Lexington

Bourbon cocktails: mysterious … and easy

Among the bourbon craft cocktails we tasted in Lexington, one of the most intriguing was the Blue Heron 46, a house specialty at the Blue Heron Steakhouse (185 Jefferson St, Lexington, Kentucky; 859-254-2491; blueheronsteakhouse.com). The menu describes the drink as Maker's 46 (a smoother, woodier version of Maker's Mark with more pronounced caramel notes) with handmade apricot ginger syrup served on the rocks. How do you make that syrup? Bartender Seth Kinder—the “Hell on Wheels” character mixing a drink here—was downright coy. He did suggest that the syrup was made by cooking down a pound of apricots with sugar and water, and an equal amount of fresh ginger also boiled in syrup. We'd make it like this. Combine 1 pound of dried apricots and two...Read More

Coles keeps faith by reinventing the classics

Lexingtonians have been heading to the brick building at the corner of East Main Street and South Ashland to dine for decades. The spot opened in 1938 as The Stirrup Cup, adding the iconic murals of English hunt scenes—complete with a blessing of the hounds—in 1949. A succession of restaurants have occupied the space, but none more felicitously than current occupant, Coles 735 Main (735 East Main St., Lexington; 859-266-9000; coles735main.com). More than six decades after they were painted, those murals still lend a sense of occasion to the pretty dining room. And, as you might expect, executive chef Cole Arimes concocts a sophisticated mix of local and global tastes just right for a big night out. He might add truffle-infused lobster cream to a...Read More

Boone Creek Creamery makes real KY cheese

Ed Puterbaugh, the master cheesemaker and jack-of-all-trades at Boone Creek Creamery (2416 Palumbo Drive, Lexington; 859-402-2364; www.boonecreekcreamery.com), is a regular at the Saturday farmers market on West Main Street in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. But if you miss him on the weekend, you can stop by his tidy headquarters in an industrial complex just off Route 4 south of town during the week to make your purchases. Puterbaugh will be glad to give you a quick tour of the cheesemaking operation and the “cave” where he ages between 1,500 and 2,000 cheeses at a time for anywhere from three to six months—sometimes longer. Puterbaugh only began making cheese six years ago and admits to “getting carried away.” He makes 39 varieties by hand following traditional European...Read More

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

A leading contender for the title of Best Bourbon Bar in Lexington, Kentucky, has to be Belle's Cocktail House (152 Market St.), 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 disorderly...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