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
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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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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 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.