Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kickin' up our heels

Hi folks! I know I haven't posted in a few days (ok, 13, but who's counting). Sorry about that. Nick and I have been kicking up our heels and jumping into Louisville with both feet. Unfortunately, that doesn't leave a lot of time for sleeping and writing.

We've been hosting out of town friends...Hi James & Jess...Adam and Deidre!

We've been eating and drinking...Ahhh Friday nights at the Back Door bar! (I mean, $3 mixed drinks all night every night...PLUS $2.50 specials and a half dozen pool tables...I would pitch a tent in their parking lot if we didn't live 100 yards away)

And we've been taking every chance we get to explore our new town.

Here are just a few fun things we've done in the past 3 weeks......

Sunday, August 29th - The Zombie Walk

Ok. I still have no idea what this was all about. We were buying a bottle of wine at our local liquor store and the owner asked if we were going to the Zombie Walk that evening. Never one to turn down an opportunity to try something new I said yes...and as always...asked questions later.

Around nightfall (and after an AMAZING piece of halibut...damn I'm good) we walked out our back door, beer in hand, across the alley and into a scene straight out of a horror movie.

There were hundreds of people dressed (and acting) like zombies. The street was shut down, there was live music, dancing, drinking and fun. As I'm writing this I still have no idea why this happened or what it was all about, but I can say this...it's not every day you can walk out your back door and into the night...of the living dead.

Weird...but fun.

Mammoth Caves National Park

Our friends James and Jess flew in from Philly to spend a few days with us. We wanted to show them something they wouldn't normally see at home so we went to the state fair and went camping at Mammoth Caves National Park.

The state fair was fun, and, seeing as I'm a Jersey girl, I had no idea things like this were such a big deal. My favorite part was the livestock (sooooo cute!!!!), however let's not forget about the corn dogs. Let's never forget about the corn dogs.

Oh, and speaking of food...here's a quick fact...last year the prize winning Country Ham was sold for a whopping $200,000.oo!! That's some expensive bacon.

Then came Mammoth Caves.

Just under 2 hours south of Louisville you will find the world's longest cave system. Actually, they say if you placed the world's second and third longest cave systems head to tail they still wouldn't be as long as Mammoth Caves.

It rained, unfortunately, but Camp Master Jones (my hubby's alter-ego when we're in the woods) was smart and packed a tarp shelter to put over the picnic table, so we had a good time eating, drinking and playing cards despite the rain. Rain...HA...Camp Master Jones laughs in your general direction.

The star of the show...the caves of course! At a lovely constant temperature of 54 degrees year round (that's right...it never changes), they were a welcome respite from the heat and humidity (according to Camp Master Jones a lovely 94 percent relative humidity).

If you have a chance to visit I highly recommend it. It's not often you get the chance to explore enormous cave systems. **P.S. If you're in the Shenandoah area of Virginia you can also check out Luray Caverns...not quite as sprawling as Mammoth Caves, and a bit more touristy, however lovely all the same**

The Zoo!

Ok. I know the zoo isn't the most exciting thing for most folks to do. But at $12 bucks a head it's a great weekend activity. The other reason I'm posting about it is because I simply HAD to show y'all this picture of a bird licking sweat off Nick's head. Gross, cute, funny...you be the judge!

Fishing, Fishing and Fishing...oh, and finding a swimming hole!!!!

Ok. I know no one really cares about this part of the post. I'm not really giving you any info on Louisville or Kentucky in general. I am, however, bragging because on one of our weekly fishing outings (by the way...I think the score is Nick a bazillion fish...me...2) I finally found a swimmin' hole!

For some reason I thought that Kentucky would be chock-full-o swimmin' holes (perhaps I watched a little too much Dukes of Hazards in my youth). When I found it hard to locate one I became discouraged. Sometimes the pool at the Y just doesn't cut it. Well, for those of you who knew about my ongoing search I'm happy to report that I did in fact find one...a GREAT one! Ahhhh Kentucky. re-enforcing stereotypes one swimmin' hole at a time!

So that's the Cliff's Notes of the past 2 1/2 weeks. We also ate, ate and ate some more. I'm working on those posts as we speak, so stay tuned.

Oh, and I'll try not to leave y'all without new posts for that long again. How did you live without me!!??
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Steak By Any Other Name

Nick and I are looking to buy a house. It's been a few years since we've owned a home and one of the things we've missed most was a game room. I can't tell you how many evenings we spent in our house in Virginia playing pool and listening to music in our little billiards room.

With any luck we'll have an even larger game room in this house. Perhaps we'll have a big 'ol wet bar and a kegerator! Oh and we'll get to decorate it and....gosh, I seem to be getting ahead of myself here. What does this have to do with a post about steak? Well. I always thought that when we got the game room of our dreams we would decorate it with meat-cut-charts from all sorts of animals. That being said, you may not want to ask my advice next time you decide to redecorate.

I know it sounds crazy. But I've always liked them. I've always found them to be unique, interesting and honestly...educational!

I mean, how much do you really know about the meat you eat? I'm not going to get deep into the source and the farm and the feed today. I'm just talking about the pretty packaged meat you find in the meat department.

Cow's are big...really big. Some cuts and steaks can and do go by many different names depending on where you live, how your butcher was taught and so many other things. However there are also plenty of delicious cuts that don't always make it to the mainstream supermarket, name confusion or no. Honestly, there are many cuts that some butchers simply aren't familiar with.

When Nick and I moved to Philadelphia we had never heard of a Hanger Steak. One night at dinner Nick ordered it and so began our love affair with it. It's situated under the belly of the cow, right near the flank and skirt steaks we eat so much of...whether you know it or not. Ever had a fajita? It was probably a skirt steak. So why don't more people know about it? And why, oh why, does it seem that no butcher in all of Louisville carries it.

Not being content to live without hanger steak I decided to find out more about it and hopefully educate the local butchers...and in turn get them to cut me a big 'ol hanger steak for dinner. So sticking with my know-thine-meat motto, I did a little research, and in doing so, found a wealth of beefy information that I'd love to share with you.

Now, there are many, many beef cut charts out there but I felt this one was super duper thorough. Unfortunately it's so thorough that I couldn't fit it's screenshot in the post. But here's the link: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Articles/Cooking-Tips--Techniques-642/beef-cuts.aspx

It starts with the primal cuts (great name right?), and then breaks those cuts of meat down so thoroughly and so precisely that after reading you may feel as though you yourself could break down a cow. I mean, if you wanted to that is ;)

So read up...and then eat up. Isn't learning fun?!?
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Goetta - A Porkie/Oatie/Yummy Regional Discovery

My husband's all-time favorite breakfast meat isn't crispy bacon, pork sausage or even country ham (though country ham does run a close second). He prefers something a bit more daring. Perhaps something made by grinding pork "scraps" and cornmeal together, slicing it thin and frying it until golden, golden brown. I'm talking about scrapple folks!

Scrapple was originally created by the Pennsylvania Dutch (some say it's the first "pork food" invented in America. It's very popular in the Philadelphia area, but also popular in the South East. I mean, Nick was eating scrapple for YEARS before we moved to Philly. I think our first breakfast together in Richmond featured a few slices of scrapple. Now, not everyone likes it, but those who do seem to not just like it...they love it.

So when we moved to Louisville the first thing Nick looked for was his beloved scrapple. Head held low he approached me in the grocery store and informed me that he couldn't find scrapple anywhere. I looked at his puppy dog expression and revisited the breakfast meat department in search of a substitute. Amazingly enough I found one...Goetta.

Now, before I continue I want to explain that I'm a huge fan of regional delights. Discovering regional foods is a true passion of mine. From my hometown's Taylor Pork Roll - to Montreal's claim to fame, Poutine. From the Weisswurste sausages in Munich - to the German influenced Goetta of my new home .... if it's part of the culture, and safe for human consumption, I'll WILL eat it.

Goetta, it seems, is much like scrapple. It's base is ground pork "bits". It is cooked in a similar fashion and it's texture, before cooking (and after) is crumbly and delicate. It was created by German immigrants and is popular (or at least sold) in the Cincinnati metro area (including the fine states of Kentucky and Indiana).

The thing that sets Goetta apart from it's cousin scrapple is the filler. Scrapple uses meal, while Goetta uses chopped or steel-cut oats. The oats (and seasoning too I imagine) impart a much sweeter flavor to the meat, making me think it would be awesome with some maple syrup. I wouldn't try that with scrapple as it has a more savory, almost livery flavor.

Texture is key as well. Scrapple has an almost pudding consistency when cooked. A nice crust on the outside breaks through to a very soft center. Goetta doesn't have that pudding-like-consistency. The large cut oats and coarse grind of the meat makes it more crumbly, and almost hash like.

The last obvious difference is the color. Scrapple is, unfortunately, gray. I mean, really, really gray (I'm sure Nick would say that gray is the color of flavor). Goetta on the other hand is a much more appealing tan (most likely due to those delightful oats again.

Now, Nick doesn't like Goetta as much as scrapple. And he'll be the first to tell you. But I like it just fine and I'm happy to have a new regional food to play around with. Case in point...my lunch...a GLT.

Yup. That's right. A GLT. It's a BLT with Goetta instead of bacon. I thought I was blazing new trails but it looks like the Glier's Goetta web site beat me to the recipe. No worries though. It doesn't change the fact that it's delicious...any way you slice it.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kitchen Gadget of The Month - The Soda Stream

I was reading a food blog this morning and today's topic was must-have items for the true southern chef...or something like that. Of course they listed things like cast iron pans, buttermilk, etc. (how they left out a fry-daddy I have no idea). And it got me thinking about MY must-have items in the kitchen.

Now, I'm not a gadget junkie. I love multi-taskers...but have trouble buying gadgets that do one, often truly useless thing. Can't handle holding a tomato while you slice it??? Buy a tomato holder (seriously...the have this...and seriously?...they HAVE this?!?).

But some gadgets are downright useful, and unlike a tomato holder, perform a job that other run-of-the-mill kitchen tools can't. THESE types of gadgets I like.

This month's gadget is courtesy of the one, the only...the hubby. He is a fantastic gift giver. For birthday, Christmas, Groundhog Day, etc., I can always expect a "practical" gift that I've been asking for, and a completely unique surprise that I didn't even know existed.

This year for my birthday I received a new pair of Gizeh Birkenstocks (which I LOVE...thanks Nick!) and a SodaStream. What's a SodaStream you ask??? Only one of the coolest gadgets out there.

I'm a seltzer water junkie. It's better for you than soft-drinks, calorie free and refreshing. Plus (and this is a big plus) you can use it to make just about any mixed drink better. Nick adds berry flavored simple syrup and seltzer to a highball glass of ice and bourbon for an oh-so-delicious cocktail.

The SodaStream is my key to practically free seltzer at the touch of a button (literally!). Just fill the special bottles with water, push the button three times and voila...seltzer (word to the wise and my not-so-wise-sometimes husband...only use water...Nick found out the hard way that it won't carbonate pureed pineapple...it will explode it).

Then all you have to do is add flavoring. Fresh squeezed lime juice for a calorie free beverage. Flavored simple syrup for a sweet treat (so far we've run the berry gamut). Whatever floats your boat. You can even make ginger ale without all that high fructose-corn-syrup by just making a simple syrup of regular sugar, candied ginger and water. I could list flavors all day.

The starter kit can be yours for the low, low price of $72. Then the sky is the limit as far as your soda creations are concerned.

Cheers to that!
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Friday, August 6, 2010

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words....Whoops

If a picture is truly worth a thousand words...then whoops. I almost never leave the house without my trusty sidekick...my camera. But even this food blogging, picture taking, restaurant loving girl makes a mistake sometimes.

I couldn't simply leave these two places off my list just because I was forgetful and left the house without my camera (pre-dinner cocktail hour may or may not have been the true culprit here).

So here's a quick shout out to two Louisville restaurants that deserve a little recognition...even without photographic proof.

1.) The Blind Pig: http://theblindpiglouisville.com/

Any establishment that is committed to making their own Chorizo, Boudin and more, is worth visiting. Their food is rustic but prepared with love, and it shows.

The hubby had the Cassoulet and I ordered the Cod with Chorizo. Both dishes were flavorful and featured their house-made sausage creations. Their wine/beer selection and knowledge was another plus in my book.

I will certainly be back to The Blind Pig for the food, however I'll also be sure to return for the hospitality. Both our server and the manager were more than attentive and friendly, they were downright awesome. We actually ate at The Blind Pig a few months back while scouting out Louisville as a potential hometown. The manager gave us his card and his email address, then offered up his assistance in our daunting search for a rental house. I'm sure had we taken him up on his offer he would have happily driven us around town for our own private tour.

A restaurant can't succeed on good food alone. The Blind Pig not only has good, rustic fare...they also have good, solid hospitality. If you ask me, that's a recipe for success.

Blind Pig on Urbanspoon
2.) FABD Smokehouse: 1202 Bardstown Rd

I work with urbanspoon.com to both promote my blog AND restaurants I enjoy. If you read my blog often you'll recognize the UrbanSpoon link at the bottom of all my review posts. Every restaurant has a diner's rating...a certain percentage of likes and dislikes. While preparing this post I realized that only 52% of voters liked this BBQ joint. They're friggin' crazy. This place is amazing.

We ate here our first night in town. After a long day of driving and unpacking we wanted some cold beer and hot BBQ. This place hit the spot.

They have two locations, one of which is on Bardstown Rd, practically in our back yard, and I hope they'll continue to open more.

The beer was good and cheap. The BBQ was smoked to perfection, flavorful and authentic. The sides were awesome (their potato salad is my new fav...sorry Grandmom!). But best of all...they offer smoked brisket.

Now, I'm not a BBQ snob. I recognize that different regions have different styles, sauces, etc. The hubby is North Carolina born and raised so he's a fan of pulled pork with a vinegar based sauce, but he's also a fan of good 'ol fashioned smoked meat. He (and I agree 100%) believes that if you're going to have pulled pork on the menu, you don't need to have pulled beef as well. You DO, however, need some type of smoked, Texas style brisket...and FABD had it.

I've found that many chain BBQ joints cut corners and just make big batches of pulled beef...smother it in sauce...and slap it on a bun. It really is the easier way to do things, so if you've got dozens of restaurants, easier is, well, a no-brainer.

FABD offered a good variety of BBQ...simple and not-so-simple to make. And for that, I salute them. Add reasonable prices to the mix they really should have at least a 90% rating on UrbanSpoon.

I know I'll be back!

F.A.B.D. Smokehouse in the Highlands on Urbanspoon
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Farmers' Market Find Of The Week.......Local Goat Cheese from Capriole

I know I've told you all about my love of cheese. I also know I've written about my ups and downs, my trials and tribulations, my laughter and tears, all in the name of trying to make cheese. If it sounds a bit theatrical, trust me, nothing was more entertaining than watching me fail and burn and curse over a steaming hot cauldron of milk.

But you know, I'm not sure I've told you of my love for goats. Yes, way-back-when, on our 5 acre plot in Virginia we came very close to expanding our little chicken farm and welcoming twin pygmy goats into our family.

Now, of course I didn't want these goats for milk. I was ALL talk and big ideas back then. I really just wanted to own these cute little buggers because I hated mowing our big ass lawn...I thought the dog could use a friend or two that didn't have feathers and tasted like chicken...and they were adorable!!! Well, we never did get them and I'm happy about it. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have liked living in Philadelphia as much as we did.

But I still think from time to time about how great it would be to own some goats. They're very self-reliant animals. They mow the lawn better than a Cub Cadet. And if you're up for the challenge, you can make some damn fine cheese from their milk.

Last weekend at the farmers' market I ran across a few stands selling artisan cheese, but the one that really sucked me in was the all-goat cheese-stand. Make way...Jessica is here and she wants some cheese.

The stand I'm talking about was the Capriole cheese farm stand. They had quite a selection of lovely hand made goat cheese and I found myself in heaven. After tasting a few I decided on a surface ripened cheese ball. Unlike your typical log of fresh goat cheese this one actually has a firm rind. The minute I saw it I was transported back to a cheese shop on the Rue Cler in Paris. I just had to have it.

I am in love with this cheese. It's got a very, very smooth texture (sometimes cheap fresh goat cheese can be mealy). It's just moist enough to be spreadable so it would go perfectly on a cheese plate. And best of all, the rind imparts the most wonderful, earthy flavor to the cheese. It takes it to a whole other level.

Now, of course you could simply put this on a cheese plate and it would be lovely. It would let the cheese speak for itself. But how often do we put together a cheese plate? Honestly? Even I, a veritable cheese junkie only put one together once or twice a month max. So what do you do the rest of the time? I'll tell you what you don't do. You don't stop buying good cheese. You just find ways to include it in your every day meals.

I think that the absolute best accompaniments to goat cheese are the following: Baby Arugula and/or Fresh Roasted Beets and/or Walnuts (or another fatty nut like a pine nut). Now, you can mix goat cheese with one, or preferably ALL of these things and you will have a flavor combination that is second to none. The arugula is peppery. The beets are sweet. The goat cheese is creamy and salty. The nuts are meaty with the perfect amount of fat.

As I type these words I'm munching on that very salad. I roasted some beets in the oven (wrap in foil and roast at 350 for an hour or more depending on the size). I opened a package of baby arugula. I grabbed some toasted walnuts from the pantry and threw them all on a plate with some goat cheese. Then I made the easiest dressing of all time. I drizzled it with a tiny bit of olive oil and a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Let some kosher salt snow down on the plate (no pepper...the arugula will do that work for you) and you've got a lunch, dinner or snack to die for.

So get out there and buy yourself some cheese. Make it goat...make it sheep...make it cow. But whatever you choose, make it something new.

Capriole Goat Cheese
Greenville, IN 47124
Phone: 812.923.9408
email: caprioleinc@aol.com

It looks like they have a store on the farm and you can also find them (and probably me!) Saturdays at the Highlands Farmers' Market on Bardstown Rd.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

More Rouille For Me! How Lilly's opened my mind and mouth with an old French classic

People often ask me how I choose which restaurants to visit and review. I assume they're looking for a tip about some fantastic website that lists all the best restaurants around and never steers you wrong. Well, aside from MY website, I have yet to find this magical place.

The truth of the matter is that the majority of the time I use Google Maps and yes, it can be a tedious process. I usually start with my address and then Google-walk my way around the city, clicking on restaurant links in the process.

Of course I read some reviews during my culinary search. I'll usually plan to hit up one "hot new" place a month and perhaps one "tried and true" one as well. But the rest of the time I rely on Google Maps...oh, and sometimes my Mother.

Now, my Mother doesn't live in Louisville, or Philadelphia, or Richmond. As a matter of fact, I haven't lived in the same town as my parents in a loooooong time. But my Mom is the queen of coupons (honestly...don't even try to tell me your Mom is the queen of coupons...my Mom has the crown and everything). Once in a while the hubby and I will get a care package of coupons from my mother that she so skillfully acquired when restaurants.com was having a sale, and are lucky enough to find a real gem within that package.

One of these recent gems goes by the name Lilly's. It's located in our lovely Highlands neighborhood. I honestly didn't do a lick of research on it before we went, but had I, I might have realized how well respected this place is in the Louisville restaurant scene. A week after our wonderful dining experience I read that in 1994 Lilly's head chef was invited to cook at the famed James Beard House. I also read that it was a forerunner for Louisville's then blossoming restaurant scene. After doing some research it's no wonder Nick and I had such a fabulous meal.

We started our meal with some cocktails. Although I've recently been in quite a serious relationship with bourbon, I decided to be a tad unfaithful and ordered The Right Way. It was a martini or sorts with Right Gin, St. Germain and Stirring Ginger syrup. Since gin WAS my first love it really hit the spot, especially on such a hot and humid evening. After the hubby stopped drooling over the extensive (really, really extensive) bourbon list he decided on something in the Van Winkle family (honestly I can't remember...I took notes but somehow I left this piece of info off).

For an appetizer we chose to share the fried oysters (picture above) with Weisenberger grits, spinach and a chipotle butter. At first bite we realized this would be a good meal. The oysters were fried perfectly. They were crispy on the outside but still retained so much of their delicious, juicy integrity inside. Though I'd never heard of Weisenberger brand grits I did some research and found that they're a local Kentucky product...and if I may say so a delicious one at that. They were creamy to the point of almost being a sauce underneath of those lovely oysters. A delicious first dish.

The hubby then ordered the duck breast with a port reduction. It was perfectly cooked and sat atop a potato salad and arugula. He enjoyed his dish as did I. He did mention that the port reduction was a tad overpowering, but overall it was a successful dish.

I ordered the special (as almost always!). It was a Corvina with spinach, mussels and new potatoes, all over a pool of lobster fumet. Who could pass that up!? The fish was one of the best cooked pieces of seafood I've had in ages. For those of you who don't know, Corvina is similar to Sea Bass. When scooped up with a nice ladle of lobster fumet it's a party on a fork.

As amazing as this dish was, one thing blew my mind......the rouille. I consider myself to be pretty well versed in French food and technique (ok, I'm no expert but I love it). I've eaten my way across Paris. I've tried my darnest to make the perfect duck confit. I even named one of our pet chickens "co-co" after Coq au Vin! But I had never heard of a rouille. It's sort of like a roux, but it's made made by thickening a saffron broth with bread. Then it's typically served with a bouillabaisse or any other type of fish and broth combo. They served me quite a nice dollop of the stuff and as ashamed as I am to admit I didn't know what it was, I'm even more ashamed to say that I ate most of it like mashed potatoes...because it was just that damn good. Ok, I did eat it with the fumet and Corvina like I was supposed to, but the texture, the flavor, the silky smooth sauce was too good to leave behind. And so, I pretty much licked the ramekin clean.

We skipped dessert and instead finished the glasses of wine we ordered with our meal, although, I do wonder what delights might have been awaiting us.

You know folks...I hate to say that I arrived in Louisville from Philly expecting to be disappointed with the food scene. Honestly, I did set my expectations low. After that meal at Lilly's I find that I'm disappointed with myself for doing so. Louisville seems to have a true love of food...good food...and I can't wait for this town to continue to wow me with it.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I will try my hand at a rouille...oh yes...and I will let you know how it goes.

Lilly's on Urbanspoon
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