Friday, April 29, 2011

Mint Juleps or Morels? This weekend...Morels

Dear Louisville, This will be my first Derby and Derby Fest...and I'm excited about it...but my heart lies with another festival this weekend. I hope we can still be friends. Love and mint juleps, Jessica

Yes. This will be my first Derby. Nick and I moved into town mid summer of last year, and although we've enjoyed a few fun filled races at Churchill Downs, we have yet to experience the magic and mayhem that I hear comes hand in hand with that famous weekend.

Although there are plenty of local derby related events around town that I should be excited about this weekend, for some reason, the only thing I can think of is an event clear across the state of KY. It's the Irvine Mountain Mushroom Festival, and I can almost taste the umami from here.

Typically I wouldn't be quite so excited about a fungus festival, but (yes, there is a is featuring the event on it's site and there will be morel mushroom hunting at the festival, so morels should be in abundance.

If you're asking yourself, "what's the big deal about morels", then you probably have never eaten one.

Wild morels are only available fresh once a year. In Kentucky, they happen to show themselves in spring.

Morels are, in my opinion, the king of all mushrooms. The flavor, the texture, the earthy and musty aroma of a morel makes it an amazing natural wonder. They're bursting with umami flavor. They can compliment any spring dish with ease. They are...mouthwatering. They are also...expensive.

Since they're only available fresh once a year I tend to splurge. While I don't recommend heading off to the woods and scavenging for them yourself, I do recommend scavenging the local farmers' markets and produce stands in search of them.

I'll keep y'all posted on my morel sightings and please keep me posted if you find any as well.

P.S. In related news I just got off the phone with Creation Gardens (searching for those yummy shrooms) and was told that their old retail warehouse in the NuLu area is closing down and they're moving to a much larger warehouse that, sadly, won't be open to non-restaurant owning customers.

I was told that they will be implementing an online shopping site for regular joes like you and me who still want amazing produce that you can't find anywhere else, but there will be no strolling the aisles yourself. You will have to place an order online and pick it up.

Good news though...prices will be listed on the site! No more filling your basket with amazing produce, price unseen, and sweating at the register hoping it won't break the bank.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lee's Korean

I was recently planning a trip for someone interested in visiting L.A.

While discussing the details of the trip, my client stated that they wanted to stay in the part of Los Angeles that is "near everything". I closed my eyes for a moment and pictured the city and all of it's parts, then I opened my eyes and said, "Maybe we can narrow that down a bit".

For those of you who have never been to LA it can be hard to picture it's size, but it's sprawling.

Being an enormous city has it's ups and it's downs. Obviously, nobody walks in LA(a catchy lyric but also true), and the public transportation system is lacking. But if you don't mind driving clear across the city for dinner every night, your dining options are unbelievably varied and almost endless. And if you're looking for Korean food, boy are you in luck.

Los Angeles is home to Koreatown, which, in turn, is home to the largest population of Koreans in the US (and I've read outside of Korea but don't quote me on that). You can't swing a dead cat without finding some amazing Korean food in that town.

Of course we don't all live in LA. So when Nick and I were reminiscing about Los Angeles and it's amazing Korean fare, but were here in good 'ol Louisville, we headed to Lee's Korean hoping to feed our craving. I read that Lee's has been in operation for almost 30 years, so Nick and I were excited to try such a longstanding "ethnic" Louisville restaurant.

Lee's location is quite unexpected. The first floor of a large office building might be the last place you would expect to find this restaurant. But the minute you spot it, you feel like you're in on a secret.

The atmosphere inside was nice. It was clean and sparse with soft lighting. We were seated in a booth near a very cute faux paper wall.

We perused the menu and ordered some excellently priced Korean beer.

The menu offered many greatest hits. And as Nick and I perused the varieties of Bim Bop we ultimately decided to share a dish....a big dish.

We chose to share the Hae Mul Chon Gol...a seafood stew. It was presented table side, bubbling atop a hot plate, overflowing with octopus, shrimp, tofu, crab and fish. Also in the mix were deliciously plump noodles and a variety of veggies, all swimming in a spicy(ish) broth. Just before digging in our waitress kindly cut the long octopus tentacles into more manageable bites, and then we dug in.

The broth was rich and flavorful. When asked how spicy we wanted it, we basically told the waitress to "bring it on". We could have done with a bit more spice for our liking but the flavors were just delicate enough and the seafood sung.

The balance between soft seafood, crisp veggies and chewy noodles was wonderful and the ingredients were cooked well.

Between rich, seafood bites we munched on an array of banchan that was brought to the table. Probably the most commonly known type of banchan is kimchi, but there are dozens if not hundreds of varieties of banchan that can accompany a meal. Lee's banchan certainly weren't the best I've ever had but they were very good, nicely varied and offered a palate cleansing respite from the rich main course.

Service, unfortunately, seemed like it should be part of some horrible politically incorrect joke like, "How many Koreans does it take to run a restaurant". Table after table of people could wait no longer for their checks and had to hunt an employee down at the cash register. We had so much of our main course leftover that we asked for take away containers and almost didn't have the patience to wait the 20 mins to receive them.

Lee's prices were good. $30 for a two person bowl of seafood stew that could feed 4 is one heck of a deal if you ask me. The cuisine was yummy...not mind blowing but very yummy. And the atmosphere was nice. But the quickest way to have a meal leave a bad taste in your mouth is to end your dining experience with poor service and a long wait for the check.

As always I'm going to give Lee's the benefit of the doubt and suggest that they might have been understaffed that evening. And although I'm going to seek out a different Korean restaurant in town next time I've got a craving, I would recommend giving Lee's a try. If you've got some time to kill you and your date can take a yummy trip to Korea for under $50 and under the time it would take to fly there (maybe just).

Lee's Korean on Urbanspoon
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Long time no post

A big HI to all my loyal readers who probably thought I've fallen off the side of a cliff. The good news is...I haven't!

I'm sorry for the lack of post lately but starting next week all shall be back on track. I've got a file full of things to post about and have been receiving plenty of "Hey, if you're not dead, you should check -blank- out" emails from many of my readers.

So enjoy your Easter weekend...gorge on some ham...stuff enough hard boiled eggs into your mouth to raise your cholesterol a point or two...and I'll see you next week.

P.S. I always get a little food sentimental around Easter. My Polish Grandmom always made a big picnic type spread for the holiday. Locally made Kielbasa and her famous potato salad are on my mind today.

What dishes were/are a staple at your family's Easter celebration?
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