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 and Beyond Announces Big-Name Chefs, Musicians for September Festival

Louisville’s Champions Park on River Road will be the epicenter of the worlds of bourbon, food and music Sept. 23-24, if all goes according to the plans being made by Danny Wimmer Presents, the company that has produced the Louder Than Life Festival in the same location for the last three years.

An initial announcement about the event came out March 21, but was notably light on details. Today the company released the names of musicians, chefs and more who will be attractions at the two-day event. It also announced it has started selling tickets at www.BourbonandBeyond.com, though that information was not available at 10:30 a.m.

The lineup of musician includes Stevie Nicks, Eddie VedderSteve Miller Band, Band of Horses, Joe BonamassaGary Clark Jr.Paul RodgersAmos LeeBuddy Guy, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Kenny Wayne ShepherdJonny Lang, G. Love & Special Sauce, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, ZZ Ward, Nikki LaneShawn James & The Shapeshifters, Fantastic Negrito, Kiefer Sutherland and Dave Cavalier. 

According to the release, DWP selected local bourbon authority Fred Minnick, along with acclaimed chef Edward Lee, to fashion “an enriching weekend featuring the best bourbons, master distillers, national and local chefs, bartenders, musicians, and many other artisans.”

50 bourbons will be showcased in several bourbon-themed experiences, from the 20,000-square-foot “Big Bourbon Bar” to the Hunter’s Club, Bourbon Barrel Cooperage and The Distillery. Also planned is a series of bourbon workshops.

The Festival has reached out to the local restaurant community, and announced the participation of seven on its initial list, which it says will grow to 20. They are Baxter’s 942 Bar & Grill, Boss Hog’s BBQ, Doc Crow’s, Gospel Bird, Seviche, The Manhattan Exchange, and the soon-to-open Whiskey Dry, Lee’s new restaurant at Fourth Street Live!

Food events are a primary feature, with this list of chefs also signed on for aspects of the party: Tom ColicchioCarla HallEdward LeeChris CosentinoAmanda FreitagJose SalazarCosmo Goss & Erling Wu-BowerKevin AshworthAnthony Lamas and Anthony Falco.

The release promises “an incredible all-in-one bourbon, food, and entertainment destination that honors the rich history of bourbon that is so deeply rooted in the heart of Kentucky.

 

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Pints for Parkinson’s Set to Take Over Fourth Street Live April 19

If you’re a regular at Fourth Street Live!, you know that a band playing on a stage in the street is a regular occurrence. But the party coming up April 19 marks a milestone event, as the third-annual Pints for Parkinson’s party spreads out over the entire complex.

Jason Smith, the general manager at Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant, started Pints for Parkinson’s at the 4SL spot shortly after he was diagnosed with an early onset form of the debilitating and potentially deadly disease. (If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the affliction borne by Muhammad Ali for many years.) Smith got involved in the fight against the disease by donating proceeds from one of the restaurant’s Pint Nights to the Parkinson’s Support Center of Kentuckiana. The larger party evolved from there.

Last year, at the second event, Smith’s work to promote the party resulted in one of the largest crowds in the restaurant’s history, so much that he said he couldn’t have squeezed another person inside or out onto its patio space.

“We were busting the restaurant at the seams,” said Smith, who is able to manage his disease with medication, though he suffers from occasional tremors. “We took the fence down and went out into the street.”

The party attracted the attention of Cordish executive Ed Hartless, who engordonbierschgaged in meetings with Smith to plan this year’s event, which will now encompass all of the entertainment complex. Ten percent of proceeds from sales at Fourth Street Live! restaurants, and all beer sales from a tent at the south end of the complex, will go to the cause.

Smith said he raised $3,500 the first year, $10,000 in the second and hopes to break $20,000 this year.

“Jason’s story is a great one, and when we heard about it, I said we would jump in in any way we could,” said Hartless.

Smith is especially excited about the band at the top of the bill — national chart-topping Country-Americana band Jericho Woods. The trio of Breckenridge County natives was selected by the readers of Kentucky Living Magazine as the Commonwealth’s Favorite Performing Band last year.

If you’ve been before, you can expect the return of the traditional tapping of the Maibok keg from Gordon Biersch as well.
Ed Hartless

Ed Hartless

“What Jason has been able to do in promoting Pints for Parkinson’s is amazing,” said Hartless. “Instead of having the crowd squeeze into one restaurant, we will be able call attention to a great cause in a much larger space.”

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, but Smith’s passion for the cause isn’t limited to four weeks. He’s organized pint nights in Bowling Green and Evansville, and partners with other local breweries to raise awareness. He’s even formed a 501-C-3 foundation to help distribute the funds raised.

While Gordon Biersch is a national chain with 32 locations, Smith said the success of the Louisville store can be traced to its involvement in local events and causes. Every month, the restaurant hosts a Pint Night when all beer proceeds go to a local non-profit organization. He said the restaurant raised $80,000 for a dozen charities last year,  and members of his team volunteered 200 service hours to community service projects.

“Fourth Street Live has become more family friendly and community oriented, and being a part of the community has really helped our business,” said Smith.

The Pints for Parkinson’s Charity Fundraiser is Wednesday, April 19, starting at 6 p.m.  at Fourth Street Live!

First-Time Derby Event Featuring Celebrity Chefs at Ali Center

It’s April, so maybe you’re trying to figure out where you’re going to go every night of Derby Week.

Here’s a suggestion for Thursday for those focused on all things culinary. It’s a chance to sample a four-course feast prepared by celebrity chefs Todd English, Beau MacMillan and Damaris Phillips.

The first-ever Culinary Kickoff at the Ali Center is backed by Lonnie Ali with proceeds benefiting the Ali Center. Individual tickets are $1,250, and table of 10 is $15,000. No, those aren’t typos, that’s the nickle for individuals or your posse.

In a news release, Ali’s said: “Each year, the Kentucky Derby is among Louisville’s most celebrated events, attracting people from around the world who come to town for a mix of sport, food, and fashion. So it made perfect sense to host the Inaugural Culinary Kickoff at the Ali Center to add another dimension of greatness to the city’s already attractive menu of events surrounding the Derby. We are excited about this culinary experience and are grateful to the organizers for their support of the Muhammad Ali Center.”

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Damaris Phillips

The chefs are certain to attract foodies. English, based in Boston, is a four-time James Beard Award winner, author of four books and host of a TV series on PBS. McMillian, executive chef at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, won an episode of Iron Chef America. Phillips, of course, is the Louisville native chef who has hosted shows on the Food Network.

The chef’s creations will be paired with wine provided by elite vintners AldenAlii, Tuck Beckstoffer, Charles Woodson, and The Withers.

Guests also receive gifts from Williams-Sonoma and a bottle of Woodford Reserve.

And of course, it’s a Thursday night party during Derby Week, so music and dancing will continue until 2 a.m.

Here’s a link for tickets. The group behind the event will hold its next party next February at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis.

Now Pouring: Varanese Unveils his Maker’s Mark 46 Private Select

Last fall, Chef John Varanese and his team took advantage of a special opportunity at the Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto: to create his own Maker’s Mark 46 Private Select barrel. As he describes it, his group of five sat around a table sampling Maker’s 46 bourbon aged with different barrel staves and blended to create unique flavors. It took 25-30 blends to arrive at the the exact taste he wanted.

(Our own Steve Coomes has done the process twice and called it, “One of the most exciting experiences in American whiskey today.”)

Chef John Varanese. Photo by Bill Brymer

Chef John Varanese. Photo by Bill Brymer

Varanese’s final combination — 2 Baked American Pure staves, 1 Seared French Cuvee stave, 1 Maker’s 46 stave, 5 Roasted French Mocha stave, and 1 Toasted French Spice — yielded a bourbon with “creamy mouthfeel with distinct undertones of mocha and a toasted spice finish.”

Sound delicious? Varanese’s private barrel selection is now available only in his restaurants: Varanese on Frankfort Ave.; River House; and Levee at River House on River Road. He created two special events to unveil it, one on March 21 at the River House, where, for $35, guests enjoyed three 1 oz. pours that included side-by-side tastings of other Maker’s options, and appetizers. Guests also got to meet Rob Samuels, president of Maker’s.

And while Varanese said that event may have fallen slightly short of expectations, the March 28 dinner at his Frankfort Ave. restaurant is sold out with more than 100 reservations. Bill Samuels, Jr. will be on hand for the four-course private dinner, in which each of the courses is paired with Maker’s Mark bourbons, including the Varanese’s Private Select. The culinary team even utilized four of the five wood staves used to create the Private Select flavor in the cooking process for the dinner.

While you can’t experience that one unless you already have a reservation, Varanese will be offering 2-oz. pours of his Private Select 46 for $25, as long as his supply of 240 bottles lasts. He’s not sure how long that will be.

“We’re selling pretty quick, so it will probably go quickly,” he said. “I hope it will last about a year.”

Varanese said the opportunity from Maker’s is only offered to about a hundred accounts in the U.S., and said he believes only to 10 in Louisville. (Westport Whiskey & Wine just received its PS 46.) And when he does exhaust his supply, he hopes to do it again, using the same recipe that’s exclusive to him.

“We really enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of this program and I’m really proud of our selection,” he said.

Great Flood’s New Spot with Zach Barnes and Matt Fuller; Brett Davis Talks Up the New Red Herring

It’s a delicious week for news on the city’s best restaurant and bar podcast, and we get right to it with the surprising story that Z’s Oyster Bar downtown is closing, at least temporarily, according to a sign on the door. Owners blamed the ongoing construction of the Convention Center and the Omni Hotel for a substantial sales slump. Certainly we hope to see Z’s again downtown. We’re looking forward to the late April opening of the Red Herring Cocktail Lounge & Kitchen, a new operation located next to the Silver Dollar on Frankfort. It’s backed by Doc Crow’s co-owner Brett Davis (more on him later) and a pair of managers who just left 8UP downtown.

The word on the first-ever local bourbon-themed festival here is something to get excited about. Bourbon and Beyond will take place at Champions Park on River Road in September, and we’re hearing there will be a stellar lineup of celebrities, chefs, distillers and musicians on hand—if the promoter is able to pull it off. Steve checked in on the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse Cocktail Program, sure to be a great tourist attraction on Fourth Street Live.

In our Copper & Kings Favorites segment, Rick picked a chocolate pecan doughnut from Hi-Five on East Main, where the two women proprietors are making a name for themselves. Steve visited Pat’s Place in Bardstown for some good ‘ole comfort food. Steve picked the winner in a cocktail contest called the Petal Pusher, while Rick enjoyed the Brooklyn from the cocktail menu at LouVino in Middletown.

Rick talked to our first guests, Zach Barnes and Matt Fuller, at the new brewery complex they’re operating in Shelby Park, while Steve got the scoop on the Red Herring from the man who is making it happen, Brett Davis. All that and more on the city’s finest dining and drinking podcast, sponsored by Harvest Restaurant and the Eye Care Institute.

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Matt Fuller and Zach Barnes at Great Flood Brewing

Red Herring Cocktail & Lounge & Kitchen owner Brett Davis with chef Jacob Coronado. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Red Herring Cocktail & Lounge & Kitchen owner Brett Davis with chef Jacob Coronado. | Photo by Steve Coomes

The ‘Ville Gets Its Bourbon Festival, Thanks to L.A. Producer

About three years ago, Mayor Greg Fischer started a Bourbon and Work Food Group for the purpose of boosting bourbon-related tourism in Louisville. That group, composed of about 50 individuals representing distilleries, restaurants and tourism agencies, produced a report highlighting initiatives important to achieve if Louisville was to become “the world’s best culinary and spirits city.”

At the top of the list was to create an annual “world-class bourbon and food festival.” And while there have been meetings and discussion over how the city could produce such an ambitious event, that discussion ended recently when a private firm in the business of festival production stepped up and said — “We’ll do it.”

Thus was the creation of Bourbon and Beyond, made public this week by Danny Wimmer Productions, an L.A.-based festival promoter with events currently in 11 cities, including the Louder Than Life Festival that’s now planning its fourth rendition for Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

“it was going to be a partial city event, then Danny Wimmer Productions decided to take all the risk and produce it themselves,” said Chris Poynter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer. “It shows how far we’ve come in the growth of our bourbon and food industry that a private company sees it and does it at its own risk.”

Bourbon and Beyond is set for Sept. 23-24, the weekend before Louder Than Life, in the same location. Champions Park is on River Road west of Zorn. The property will be rented to Wimmer Productions by Metro Parks for the entire period.

The decision by the L.A. firm to double its presence in Louisville is a coup for the city.

“The committee had a few meetings, but it was so much for us as a city to take on,” Poynter said. “Wimmer was always at the table. It’s good news for the city, because when it comes to bourbon, our philosophy is the more the merrier.”

In Wimmer Productions’ March 20 release announcing Bourbon & Beyond, it promised the festival will “blend the best elements of a bourbon festival, a food festival, and a music festival into an all-encompassing, unforgettable weekend.” It suggested that distilleries, restaurants, world-class musicians and craftsmen would participate.

Bourbon-and-Beyond-logowEatDrinkTalk obtained the company’s pitch to prospective sponsors, which included an impressive list of celebrity chefs (most from out of town), distilleries and performers. The latter included comedians Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari, along with musical acts The Black Keys, John Mayer and Hall & Oates. Highlighted are area distilleries and restaurants. Of course, it doesn’t guarantee those acts will come to Louisville. An announcement regarding the lineup of performers is expected in the next few weeks.

It’s quite an ambitious production, given there’s only a few months to prepare. However, Wimmer’s team had already planned to be here for Louder Than Life, and Poynter said the company has been involved in the Bourbon and Work Food Group for two years.

The Bourbon and Beyond web site, for now, consists of a single page, a letter from Wimmer to his “fellow bourbon-lovers.” In it, Wimmer pens a love letter to the city. It reads, in part:

I wanted to tell you that I have fallen in love with your city. I produce events all over the country, and what impressed and inspired me about Louisville is its chefs, restaurants, horses, outdoor life and, of course, bourbon.

It has become my personal mission to help others around the world discover what I discovered when I first came here: an authentic mix of Southern charm and cosmopolitan sophistication, wrapped in an unparalleled civic pride. It is Louisville’s uniqueness that leads me to today’s announcement.

Later, he compares the association of Louisville and bourbon to that of Napa and wine.

Poynter said the new event adds to the city’s efforts to be a year-round mecca for bourbon lovers, pointing to the Bourbon Classic in February, the Bourbon Affair in June and the opening of distilleries along Whiskey Row, including Angel’s Envy.

“We’re really building out a 365-day tourism experience with major festivals on top of that,” he said.

J.K. McKnight Mixes Music with Bourbon; Goodwood Goodness with Joel Halblieb

Rick and Steve return from the road for this episode of the city’s finest restaurant and bar podcast. And while we could go on about our trips to Denver and Indianapolis, our first item of business is getting caught up on the news right here in River City. First, there’s an exciting announcement about efforts to create a new Louisville festival called Bourbon & Beyond. Steve credits Louder Than Life organizer Danny Wimmer for bypassing a passive city committee to get the new festival on the calendar.

We also report on some chef changes. Longtime Corbett’s chef Jeffrey Dailey has moved over to Harvest, now the home of what some say is the most talent in any city kitchen. Then there’s news that Allan Rosenberg is making a move back to pizza with the opening of Butchertown Pizza Hall in the old Hall’s Cafeteria space. Also in Butchertown, the operator of the Holy Mole’ food truck is adopting an 1860s-era building for a new pizza and pasta place to be called Lupo. Finally, we marvel at the marketing expertise of steakhouse proprietor Jeff Ruby, who got his restaurant mentioned in a national CBS basketball broadcast by promising free steak if Northern Kentucky University pulled off the impossible and upset over the University of Kentucky. It didn’t.

Our first guest is Forecastle Festival organizer J.K. McKnight, whose promotion of the Bourbon Lodge at July’s big event captured Steve’s interest. Rick welcomes Goodwood Brewery’s Joel Halblieb, who talks about the success of the two-year-old brand and the often-overlooked Taproom at Main and Clay.

EatDrinkTalk is brought to you each week by our friends at the Eye Care Institute, Harvest Restaurant and Copper & Kings. Thanks for joining us.

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J.K. McKnight

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Joel Halblieb

 

Doug Gossman’s 40-Year Run at Bristol; Ed Hartless Goes Local for Fourth Street Live!

The tastiest podcast in these parts is back with another deep dive into the local dining and drinking scene. We start this week with a few laughs from our afternoon at the Tailspin Ale Fest, where we were pouring plenty of little glasses of great beer. Across the river, we learned the long-awaited Parlour pizzeria will open at the foot of the Big Four Bridge on March 15. Rick talked with Mike Safei last week about the coffee company’s new digs in Shelby Park and some exciting plans being made, including a brewery and bakery. We’re looking forward to a few big events this week — The Ideal Bartender event at Copper & Kings Wednesday, Das Meal in Shelbyville on Thursday, and the 5th Annual Gravy Cup on Saturday.

Steve’s guest is Doug Gossman, who started a business in the Highlands known as the Bristol Bar & Grille four decades ago. The success story was an unlikely one, as Gossman explains that he never expected multiple locations and this kind of longevity. Rick talked with Fourth Street Live! exec Ed Hartless, who is focused on bringing in local restaurants (like the upcoming Whiskey Dry from Edward Lee) and becoming more involved in local events.

In our Favorites segment, Rick chose a Traveler Beer Co. Pineapple Shandy at Tailspin, while Steve picked an as-yet-unnamed concoction involving Green Chartreuse concocted by barkeep Daniel Mahony at The Portage House in Jeffersonville. His favorite bite there was a perfectly prepared whole roasted trout. Rick was amazed at the speed of the service, and the quality of the meal, when he ordered a Buffalo Chicken Salad at Double Dogs in Middletown.

And finally, we want you to make a reservation with our sponsor, Harvest Restaurant, for a special Chef’s Table on Feb. 23. The fantastic meal, led by farmer Judith Schad, features courses accented with Goat Cheese. It’s $85, plus $35 for wine pairings, and you’ll save 10 percent by mentioning EatDrinkTalk when you call 384-9090.

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Doug Gossman

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at Fourth Street Live!, Ed Hartless

The “Taste” Season Starts with 5th Annual Taste of 502

Local foodies have become accustomed to the annual onslaught of “Taste” events, parties where you can make a meal of samples provided by our city’s finest restaurateurs.

Let the season begin.

Tonight is the 5th Annual Taste of 502 at the Seelbach Hilton downtown, where you can try samples from many of the restaurants participating in 502 Restaurant Week. Tickets at the door are $50. There’s also a Wine and Spirits Pull, in which you are guaranteed to take home a bottle for $15. A charity, YMCA Safe Place, gets a portion of the proceeds.

There will be plenty of beer, wine and spirits samples as well. And there’s a dessert bar.

Tonight’s event, plus the two-week 502 Restaurant Week, are operated by Belinda Gates and Lee Rhea, who own 502 Events LLC. It also manages 502 Lunch Week in September.

During the two-week promotion that starts Wednesday, restaurants offer a three, or four-course meal for $50.20 per couple, or in some cases, per person. The prices are discounted, meant to encourage guests to try higher-end hotspots. Here’s the list, but be sure to make note of the actual pricing and menu.

The specials in the $50.20 per person list include Mitchell’s Fish Market, Morton’s, Brooklyn & the Butcher, Eddie Merlot’s, Porcini, The English Grill and Vincenzo’s. At the other 19 spots, the price is per couple.

Tonight’s event starts at 6, and be advised that to get your money’s worth, arrive early.