Spanish winemaker Pepe Raventos featured guest at Wiltshire on Market Summer Solstice Celebration

Pepe Raventos, winemaker at Spain’s historic Raventos i Blanc winery, will be the featured guest when Wiltshire on Market hosts a five-course wine-paired dinner on Monday, June 20.

According to a news release, the dinner will combine food prepared by and Wiltshire executive chef and farmer, Noble Holden, matched with Raventos’ wines.

Raventos i Blanc is one of the world’s oldest wineries, dating back to 1497. Pepe Raventos is a tenth-generation wine maker and leads production of the estate-grown wine in Penedes, Spain, along with his grandson, Manuel Raventos. The winery is noted as the first to make cava, the champagne-style sparkling wine from Penedes.

According to Wiltshire owner Susan Hershberg, the restaurant has served Raventos i Blanc wines since they became available in Kentucky.

Cost for the dinner is $65 per person. A reception preceding the meal begins at 6:30 p.m. To make reservations, call 502-589-5224. Wiltshire on Market is located at 636 East Market St.

Bourbon & Bowties ’16 a stunning success in multiple ways

If you’ve never been to Bourbon & Bowties and are fond of the city’s best food and Kentucky liquor, make it a bucket list item. It’s that good.

The annual fundraiser for Kosair Children’s Hospital is held at Corbett’s: An American Place, and features food from 41 restaurants around Louisville and the Bluegrass. The collection of chefs at that one place June 9 made me wonder who was leading Kentucky’s top kitchens. It was an unparalleled core of talent.

A few things that struck me about this year’s event:

The Size: In the past, B&B has hosted 800 people. This year it was 1,200. It used to take weeks, then days to sell all 800 tickets at $125 a pop. Last year it took 2 hours. This year, 1,200 were sold online in 29 minutes. That’s high demand. (Late word is the official tally was 1,400 people. Perhaps those are the people who “know a guy who knows a gal” or something like that.)

The Scale: Past events saw guests swallow up the parking lots at Corbett’s and Costco, located directly behind it. This year cars filled about half the massive greenspace center of Brownsboro Crossings. That left more space on Corbett’s lot to add more tents for restaurants and bars and absorb the throng.

Having some fun at the Four Roses booth are Dan Gardner, Aaron Levitch, Jerry Zegart and Brent Elliott. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Having some fun at the Four Roses booth are Dan Gardner, Aaron Levitch, Jerry Zegart and Brent Elliott. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Such scale brought to mind what I’ve written many times: Bourbon and Bowties is, at the very least, the model for starting a larger Louisville food and bourbon festival. Here you have independent business owners volunteering to make the city’s coolest food and drink event happen. But after nearly three years, Mayor Greg Fisher’s bourbon and food festival task force hasn’t made any progress toward such a feat.

If that event ever happens, it’ll happen with private businesses driving it.

The Volunteers: I’ve known Porcini executive chef, John Plymale, for 33 years; we cooked together at Sixth Avenue in the early ‘80s and we later were roommates. So despite his 53-year-old baby face, I can see the signs of age in my good friend. Yet, there he was—a married father of two, who not only works 60-hour weeks routinely and tends a multi-acre vegetable garden that helps supply Porcini during the summer—smiling and serving guests. I was humbled by that and struck each and every time I came across another veteran chef I saw working the event. These people toil daily and volunteer tirelessly. They deserve our praise and thanks.

Outside of the chefs are many more folks who, believe it or not, pay for their own tickets to this event. Not many charities have such selfless boards who insist on never taking a cent from their event.

Corbett’s owner, Dean Corbett, not only closes his restaurant to host the event, he pays his staff to work it. So he loses a day’s sales and he pays his gang to work. That’s a generous dude. His mantra: “It’s all about those kids,” meaning those helped by Kosair.

The Sights: B&B is rapidly becoming a serious dress-up event. No, not any massive hats or

Me with my old friend, John Plymale. | Photo by Rick Redding

I and my old friend, John Plymale. | Photo by Rick Redding

goofy Derby Day suits, but really cool summer clothing. Begin that I’m light years behind most couture trends, I wasn’t part of that dazzling vista. But if you’re into people watching and seeing the latest dandy duds, it’s a feast for the eyes.

The Food & Drink: Forty-one of the town’s top chefs prepared 600 portions each of everything imaginable. And though there’s no actual culinary competition, each wants his or her food to be the best remembered, so you can imagine it’s spectacular.

The list of bourbon sponsors is long, so I’ll not bore you with the list, but know that some 500 bottles of it was consumed for the event. That’s on the rocks, neat and in cocktails. Though our state taxes the hell out of its bourbon distilleries, those distilleries remain amazingly generous.

The Funds Raised: I don’t have an official number, but I believe that funds raised over B&B’s previous six years have exceeded $1 million. This year’s number from from ticket sales and auctions will come in at about $200,000. Amazing.

Next Year: It’s tough getting tickets to this thing when they sell out so quickly. My hunch is that given the success of this year’s 50 percent expansion might lead organizers to consider adding tickets next year. Dunno, just a guess. If so, set a calendar reminder to logon to the Kosair website next year and get your mouse trigger finger ready! You don’t want to miss another one.

Sipping with Master Distiller Brent Elliott; Chad Coulter’s Success with Wine and Women

There’s no shortage of dining and drinking news, and the EatDrinkTalk crew has found plenty to talk about. We start with the long-awaited opening of the Taj bar in Nulu, which seems to be perfectly situated for success and has a real neighborhood vibe. But we’ve also discovered other new projects that are coming — including a Vietnamese dining spot that will be a prime part of the new Butcher Block development and the second Louvino location in Middletown. We’re wishing our friend Danny Mac well in his new pizza venture in the Mellwood Arts Center.

Of course, with all the celebrities and dignitaries coming to town for the Muhammad Ali funeral, we wonder where those folks are gonna get something to eat. Plus we kick around the concept of Louvino and wonder why its success hasn’t led to a flurry on wine bars opening. Steve spent much of the week on the road, discovering dining and drinking gems in Bowling Green and Paducah. Plus, he got to sample some fine whiskey in Cox’s Creek, where he interviewed Master Distiller Brent Elliott.

Rick stopped in to see Chad Coulter at Louvino in the Highlands, discovering the secret of that concept’s success and how he evolved from pharmacist to business owner and now construction manager. Join us anytime at eatdrinktalk.net and send us your ideas at Rick@EatDrinkTalk.net and Steve@EatDrinkTalk.net.

Brent Elliott, master distiller, Four Roses. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Brent Elliott, master distiller, Four Roses. | Photo by Steve Coomes

EDT5ChadCoulter

Chad Coulter

Quick bites: Post calls Beard Awards ‘brainless,’ Bourbon Affair and Whisky Live

New York Post writer calls James Beard Awards “Brainless”: Yeah, those are harsh words for what are routinely called the “Oscars of the restaurant world.” Are the Beard Awards arguably misguided? Yes. Brainless? Probably not.

Following the May 3 Beard Awards ceremony, Post writer Steve Cuozzo wrote a scathing critique of some of the James Beard Foundation’s choices for winners. He called the whole show the Golden Globes of its ilk and said it’s “all hype, ballot box-stuffing and craven favor-mongering.”

That part is hard to disagree with. Too often Beard Award finalists—especially multi-time finalists—and regular observers of the annual affair leave scratching their heads when the shiny medallions are handed out.

For me, the questions start with the nominations: Way too many great restaurants never get in the running at all because they’ve not generated sufficient press in respected consumer, food and restaurant publications or because they don’t have a publicist to champion their cause. Or members of the press charged with nominating play favorites.

I can’t think of a single Beard Award winner I’ve seen in the past who isn’t deserving of the honor, but it’s not hard to see that most of them got that honor based as much on who they know as how good their restaurants are. But such is life, right?

Patio is open at Mussel & Burger Bar downtown. Of the many forehead slappers tied to the misguided operation of the now-defunct St. Charles Exchange, here’s a big one: Its

The patio at Mussel & Burger Bar on 7th St. | Photo courtesy of M&BB Facebook page

The patio at Mussel & Burger Bar on 7th St. | Photo courtesy of M&BB Facebook page

owners never marketed the use of its gorgeous sunken patio! Clearly the OLE Restaurant Group knew the value of this amazing space, and under the brand of Mussel & Burger Bar it’s now open. Take a look at its Facebook page. Great place for a downtown meal al fresco.

Tampa Bay Times’ exposé on “Farm to Fable” movement the talk of National Restaurant Association show: If you haven’t read the TBT’s excellent and exhaustive story on the abuse of and outright lies told about farm-to-table foods, you should. It’s an eye opener. It generated serious buzz at the recent National Restaurant Show in Chicago.

Some Louisville restaurants aren’t immune to such tale spinning either. Seafood here, especially, is dubiously marketed by some spots as fresh off the boat, a day out of the water, etc., when there’s no chance that’s happening. Zero chance. Whenever you hear at the table, “Louisville is a UPS hub, which guarantees we get the freshest fish,” take it with a grain of salt. That’s no slight to UPS or the people telling you that story. What most aren’t aware of is how long it takes a seafood trawler to head out to sea, catch fish, store it and bring it back in. Weeks, in some cases.

Plus, to get it to the dock, to a processor, on a plane and to most wholesalers takes no less than 48 hours. Only in rare cases, such as when Honolulu Seafood (and others) harvests and processes its own fish and ships it themselves are you getting the freshest fish fastest. And oh, boy, is it bloody expensive!

Doubtless it’s exceptionally hard and expensive to serve food that’s truly local and super-fresh, but if you can’t get it and make a profit serving it, don’t claim you’re doing it.

Kentucky Bourbon Affair next week: If you didn’t hear my podcast with Adam Johnson about next week’s Kentucky Bourbon Affair, then check it out here. If you have some money you can blow on this incredible bourbon day camp but haven’t made plans, visit the site and see what events have tickets left for sale. I got to do several things last year, and I can tell you they were amazing.

Whisky Live Louisville on June 18: Want a more diverse whiskey experience? Then get your tickets now for Whisky Live, set for Saturday, June 16, from 6-9:30 p.m. (Click here for info and tickets.) We love our bourbon here, but this is about brown liquor from all around the world plus bourbon. Long story short, this is an educational experience for whiskey lovers that’s never made it to a mid-market like Louisville. Past sites have included New York, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. We’re super fortunate to have it come here.

Varanese to Host Inaugural ‘Pork and Pinot Dinner’ on June 23

Varanese Restaurant, located at 2106 Frankfort Avenue, will host the inaugural “Pork and Pinot Dinner” on Thursday, June 23, with a reception at 6:30pm and dinner at 7:00pm. The six-course dinner will include special guest Ben Smith of Jackson Family Wines, who will be on hand to answer questions about the wines being served and their special attributes. The cost of the dinner is $65 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (502) 899-9904 or by emailing letsdine@varanese.com.

The idea of hosting an annual “Pork and Pinot Dinner” came about because the team of chefs at Varanese wanted to create a new annual event that celebrates the food grown during summer harvest, many of it right in the restaurant’s own backyard. They also wanted to come up with a menu that incorporated the entire pig amongst several courses, while pairing each dish with a type of Pinot that compliments the smoky undertones of pork.

The menu will consist of:

First Course

  • LaCrema, Pinot Gris, Monterey
  • Spreadable Pork Salami and Grilled Baguette
  • Served Along Side Shaved 6 Month Pancetta,
  • Manchego Cheese and Cracked Black Pepper

Second Course

  • La Crema, Pinot Noir Rose, Russian River Valley
  • Fromage de Tȇte
  • Served with Pickled Strawberries, Frisee Lettuce and Smoked Mustard

Third Course

  • Jackson Estate, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley
  • Wild Mushroom Fricassee with English Peas, Coppa Ham, Pinot Buerre Rouge
  • Topped with Snow Pea Tendrils

Fourth Course

  • Angela, Pinot Noir, Oregon
  • BBQ Pulled Pork and Roasted Tomatoes
  • Tossed with Cavatappi Pasta, Smoked Gouda Cheese, Basil Pesto
  • Finished with a Crispy Pork Skin and Parmesan Crumb Topping

Fifth Course

  • Hartford Court, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
  • Roasted Pork Loin with a Fennel and Ground Pork Stuffing
  • Wrapped in Crispy Prosciutto
  • Topped with a Bacon Jam and Pork Glace

Sixth Course

  • Carmel Road, Pinot Noir, Monterey
  • Peaches and Lardo with a Dried Cherry Granola and Shaved Lomo
  • Served with a Charred Sweet Corn and Goat Cheese Ice Cream

For information or to make a reservation, please call (502) 899-9904 or log on to www.varanese.com.

Appetizers for the Week: Open Signs Popping Up

Yes, The Taj is open. The long-awaited NuLu bar opened for business Friday with a limited selection of drinking choices and by Saturday had already become more than a Market Street curiousity. I walked in and sat next to partner Dennie Humphrey on Saturday afternoon, joking that it seemed like, with PBR the most visible of beers there, that they had stocked the joint by raiding Mike Maloney’s fridge out back.

Humphrey, who appeared on the Rusty Satellite Show last September when the bar’s opening was imminent, said the partners still have some work to do, including making a decision on what to do with the building next door, which is likely to be some sort of restaurant. The Taj will not have a kitchen, but work on the back patio is ongoing.

Braxton Brewery tap takeover at Irish Rover: We like to call Braxton Brewery “a garage brand brewery,” since the brothers who founded this year-old, Covington, Ky., business began brewing in their father’s garage. Irish Rover co-owner Michael Reidy considers himself a bit of a beer wonk, and when he came across this brand, he deemed it, “Very high-quality stuff” and “really impressed with it.”

So impressed that he’s hosting Braxton for an 11-tap takeover on Tuesday, June 14. (The only tap not taken over on his line will be Guinness Stout, of course.) Come support these Bluegrass brewers and meet owner Jake Rouse when it all starts that night at 6 p.m.

Highland Morning coming to St. Matthews: The end of Tom & Chee in April opened a slot at 111 St. Matthews Ave., where Highland Morning will open its second breakfast spot. This is great news for the neighborhood since the closure of SuperChefs by a fire this winter left Meridian Café (another good’n) as the lone creative breakfast option in the heart of this bustling suburb. No word yet on when it’ll open.

Nola-FareNOLA Fare bringing vegan grub to closed Epic Sammich spot: Saw this while walking in my ‘hood the other day. NOLA Fare will take over the former Epic Sammich location at 2009 Highlands Ave., when it opens on June 23 (just ‘round the corner from Wick’s Pizza on Baxter Ave.)
According to Business First, NOLA is an acronym for non-GMO, organic, life-giving and allergen-aware.
My gut says, “Interesting, I’d like to try it.” But my head says, “Can they pull this off affordably?” Usually such micro-niche food concepts do find an audience, but they struggle to build a broad-enough one that sustains the concept.

1stwatchFirst Watch Number Two: A former bank branch on Breckenridge Lane is the site for the second First Watch in Louisville. The first is on Hurstbourne near Shelbyville Road. The Bradenton, Fla.-based chain calls itself a “Daytime Cafe,” but I’d consider it more of a full-service breakfast stop. In two visits to the Hurstbourne location, I thought the menu was creative and the food great. In Dupont, it should be a great alternative to the hospital traffic accustomed to waiting in line at Wild Eggs.

Café Lou Lou closes Highlands location

After an eight-year run in the Douglass Loop (2216 Dundee Rd.), Café Lou Lou closed officially today.

Chef and owner Clay Wallace texted a message this morning saying an ongoing disagreement with his landlord triggered his decision to close the restaurant and move on. He declined to comment on specifics.

Clay Wallace, chef and owner of Cafe Lou Lou.

Clay Wallace, chef and owner of Cafe Lou Lou.

“We want to thank our many diners that we have served over the last several years,” Wallace wrote. “The management and staff at Café Lou Lou in the Highlands has thoroughly enjoyed welcoming you into our restaurant and serving you delicious meals with a smiling face.

“Unfortunately we have had an issue with our landlord, not rent related, that has forced us to close the Highlands location. We hope that our many loyal diners from the Highlands will continue to allow us to serve them in our existing location … in St. Matthews, 106 Sears Ave. … We promise the same great food and service.”

Wallace said he’d like to open a second location in the future, but that it’s not a priority at present.

Tavern reopens, Ciao replacing Baxter Station, Pie Kitchen leaves Frankfort

Old Louisville Tavern reopens! Remember that horrible fire at the Old Louisville Tavern nearly two years ago? Well it’s hard to see any scars from it in the pics tied to its reopening about two weeks ago. Figured we’d let you know this great watering hole is reopened. Check out the pics.

Ciao to Baxter Station spot: Business First reported that the weathered and withering Baxter Station location at 1201 Payne St. is being overhauled for a new Italian restaurant named Ciao. Projected opening is in July. The story says Luigi Gelsomini, owner of Luigi’s Pizzeria & Pasta in downtown Louisville, will be the sole operator of the business.

Gelsomini will face a tough time getting recognition for this off the beaten path location. During Baxter Station’s heyday, it was a bit of a destination location in a far less crowded restaurant market. As competition increased, it couldn’t keep pace for multiple reasons—road visibility surely being one of them.

Pie Kitchen leaving Clifton, heading to Dixie: When Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen announced it would shutter its 2232 Frankfort Ave. site and relocate to a unit on Dixie Highway, owner Adam Burckle noted that the space would be rented to an imported furniture company—and for at a premium. Burkle, the uber-successful founder of Adam Matthews Cheesecakes, regarded it as a good business move, but Robin Garr, owner of LousivilleHotBytes, called it proof Burckle made a bad call. Garr, who generally serves up more snark than actual restaurant news on the site, gave his own take on HICPK’s move, dubbing Burckle’s decision to open three years ago across from The Comfy Cow, not “the greatest idea.”

That yielded a rebuttal from Burckle, who accused Garr of “reveling in our closure.”

He’s not the first to call out Garr for his negativity, though that never seems to slow the stream of bile creeping from the keyboard of long-ago Louisville Times restaurant critic.

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.