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.