A Taste for Bourbon
Kentucky-distilled bourbon is big business in Louisville, with some barrooms featuring more than 150 selections. But imbibing is just one way to enjoy this Prohibition-era classic. Think outside the box and have some with breakfast at the whimsical Lynn’s Paradise Café , where French toast comes topped with toasted bourbon meringue. Move on to dinner at the historic Seelbach Hilton Hotel’s classy Oakroom for a house-cured pork belly with vanilla bourbon maple syrup. For dessert – if you’re still standing – pop a decadent dark chocolate Bourbon Ball from Louisville’s oldest confectionery, Muth’s Candies .
Kudos to the city’s chefs for redefining southern flavours, but traditionalists can take heart: Louisville’s culinary icons, like the hearty Hot Brown, continue to dazzle. Created in the 1920s at the legendary Brown Hotel , this open-face turkey, bacon and tomato sandwich is still a special here, covered in mornay sauce and served bubbling hot. And don’t forget Jack Fry’s , a local favourite since opening in the ’30s. This dark wood-panelled hot spot has a speakeasy vibe as well as classic southern dishes like shrimp and grits in red-eye gravy.
Louisville restaurants large and small championed the farm-to-table movement. But farmer-owned Harvest , in the revitalized East Market District known as NuLu, takes the philosophy one step further, limiting its rustic, regional menu almost entirely to what’s grown or raised within 100 miles. Sure, in January, that might mean goodbye to green salads, although seasonal alternatives like pickled bok choy stems or garlic scapes more than make up for it. Fortunately, favourite dishes, including buttermilk fried chicken livers and crispy pork confit, are available year-round.
Harvest, 624 East Market Street
During Kentucky’s Derby season, it’s customary to sip frosty mint juleps, but the bourbon-based cocktail isn’t the only treat linked with the May race. Burgoo, a thick soup originally loaded with almost anything that walked on four legs – squirrel, raccoon, opossum included – is a Derby Day favourite. For those with less adventurous palates, a hearty smoked pork, chicken, lima bean and okra version is available year-round at the Derby Café in the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs. Or check out downtown’s hip, airy Hillbilly Tea, specializing in Appalachian-inspired comfort food, where burgoo goes by its nickname, Road Kill Stew. When available, fresh venison and rabbit are tossed into the pot.
Derby Café, 704 Central Avenue
Landlocked Louisville: a Seafood Capital
Louisville is over 950 kilometres from the ocean, but as UPS’ global air hub, it’s where much of America’s seafood enters the country. As Anthony Lamas, one of the city’s new-generation chefs melding cutting-edge techniques and international flavours, says, “Fish here is as fresh as you can get it.” At Seviche , his stylish Nuevo Latino restaurant in the Highlands District, he puts the bounty to good use, serving at least seven different ceviches each night, from Hawaiian “tiradito” with wahoo and pickled strawberry salsa to an Ecuadorean shrimp ceviche garnished with popcorn.
Seviche, 1538 Bardstown Rd
Originally published in enRoute magazine .
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