Free chicken when Joella’s Hot Chicken opens in Middletown June 1

Want a free hot chicken meal every week for a whole year? Then you’d better get your camping gear ready and get in line today at Joella’s Hot Chicken at Middletown Commons (13401 Shelbyville Rd., Suite 101), site of what was most recently a Boombozz Pizza & Taphouse.

The first 100 People in line when the place opens Wednesday at 8 a.m. will get vouchers for those meals. And even if you’re not among the first 100, they’ll be giving out hot chicken samples and free swag that morning.

Speaking of vouching, I can vouch for the chicken: I love it. Of the five actual heat levels, the hottest I can take is hot, and I don’t ever see myself stepping up to inferno, a.k.a. “fire in the da hole” because you can take the phrase literally. Both ways.

I’m a longtime fan of Boombozz, so it’s hard to say whether Joella’s is my favorite of the two concepts. Of the many concepts owner Tony Palombino has tried, these are doubtless my two faves. As this is Joella’s No. 3 (one is in Lexington), this is Palombino’s fastest growing concept. Three other outlets are scheduled for Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.

For those of you who may grouse by saying Joella’s isn’t authentic by Nashville hot chicken standards, I’d agree. But I don’t care, frankly, because this is just plain good. You want authentic, try Royal’s Hot Chicken in NuLu. It, too, is very good. Sides at both places are also excellent. Two different concepts, but two great places.

Yang Kee Noodle Highlands opens Thursday, and it’s a looker

Here’s what we know about the Yang Kee Noodle restaurant opening June 2 in where Bardstown Road ends at Baxter:

The order counter at Yang Kee Noodle. | Photo by Steve Coomes

The order counter at Yang Kee Noodle. | Photo by Steve Coomes

It’s beautiful. Check out our photos for evidence. Especially the long fire table outside near the sidewalk. That’s dang snazzy for fast casual. I thought the Middletown Commons unit, opened last year, was a looker, but this is remarkable. Again, especially for fast casual. Just go look at the Chipotle restaurant down the block and see what I mean.

It’s innovative. There’s a “Wok Thru” carryout window near the Bardstown Road side of the building. Love the pun, love the ease of service.

It’s not a chain, which some say means evil and bad. Yes, that’s what some call YNK because there now are three Yang Kee Noodle locations in Louisville. What. Ever. Blows me away that people somehow see multiple successful restaurants as a bad thing. If the restaurant’s great, I’m happy to have more. Plus, if such people knew how little profit just one restaurant makes, they’d understand why modern restaurateurs open multiple units.

The food will be great. The other two units have proved that point. Delicious and modern interpretations of Asian standards. Though I was invited to the Saturday soft opening, I had a graduation party to go to (we all, did, right?) and just slipped in for the photos.

Parking will be a challenge. Count on it. The parking lot’s not large, and don’t even try to park in Walgreens’ lot unless you want trouble. The owners, however, are betting foot traffic will be the main source of customers. I live about a mile from there, so hoofing it will be my preferred mode for sure.

Nuff said. Have your chopsticks ready for Thursday when the wraps officially come off.

EatDrinkTalk’s DISH — with Yang Kee Noodle, Peerless, El Camino and a List

Stick a Feather in His Hat: Yang Kee Noodle Highlands will open any day now. An invitation received last week to a Saturday soft opening at the Highlands Yang Kee Noodle meant that the woks will be screaming hot this week as the doors open to paying customers. What day, exactly, we don’t know. When YKN opened its Middletown store last year, its owners stayed quiet in the early going while the staff gained some experience before the crunch. Always good food here. Excited about its Highlands location.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.34.29 AMFree tours at Kentucky Peerless Distilling, June 3. Louisville’s newest distillery, which turned 1 in March, is celebrating with free tours on Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you’ve not been, but always wondered what a whiskey distillery looks like, there’s no better place locally to get an up-close look.

Peerless was designed with great whiskey and tourism in mind, and the facility was to facilitate both. Tastes of its Lucky Moonshine will be available, but, sadly, none of its rye or bourbon will be available until 2017 and 2019 respectively. Takes guts and a huge cache of cash to not source whiskey from other distillers and label it as your own. You have to admire owners Corky and Carson Taylor for going the hard way. In the upcoming EDT podcast, we’ll talk to Corky.

Larry Rice. Photo by Andrew Hyslop

Larry Rice. Photo by Andrew Hyslop

El Camino is moving, NOT CLOSING: Just wanted to reiterate that. Seems no matter the effort made by local media to communicate this message, some folks continue to hear “closing” rather than moving. Best way to learn the details on why is from Larry Rice himself, who spoke with us on our most recent podcast. Sometime this summer, El Camino will shut down the Highlands operation and move it to Germantown, where it will resume making tacos and serving fab cocktails and tequila. The Eagle, a Cincy-based fried chicken and craft beer stop, will replace it. Nuff said.

We’ve got Issues with this List: It may be fun to count up on the votes for Louisville Mag’s Best of Louisville Awards, but Rick and Steve have some issues with just the finalists, which were announced this week. Out-of-town spots topping the Special Occasion list? Bearno’s? El Nopal? And we didn’t even get to the Media awards. Hear us talk about it here:

Just Release(d)s: Dogwood Coffee Co. is a roaster based in Minneapolis. Its product are now available at Gralehaus on Baxter. . . Bourbon & Bowties, a fundraiser at Corbett’s June 9, is SOLD OUT. 26 local restaurants are participating. . . Get to know Todd Antz, organizer of the 11th annual Fest of Ale, in the latest EDT podcast. And plan to attend the big event in a new location (New Albany’s Riverfront) on Saturday. . .Will restaurants lead the way in Portland? A Louisville Public Media story looks at Over the 9 at the one-year mark and considers whether Portland’s renaissance has momentum. . . Bourbon Heroes – Evan Williams is honoring American military heroes by featuring them on the labels of bottles this summer. You can nominate your own hero, too.

A Charming Third Time with El Camino’s Larry Rice and Todd Antz of Fest of Ale

EatDrinkTalk enters its third week as Louisville’s go-to source for restaurant and drinks news. Episode 3 begins with the news that co-host Steve Coomes has left Insider Louisville after a 70-month stretch that saw him write 882 stories. The great news is now all that accumulated food and drink knowledge will be devoted to EDT!

Rick and Steve then weigh in on the restaurant finalists chosen in Louisville magazine’s annual Best of Louisville Awards. Some they liked, some they didn’t, and their opinions about both are strong. The guys also talked about two amazing multicourse dinners they enjoyed this week: Rick’s five-course feed at Buck’s, and Steve’s 11-course death row dinner at Bistro 1860.

One of the biggest news items of the week—that El Camino is moving from the Highlands to Germantown—set the stage for Steve’s interview with Larry Rice, operating partner of El Camino. Rice discussed why he and his partners kept the move off the radar as long as possible. Rick’s interview with Keg Liquors owner Todd Antz is all about craft beer, specifically Antz’s annual Keg Liquors Fest of Ale on June 4. If you’ve never been, know it’s one of the area’s best, and the selection of beers is phenomenal. Click here for tickets. It always sells out.

Let us know what you think of the show by emailing Steve@eatdrinktalk.net or Rick@eatdrinktalk.net. And while you’re at it, sends us tips and tidbits about restaurant and bar news items, really cool restaurant personalities we should interview or your favorite places to eat and drink in Louisville!

Comfy Cow Scooping Seasonal Ice Creams

From the Comfy Cow:

The Comfy Cow announced the release of its newest seasonal ice creams, the Summer Lovin’ collection. The new collection will consist of six summertime inspired flavors available at all Comfy Cow scoop shops starting Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The flavors will be available while supplies last. The Summer Lovin’ Collection flavors are as follows:

Key “To My Heart” Lime Pie – Tart and tangy key lime ice cream with pieces of our very own, made-from-scratch key lime pie. So delicious you can almost feel the Florida breeze!

Say “Cheeeeeese” Cake – We’re talkin’ generous chunks of creamy New York style cheesecake in creamy cheesecake ice cream. Need we say more?

Pistachio – Loaded with tons of the very finest toasted pistachios blended into a creamy pistachio based ice cream. The salty and nutty flavor makes this a true summer indulgence!

The Bees Knees – Made especially for the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork Louisville, Bees Knees is about as natural a combination as rolling hills and pristine streams. Succulent honeycomb layered into sweet cream ice cream with sunflower seeds peppered throughout. Nature at its finest!

Moo Moo Cluster – Our homage to the amazing Goo Goo Clusters candy of Nashville, TN! A marshmallow based ice cream with chocolate covered peanut brittle and a marshmallow swirl.

Mango Sorbet – The perfect blend of fresh pureed mangos and smooth sorbet that is sure to provide that sweet and summery feeling you’ve been craving all winter long.

Rewind: Bistro 1860’s ‘Death Row’ dinner in photos

People say all the time, “If I were on death row, that would be my meal.” And that was the sole inspiration for Bistro 1860 executive chef Michael Crouch’s Death Row Dinner. The 11-course meal was served last night, May 25, and it was a fantastic feast for the senses; beautiful and flavorful food paired with multiple adult beverages. (Click here to read the menu.)

Some might cringe at the price tag—$99 for the food, $130 if you had it paired with beverages—but as a special occasion meal, it was well worth it to me, my wife and my son, who we brought with us to celebrate his high school graduation. Trust me, I can’t afford such indulgences often.

Crouch and his crew put on a great show, delivering close to 1,000 plates to waiting, salivating guests. (I have a feeling the dishwasher is still there this morning, and tonight the Death Row Dinner will be repeated!)

By the way, the sold out event saw some cancellations, so if you want to go, call the restaurant at 618-1745 to see if any seats are available.

Side note: I’ve seen a few negative posts in social media about Crouch’s choice to call the meal a death row dinner. Some said it was in poor taste, and an editor I wrote a piece about it for said she was strongly against such a meal.

Though I see these people’s point, I still view this as a case of placing personal beliefs well beyond the obvious context of a situation. The saying, “a death row meal” is just that, a saying with obvious meaning: one’s last meal on Earth. It’s colloquialism meaning, “If this is my final chow down, I want it to include my favorite foods.” No one who says this assumes their death will follow.

I even did a Twitter search to see how the phrase was handled, and I found hundreds of food photos paired with tweets about how “this would be my death row dinner.” Nothing dark or disrespectful.

Most people have strong feelings about the death penalty; me among them. But anyone who knows Crouch knows his sense of humor and his boundless creativity was behind this meal. This dinner was about an otherwise ordinary saying turned into a feast, not a mockery of anyone’s execution.

Below are some photos of what we enjoyed last night. Too bad I consumed the delicious cocktails before I got a change to photograph them. Kudos to Stephen Dennison’s bar team as well!

El Camino hits the road to Germantown

Probably the worst-kept secret in the Louisville restaurant scene of late is El Camino’s upcoming move from the heart of the Highlands to an undetermined location in Germantown.

After the restaurant’s operating partner, Larry Rice, confirmed the rumor for me several weeks ago, he asked that I hold onto the story as long as possible in hopes that he and his partners, Shawn and Vanessa Cantley, would be able to say where they’re moving the 3-year-old Cali-Mex-street-food-hybrid concept.

As Rice points out in my upcoming podcast interview with him on Friday, it’s a risk to say a restaurant is moving because too many assume that when one site closes, the operation has met its end.

“That’s the last thing we want people to think, but it’s easy for people to think that,” Rice said. “Bottom line, we’re not closing, we’re moving.”

So why is El Camino hitting the road? Why is it leaving one of the best locations in the city—with arguably the coolest patio in the Highlands—for Germantown, hip, up and coming as it is?

The answer is simple: Tacos. They’re the most popular items on the menu, but their affordability doesn’t generate the check averages the partners hoped for in that location.

The solution therefore is to move to a lower-cost, but equally cool facility in Germantown, where Rice lives, and lease the 1314 Bardstown Road property to, you guessed it, another restaurant concept.

A Germantown location will also give Rice easier access to The Pearl, the Goss Ave. bar he and the Cantleys are working to open up soon in the old Pauly’s spot.

Yet don’t despair, Rice said, though the menu will be different from the current lineup, it’ll still be a dandy, and the bar program will not change a bit.

So enough of my pecking away, come back Friday morning and hear the story as told by Larry Rice—who by that time will be on a well-deserved sea-side vacation.

Buck’s and Ballotin Make Tasty Collaboration

The concept of chocolate-laced fine dining isn’t something you pass on. So when Carolina Knop invited me to join a group for last night’s Five-Course Dinner at Buck’s in Old Louisville, I quickly said YES.

Chef Colter Hubsch

Chef Colter Hubsch

I’ve made maybe a half-dozen trips to Buck’s over the years, and always enjoyed the atmosphere — the ornate bar, the white flowers, traditional tables and wonderful piano music from Rick Bartlett.

The challenge for chef Colter Hubsch was to create five delectable dishes that could be made using traditional Chocolate, Caramel Turtle, Chocolate Mint and Bourbon Ball — the four Ballotin Whiskey flavors. And while my palate didn’t necessarily taste the chocolate in each dish, it was definitely present.

The evening’s festivities included an introduction of each course by Hubsch, a young chef who obviously put forth his best effort in creating dishes to pair with the chocolate whiskey and including fresh tomatoes, pecan-encrusted shrimp, Carpaccio, pork belly and even the bacon-laced ice cream at dessert.

Peerless Planning One-Year Celebration on One Day – June 3

from Kentucky Peerless

Kentucky Peerless is opening its doors to the public for complimentary tours, tastings and entertainment in honor of its one-year anniversary. The event will be on Friday, June 3, 2016 from 10:00am – 9:00pm at Kentucky Peerless Distillery on 120 North 10th Street in Louisville, KY.

Louisville, KY (May 23, 2016) – Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. announces “A Day of Celebration” in honor of their one-year anniversary to be held on June 3, 2016 from 10:00am – 9:00pm at Kentucky Peerless Distillery, located at 120 North 10th Street in Louisville, KY. The event will feature an up close and personal look behind the scenes of Louisville’s newest downtown distilling operation. Guests will meet father and son owners, Corky and Carson Taylor, while enjoying complimentary tours, tastings, light snacks and entertainment.

Since opening, Peerless has doubled production of its signature bourbon and rye, currently producing approximately 12 barrels a day. Peerless rye will be ready for bottle in 2017 and Peerless bourbon in 2019. Peerless is currently producing and distributing Lucky Kentucky Moonshine in 9 states. They have seven flavored moonshines and on June 3rd will release their latest “Clear Shine”.

Located on 10th Street, Peerless is playing an active role in the revitalization of the Portland area by serving as a destination beyond “The 9th Street Divide”. Peerless was recently recognized with a Cornerstone Award from the Louisville Downtown Partnership for their contribution to the Central Business District. As a destination on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, Peerless welcomed tourists and bourbon enthusiasts from all over the world and looks forward to continued growth.

Will Creation Gardens be kitchen labor savior with produce firm acquisition?

Here’s at least one possible solution to the cursed nationwide kitchen labor shortage: Louisville-based Creation Gardens, a foodservice distribution company, just acquired ReFresh Produce of Cincinnati. According to a news release, the firm specializes in fresh-cut processed produce offerings, which for chefs means less knife work required by their already limited staffs.

“With the restaurant industry experiencing explosive growth, increasing wages and high turnover, this addition is a valuable service for chefs to access fresh and quality fresh cut produce,” the release read. “This new line and service extension will be advantageous to foodservice operators and allow them to manage labor costs without jeopardizing quality.”

Ron Turnier, president of Creation Gardens, also said in the release that, “We spend a lot of time talking face to face with chefs on what they want, and we know this is something they really need given current and future labor shortages.”

It remains to be seen whether chefs buy those products since though they are labor saving, they’re costlier due to the labor required to prepare them. It’s an interesting balance chefs must strike in this difficult operating environment, and one we’ll discuss on this week’s Eat. Drink. Talk. podcast with Dean Corbett, chef and owner of Equus and Jack’s Lounge and Corbett’s: An American Place. Trust me, the labor shortage is a hot-button issue with this outspoken and passionate chef.

If you’re not familiar with Creation Gardens, it’s distributor of produce, butchered meats, gourmet foods, dairy, paper and bulk staple items to many of the city’s top restaurants. In other words, if you’re reading this story, you’re likely the type who’s frequented such restaurants and eaten their foodstuffs.