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.

 

Local Takes with Damaris Phillips; Talking Hogs with Barry Yates

We’re in the home stretch headed toward the beginning of Derby Week, so as the city’s best restaurant and bar podcasters, we’re here to fill you in on how restaurateurs here are preparing to host thousands of out-of-town guests. We start with Steve’s explanation of why so many operators are offering prix fixe menus, and as you might guess, part of the answer is staffing.

What new places are planning to open before the big day? Roc in the Highlands has made it, and it appears that the new Red Herring on Frankfort might welcome guests as early as this week. Across the street, we’re glad to see the Hilltop Tavern is back after some plumbing issues forced a weeks-long shutdown. Among Derby events to look forward to, the Jill’s Wish bash at Bowman Field is a deal at $65. But we’re not all about the fancy — we tell you about some excellent food at great prices in neighborhood spots the Back Door and Kern’s Korner. We also fill you in with more details on the big Bourbon & Beyond event, which has started a billboard campaign around town.

In the Copper & Kings Favorites segment, Steve picked a Kentucky Cuban sandwich at Monnik Brewing in Germantown, while Rick opted for the Hung Jury, a tasty burger at Sidebar during the post-Neil Diamond concert rush. At the Back Door, Steve selected an Old Forrester barrel pick, a bargain at $5.50 a pour. While at the Pints and Parkinson’s event at Fourth Street Live!, Rick sampled a Birra Sour at Birracibo, featuring Bulleit Bourbon, a Shock Top brew, lemon juice and orange bitters.

Our first guest, Damaris Phillips, has a bunch of TV projects in the works with the Food Network, but loves the restaurants and coffee shops in her hometown. Steve’s guest is Franklin County hog farmer Barry Yates, who will be providing the pig at this week’s Chef’s Table at Harvest.

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Barry Yates

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Damaris Phillips. Photo by Bill Brymer

Collaborative Kitchen Concept MESA Coming to New Albany in June

Bobby Bass says that in his new MESA collaborative kitchen in New Albany, he’s trying to eliminate the gap between the kitchen and the dining room.

“Customers don’t often connect a face to their food, and we’re creating an experience in which chefs engage and customers can ask questions,” said Bass, who plans to open the space at 216 Pearl Street in mid-June.

Ysha and Bobby Bass of MESA

Ysha and Bobby Bass of MESA

He said the venue will play host to up to five events per week, featuring chefs he’s personally recruited, plus three to five in-house chefs. That way he can enjoy some of the positives about running a restaurant without the pressures involved in being tied to full-time hours. Bass is a real estate professional, and is opening the business with his wife, Ysha.

Talking about his first venture into the industry, he said he had never been so busy ironing out details and taking care of business issues.

While the space will have room to seat 20, it will also feature space for educational sessions, so that customers can connect with the chefs who prepare their food and see the action as it takes place. Among the chefs already on board for guest appearances at MESA are Scott Dickinson of The Exchange Pub + Kitchen, Darnell Ferguson of SuperChefs, Josh Moore of Volare and Eric Morris of the Gospel Bird.

Bass said the experience will rival that of Chef’s Tables, the popular private affairs that sometimes take place in a small section of the kitchen at high-end restaurants.

In addition, there’s a retail boutique pantry, so that customers can select some of the accessories and ingredients used by the chefs to prepare their meals. He said the space will be equipped with high-end equipment, thanks to special arrangements he’s made with suppliers like Dine Company, Chefs Supply and Bonnycastle Appliances.

For now, MESA’s web site lacks details on scheduling, but that will change soon. For now, those interested can sign up there for a mailing list.

Mixing it Up at Copper & Kings with Brandon O’Daniel; Pam Stallings Makes a Wish

The city’s best restaurant and bar podcast welcomes spring with some exciting news at several local hotspots. Let’s start with Steve’s visit to Fork & Barrel in the former Basa spot on Frankfort Ave. Steve says regular visitors to the former establishment won’t recognize the new one, and the elevated Southern cuisine is fantastic. We learned that the former Tom + Chee spot on Bardstown Road will become the home of Pho Café in June and we’re also reporting positive vibes at Chik’ N Me on Frankfort, where the bonito fries are a visual stunner.

Finally, we react to the initial lineup for September’s Bourbon & Beyond Festival, a music, bourbon and food festival featuring numerous big name bands, local chefs Edward Lee and Dean Corbett among others, as well as Tom Colicchio and other celeb chefs. We discuss concerns over the fact that distilleries have yet to sign on to the new show.

In our Favorites segment, Rick’s Quesorito at Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina drew praise for the volume of queso, while Steve selected the charred octopus at Fork & Barrel. Not only love the Depretador cocktail at Copper & Kings’s Mala Idea event, he indulged in a gin-based Emily’s Garden at Fork & Barrel as well.

Brandon O’Daniel, head distiller at Copper & Kings, discusses two new gins coming from the distillery. Pam Stallings, a franchisee of two local Salsarita’s, talks about the time and food she provides to local charities, including a very special event in late April.

Thanks to our sponsors — the Eye Care Institute, Harvest Restaurant and Copper & Kings for helping us make it to this, our 50th show.

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Brandon O’Daniel at Copper & Kings

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Pam Stallings at Salsarita’s

 

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!