The Bar Brainpower of Josh Durr; Before and After Fest of Ale Prep with Todd Antz and Eric Morris

Our plate is full of news here at EatDrinkTalk, home of the city’s finest restaurant and bar podcast. First up we have two ice cream items. We’re pulling for the guys at Comfy Cow, who have been experiencing mechanical problems at their commissary, leading to shortages at their local shops.

Of course, they’ll soon have ice cream competition in Nulu when the Louisville Cream store opens next month. Owner and ice cream maker Darryl Goodner’s product just received Southern Living Magazine’s “Best Southern Made Products” award.

News that River House and Levee have opened their dock service means that a whole lot more people can enjoy the scenery there, including those arriving by boat. Entrepreneurs Scott and Jennifer Benningfield have signed an agreement with Fourth Street Live! that will give their Thirsty Pedaler 16-passenger bikes a prominent storefront and parking space.

There’s a special farm-to-table dinner coming up at the Jeptha Creed Distillery May 30. It will be hosted by Volare’s Josh Moore, who will be serving food directly from his farm.

Our first guest is mixologist Josh Durr, who Steve points out is one of the smartest bar experts in town. To celebrate the Fest of Ale event coming to New Albany June 3, Rick sat down with founder Todd Antz and Gospel Bird chef-owner Eric Morris to talk about the one of the largest local beer fests and the after-party.

In our Copper & Kings favorites segment, Rick tried a vegetarian omelet at the always-reliable North End Cafe. Steve’s choice was a spicy beef dish from Nam Nam in St. Matthews. His drink preference was a recently re-released Bulleit Bourbon Barrel Strength whiskey. And at Bonefish Grill, Rick tried a Wild Orchid Hawaiian Martini.

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Josh Durr

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Todd Antz and Eric Morris at the Gospel Bird

Podcast 55 WITH Coffee King Leo Fante, and Bringing Bravazzi to the ‘Ville with Sarah Ross

The best restaurant and bar podcast in the city is back with a refreshing serving of news and personalities. First up, be on the lookout for mushroom-blended burgers at your favorite restaurants. Last week, Rick sampled four of them at Harvest, which hosted the kickoff for a nationwide James Beard Foundation sustainability initiative to reduce meat consumption by adding ground mushrooms to ground meats.

Steve reports that a new national study shows indie restaurants gaining market share vs. chains, though he suspects those operations aren’t making more profits because there are so many new players.

Watch for Highland Morning in St. Matthews to expand, and after years of planning the owners of Mozza Pi are planning a June opening in Anchorage. Last weekend, the Buy Local Fair was planned for Sunday, but on Friday, organizers listened to weather forecasts and canceled the event over severe weather concerns. As you’d expect, Sunday afternoon turned out gorgeous.

Rick’s guest is local coffee legend Leo Fante, who opened his unusual coffee shop on Grinstead Drive 11 weeks ago. The shop is a coffee lover’s dream, with special roasts made in-house, a nice menu and, yes, alcohol.

Steve calls the Bravazzi Hard Italian Soda he sampled “the best adult soda I’ve ever had.” So he talks with Sarah Ross, the company’s co-founder, who was in town promoting helping launch the product here. Tune in to hear all this and more on EatDrinkTalk.

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Leo Fante

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Sarah Ross

Local Chefs Join in on National Blended Burger Project

Judging by the number of the city’s top chefs in attendance, expect to see plenty of “blended burgers” popping up on local restaurant menus beginning May 31.

The event was the kickoff of the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project, held in NuLu at Harvest Restaurant, attended by at least a dozen local chefs and several media members. Chefs Patrick Roney of Harvest, Michael Crouch of Bistro 1860, Jon Sanning of Lexington’s Smithtown Seafood, and Dallas McGarity of the Fat Lamb offered up their versions of blended burgers — defined as patties with a blend of at least 25 percent finely chopped mushrooms, along with meat.

Eric Davis, representing the Mushroom Council, stressed the sustainability of mushrooms vs. meat.

“The blend is an idea, not a product,” he said. He added that growing a pound of mushrooms requires just 1.8 gallons of water, and a million pounds can be produced from a single acre.

“A ‘Blended Burger’ is a much more sustainable and plant-forward opportunity for chefs to menu the iconic burger,” said the James Beard Foundation’s Kris Moon. “Producing one pound of mushrooms requires less than two gallons of water, making them one of the most sustainably produced foods.”

Any chef can enter the contest by creating a blended burger, adding it to their menu and persuading diners to vote for it online at this site. The hashtag #BlendedBurgerProject was created so that restaurateurs can promote the contest online. The five chefs who receive the most votes will be invited to New York’s James Beard House, where they will prepare their burger at an event next January.

Last year, 350 restaurants participated, and Davis said the goal for this year is 500. The voting ends July 31.

Among the Harvest event attendees were Butchertown Grocery’s Bobby Benjamin, Ward 426’s Shawn Ward, Anoosh Bistro’s Anoosh Shariat and the Red Herring’s Jacob Coronado.

Local restaurant supplier Superior Meats is also participating in the project by creating its own blend and offering it to local restaurants.

Here are the blends presented at Harvest:

Harvest Louisville
Chef Patrick Roney
2017-05-16 12.30.43

Harvest’s Blended Burger with rabbit

Rivercrest Rabbit and Sysbee Farms Lions Mane Mushroom Slider. Country Ham and Cottage Cheese Biscuit. Red Eye Aioli. Broccoli stem and Black Eyed Pea slaw.

Bistro 1860
Chef Michael Crouch
The Lambda Lambda Omega Moo Burger- 40% lamb-40% cow,20% Frondosa Farms blue oyster mushroom- pickled mustard seed-pickle, harissa mayo-tri onion mix-poppyseed brioche.
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Jon Sanning’s blended burger

Chef Jon Sanning
Smithtown Seafood

Huit-a-burger: Chorizo-spiced blended KYP beef patty on lime cabbage with huitlacoche-queso fresco, avocado cream, crispy potatoes, cilantro & onions on a Dutch’s Bake Shop Cuban bun.
Fat Lamb Louisville
Chef Dallas McGarity
Dallas McGarity's entry

Dallas McGarity’s entry

Local Black Hawk Farms beef double cheeseburger blended with 40% local crimini mushrooms. It is on a poppy seed brioche bun with Dukes mayo and a horseradish pickle served with a Tuscan kale and pickled beet salad with goat cheese and toasted pistachios.

Jim McArthur’s Downtown Vision; Jason Smith’s Fight Against Parkinson’s

The best bar and restaurant podcast in the ‘Ville is back with more news and conversations sure to tingle your taste buds. We’ve got a report on the new Cuvee Wine Bar, a great new spot in the East End opened by one of the few Master Sommeliers in the region.

And remember that you heard it here first — Tony Palombino will convert the Boombozz Tap House in St. Matthews to a new concept called Waylon’s Feed and Firewater, a close cousin to his Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen downtown. We’re also seeing signs, including one that reads “Now Hiring” at the Mission Barbecue in St. Matthews, one of a projected 50 new restaurants scheduled to open in the city in 2017.

We’re looking forward to the Highlands Beer Fest behind the Mid-City Mall on Saturday. (Did you know it was the first modern-day brewfest in the city?) On Sunday, two of our favorite chefs — Harvest’s Patrick Roney and Jacob Coronado of the Red Herring — will face off in an Iron Chef-like competition at the Louisville Independent Business Association’s Buy Local Fair at the Water Tower.

Steve’s guest this week is Harvest Restaurant co-owner Jim McArthur, who has some unique insight into downtown’s changes, and how good it will be for business, when the Convention Center and other construction projects are complete in 2018. Rick sat down with veteran restaurant operator Jason Smith at Gordon Biersch to talk about one of Jason’s pet projects — the Denim & Diamonds fundraiser for Parkinson’s disease. Smith has early onset Parkinson’s, and talks about how he’s affected by the disease and why he’s so passionate about raising money for treatment.

In our Copper & Kings favorites segment, Steve chose to sample fried oysters at La Chasse, while Rick picked the eggplant Parmesan from the menu at Ciao, where he also enjoyed a memorable Old Fashioned. With many to choose from, Steve selected the Chateau de Puligny he tried during a press event at the new Cuvee Wine Table.

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Jason Smith at Gordon Biersch

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Heine’s Move West Injects Energy Into Growing Company

When Mike Mays consolidated the Heine Brothers coffee operation in Portland last year, he realized he didn’t know a lot about the neighborhood. He felt that he had some positive ideas, and a goal of improving the blocks around the new HQ at 13th and Main.

But it wasn’t until he received advice from Metro Council member Barbara Sexton Smith that he realized it wasn’t always about what he would do there, that he should learn a little bit about the people who regularly walk the streets and do business there.

Mike Mays at the new Hikes Point shop.

Mike Mays at the new Hikes Point shop.

“She stopped me and said ‘Mike, I think maybe you should slow down,'” Mays recalled. Sexton Smith went on, “‘Why don’t you meet people and listen for a few months. Ask a lot of questions, find out what is going on down there, because there are a lot of people in that neighborhood who have been working very hard for a long time to make a difference and there are a lot of good things happening.’ ”

Mays said he spent the next four months scheduling meetings, many at the Portland lunch spot The Table, to learn about the area around his new HQ, roastery and training center. The ideas gained in those meetings made the transition that much more successful, he said. He spent his time finding out about people like Pam Rice at the Neighborhood House, and the Louisville Central Community Center’s Kevin Fields. He said he was surprised at the number and quality of people doing good work.

Now he feels he’s part of the neighborhood, where in addition to developer Gill Holland’s plans to bring new business and residences, the city recently announced its plans to extend Waterfront Park to the back door of his building, and not far away it was just announced that a new YMCA and the Passport Health Plan headquarters will be built.

“It’s been unbelievably exciting for our company,” Mays said of the move. “In fact, I underestimated the energy injection it would give our company.  Prior to moving in and centralizing everything in Portland, we operated the admin side of our business in a small, humble space above our shop in Crescent Hill. We had a 4,000 square-foot roastery and warehouse down in the Clifton neighborhood, and then we did training wherever we could find room for it. That was difficult a lot of times.”

heinehpIn

inside the spacious Hikes Point location

Heine Brothers began in 1994, with a shop on Longest near Bardstown Road, opened with a $50,000 bank loan and $30,000 from friends and family. In late April, it opened its 14th location, a 3,000 square-foot store in Hikes Point. Mays said the investment was north of $400,000. The staff expansion required pushed the brand’s employee total to 250.

This newest Heine Bros. is located directly across the street from a Starbucks, which wasn’t exactly intentional. Mays joked about the fact that on the day we met, a negative earnings report came out about Starbucks, saying that his new store is already affecting business there.

“We have been committed to growing and the Hikes Point neighborhood has been on our radar for a long time,” he said.  “We’ve been quietly looking for a spot and haven’t been able to find the right place. Well, this building here at the corner of Taylorsville, Browns, Hunsinger, Hikes, came available late last summer. It’s a great corner. We said, ‘We’ve got to take it.'”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Post-Derby Blues, Plus Valu Market’s John Bizzell and Drinks with Jared Schubert

We begin the second year of EatDrinkTalk podcasts with a show sure to get you motivated to sample some of the city’s finest cuisine and cocktails. Steve and Rick are, of course, in recovery mode after an event-filled Derby Week. We review Rick’s experience at the first Culinary Kickoff at the Ali Center, where three nationally recognized chefs offered up their best. The highlight for Steve was a trip aboard the Belle of Louisville, where he sampled special bottles from Four Roses. Later, he enjoyed more bourbon sampling at the Stitzel-Weller Affair on Derby Eve.

For our Copper & Kings favorites, both Rick and Steve went back to basics. Steve’s was a pizza on Derby night from The Post in Germantown. Rick took in a Derby tradition by having a hearty breakfast at Wagner’s Pharmacy. Drink-wise, both of us stuck to bourbon. Steve chose the Belle of Louisville version of Four Roses specialties, and complained that the experiment he tried — a whiskey and pickleback, was a huge fail. Rick picked an Old Fashioned off the Derby menu at the Village Anchor.

Our first guest has worked for the same company since he was 16. Maybe that’s why John Bizzell is so good at his job as manager of the Highlands ValuMarket, where he’s preparing for the Highlands Beer Fest on May 20. Steve’s guest, Jared Schubert, is an expert on Louisville’s cocktail scene as partner in the newly created Bauhaus, a beverage consultancy.

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My Derby Week Favorites — the Backside’s Morning Rituals and Breakfast at Wagner’s

The magic of Derby Week is best exemplified in the pre-dawn mist any morning on the backside at Churchill Downs. Walk in from Longfield, and you see the effort it takes to stage the sport’s premier event.

Photo by Bill Brymer

Photo by Bill Brymer

The beautiful beasts you encounter in the few hundred yards walking are bigger than you’d expect. They’re lively, too, heads bobbing through their stables, neighs heard from near and far away. You see exercise riders atop their steeds, guiding the stars of the show back and forth to the racing surface. Grooms pace around barns leading thoroughbreds by their bridles. You see the famous names on the barn walls — Lukas, Whiting, Stewart — and trainers who think that maybe, just maybe, this will be their year.

For horses, the morning is the opportunity to get out on the track, enjoy a bath, and maybe get a carrot or peppermint, and enjoy the attention. As the sun rises, more horses put in their morning workouts, and the crowd grows along radio row. TV crews have their spots along the rail, and there are several radio broadcasts going on simultaneously. Those of us fortunate enough to have media credentials dip inside for a doughnut. We saw Derby princesses here, and the captains of the steamboats that will race later in the day on the Ohio.

Once the sun’s up, you start spotting local celebrities and politicians, all smiles because the most challenging question is this one — who do you like in the Derby? On the track, suddenly, the pink and green saddlecloths appear, signaling the entrance of Derby and Oaks contenders. You squeeze in along the rail to see them up close, hoping to remember the moment you first saw the eventual champion.

Still, it’s quiet enough that you can hear the workouts, horses breathing heavily, shoes beating on the turf.

Breakfast at Wagner's

Breakfast at Wagner’s

The perfect Derby Week morning isn’t complete without a trip to Wagner’s Pharmacy across the street. The smart move is to arrive early (they open at 7, and at 6 on Friday and Saturday) so you don’t have to wait. On Wednesday, a WAVE-TV crew was there, with reporter Kayla Vanover standing behind the counter doing the umpteenth feature on the appeal of the place. It’s obvious the staff is used to this, working around the reporter at the counter in order to get orders to tables.

It’s not fancy — you’ll be eating off styrofoam plates with plastic forks, while sitting on chairs that may have been here when they opened in 1922. Don’t ask for an omelette – the menu is a limited choice of bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits, toast and gravy. It’s $9.99 for a breakfast plate, but the portions are generous, and filling.

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TV stations have been reporting on the ambiance at Wagner’s for years.

And other than the chance you’ll spot D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert or some other racing luminary, the attraction here is the photos on the walls, celebrating Derby winners through the decades. If you are celebrity stalking, your waitress will be more than happy to tell you who’s been in recently.

In back, where you have to go to pay, you are reminded this is a pharmacy, with a selection of over-the-counter remedies. There’s also Derby t-shirts, umbrellas and souvenirs.

It’s the only place I’ve seen Bigeloil for sale. It’s a liniment that soothes sore muscles in horses. I remember that my Dad, a pari-mutuel clerk, always had some in the cabinet at home for his own muscle relief.

This part of the Derby experience does not involve fancy hats or exquisite cuisine, and you better wear comfortable shoes that are likely to get mud on them. There’s no ticket to get in, and if you get there early enough you can park free nearby. And the best thing about it may be that nothing about it ever changes.

 

 

A Year of Eats – plus Haymarket’s Matthew Landan and Mike Mays of Heine Bros

The finest restaurant and bar podcast in the ‘Ville wraps up its first year with a celebration of all things Derby. Steve was ultra-impressed with the new Red Herring, now open on Frankfort Avenue in a gorgeous space. Also new to town is ROC in the Highlands, boasting of Italian specialties the way an Italian grandma would make it. There’s a new look to the 2nd Floor clubhouse at Churchill Downs, where Rick got a chance to visit with executive chef Dave Danielson and sample some of the new track staples. Steve tried the new Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen on Hurstbourne, and has a new appreciation for the Morris Deli on Taylorsville Road. Also, we drove by St. Matthews Saturday night and saw the new Sullivan’s is open for partying.

Our first guest, the Haymarket Whiskey Bar’s Matthew Landan, has concocted an amazing new Old Rip Van Winkle Package with a dreamy price tag of $25,000 — which happens to be a good value when you see what it includes. Mike Mays opened the 14th and largest Heine Brothers coffee shop last week in Hikes Point, a part of town he’s been eyeing for years. With close to 250 employees, Mays has a keen eye for the coffee shop business.

This week’s Copper & Kings faves come from the aforementioned clubhouse at Churchill Downs, where Rick found the Hot Brown Pizza to be a cool new twist on a favorite taste. Steve’s Maki Shrimp salad was his top bite at Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen. Steve sampled a Sazerac at the Red Herring, while Rick tried a Chocolate Mint Jill-up at the Jill’s Wish charity event at Bowman Field.

Thanks for sticking with us for a full year, and here’s a shout-out to our great sponsors: Harvest Restaurant, the Eye Care Institute and Copper & Kings.

Matthew Landan

Matthew Landan

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Mike Mays at the new Heine Bros. in Hikes Point

Churchill’s Remodeled 2nd Floor is Ready for the Masses

When you go to the track this week, you may be tempted to bring a box lunch, which many local restaurants are marketing to track-goers. But the advice here is that you shouldn’t do it out of fear that the grub at the track won’t satisfy you.

Dave Danielson

Dave Danielson

Executive Chef David Danielson is focused on the quality of cuisine at Churchill Downs, from the buffets on the expensive upper floors to the hot dogs you can buy in the paddock. Last week, he unveiled the newly remodeled 2nd Floor Clubhouse, which requires a relatively inexpensive ticket to enter, and where you can now choose from barbecue, pizza, Mexican, chicken and burgers, plus dessert.

Danielson, who appeared on the EatDrinkTalk podcast last fall, said that he’s been building relationships with local farmers to provide fresh produce. For instance, he showed me photos from a Mt. Washington farm producing lettuce and strawberries shipped directly to the track the day before they’re served.

Churchill Downs invited media to sample some of the new staples last Friday. I tried the Hot Brown Pizza, which did have the distinct flavor of the famed dish’s Mornay sauce, along with bacon and turkey. I also tried a chicken burrito at the Central Avenue Cantina. I could easily imagine ordering both for a treat while focusing on the horses.

spendabuckIn previous years, this second floor area was a self-serve circle where you picked up your own food and paid on the way out. Ready-to-please servers at the seven storefronts in the new configuration seem ready to go, though I’m sure they will be challenged to keep the lines short during Derby Week.

There is limited seating, so the idea here is to grab something and head back to your seat or out to the paddock.

I did appreciate the smart marketing folks who named the bars at two corners of the space, using aptly named past Derby winners — Spend a Buck and I’ll Have Another.

 

 

“Bourbon District” Will Guide Walkers on Downtown Bourbon Tour

And for Louisville’s next attempt at capitalizing on bourbon tourism, Metro Government brings you a bourbon walk.

At a press conference this week, the city announced plans for its Bourbon District, a four-phase plan to introduce “historic site signs, destination signs, banners and a pop-up event scape” to create a walking path guiding tourists to bourbon attractions. It will be located in an area along Main Street from 10th Street to Jackson, and along Fourth from Main to Broadway.

In an interview, Mayor Greg Fischer said he takes satisfaction and pride in the 24 million tourist visits to Louisville last year, a number he said was not thought to be possible five years ago.

“Bourbon tourism is something some folks snickered at when we started talking about this, when I was running my first campaign,” he said. “But it is authentic to our city.

“People go to Napa for wine, they come to Louisville and Kentucky for bourbon tourism.  I think we are really early in that game right now. It allows us to punch above our weight, especially in the restaurant category.”

Mayor Fischer with Solid Light CEO Cynthia Torp unveiling the first marker at Sixth and Main.

Mayor Fischer with Solid Light CEO Cynthia Torp unveiling the first marker at Sixth and Main.

The Bourbon District Project is being led by the Louisville Downtown Partnership, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and local government. The Kentucky Distillers Association is also involved in the project’s creation.

Fischer said the idea of creating a walking tour sets the city apart. He said there are plans for nine downtown bourbon experiences, with four already open. He unveiled the first historical marker on Main Street this week.

“It’s a walking district, if you will,” he said. “You can’t walk Napa Valley because it’s so spread apart. You can actually walk our Bourbon District. Back in the day of course, the bourbon would come down to the River, Whiskey Row, and be loaded on to the boats and off it went. So it just adds to our heritage and authenticity.”

The goal is to create a self-guided bourbon history experience on a path that will highlight the city’s other attractions, such as its restaurants. Fischer said that $9-10 billion in current capital construction is underway, and that 20 new hotel projects have been announced since the start of construction at the Omni Hotel.

The design of the District is being completed by Solid Light, a local company in the business of building visitor experiences.