Jeff Ruby’s brings prime beef pizzazz to Lexington

Jeff Ruby’s brings prime beef pizzazz to Lexington

Every great American city deserves a great steakhouse but we confess that steakhouse chains give us pause. We're especially suspicious when the nationwide roster rises to 50 or more or when the chain trades on associations with various gambling destinations. We get it. Steakhouse spells success, glamour, ostentation. When you walk in, you might think that's the aroma of beef on the grill, but it's really the scent of money to burn. So when our friends in Lexington, Ky., suggested we all go out to eat at the newest pride and joy of downtown, Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse (101 West Vine St., Lexington, Ky.; 859-554-7000; jeffruby.com/lexington), we kept our expectations in check. The Lexington incarnation, after all, was following versions in Louisville, Nashville, and Columbus, Ohio....Read More
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
Happy as a pig in … well, you know

Happy as a pig in … well, you know

The Pig: Tales and Recipes from the Kitchen Garden and Beyond is not, strictly speaking, a cookbook, although it does contain a lot of great recipes. It's more a lifestyle book (complete with decorating advice) touting a contemporary update of English country house living. It does, of course, obsess about food and the marvels that can be extracted from the kitchen garden. And the kitchen pigpen. And the kitchen barn. The book is distributed in Canada ($44) and the U.S. ($40) by Hachette Book Group. Here's a link to Amazon. Robin Hutson, wife Judy Hutson, and David Elton opened The Pig in New Forest, Hampshire, in 2011. That was the first of the country house hotels. Now a whole litter of them are sprinkled around...Read More
Dining (and drinking) through Encore Boston Harbor

Dining (and drinking) through Encore Boston Harbor

On this inaugural New Year's Eve at the Encore Boston Harbor (www.encorebostonharbor.com/), a good time will be had by many. That's one sure bet at the luxury casino and resort owned by Wynn Resorts. Open since late June, Encore features 15 places to eat and drink, which is more up our alley than games of chance. We recently attended a dine-around to get a taste of several of the venues. We were so engrossed with the food and cocktails that we forgot to lose any money at the tables or slots. But one thing was obvious: Encore Boston Harbor is hell-bent on showing its customers a good time. That starts when you walk in the main entrance to a fanciful carousel slowly spinning in the...Read More
Risotto and Giotto, Padua’s bitter and sweet

Risotto and Giotto, Padua’s bitter and sweet

The “sweet” spot of the Venetian city of Padua (or Padova, as the Italians have it) is the Scrovegni Chapel (cappelladegliscrovegni.it). Its walls and ceilings hold the masterpiece fresco cycle painted 1303–05 by Giotto di Bondone, the late medieval Florentine painter who invented the Renaissance almost single-handedly. Neither of us had ever seen the frescoes in person, and we built part of October's Italy trip around a couple of days in Padua and our reserved 15-minute time slot in the chapel. After more than 700 years and a couple of post-earthquake restorations, the paintings are in startlingly good condition. The strict limitations on visitation are designed to keep temperature and humidity stable. The image at the top of this post is the Last Judgment. Let's...Read More
Lunch with class and style on Trieste’s Piazza della Borsa

Lunch with class and style on Trieste’s Piazza della Borsa

Certain dishes taste their best in special surroundings—prosecco and potato chips on Venice's Piazza San Marco, for example. Our latest pairing of plate and place is pumpkin and sausage risotto on the glorious Piazza della Borsa in Trieste. In case you don't know the city, it's just barely in Italy, sitting on the Slovenian border a few kilometers from Croatia. In fact, it's only been Italian since 1919. For hundreds of years, it was the chief shipping port for the Austrian empire. Most significantly, it was the chief importer of coffee for all of Mitteleuropa. Without Trieste, there would be no such thing as “Vienna roast.” To this day, its citizens drink nearly twice as much coffee as the average Italian. But we digress. The...Read More