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 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's called Creation Gardens.

Their website is 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 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 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 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(, 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 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 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

Wiltshire On Market on Urbanspoon
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