Gospel Bird's beef brisket and cauliflower grits. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Bold eats paired with bourbon and Bluegrass at Gospel Bird: There’s ample irony in the rusticity of Eric Morris’s food, for nothing he makes is truly as simple as it appears. As the chef-owner at New Albany’s Gospel Bird, Morris brings modern thinking to staple Southern dishes that otherwise might strike some as homely.

Cornbread biscuit, country ham and spicy orange marmalade. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Cornbread biscuit, country ham and spicy orange marmalade. | Photo by Steve Coomes

At Monday’s Bluegrass & Bourbon dinner, the cocktail paired meal led with a country ham and cornbread biscuit with spicy orange marmalade. Call it haute hillbilly chow that was really good. I’d have been happy just with that one filling course.

But on its heels came fork tender smoked beef brisket served over cauliflower grits and garnished with cole slaw. Yes, as hearty as it sounds, but not as ordinary as you’d think. The combinational was exceptional and filling.

And doesn’t everyone serve a fried chicken quarter as the closing course of a three-course meal? Well, OK, maybe just Morris and Colonel Sanders, but this wasn’t remotely KFC-like. Tender, flavorful and I’ll-have-another-when-I’m-less-full-next-month good.

Fried chicken and waffle. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Fried chicken and waffle. | Photo by Steve Coomes.

Oh, the Bourbon and Bluegrass part: Hickory Vaught and Bernie Lubbers provided some great hayseed tunes, and Heaven Hill, for which Lubbers works as global brand ambassador, provided pre-meal sips of Larceny, Elijah Craig, Rittenhouse Rye and Evan Williams Single Barrel. (Ritt-rye rocks!)

Cool place, great food and drink, worth the drive to “N’Ablany.”

In other news …

Rumor Mill: A well-placed source says an out of town real estate company is buying up closed restaurant spaces and working to reopen them. No one asked me, but that’s a nutty strategy here where the independent restaurant market is saturated, and the labor pool is nearly dry and already lean on experience. Another well-placed source keeps saying more restaurant closings to come. Could be some Christmas coal in some stockings.

That whiskey’s worthy of a Celebration! Tasted the 2016 Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey today for a review I’ll do for a brown-liquor publication. This is a one-off blend of bourbon and rye whiskeys from six barrels as young as 10 years old and as old as 33. Suggested retail cost on this release is $5,000 per 750ml ($441 per shot, if that’s how you drink yours). Yep, out of my price range, too, but only by a little bit. (Well, if you count $4,950 a little short.)

And, so, how was it, you ask? Amazing. Freaky good. Caramel, citrus, oak, marshmallow, mild tobacco, wild cherry wood on the nose and the palate… need I go on? OK, I will. Even at 116.8 proof, but it’s a softy of a sipper. It’s one you don’t really want to swallow because it’s so fun to let it hang around your mouth for a bit. (Click here for some details from a news release we ran on it last week.)

Lights on at Lola tomorrow night: My EDT partner Rick Redding and I are headed to today’s media event at Lola, which is the name of the newly tweaked upstairs lounge concept at Butchertown Grocery. Expect a follow up story tomorrow—along with some pre-Thanksgiving fasting as we process what surely will be some good grub from executive chef Bobby Benjamin. Bar manager Nic Christiansen will see some spotlight also as her new cocktail menu is rolled out. Official opening is Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve. Click here for a more detailed story I wrote last week.

 

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Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, WhiskeyWash.com and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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