bad if not nonexistent and the cost of a can of lukewarm beer can empty your wallet.

But it's not ALL bad is it??? Lets try to turn that holiday-travel-frown upside down shall we? I found a link on Food & Wine Magazine's web site that might do the trick.


They've complied a list of the best places to eat in airports across the country, and honestly, the food they're describing might be enough to convince me to add a few connections to my itinerary.

I even found a few favorites of mine on the list::

The Anchor Steam pub in San Francisco International put a smile on my face one trip.

Denver airport's micro-brew filled bars offered Nick and I a fun and delicious way to spend a few hours. I fondly recall a delicious baked goat cheese dish and a pint of hoppy beer.

Chickie and Pete's in Philadelphia International is totally worth a try as well. Their Crab Fries (fries tossed in Old Bay) are a Philly favorite and a great alternative to a cheese steak.

The Prime Tavern in La Guardia struck me as a strange choice, however. Have you ever tried to eat a steak in an airport? I have. Long story short...the only utensils allowed inside the terminals are plastic. Unless they want you to go caveman on your ribeye, I would pass.

Unfortunately they left the Louisville airport off the list, but the next time you're waiting for your flight or picking someone up be sure to grab a bourbon at the Woodford Reserve bar. I did!
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Banh Mi - Try Something New This Weekend!

Ravioli in Italy. Pierogi in Poland. Dumpling in China. The list goes on. Isn't it funny how one good culinary idea can be found all across the world?

When you think about it food is something we ALL have in common, and it's something that can bring us all together. I remind people of this when they're hesitant to try new foods and I am reminded myself of this when I travel abroad.

In the spirit of adventure I urge you to try something new this weekend. Just as the dumpling is found in different ways across the globe, so is the sandwich! This one is easily one of my favorites. It's cheap. It's local. And like I said, it's certainly one of my favorite foods of all time. It's the Banh Mi...a Vietnamese delight!

Now, there are many different types of Banh Mi just as there are many different types of deli sandwiches, but they all have a few things in common...they're served on crusty baguette-type bread...they're filled with lots of fresh flavorful veggies like carrots and cilantro...and they're ALL delicious! If you can't decide then give anything with pork a try...I promise you won't be disappointed.

A few weeks ago I had a great Banh Mi at Pho Binh Minh here in Louisville and you can too! So if you don't have plans for lunch this Saturday or Sunday give it a shot. Step aside turkey club...there's a new sandwich in town.

P.S. They also have Pho and a number of other yummy Vietnamese delights. Go crazy and try 2 new things!

Pho Binh Minh on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Kind Of Garden - Creation Gardens...food wonderland

Dear Louisville,

Why, oh why has no one told me about this place!?!? Seriously...I want answers ;)

Nick and I just got back from a week in Europe(blog about that coming VERY soon!!!!) and our cupboard was bare enough to be in a nursery rhyme. Instead of hitting up my usual grocery spots I decided to check out a place Nick and I stumbled across after dinner one evening...it's called Creation Gardens.

Their website is www.whatchefswant.com and I'm sure that's an understatement.

This is a food warehouse...literally. The vast majority of their customers are restaurants so it's not going to look like your typical grocery store. Instead it's filled with cases and cases of produce, dry goods, dairy, oils, sauces, etc. It's amazing.

The minute I walked in and asked if it was, in fact, open to the public it became clear that I was new and I was kindly offered a tour. I was led through the warehouse and told that although it looks like most things need to be bought in bulk that wasn't the case at all. She told me that I was welcome to take small amounts of things like herbs and such, which was a relief to me as I can't remember the last time I needed a pound of sage.

Once I began to explore on my own I became lost in a sea of amazing quality food. The produce was impeccable and so, SO diverse. Cases of beautiful squash lined the aisle. A rainbow of beets cascaded down the display case. Fresh mushrooms peeked their heads out of their boxes and packages of mixed micro-greens begged me to take them home.

I had to pass by A LOT of food as I couldn't possibly eat all of it in a week, and instead decided to stick with some cured meats, grains and produce classics so I could do a bit of a price comparison.

You see, because this place caters to restaurants not many people come in and buy 3 bags with 6 mushrooms in each. That means that prices aren't marked on many of the items. I was told to simply ask someone and they'd be more then happy to fill me in (and judging from the pleasant people I met there I have no doubt that's the case) however I feared I would end up walking a poor employee around like my own personal shopper, and decided to go at it alone and see what the damage was once I got to the register.

I'm happy to report that the prices were great. I purposely bought some staples...potatoes(purple, red AND gold!)...onions...cabbage...mushrooms...herbs...leafy greens...etc. so I could accurately compare the price with that of my usual store and it came out about the same...but with one major difference...the quality. I have to admit...the quality of the produce at Creation Gardens was top notch...second to none I've seen in Louisville to date. And don't even get me started on the variety. Looking for something and can't find it in any grocery store? Chances are they have it here

After I filled my basket with produce I moseyed on over to the dairy section (bypassing the mixed micro-greens however badly I wanted them...next time my pretties). In the dairy section I perused some lovely quail eggs(I'm getting them next time too!), farm fresh brown eggs, enough beautiful, beautiful cheese to stop someone's digestive track up for life(and I'm pleased to announce that the cheese WAS price marked and it was very reasonable), and a some cured meats(bacon, Tasso ham, chorizo, etc.). As hard as it was to pull myself away from the cheese section(p.s. the cheese was packaged in small-ish blocks so you don't have to buy a wheel of it) I still had the dry goods locker to explore.

It's worth a trip to Creation Gardens for the dry goods section alone. I'm rather versed on exotic grains as my parents were granola munching hippies when I was younger so I grew up on the stuff, but if you aren't, this is the place to start.

Just about every grain, bean, rice, lentil, legume, etc. was represented here. I quickly grabbed a $0.67 container of Bulghur because I haven't had it since I was a kid and was so happy to see it there. Looking for a rainbow of lentils or rice? They have your color, shape, variety there...I promise. Want to try a new type of mushroom but they don't carry it fresh? Grab a bag of it dried! Need a good olive oil that won't break the bank? I was told that I simply MUST come back for the $25 gallon of really good quality olive oil. I WILL be back for it. Stock bases of every variety. Baking supplies that could get you well on your way to becoming a professional baker. I'm leaving so much out! Looks like you'll need to go there and experience it for yourself!

Long story short...non-restaurant owning Louisville residents are so very lucky to have access to this place. I've always dreamed of shopping like a chef and Creation Gardens makes it possible.

Want to shop like a chef too!?!? They're nice enough to open their store to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10-4...and I thank them for it.

Finding this place is no small feat...but it's worth driving past the turn for the street 2 or 3 times (I can tell you from experience). Turn right at the Kentucky Bison Company at 603 East Main and Creation Gardens will be the next building on your right...609 East Main.

If you decide to try this place out for yourself I'd love to hear what you thought of it or what amazing gems you found there(I'm sure I missed A LOT) so please feel free to drop me a line!
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Friday, November 5, 2010

Chocolate and Herring and Beer - Oh My!

Hi to all my Rare & Well-Done readers!

I'm going to be taking a few days off eating and drinking here in Louisville...because I'll be eating and drinking in Belgium and the Netherlands.

I can't wait to blog about all the chocolate and herring and beer that I find, as well as my travel trials and tribulations (there are bound to be a few). And I'll fill you all in when I return.

As much as I'm excited about going to Europe for a little vacation I'm sad that I'll be missing a few good events here in town. But if you're not going to Europe you can enjoy them!

1.) The Breeders' Cup Nov 5th and 6th
Nick and I actually won enough last weekend at the opening day races to pay for beer and
parking...good luck!

2.) Iron Chef Dinner at 610 Magnolia Nov 11th
Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia (where I haven't been yet but will certainly get to eventually)
will be competing against Jose Garces in the Iron Chef competition! He is hosting an Iron
Chef theme dinner on November 11th and it sounds great! I'm a bit torn on who to root for
because Jose Garces owns and operates some of my favorite restaurants in the whole wide
world and they're all in Philly...but you've got to root, root, root for the home team right!?

Well. I've got quite a bit of last minute packing to do so I best be off. Have a wonderful week folks...I'm sure I will!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The REAL Issue This Election Day

Dear Louisville,

Uhhhhhh...what's the deal with not being able to buy booze until after 6 today...election day!?!?

I'm out!

Ok. I'm not completely out of booze but I was planning on buying a nice bottle of bourbon this evening. Way to throw a wrench in my plans and make me wait until 6pm. I mean...that's a whole hour after the "it's 5:00 somewhere" slogan!

If anyone has anymore info on this...I mean...other than this:


I'd love to hear it.

The letter writing campaign can't wait!

Cheers...well...after 6pm that is,
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A Food Blogger's Perk...Food!

Blogging about food has some perks. First of all...you have to consume food in order to blog about it...perk! You also have to have an open mind(and mouth), which inevitably leads to fantastic discoveries and delicious experiences. But the thing that no one tells you about food blogging is sometimes.........you get free food!

Now, let me explain: I've never been given a free meal at a restaurant, sandwich shop, diner, or basically any restaurant-like establishment. I try to be incognito. I try to blend in. I even try to hide my picture taking(tough I tells ya!). I've been recognized as a blogger at some dining establishments...but not one free meal was had.

The free food I'm talking about comes to me in the mail and greets me at my doorstep like a wonderfully unexpected guest.

I work with Foodbuzz, a food blogging community to promote my site and advertise theirs. Foodbuzz also gives some of it's more established bloggers the opportunity to receive all sorts of food from participating manufacturers to cook, experiment with or just plain blog about. It's a great program...a great perk...and a fun way to try brands or goods that I typically wouldn't try.

Recently I was at a party discussing my latest influx of doorstep food and people seemed to be more interested I though they'd be. I'm not going to bore y'all with a long list of grub but I would like to recommend two items that I really was pleasantly surprised with.

Item #1: Buitoni Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli

I LOVE making my own pasta, but it's time consuming and let's face it...we don't always have the time. So I've been buying Buitoni's fresh pastas for years(honestly...like, forever). You can usually find them near the cheese case and they're delicious. They cook in no time and were always my go-to meal if I got home late from work.

I never, ever buy pre-made frozen meals, but Foodbuzz and Buitoni sent me a coupon for these puppies and after eating them I'm starting to believe that perhaps you CAN find a good pre-made frozen meal out there. Nick loved it. I loved it. I would keep a box of these babies in the freezer for a busy day's dinner anytime.

It came with a sauce packet and everything! You boil one pot...yes...1. You cook the pasta and the sauce packet in the water together...throw it on a plate and enjoy. The quality was fantastic. There was real lobster and shrimp(and plenty of it) in the ravioli. And there was enough in the package for two heaping servings.

Item #2: Pace Picante
Take a moment to think about the staples in your fridge and pantry. I have a few things I'm never without...and for good reason. Some versatile basics can a life saver when you've got unexpected guests, get home late from work or foolishly invite all your friends back to your place for "one last drink" and realize they're as hungry as a pack of wolves.

My #1 go-to meal of all time would be a tie between Mexican Pizzas and Quesadillas. That being said I ALWAYS have salsa in my pantry. Foodbuzz sent me a few jars of Pace Picante sauce recently and although I've pretty much always purchased the generic, store brand of salsa(I'm cheap) I found the Pace to be much more flavorful and I might just be a convert. Plus, because of smooth texture of the Picante I find it works better than traditional salsas on my Mexican Pizzas. Give it a shot!

>Cheese(cheddar and jack)
>Flour tortillas
>Sour cream

These four simple ingredients can feed an army. Here's how to make the best Mexican Pizzas of all time. I know it's not the most complex recipe you've ever seen, but if you've never thought to make one of these puppies you'll be hooked the first time you try it. I've converted many a Mexican-Pizza-Virgin and get calls and emails all the time about how it's a last minute life saver of a meal.

Mexican Pizza:

Take 2 large(burrito size) flour tortillas and place on a baking sheet. Put a thin layer of shredded cheese(cheddar...jack...whatever) on one tortilla then stack the other tortilla on top(this two layer system ensures a crispy and sturdy crust). Next spoon a thin layer of salsa onto the top tortilla, sprinkle more cheese over the salsa and pop into a pre-heated 375degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly on top and the tortilla is golden brown on the outside. Let it rest for 2 minutes before serving then cut it with a pizza cutter and serve on a tray with sour cream and extra salsa for dipping. How bad could that be???

P.S. Top with fresh chives or pickled jalapenos if you have them...or anything else you find hiding in your fridge!
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Wiltshire On Market - Where You Will Be Eating Dinner This Thurday, Friday or Saturday Night

I've thought about opening my own restaurant. Haven't we all?

Restaurants are a lot of work, or so I'm told. It's said that around 9 out of 10, or 90% of new restaurants fail within their first year. That means you've got to be one hell of a worker or one spectacular cook to beat those odds. I can put in a hard day's work...and I can cook some darn good grub...but I don't think I'll ever be crazy enough to open a restaurant.

But traditional restaurants aren't the only option when it comes to making your living through food. You can cater. You can own a food truck. Food is so "in" right now that a unique concept and some great grub might be the only ingredients you need in a recipe for success.

I was searching for our Friday night restaurant last week and stumbled upon this place called Wiltshire On Market. To be honest, the only reason I checked it out was because it was yet another restaurant named _blank_ "on market" or _blank> "on main". It had minimal internet presence and not a whole heck of a lot of reviews, but the more I looked into it, the more intrigued I became.

The website focuses around their catering business called Wiltshire Pantry. But if you look closer you'll find that they also run a restaurant...albeit a somewhat unconventional one.

Their restaurant, Wiltshire on Market, is only open Thursday through Saturday evening. What an awesome idea! I mean, I can't tell you the last time Nick and I went to dinner on a Monday or Tuesday evening. We eat out every single Friday night, and sometimes on Saturday. I have a feeling that most folks do as well. So if you own a catering business but aren't catering 24/7, why not open a storefront and share your amazing(seriously...AMAZING) food with the town 3 nights a week?!? Genius!

I called for a reservation at noon on Friday, for Friday at 7 and got a 6:30 spot. I'm so happy they had an opening because Nick and I had a great time and an even greater meal.

Wiltshire on Market is decorated the way I would decorate "my" restaurant and open three days a week like I would like my work week to be. I said this when Nick and I sat down and he laughed...because I talk about my fake restaurant all the time. It was rustic and minimal with a very inviting bar, lovely wood tables and romantic (read: just dark enough) lighting.

We perused the menu, which changes weekly, and were happy to find it to be short and very sweet. We couldn't resist starting with the Opah ceviche. I love a good ceviche but hate making them as I can never get the acid to heat ratio correct. This one was perfect. Just enough citrus...just enough heat...not too watery...fantastic. It was the perfect dish to share because it was served with a heaping side of fried veggie chips which invited you to scoop, munch and share.

For his main course Nick chose the bison hanger steak and I chose the cassoulet. I believe they were both $18, and goodness gracious, what a deal.

The minute Nick saw the hanger steak cut of meat on the menu his eyes lit up. Hanger is his favorite cut of meat and one that you don't see often enough(see my post on meats to learn more) . His bison was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was served with a lovely bourbon sauce and alongside a purple potato and sweet potato hash as well as some smokey braised greens. It was a quintessential fall meal.

My cassoulet(pictured at top of page) was, I thought, the star of the evening. It was more of a deconstructed cassoulet as opposed to a soupy stew. There were a few delicious components on the plate, that eaten all together connected the flavor building blocks of a traditional cassoulet. There was a white, weisswurst type sausage, a smoked, kielbasa type sausage, and the piece de resistance...the shredded duck confit mixed with white beans. To round out the plate there were lovely caramelized brussel sprouts and two yummy little cippolini onions. It was one of the best cassoulets I've ever had...honestly...and after plowing through that mountain of food I couldn't have been happier.

Ok. Strike that "couldn't have been happier" line...because we ended the meal with a cheese course and THAT made me even happier.

The waitress brought us one heck of a cheese board for $9. The cheese was lovely (the usual blend of a soft brie type, a nice blue and a hard cheese...exactly the combo I would choose when making my own), but the accompaniments were the stars. There was a fantastic green tomato jam, a cherry compote, some sort of apple something or another(I'm sure it has a better name) and some cornichons and pickled peppers. The waitress even swooped in to get us more bread without needing to be asked. I know that sounds like a silly thing to be happy about, but it's a BIG pet peeve of mine and I've run out of toast/bread/crackers more times than not.

The only thing that I would change...and I mean ONLY...is their method of posting the nightly menu. They use facebook, and I am probably the last person on earth that doesn't. Sorry...I just don't like it, and would rather they post the menu some(any) other way.

I would and will, however, return to Wiltshire on Market even if I have NO idea what they're cooking that evening. I have complete faith in the fact that whatever it is...it will be amazing.

P.S. Sorry about the dark pictures...had some technical difficulties with my camera that evening...the pictures don't do the dishes justice


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Monday, October 25, 2010

Trick AND Treat

Vogue and Cosmopolitan don't seem to speak to me. Food & Wine however, bellows out my name.

I'm a proud subscriber to and follower of just about every food magazine and web site out there. Half of the time I'm looking for ideas...the other half I just like looking at the pretty pictures of food.

Now, I don't always end up finding something new and interesting, or for that matter even appealing. But when I do, I get excited about it. And when Nick will no longer listen to my incessant ramblings about it I blog.

This latest find was so intriguing that I took it to a recent Halloween party and it was as big a hit as I hoped...even bigger in fact.

Still looking for something to take to YOUR Halloween party? Give these fake-out sushi treats a try. They're made of candy...they look like sushi...and they're as much of a trick as they are a treat.
Candy Sushi::

3 tbs. butter
40 regular size marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

1 package Swedish Fish (2 packages if you like to snack while you work)
1 package Gummy Worms (2 packages if you like to snack while you don't work)
2 boxes Fruit By The Foot (should only need one and a half...munch on the rest when you get
sick of Swedish Fish and Gummy Worms)

This is easy as pie. First make a regular old batch of Rice Krispies Treats by melting the butter and marshmallows together in a large pot over medium heat. When they're completely melted remove from the heat and stir in the Rice Krispies.

1.) For the "sushi" rolls...

Take half of the Rice Krispies mix and spread it out in a thin layer on a greased baking sheet. You may need two sheets depending on their size. Be sure to push the layer evenly all over and try to get it as thin as possible.

Next, starting at the end of the sheet tray closest to you, lay bundles of 2-3 worms head to tail the entire width of the pan. Take the edge of the Krispies and roll them over until they completely encase the worms. Squeeze the roll tightly with your hands and cut the roll away from the rest of the sheet of treats. Continue rolling the worms in the treats until the sheet pan is used up. **I should have taken pictures of this process but didn't...here is my artist's rendering of how the sheet pan and worms should be placed...I'm talented aren't I!?!**

Once you've finished rolling your logs and cutting them out of the pan, measure the width of your fruit strips and cut each long into rolls the same width. Then wrap the fruit strips around each roll and cut to size. The fruit strips will stick to each other so simply press firmly where they ends of the strips meet to seal.

Place the rolls on their back and you've got "sushi" rolls that even the pickiest eater will love!

2.) For the nigiri type "sushi"...

Take half of the Krispies mix and while still warm shape small bits into ovals. To keep it from sticking to your hands grease them (I rubbed mine with butter...yummy!). Once all of the ovals are formed simply press a Swedish Fish on top of each one. Then to secure the fish wrap a fruit strip (cut lengthwise down the center) around each piece and secure the strip at the bottom.

If the nigiri tend to fall over simply push them down rather firmly onto their serving tray and they should get a bit of a flat bottom.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sweet - The Bakery at Sullivan University

The hubby has a sweet tooth.

If it were up to me dessert would be cheese and a glass of bourbon. Actually...DINNER would be cheese and a glass of bourbon. But Nick is a sucker for a little something sweet after our meal so I try my best to accommodate.

Now, not only is it tough to make single serving desserts by yourself, but it's even tougher to make them when you're just about the worst baker known to man...like me. My repertoire is limited to things made with store bought frozen puff pastry, chocolate chip cookies and the occasional fruit tart. Cakes, pies, brownies or basically anything that could fail to rise and/or stick to the inside of the baking container and come out looking like the dog's dinner is wayyyyyy out of my league.

All that being said, Nick eats a lot of the same thing for dessert. Or, at least he USED to!

Now that I've discovered the Bakery at Sullivan University's pastry school while on my way home from the gym one day (seems counter productive huh?) he's living high on the hog. This place is great. Basically the pastry school students bake things for their courses, then they sell the finished product in the shop. The website says that it's the "last stop" for the students so I believe working there is like their senior thesis. Also, the "last stop" thing assures you that you're buying from an experienced baker and not someone like me(where "last stop" would mean the last stop before the trash). Everything is reasonably priced and there's a variety of sweet treats that you can buy a la carte so it's perfect for a single serving dessert any night of the week!

You can eat-in (they've got a cute little cafe) or take-out. But either way, you get to sneak a peek at the students in action through some glass viewing windows in the shop.

So far I've purchased a cannoli, a mini pumpkin cheesecake, jalapeno cheddar bread and a really cool cherry filled monkey-bread-like-thing.

All the treats were, well, a treat! Nick was pleased with all but the bread which he thought was on the dry side (I agree).

So next time you feel like treating yourself head over to the bakery at Sullivan University. For around two bucks you can satisfy your sweet tooth and your wallet to boot.

The Bakery at Sullivan University
3100 Bardstown Rd. Louisville, KY 40205
Hours of Operation:
Monday - Friday:
7:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Dish On Market - Belly pleasing breakfast that won't break the bank

Ahhhh breakfast...the most important meal of my day...two days a week.

I'm not a big breakfast person on weekdays. Perhaps I'll grab an apple or grab a spoon full of cottage cheese straight out of the container, but that's about it. Weekends, however?? Now that's a whole other story.

When I plan our weekend activities they always start with breakfast. After a good breakfast the rest of the day falls effortlessly into place.

So where to eat, where to eat? In my opinion there are two types of breakfast joints...Greasy spoons where you order the fry up breakfast (2 eggs, grits or hash browns, meat of your choice and toast) and pay a low price for back to basics grub...Or the "brunch" joints where you order creative concoctions that bridge the gap between breakfast and, well, everything else, and pay the typically high price for their inventive eats.

This weekend Nick and I might have just found the missing link in the battle for breakfast. A brunch-type menu with a greasy-spoon price tag. Behold, Dish On Market.

Now, this place is a bit of an anomaly. It's open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and happy hour (which I don't think I've ever encountered before). The interior is inviting with lots of wood and tall ceilings, and it honestly makes you expect higher prices than you'll actually find.

We were the only folks in there last weekend when we arrived at 9:30 on a Saturday(it must be noted that 9:30 is early, early, early for us on weekends...this may or may not have been our oh-so-happy-and-want-to-play-right-now dog's fault). However, after 20 mins or so the place slowly began to fill up.

We perused the menu the day before and had pretty much picked out our favorites already. Nick ordered the Steak and Eggs. I ordered the Smoked Salmon Hash.

Nick's steak(pic at top of page) was actually a braised short rib over home fries, topped with an egg and served with a side of horseradish cream. The short ribs were fall off the bone tender and there was even a bit of rich and flavorful red wine reduction drizzled around the bottom of the plate. This is exactly the kind of breakfast fare I love...rich flavors...savory ingredients...yummy, yummy, yummy.

My Smoked Salmon Hash was a traditional potato hash with peppers, onions and tomatoes, topped with some lovely smoked salmon and two eggs (I ordered them over medium as always). I've been known to eat my weight in smoked salmon so I was happy to see this on the menu. It too was a savory and rich dish. The egg yolks broke over the hash and coated it in a creamy sauce...the smoked salmon added a salty, smokey element and the potatoes were there to hold it all together.

Our waiter (I think his name was AJ) was fantastic. I don't usually remember waiters names but every once in a while they're so polite and attentive that I do...case in point.

We did encounter a few little hiccups.

Both of us found small pockets of over salted potatoes every once in a while but it wasn't enough to really make any fuss over.

Also, it must be noted that the price for both of our dishes was listed at $5.75 online, however the menus we were given in the restaurant had them listed at around $2 more, making them around $7.25 instead. I'm not sure if this is a weekend price or if they just needed to raise the cost because of the ingredients, but I'm not a big fan of a surprise price change. It also must be noted, however, that $7.25 is still one hell of a deal for braised short ribs, potatoes, an egg and horseradish cream. I mean, truly a great deal, so it didn't really bother us all that much.

A few years ago Nick and I spent a small fortune on brunch at the famed Commander's Palace in New Orleans. It was the best brunch of my life and one of the top 10 meals of my life as well. I mention this because there is a time and a place to spend a boat load of money on breakfast.

Sometimes I feel as though restaurants(like Lynn's Paradise Cafe...I mean...there's a reason they don't list their prices on their web site) try to overcharge you for a meal that should be fun, enjoyable and affordable.

It seems to me that Dish On Market is giving Louisville bang for their breakfast buck, and that should be applauded.

When next weekend comes and you can't decide between that cheap breakfast fry-up or the pricey brunch, relax and remember there's a third option...Dish On Market will be happy they could help.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vietnam Kitchen - Noodle Soup...Just Like Your Grandmother Never Made...In A Good Way

Me: "Ahh, Pho for lunch again?"

Nick: "How did you know?"

Me: "Elementary my dear husband...plus you've still got half of it on your shirt."

Pho is, without a doubt, one of Nick's favorite meals of all time. He would eat bowl after bowl of it for lunch when we lived in Philly...and then would come home wearing half of it on his shirt. I always knew when he had Pho for lunch.

In case you aren't a Pho Junkie or haven't run across it in your travels, Pho is a Vietnamese noodle bowl.

It's the most complex simple dish I've ever run across. At it's most basic it's just noodles in broth with your choice of protein...raw beef, cooked beef, tendon, etc. But it's really so much more than that.

The broth must be rich in flavor but light in regard to everything else. The proteins should add substance and some flavor but most importantly I think they add texture. Then you spice it up with some Sriraccha sauce and perhaps some chili paste. Throw in some fresh bean sprouts, jalapenos and thai basil for freshness and you've got a one-bowl-wonder of a meal.

Apparently Vietnam Kitchen is no secret here in Louisville because it was packed when we arrive. Much like every other restaurant I've visited that served Pho, Vietnam Kitchen was simple yet homey. Three cramped rows of tables, each piled with spicy condiments, chopsticks and spoons just begging to be dipped in a delicious bowl of Pho.

We seated ourselves and ordered two very inexpensive beers (cheap beer is always a good thing), as well as an order of pork and shrimp dumplings to start.

The dumplings were very flavorful, steamed to perfection and served on a pool of somewhat spicy and very rich sauce. I was expecting an enclosed dumpling but was surprised and pleased to see that it more closely resembled a shu mai type dumpling. They were substantial in size and for $3 were a welcome appetizer. We're off to a fantastic start!

For our mains we ordered Pho and Bun (pronounce "fuh" and "boon" respectively). Nick ordered the Pho with beef and tendon (he loves him some tendon) and I ordered the Bun.

Nick's Pho (pictured at top of page) was just as he'd hoped. A rich broth, flavorful beef and that delicious bite you get from the tendon. The noodles were of good quality as well.

Bun comes in many varieties and I ordered the Bun Thit Nuong, which is Vermicelli noodles mixed with an array of fresh vegetables (cucumber, cilantro, mint, etc.) and topped with char grilled pork and cut up spring rolls.

The pork on my Bun was smokey and delicious (the char really makes all the difference when ordering this dish). The vegetables and fish sauce added wonderful freshness and the portion was ample. The only thing I was somewhat disappointed with were my spring rolls. They were lacking in flavor and substance, but at least they were crispy.

After filling our bellies with cold beer and hot noodles we paid our very reasonable bill and left satisfied. We found comfort in the fact that we could find THIS comfort food in our new town. **P.S. Next stop is Pho Binh Minh for Banh Mi!! (Vietnamese sandwiches...I'll let you know if they're as good as the ones I've had in the past)**

Wherever I go I recommend that people broaden their culinary horizons by trying new cuisines. This is your chance folks. Head over to Vietnam Kitchen for a taste of something wonderful. I guarantee you'll be back for seconds.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Go for the pumpkins...stay for the brandy

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The air is becoming crisp and cool (or at least should be), the leaves on the trees are bursting with color and apples (I eat an apple a day in the fall...with a side of cheese of course!) are a dime a dozen. Mums are everywhere and every time I see one I think of our backyard wedding in Virginia (mums were cheap and in season, and so were our flower of choice). And last but not least, pumpkin patches are bursting with bright orange gourds just waiting to be carved!

I'd have to say that carving a pumpkin (and then subsequently gorging myself on roasted pumpkin seeds) is my favorite part of the Halloween season. I can take or leave the costume part, but there's something enchanting about carving and then illuminating a pumpkin. I simply love it.

Now, it should be mentioned that I probably shouldn't be allowed to carve my own pumpkin anymore. I've had some unfortunate run-ins with knives over the years, and one in particular that sticks out in my mind involves a pumpkin, a carving knife and a puncture wound through the top of my hand. But I recovered and obviously didn't learn a damn thing from that experience because I can't wait to start carving the pumpkin we picked out last weekend!

Looking for a great spot to pick your own pumpkin (with a side of fall fun...and a lot of it)? You've got to check this place out... Joe Huber's

Just over the river in Indiana is a fall wonderland. Want to go on a hayride? How about a corn maze? Perhaps you're looking to pick some apples? Or maybe you're looking to do some wine tasting? All these things and more can be had at Joe Huber's...that is, if you're willing to share the place with about all of Kentuckiana (it was PACKED!).

Honestly? This place has it all. It's a one stop shop fall day trip for the whole family. And even if you don't have kids you can still enjoy the hell out of this place...because they have a winery.

We returned from Joe Huber's with a perfectly round pumpkin, a bag of apples, a slab of fat-back (they had a cured meat and cheese case...I just had to!) and a bottle of Apple Jack brandy.

We haven't carved the pumpkin yet or broken into the fat-back, but I can tell you honestly, the brandy is mighty nice.

They had a large selection of wines, apple spiced wines, brandies and such but we chose the Apple Jack because it was apple brandy that was aged in charred oak barrels...think apple bourbon.

Nick tried mixing it into a few concoctions last night but I think the winner was the apple jack with Ale-8-1 soda (which we just recently discovered I might add). The apple and the ginger married perfectly and made a lovely cocktail. We haven't come up with a name yet (I leave that to the hubby) but when we do I'll be sure to post it. I mean, if it turns out to be the next cosmopolitan or seven and seven, it's going to need a catchy name!
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Friday, October 8, 2010

What a deal. I mean what-a-deal!

I know I haven't done a travel post in a while. Honestly, most of the traveling we've been doing lately has been of the moving variety. But all that's about to change.

Fall through spring tend to be our big travel months. We take a week trip in the fall, a 4 day trip for New Year's, and another week in the dead of winter (to warm up of course). Then there's always the odd long weekend peppered in here and there.

Our fall trip this year is to Belgium and The Netherlands and it's rapidly approaching. I just booked our hotel for Brussels and I simply had to share it with you. I got some kind of deal on our room, and you can too! So here's another refresher course on how to travel cheap...courtesy of the most frugal traveler around...me!

I've posted these tips in the past but it's never a bad idea to get a refresher course on bidding for travel, so here we go!


Airfare is the only thing you can never really get a great deal on. It IS possible to bid for it but the rules state that they can put you on just about any flight in a 24 hour period with layover times as long as 5 hours. No thank you. I'm willing to give up some control over my hotel room but keep your hands off my flight plans.

I always use Kayak to search for flights. It searches the search engines. It's the best. It's a one stop shop for flights and will always find you the best deal.


Now here is where you can save a boatload of money, and trust me, I do. Bidding for your hotel room on PriceLine is the only way to go if you ask me. Not 10 minutes ago I won a bid for a 4 star hotel room in the center of Brussels for, get this, $45 a night!!! 45 dollars, not euros...a night!!! Why wouldn't you do this!?!?

Now I've got my sights on a hotel in Amsterdam for $65 a night. It's a bit pricier but it is a more well known city and that makes a difference. Here's how I do it.....

Step 1.) Go to www.biddingfortravel.com

Bidding for travel is a huge bulletin board where people post their winning bids, failed bids and hotel specifics. When you bid on Priceline all you get do do is choose the area and the star rating...the rest is up to chance. But if you read posts on bidding for travel you can narrow down which hotels you might get. I knew it would be one of two and I was right.

Step 2.) Bid on Priceline.com

Priceline only allows you to bid one time per star rating in a 24 hour period. Yesterday I tried to get a room for $40 in Brussels and lost, so today I raised my bid by $5 and won. Sometimes you can even get lucky by just re-bidding the same thing the next day. The closer it gets to your travel date the better your chances are because hotels want to sell unsold rooms for whatever they can get. It's better than nothing at all right!

Now, all sales are final. They charge your card the minute a bid is accepted and you have no idea what hotel you're getting until after they charge your card, but a 4 star hotel is a 4 star hotel wherever you go so you really can't go wrong.

Think you can't afford to go away for New Year's eve? Or maybe you're just looking for a weekend away (Nick and I are thinking of doing a weekend in Nashville soon). Please, pretty please give Priceline a try. If you're a little scared about the whole not-knowing-which-hotel thing then start small. Just bid for a weekend getaway somewhere close. I promise you'll be hooked. I am!

I know I sound like a walking advertisement (unpaid of course) for Priceline but that's because I've never, ever had a problem with them and they've allowed Nick and I to spend the money we save on more important things...drinks are on us!
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weekend activities..."Thank You Louisville, Love, Jessica"

Dear Louisville, Thank you. Thank you for all of the festivals, gatherings, concerts and such. Thank you for all of the recreational opportunities. Thank you for making so many of them free, and all of them cheap. Lots of love, Jessica

If the weekend comes and the hubby gets bored, god help us all. Practical jokes get pulled. Exorbitantly expensive computer games get bought. The dog gets so much attention that she passes out for the day around noon.

Since we've moved to Louisville and been busy every weekend, life has been good.

Have someone with ants in his/her pants in your household? Here are a few things happening this weekend that caught my interest::::

The Louisville Cardinals' Homecoming

I've never really gotten into college football, mainly because the university I went to didn't even have a football team, but "when in Rome!". So we're fixin' to go to the Cardinals' homecoming game this weekend. They serve beer there right????

The Garvin Gate Blues Fest

I'm no stranger to music festivals. I've been going to them since I was a youngin'. Here's some photographic evidence (yes...I was that darn cute).

Even if you don't like blues (and I mean come on...who doesn't like blues!) it's free, so why not make an appearance.

Maker's Mark Six Year Anniversary

My mama is the queen of coupons and good deals. When I was a kid she used to use coupons and radio contest winnings to treat the family to some amazing times.

When Nick and I moved to Philadelphia she found this web-site that offers fantastic discount coupons for fine dining restaurants and sent us a welcome package of them. She did the same thing when we moved to Louisville and it was thanks to her that we found (and LOVED) Lilly's. In that same package was a coupon for the Maker's Mark Lounge downtown.

Nick and I haven't ventured there yet as the prices seem a bit high, and sometimes we can be a bit frugal. Today, however, I read that they're having their six year anniversary and using it to raise money for the Susan G Komen foundation...an organization that's working to find a cure for breast cancer.

My mama had breast cancer years ago, and is happy and healthy today. As much of a cheapskate as I can be at times I think there are some things worth spending money on. This happens to be one of them.

So consider heading over to the Maker's Mark Lounge this weekend. Not only can you enjoy some damn good bourbon...but you can also contribute to a damn fine cause. I can certainly drink to that.
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hillbilly Cafe - The food here is anything but backwoods

The term "hillbilly" conjurers images of toothless rednecks in overalls...think Cletus from The Simpsons (by the way...the hubby does and excellent Cletus...cute and disturbing all at the same time). But for me it also conjures images of fun times and excellent food.

I've personally been to many a hillbilly party in my day. I've been to pig pickin's so far in the middle of nowhere that the damn radio doesn't work. And Nick and I have even shared a bowl of beer with some fine locals while camping in the woods of West Virginia (they forgot to bring cups but kindly offered us bowls of beer...who were we to refuse!?).

As much as I love haute cuisine, I appreciate rustic cooking much, much more. Making delicious meals out of simple ingredients is a tale as old as time and I really believe it's the mark of a truly talented chef...case in point...Chef Apri of Hillbilly Cafe.

Nick and I put off dining at the Hillbilly Cafe for a few weeks because a place that serves tea instead of booze didn't quite sound like our idea of a Friday night out. Boy were we wrong.

We arrived at Hillbilly Tea around 6:15 last Friday night. Located in a cute and unassuming storefront downtown, with a downright charming decor inside, the restaurant immediately makes you feel welcomed and comfortable. Once you open the menu, peruse the dishes, then glance at the amazing prices, you feel more than comfortable...you feel downright at home.

We perused the tea menu and decided on one of their many flavors of iced tea (which are delightfully displayed along the wall), Big Earl's. We shared a quart of it and at $2.75 it was a refreshing (and high quality to boot) beverage for a fraction of the cost of my typical martini. The waitress brought us our tea and some deliciously flaky biscuits and we were off and running.

We perused the menu and I realized that during lunch they offer things a la carte, but in the evening they put together "Tea Dinners". For the low, low price of $15 we each chose a salad or soup, an entree, two sides and they threw in some corn pone because what's a hillbilly meal without it!

Now, I know what you're probably thinking...offering a soup or salad and letting you choose your sides is more Blue Plate Special and less highfalutin cuisine. Nothing could be further from the truth here.

The salad that evening was sorghum roasted squash(who knew sorghum was so good!) with arugula, walnuts, some amazing (really really good) goat cheese and the most lovely sweet vinaigrette. I would order that salad a la carte any day of the week. The fact that it came with the meal made it even tastier.

The soup was parsnip. Nick ordered it because he always orders the soup. He thought it would be pureed but was pleasantly surprised when it arrived at the table as more of a chunky vegetable soup. It was rich and satisfying with a depth of flavor that you don't typically find in a veggie soup. Nick concurred...he too would order that soup a la carte any day.

For his protein, Nick chose the cider glazed cornish hen. I chose the stuffed trout with cornbread dressing. For our sides we both chose the roasted sweet potatoes and I picked the braised greens while Nick decided on the chow-chow.

Nick's cornish hen was honestly what I would expect to see at a high-end restaurant. It was glazed beautifully with a slightly sweet sauce and cooked to perfection. I know this should be reserved for KFC, but it really was finger lickin' good. As for his chow-chow...I was jealous, and will certainly order it next time I go. It was crisp and refreshing, a far cry from some soggy chow-chow I've had in my day, and packed with flavor. Honestly...yummy.

My trout was a pleasant surprise. I expected the cornbread dressing to overpower the trout both in quantity and flavor but neither was true. The trout was moist and flaky, and to my surprise, it's delicate flavor was only amplified by the perfectly seasoned cornbread dressing that sat atop it. It came with a teeny, tiny little shot glass of sauce. I have no idea what it was but if we weren't in public I would have drank the remaining sauce directly out of the container. My guess was creme fraiche with a touch of lemon juice and secret, but delicious third ingredient. I overlooked it at the beginning of the meal and towards the end was literally pouring it on everything I had left on my plate.

Both of our sweet potatoes were cooked to crispy sweet perfection and my greens were prepared almost exactly as I do them at home so you know I'm going to say they're good!

When the waitress (whom was extremely pleasant and helpful I must add) came around for our dessert order the hubby hardly let her finish her sentence before he ordered the bourbon bread pudding. It was a pretty traditional pudding with some pretty nontraditional accompaniments...a marshmallow-like topping and a sweet bourbon sauce that I would bathe in. A fantastic end to an even more fantastic meal.

We forgot to order the crispy fried liver bites to start and I really want to try their frogs' legs so it looks like I'll have to go back for seconds (did I forget to order them for that very reason?? perhaps).

I would be happy, no, delighted to return to Hillbilly Tea for seconds for so many reasons. The prices were more than reasonable. The technique was wonderful. The quality of the ingredients were second to none. And perhaps the thing that kept us away this long...the lack of liquor...was actually a blessing in disguise...because honestly...amidst the charming decor, the delightful cuisine, the refreshing tea and the wallet friendly price tag...I didn't miss it one bit.

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