Now that’s just downright unsocial: Barrel House Social, the beer-centered restaurant concept created by Bruce Rosenblatt and Tony Palombino, will not happen. In our story, Rosenblatt said the restaurant would open at the site of the Oldenburg Brewery by March 3. But in a text to me a few days ago, he wrote, “there were certain criteria that were not achieved by the landlord, so we expressed our option to cancel the lease.”
Some say the site’s cursed (which I don’t buy), and others say the lease terms and parking lot problems form the real issue (which sound more logical). Either way, no barrel-aged beer or Nashville hot fried chicken in DuPont.
Lexington food, drink fest way ahead of ours: Anyone recall the formation of the Mayor’s Bourbon and Food Work Group? Upon its formation in July of 2014, its plan was to create an annual world-class bourbon and food festival.
I don’t hear or know everything, but I hear a lot, and I know I’ve heard nothing about anything happening yet.
Why is this a problem? Because Lexington is waaaaay ahead of us with its own food and drink event, the Crave Lexington Food + Music Festival. When it started in 2013, it drew 15,000 attendees. In 2014, that number doubled. Now it’s moving to a larger venue and, according to a report in Business Lexington, it’s expected to draw 50,000 people in August.
According to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, li’l ol’ Bardstown draws 50,000 people to a city of 13,000 for an event that now stretches over six days in mid-September.
Crowds of that size for events in Louisville? Forecastle and U of L football games are all I can think of. Sure, there’s that horse race in May, but it’s a given that spills over into Bardstown and Lexington. So that’s sort of everyone’s event.
The Bourbon and Food Work Group appears to have its work cut out to play catch up. Louisville plays host to The Bourbon Classic and The Bourbon Affair, but total attendance for both is what, around 3,000? Its LIBA Brewfest draws a nice crowd, too, but only a few thousand tops also.
In the meantime, I’m making plans to visit Crave.
Ay caramba, that’s tasty!: Got a call last week from Juan Segoviano, owner of five local Senor Iguanas. He and wife, Rosa Segoviano, have opened a new Jalisco-style restaurant named Don Juan Birria Y Carnitas (5637 Outer Loop). Jalisco is the Mexican state from which Juan hails, and it’s also home to about 99 percent of the world’s tequila producers.
He told me last year of his plan to open a place featuring the food he grew up eating — basically things Anthony Bourdain would call the oh, so lovely nasty bits, grub like long-stewed goat (birria), pickled pigs’ feet and carnitas. That’s street food where Segoviano comes from.
Unlike Senor Iguanas, Don Juan is much simpler: very basic décor and menu. The food is terrific (I can’t say I’m ever going to order pickled pigs’ feet again, but they were fine), and the margaritas are some of the town’s best. The bar uses only Herradura tequila for its ‘ritas, and they’re accented with ingredients such as fresh guava and tamarind. I awoke the next morning craving that tamarind drink — not because of its alcohol, but because of the tangy tamarind. It’s worth the drive, trust me.
The guacamole was super bright with onions and serranos, something you don’t normally find in traditionally milder recipes. According to Rosa Segoviano, that added spice is common to Jalisco food. The birria was delicious and not gamey at all. Even if it was, I like that flavor.
I predict Beard Awards in the bluegrass: This could be the year Kentucky food and drink nominees get two James Beard Awards. Here’s why:
Ed Lee has a fantastic chance. He’s all over the place of late and highly visible. He’s got a good cookbook in “Smoke & Pickles,” and he had a nice run on “Mind of a Chef.” Last year he co-created a high-rye Chef’s Collaboration Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon, and, of course, he’s got two great restaurants in 610 Magnolia and MilkWood. Now he’s opening a new restaurant in Maryland called Succotash, and reportedly two more after that.
Along with Kathy Cary of Lilly’s, Lee was nominated last month as Best Chef Southeast for the fourth time (Cary’s third). With each passing year, Lee adds something new to his swelling portfolio, and that helps keeps him in judges’ consciousness and boosts his creds in general.
Sadly, there can only be one winner in the category, and I don’t think Cary, the current grand dame of high-end Kentucky cooking (and this writer’s sentimental favorite in the race) will get it. The James Beard Foundation knows and respects her enough to nudge her onto the list, though, and that’s still a high honor.
But if you’re feeling badly for Cary, just think of all the other super-talented and veteran chefs around here who’ve never been nominated. The James Beard Awards is, like every industry love fest, largely a popularity contest. Who you know and who you have promoting you is just as important as how well you cook and run restaurants.
Who else from the Bluegrass should walk with a medal? My money’s on Harlen Wheatley. The master distiller at Buffalo Trace received his second nomination for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional, and I think he’s got a great chance to get some Beard bling.
Why? Bourbon’s red hot and continues to get the respect it’s long deserved. Even Kentucky’s getting respect nationally. (Thanks in no small part to Ed Lee’s work outside Kentucky. He gets way too little credit for that.)
Wheatley is also the man in charge of making what’s arguably the broadest array of top-shelf whiskeys in the country — one of which is precious Pappy. (It also can’t hurt that Julian Van Winkle got his own Beard Award in the same category a few years ago.)
Wheatley also is in his 40s, and like nearly every contest of this ilk, the Beard Awards — though not a beauty battle — lean toward the young. Just a fact of life.
Bistro 1860’s brilliant food to be “backed” by chicken restaurant: Had a tremendous meal at Bistro 1860 the other night. Since it was slow, executive chef Michael Crouch was visiting with guests and stopped by to chat. He said to my wife and me, “If you’ve not had my duck confit strudel, you’ve not been doing something right.”
Though I couldn’t determine precisely what I’ve been doing wrong (too many things to count, I suppose), we aimed to set ourselves straight in Crouch’s eyes by ordering it. If I have to be wrong to enjoy something so right, then I’ll be sure to stack up a heap of wrongs before I return. The dish was nothing short of excellent.
And as we devoured it, Crouch dropped this nugget: “Did you know we’re planning on opening a little fried chicken restaurant in the building out back?”
“Um, no. Like a Nashville hot chicken restaurant?” I asked.
“Yeah, like Prince’s there. … We hope — and it’s always ‘hope’ — to have it open by April,” he added. “There isn’t really a whole lot we have to do to the building, but we’re having a contractor come in and look at it.” (The name, he said later, will be Joe & Larry’s Chicken House.)
Crouch then moved from news about affordable chicken to pricey tuna, saying he’s going to host a Honolulu Seafood Dinner on April 2 for 60 people. The nine-course springtime blowout will cost $225 per person, but it’ll be some of the finest seafood you’ll ever eat. We’ll let you know more about the meal as the day draws nearer.
In breaking news: Neither Dustin Staggers nor Fernando Martinez has announced plans to open a new restaurant. But we’re only halfway through this piece, so the phone could ring before I finish.
Acid opinion: In a chat I had with chef Bobby Benjamin recently, he told me about a Louisville restaurant (that will remain unnamed) whose food he thought was fine but lacking in two essentials: “Salt and acid. The food didn’t have either.”
There you have it, people: The only chef Bobby Louisville can count on opening a restaurant here anytime soon (Butchertown Grocery) says salt and acid form the collective fulcrum of great flavor. Next time you go out — or even cook at home — think of whether the food you’re eating could use salt or acid (citrus, tomatoes, vinegar, etc.).
Anthony says: If you didn’t read my story earlier this week about Seviche chef-owner Anthony Lamas doing a stage at Waffle House, you need to. No, not for my page counts, but to learn what machines those short-order breakfast cooks are. He said, “And let me tell you, they’re badasses. Total badasses.”
Dude’s right. Next time you go, watch them work. It’s real-life cooking, not made-for-TV dump-and-stir stuff.
Todd says … very little: Todd Rushing, co-owner of 8UP Elevated Drinkery and Kitchen, said he’s hired a replacement for the restaurant’s original GM, Len Stevens, but he won’t say who. Seeing as employers are particular about employees honoring two-week notices, he doesn’t want to jeopardize the soon-to-be-GM’s status before it’s time to come to 8UP. I’ll let you know who that is soon.
Officially, there’s no word yet on a replacement for executive chef Russell Kook, who left Feb. 7 to begin work on his own restaurant in Chicago. Unofficially, a few candidates are under consideration.
Roger says: He wants to be mayor of New Albany. Yes, folks, Roger Baylor, the friendly and controversially opinionated co-owner of New Albanian Brewing Co. is putting his money where his mouth and running for mayor. He figures he’s griped enough about one-way streets and dubious health inspections of his NABC beer truck, so now he’s going to act on his beliefs.
Good for him. Things might be different in this country if more people put action to their words.
60 West heads ‘south,’ Boombozz moves in: Anybody think there’s enough pizza in St. Matthews? Apparently Tony Palombino believes there’s lots more gut space for his gluten-based pies.
With last week’s closure of 60 West Bistro & Martini Bar came the news that a new BoomBozz Pizza & Taphouse would fill that gap at 3939 Shelbyville Road. Counting the Jeffersonville site, that’ll make seven BoomBozz restaurants in the Louisville area. How that will affect that BoomBozz location on Frankfort Avenue, I don’t know. But it clearly will add to the pizza battle already underway with Spinelli’s Pizzeria, Coals Artisan Pizza, DiOrio’s Pizza & Pub, Mellow Mushroom, Jet’s Pizza (about a mile away) and numerous chain outlets.