Kentucky

Regal Kentucky Castle serves great humble biscuits

Regal Kentucky Castle serves great humble biscuits

If we lived in the South, we'd probably eat biscuits warm from the oven and slathered with butter every day. A good biscuit is the transfiguration of simple ingredients. Moreover, no two biscuits are exactly alike. Every home cook seems to cherish a grandmother's special recipe and many restaurant chefs like to add their own spin to this Southern classic. A couple of years ago, we shared the recipe for black pepper biscuits from Gralehaus in Louisville https://hungrytravelers.com/biscuits-unite-louisville-southern-indiana/]. On our recent visit to Kentucky, we discovered another winning variation at the Kentucky Castle (230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles, Kentucky, 859-256-0322, thekentuckycastle.com) just outside Lexington. We expected to see gorgeous estates as we drove through horse country on a rainy morning to have breakfast at the castle....Read More
Honeywood showcases updated Kentucky cuisine

Honeywood showcases updated Kentucky cuisine

When we visit our friends in Lexington, Kentucky, they usually can guess our first question. “What's Ouita been up to?” we ask, referring to chef Ouita Michel. In the two decades since she and her husband Chris Michel opened Holly Hill Inn (426 N. Winter St., Midway, hollyhillinn.com) in a mid-19th century Greek Revival home, Ouita has led the dining revolution in Bluegrass Country. Ouita is fiercely committed to local growers and producers and is equally at home showcasing Kentucky products in fine and casual dining establishments. She now oversees nine restaurants and cafes, including two outlets of Smithtown Seafood (501 W. Sixth St., Lexington and 119 Marion St., Suite 160, Lexington, smithtownseafood.com). Here's the link https://hungrytravelers.com/at-smithtown-seafood-local-is-measured-in-feet-2/ to our earlier post about this unique collaboration...Read More
Lost among the ‘dusties’ in Lexington’s House of Bourbon

Lost among the ‘dusties’ in Lexington’s House of Bourbon

Brian Booth tapped the back wall of Justins’ House of Bourbon at just the right point, and the wall swung open to reveal a windowless den behind the shop. It was a veritable speakeasy of some of the rarest vintage whiskeys ever brought together in one vault—old bottles known in the trade as “dusties.” That's a big part of what Justins’ House of Bourbon (601 West Main St., Lexington, Ky.; (859) 317-8609; thehouseofbourbon.com) is all about. Note the placement of the possessive apostrophe. This Mecca for bourbon nerds is the brainchild of Justin Sloan and Justin Thompson, both of whom began collecting vintage bottles of bourbon more than a decade ago. When Kentucky law changed in 2017 to allow the sale—by the glass and by...Read More
Pepper whiskey: haunting spirits rise from the dead

Pepper whiskey: haunting spirits rise from the dead

We do love a good ghost story, especially when the spirit in question is an iconic brand of Kentucky whiskey. Long before Brooklyn hipsters began muttering about “peppery” notes in a sip of rye, “Pepper” was a huge name in the whiskey world. We got a couple of centuries of colorful tales on a tour of the James E. Pepper Distillery (1228 Manchester St. #100, Lexington, KY; 859-309-3230; jamesepepper.com). The ever-so-great grandpappy of the Pepper whiskey line was Elijah Pepper, who began making whiskey around 1780 in Virginia and built a distillery in Woodford County, Kentucky, in 1812. By 1865, the business had passed to his 15-year-old grandson, James E. Pepper. Now part of Brown & Forman, that limestone block National Historic Landmark is the...Read More
Toasting thoroughbreds and bourbon at Taylor Made

Toasting thoroughbreds and bourbon at Taylor Made

When we think of Kentucky's Bluegrass country, two things spring to mind: fast horses and smooth bourbon. So when we arrived for a VIP Stallion Experience at Taylor Made Farm (2765 Union Mill Rd., Nicholasville, KY; 859-885-3345, taylormadestallions.com) in the rolling hills just outside Lexington, we weren't surprised that the tour began in Daddy Joe's Bar & Grill. Bartender Kattie Breeden greeted us with the House Old Fashioned. The bar is named for family patriarch Joseph Taylor (1924-2003), who was once farm manager of the revered Gainesway Farm. Taylor Made, run by Joseph's four sons and one of their longtime friends, was established in 1976 to board mares that had come to Kentucky to be bred. As the farm grew from 20 acres to 1,100...Read More
Commonwealth Bistro explores rich edges of Kentucky

Commonwealth Bistro explores rich edges of Kentucky

Chef Chris Burns of Commonwealth Bistro (621 Main St., Covington, KY; 859-916-6719; commonwealthbistro.com) refers to the Mainstrasse neighborhood of Covington, Kentucky, as “the Brooklyn of Cincinnati.” And though he worked for a number of years in Jean-Robert Cavel's Cincinnati restaurants (see previous post), he and his wife Tess self-identify as Kentuckians. “I came out of a classical French kitchen and wanted to get away from all that,” he explains. “We're in an agriculturally rich region. I wanted to explore what Kentucky cuisine meant without resorting to stereotypical Southern dishes.” Open three years this month, Commonwealth Bistro is the realization of that vision. Burns jokes that it only took seven years to open, three of them devoted to construction after shifts and on his days off....Read More
Fine distractions at Louisville’s Red Herring

Fine distractions at Louisville’s Red Herring

Located next door to the Silver Dollar (see our biscuit post), Red Herring (1757 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, 502-907-3800, redherringlou.com) opened in April 2017 in the 112-year-old Hilltop Theater. It might be the perfect complement to its next door neighbor. Red Herring is far from retro, despite including PBR on an otherwise stellar list of regional craft beers. If we lived in the neighborhood, they might have to put our names on two of the barstools. For starters, Red Herring is open from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. every day. You can segue seamlessly from breakfast to lunch to happy hour to dinner to evening entertainment without changing seats. The room is huge, as you might expect from a former theater, with seating downstairs and on...Read More
Le Moo nails the essentials of steak and bourbon

Le Moo nails the essentials of steak and bourbon

Every city needs an unrestrained steakhouse. From the fiberglass steer in the parking lot to the real taxidermied longhorn on the wall inside, it's pretty clear that Le Moo (2300 Lexington Rd, Louisville, 502-458-8888, lemoorestaurant.com) does steak without restraint. Le Moo is a major special-occasion restaurant, and like any good over-the-top place, it has one booth of truly over-the-top seating. The upholstery comes from 17 pieces of vintage Louis Vuitton luggage. There's a $500 minimum to reserve it, but it does seat four to five people. And Wagyu steaks with top wines will meet the minimum handily. (Actually, the domestic prime Angus is maybe even beefier and friendlier to the wallet.) We were visiting with Mint Julep Tours (see the Harvest post), and since it...Read More
Harvest spreads local flavor across the menu

Harvest spreads local flavor across the menu

There's no question where your food comes from at Harvest (624 East Market St., Louisville, 502-384-9090, harvestlouisville.com). This farm-to-table pioneer in the NuLu neighborhood (that's New Louisville to us outsiders) covers the walls with joyous portraits of the restaurant's purveyors. There's also a map showing a 100-mile radius around the restaurant. Says partner Patrick Kuhl, “it's our goal to get 80 percent of our food from inside that circle.” The state's “Kentucky Proud” program helps, Kuhl says. It's been a boost to former tobacco farmers “because it provides incentive for farmers to grow food and for restaurants to buy it.” Animal proteins are pretty easy, he notes. But to have local produce year-round requires planning and preserving. The kitchen relies heavily on a vacuum sealer...Read More
Swank cocktails on two sides of the Ohio

Swank cocktails on two sides of the Ohio

When we walked up to the plain, brick-fronted building on a residential stretch of Goss Avenue in Louisville's Germantown, we were dubious that we'd come to the right spot. But sure enough, a tiny brass plaque announced the structure as “Mr. Lee's.” We opened the door and stepped through the portal of a time machine. As our vision slowly returned in the all-enveloping darkness, we found ourselves in a film-noir world. We half expected to see Nick and Nora of The Thin Man trading snappy bon mots between sips in the corner booth. The brightest spot in the place was the center of the horseshoe-shaped bar. The brass and glass and steel gleamed. The bartender's white shirt seemed to glow. Welcome to Mr. Lee's Lounge...Read More