Kentucky

Dudley’s on Short is long on bonhomie

Located in the Gothic Revival National Bank Building of 1889, Dudley's on Short (259 W Short St., Lexington; 859-252-1010; dudleysrestaurant.com) just might be the crossroads of Lexington, Kentucky. The last time we had dinner there, mayor Jim Gray—resplendent in a seersucker suit—stopped by the table to greet some of our local tablemates. And after dinner, we were nearly waylaid from our next whiskey bar by garden designer Jon Carloftis and his partner Dale Fisher, two of the city's legendary bon vivants and owners of the historic estate Botherum profiled in Garden and Gun. The menu is calculated to encourage conviviality. The list of dishes “for the table” is nearly as long as the entrées and some of the “snacks and bites” (house fries with green...Read More
At Smithtown Seafood, ‘local’ is measured in feet

At Smithtown Seafood, ‘local’ is measured in feet

Chef Ouita Michel, who calls Holly Hill Inn (www.hollyhillinn.com) in Midway, Kentucky, her home base, is completely on board with the vision of FoodChain (see previous post). She's so on board that she opened the little takeout seafood restaurant inside the Bread Box called Smithtown Seafood (smithtownseafood.com) and installed the immensely talented Jonathan Sanning as her chef de cuisine. (That's Jonathan below holding the fried fish.) Ouita (as everyone in Lexington seems to call her because everyone in Lexington who cares about food knows her) studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, and took as her primary lesson the observation that the best French and Italian chefs create meals out of what they find around them. She's inculcated that same respect for...Read More

Lexington’s FoodChain redefines ‘local’

A Saturday afternoon tour at FoodChain (foodchainlex.org) in Lexington's Bread Box complex might change the way you look at “local” food. At the very least, it can give you a peek into a somewhat promising food future where excess building space is converted into a living factory to produce vegetables and protein—or, more specifically, salad and microgreens and big plump tilapia. The brainchild of Rebecca Self, native Lexingtonian, MIT graduate, and spouse of Ben Self (see last post on West Sixth Brewing), FoodChain is a demonstration project of an “aquaponics” farm. The growing techniques are a hybrid of aquaculture and hydroponics, which have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Aquaculture is generally used to grow fish or crustaceans in closed tanks or ponds. Most cheap frozen tiger...Read More

Bread Box: From white bread to wheat beer

Nothing says more about Lexington, Kentucky as a locus of good ideas, good food, and good drink than the Bread Box. The 90,000-square-foot building at the corner of West Sixth and Main streets spent about a century turning out classic American white bread before ending its active baking life as the Rainbo Bread Factory in 1995. There's nothing white bread about it now. A group of friends bought the building in 2011 to create West Sixth Brewing (501 West Sixth St., 859-951-6006, www.westsixth.com) with some of the space and to develop the rest of it for some nifty businesses to make life better in Lexington. Those of most interest on the food scene are the aquaponics demonstration project called FoodChain (foodchainlex.org) and the farm-to-table seafood...Read More

Exploring KY cooking with top Lex chef Phil Dunn

When England's horse-loving Queen Elizabeth first visited Lexington, her personal chef was Phil Dunn. We don't know what dishes he served to the Queen, but we do know that Dunn favors gourmet meals and enjoys exploring international flavors. He's particularly fond of making European pastries—and anything with pasta. A gorgeous display kitchen at Architectural Kitchens & Baths (345 Lafayette Ave., www.akandb.com) is the perfect setting for Dunn's popular half-day cooking classes. We attended a recent session and learned that Dunn is equally comfortable with down-home Kentucky cooking. He makes familiar dishes his own through refined technique and a penchant for turning larger plates into finger food—perfect for parties in this most social of cities. Dunn makes a spicy version of Kentucky Beer Cheese (a cracker...Read More
Belle’s Cocktail House is bourbon ground zero

Belle’s Cocktail House is bourbon ground zero

A leading contender for the title of Best Bourbon Bar in Lexington, Kentucky, has to be Belle's Cocktail House (152 Market St., bellesbar.com), which opened in late November 2013. It is the brainchild of barman, musician, and restaurateur Larry Redmon and the young gents behind The Bourbon Review (gobourbon.com), Bob Eidson and brothers Justin and Seth Thompson (above). The magazine, by the way, calls itself “A Guide to the Bourbon lifestyle.” With coverage of bourbon bars, cocktails, horse races, and all manner of civilized drinking, the magazine's idea of the bourbon lifestyle is whole lot classier than the version that gave George Jones so much to sing about. The bar is named for Belle Brezing (1860-1940), the famous madam who ran Lexington's “most orderly of...Read More
Lexington chefs show true grits

Lexington chefs show true grits

The fried oysters with cheese-sausage grits at Nick Ryan's (157 Jefferson St., Lexington; 859-233-7900; nickryans.com) were real eye-openers, since both the batter on the bivalves and the grits had striking corn flavor. Then we tried the shrimp and grits at Coles (735 Main St., Lexington, 859-266-9000; coles735main.com), and had the same epiphany. There was really something special about the grits these Lexington, Kentucky chefs were using. Few restaurants have the luxury of using freshly ground, locally grown grains with the germ intact, which gives a much more profound flavor than nationally distributed products where the germ is removed to make them more shelf-stable. The difference is comparable to fresh sweet corn as opposed to corn picked a week earlier and shipped across the country. We...Read More

Keeneland Track Kitchen starts the day right

Thoroughbred horses are among the most beautiful creatures to walk the earth, and few places to see them are quite as magical as Keeneland (www.keeneland.com) in Lexington, Kentucky. For us, the defining character of the track is its sheer egalitarianism. Everyone there loves horses, and when you're in the presence of equine majesty, it really doesn't matter whether you're a stable hand, a groom, a jockey, a trainer, an owner, or just an admirer of horses. That's part of why we think breakfast at the Keeneland Track Kitchen is a must for every visitor to Lexington. There are two race seasons at the track: April and October. In fact, this fall's schedule concludes with the 2015 Breeder's Cup on October 30-31. But Keeneland is also...Read More

In Lexington, Kentucky, no one eats alone

Plutarch would have loved central Kentucky. In his first-century A.D. treatise on food in Moralia, he astutely observed, “We do not sit at the table only to eat, but to eat together.” In Bluegrass Country, mealtime is just a phase in the ongoing party that begins with drinks and appetizers and is followed up with after-dinner drinks, snacks, and definitely lots of conversation. We spent a week in Lexington and the surrounding countryside at the end of June, and never did we taste alone. Food and drink in this corner of America are the currency of social exchange. If a Lexingtonian has anything to say about it, no visitor ever goes hungry. Or lonely. The Lexington area is justly famed for thoroughbred horses and fine...Read More

Grits with black truffle and poached eggs

As Pat and I developed ways to use black truffles, we generally opted for the simplest and most straightforward combinations. Keeping in mind that truffles pair well with corn—and that northern Italians sometimes eat truffles on polenta—we decided to try truffles with some of the best grits we've been able to lay hands on. We'll be writing shortly about our food and drink visit to central Kentucky, where we had the good fortune to drive from Lexington out to Midway to visit Weisenberger Mill. This is a truly old-fashioned mill that has been stone-grinding grain for six generations, starting in 1865. Living in Yankeeville, we have a hard time finding good white grits, but now know we can order them online from Weisenberger at www.weisenberger.com....Read More