Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My new happy place - Bourbon distilleries

Nick and I haven't been in Louisville long, but so far we love it. We're trying to jump right in with both feet and experience all this fine town has to offer. We're planning on heading over to Churchill Downs to watch the ponies run this weekend. We'll probably take advantage of the multitude of free music and festivals Louisville is offering this summer. And we've already begun to eat our way across the city (review to come).

But first things first right? I mean, the first thing you do when you visit a new place is to experience something that the town is known for...WELL known for. So for us, the first thing to do was hit the bourbon trail (naturally!). We hit it pretty hard and realized we didn't even put a dent in it yet. So here's the best and worst of our first run at the distillery tours. To all of you distillers out there get ready...the Bantas are in town and they're thirsty.

My favorite distillery tour - Buffalo Trace

We got to the distillery early and hopped right into the second tour of the day. The location of this distillery is nothing short of lovely so right off the bat we were happy with the place. It's right on the river in a beautiful valley surrounded by limestone rock walls.

The tour was extremely informative. Our guide explained what it takes to actually call your liquor bourbon (at least 51% corn, no added colors or flavors, aged in a charred oak barrel, etc.). Then she started to explain the differences in mash and flavor. Basically she covered what adding things like rye and barley can do to the flavor of a bourbon.

Fun fact...did you know that the Buffalo Trace distillery is the oldest continually operated bourbon distillery in the states because they were allowed to stay open during prohibition to produce bourbon for "medicinal" purposes? You can be sure that I would have had my doctor on speed dial during prohibition.
Next she took us into the warehouse where the bourbon ages. When Nick and I buy a home I'm thinking of decorating it "bourbon chic". This place was awesome. Floor after floor, row after row of bourbon. Beautiful. The guide explained how a key part in aging bourbon is letting it be affected by the changing temperatures of the 4 seasons. The only time they do any climate control is if it gets really, really cold, like during a blizzard. Cool huh? (no pun intended)

Fun fact...did you know that the hole in the barrel that holds the cork is called the "bung"? I laughed for a good 20 minutes over that one.
Finally she took us over the cute little railroad tracks (that are used to transport kind of transportation) and into the packaging room. That is where I saw the greatest curio cabinet of all time. It was jam packed full of bourbon. So, so, so many types of bourbon, and they make them all.....Blanton's, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Elmer T. Lee (of which Nick is enjoying presently) and the list goes on.

Fun fact...did you know that every one of Blanton's caps is marked with a letter in the Blanton's name? If you collect one of each you can spell out BLANTONS in caps. You can also buy the caps individually, without the bottle of booze attached to it, but where's the fun in that!??!

P.S. You may want to pass on tasting their "White Dog" liquor at the end. White Dog is what bourbon is before it's aged...right out of the still. It smells like caramel corn and tastes like Drain-o...stick with the bourbons.

My second favorite distillery tour - Maker's Mark

Maker's Mark distillery is located in the middle of nowhere. I'm not exaggerating. It really is out there. But it's worth the trip. I promise.

The tour begins in just about the cutest country home you've ever seen. There is complimentary lemonade in the kitchen, cute household relics from back in the day to stare at and nice bathrooms to relieve yourself in. It may sound trivial, but these distilleries take some driving to get to, so a nice bathroom is a plus.

The Maker's Mark grounds are lovely. They're manicured to perfection and everything is trimmed in the signature Maker's Mark red.

Fun fact...Did you know that Maker's Mark really owes most of it's success to the packaging? The brewer's wife knew their bourbon was good, but also knew it needed that little something extra, so she designed the "mark" and the idea to dip all the bottles in wax. What do they say..."behind every good man...".

My favorite part of this tour was the fermentation room. Check this out...they actually let you stick your grubby little hands in the mash to taste it. Don't worry though folks. Whether or not Nick washed his hands before dipping them in this tub is debatable, but one thing is for sure, nothing can survive the distilling process. So please continue to enjoy your Maker's Mark without fear.

Fun fact...This cute little building is called the "Quart House". Back in the day folks were bring their own quart size jars to be filled with bourbon and this is where it happened.

The thing that impressed me most about the Maker's Mark distillery is that it's a household name in the bourbon world, and they got there by making only ONE bourbon. That's right, they only produce Maker's Mark. I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

My least favorite "tour" (I'll explain the quotes in a minute) - Jim Bean

After a long day of driving we ended up at the Jim Beam facility. I was pretty excited about this one. Jim Beam is an "ok" bourbon, but they also make Knob Creek, Booker's Basil Hayden and Baker's. That's quite a lineup of good bourbon if you ask me.

We arrived just in time for the last "tour" and they hurried us into an old farm house to watch a film. We grabbed our "I tasted Jim Beam" stickers and hurried on our way. When the film was over they escorted us back to the gift shop, gave us a sample or two and told us to have a nice day. That was the "tour". Really? Jim Beam is THE best selling bourbon worldwide and THAT is their tour? Pissed of were we!

On our way home I read some of the literature I picked up on the Bourbon Trail and realized that we had only scratched the surface. We simply MUST visit the Bulleit distillery (I love, love, love this bourbon) and so many more.

So I suppose this is just act 1 of the distillery show. We won't rest until we've visited every single bourbon distillery in Kentucky...and I'll be happy to bring y'all along for the ride.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We're Here!!!!

Hi folks! I'm sorry it's been so long since my last post. We've been packing, loading, unloading, driving...driving...driving, unpacking. You get the picture. Also, we're waiting for the cable company to hook up our Internet connection. You would think that they would WANT to take $150 from us a month but judging from their slowness it looks like they could take it or leave it.

So please stay tuned. I'm working on a few final Philly posts which I'll put up around the end of this week or the weekend. Then I'll turn my attention to our new town, Louisville!!

Thanks for your patience and as always, thanks for reading! I promise there will be a boat-load of posts to come.
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Green Eggs Cafe (Philadelphia) - Great food and an even better mission statement

If I had a restaurant and for some reason thought I needed to come up with a mission statement it would probably go something like this.....
You want food, we've got food. We want money, you've got money. Let's make a deal.
That's what restaurants are all about right? I'm pretty sure I don't see anyone out there saying that their mission is to give away delicious food for free. If they are please let me know and I'll go there for breakfast tomorrow. So usually when a restaurant has a mission statement I immediately become suspicious.

In the past I've found that a mission statement like, "we're committed to supporting our local farmers" really translates to "we're going to rip you off and act like we're doing it all for the farmers". Now don't get me wrong. I'm all about supporting local farmers. I'm even somewhat passionate about the idea of it. The problem is that sometimes using that particular mission statement allows the restaurant owners to believe that they can charge more and give you less, all in the name of "their mission". I've had it happen to me in the past and I don't like it one bit.

When Nick and I were seated at the Green Eggs Cafe this morning I spotted a laminated piece of paper on the table. Oh no I thought, a mission statement. However, unlike all of the other ones I've encountered like this one that stated they were supporting local food, this particular one added something that reeled me in, hook, line and sinker......quality food at inexpensive prices. WHAT!!! REALLY??? Local food, quality food, AND good prices. I have to say,they certainly didn't lie. Thank you Green Eggs Cafe for changing my mind about mission statements...and doing it all for around $10.

The hubby ordered The Kitchen Sink. It was a big 'ol cast iron skillet filled with, well, almost everything but the kitchen sink. Good name. It had eggs, cheese, potatoes, meat, a jumbo (and they aren't kidding) biscuit, and then they topped it all off with sausage gravy. Nick was born and raised in North Carolina and has eaten his share of sausage gravy so you can trust him when he says this gravy was delicious. The picture doesn't do it justice, but then again, how beautiful can a dish called the kitchen sink look? It tastes good and that's all that matters.

I ordered the special, steak and eggs. But this wasn't your typical steak and eggs, it was much, much more. They braised some skirt steak, creamed some spinach and cooked some eggs to sunny-side-up-perfection. Then they served it all on top of a lovely biscuit. It was freakin' amazing. Armed with my knife and fork I pierced the yolk and let it cascade down over the tender, braised steak, over the creamy spinach and into the biscuit. Amazing. It was creamy and rich, yet buttery and light. They should take it off the specials menu and plop it right down next to the kitchen sink on their regular menu. Perfection.

Now, the wait was pretty long and the dining room was unbelievably noisy, but after I was served my delicious breakfast I almost forgot about those two things. Their signature potatoes were too greasy for my liking, but I did almost all of them so they couldn't have been THAT bad. Oh, and I read a chalkboard sign that offered a carafe of orange juice with a "complimentary" bottle of Prosseco. I'm not sure how legal that is but it was a nice touch.

If Nick and I weren't leaving for Kentucky in 6 days I would go back again...and again. My dish was a steal at $10 and the hubby's was only $8.50. Their coffee was good and inexpensive, and the wait staff was very friendly. Two thumbs up for the Green Eggs Cafe...mission statement and all.

Green Eggs Cafe on Urbanspoon
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Farewell Philly - Hello Louisville - Stay Tuned for a variety of new posts!

Hi all! I'm sorry it's been so long since my last post, but the hubby and I have been planning for a bit of transition. It looks like we'll be leaving the lovely city of Philadelphia and moving to the still lovely, albeit completely different city of Louisville Kentucky. Wish us luck!

We're very excited about the move. Although we'll miss the hustle and bustle of city life, the abundance of culinary delights and all of the other amazing things Philly has to offer, we're looking forward to experiencing a completely different way of life in Louisville.

So good and bad news. After next week I'll no longer be reviewing any restaurants or events in Philly. I'll post shorter reviews of some restaurants I've got in my file folders and just haven't gotten around to writing before I leave. GOOD news is that I plan on continuing my blog in Louisville!

I think I'm going to expand the blog once I get there and really delve into not only their restaurant and bourbon scene, but also the "country" scene. I'll look at farms and talk about what they're doing to raise local meat and produce. I'll look into regional differences in food since Louisville is often called the gateway to the south and is smack dab in the middle of many different regions of the country (southern, mid-western, eastern). I think this will be good news for my readers outside of Philly as my posts won't JUST be about Philly food, but instead include a lot of cultural information.

The last thing I plan to do is go back to trying to make some of my own food. We tried and failed in VA, but when we buy a house in the country the hubby plans on curing his own meat. I plan on making my own cheese. The dog plans on sleeping a lot on the porch (but that's neither here nor there). Our successes and failures will be a MUST READ, I promise.

So Philly, it looks like we'll be saying farewell. My Philly readers, I'll miss you, and my Philly restaurants, I'll certainly miss you. But we're embarking on an adventure, and I promise you, most every adventure Nick and I embark on will be filled with good stories, good food, good times, and we hope it will still be rare and well done.

I'll keep y'all updated every hilarious misstep of the way (and trust me...there will be some...and they will be hilarious). Thanks for reading and please stay tuned!!
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