Category Archives: Ethnic & Eclectic

We like smut. It’s good.

Bruce Ucan
After a brief hiatus, former Mayan Gypsy chef Bruce Ucan is back at it with Mayan Café, in the East Market location where Mayan Gypsy started out. LEO Photo by Nicole Pullen

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes

Smut. Corn smut. It’s a nasty name for a nasty-looking thing, a black, disgusting fungus that turns corn kernels into swollen gray blobs that look like an alien mutation, a sight so gross that the ancient Aztecs named the stuff “cuitlacoche” or, literally, well, “black turds.”

Although cuitlacoche may look like something the dog dragged in, it tastes really, really good. So, while North American farmers curse and destroy smut-afflicted corn, Mexican growers are more inclined to praise Lord Quetzalcoatl, peel off the pillowy black fungus and serve it for lunch. Or put some in cans and ship it north to savvy restaurateurs.

Selling it to Anglos can be a challenge, though, so the few eateries around the United States that serve cuitlacoche (pronounced “wheat-la-COH-chay”) generally describe it with more appetizing euphemisms. “Mexican caviar,” for instance. Or, at Louisville’s excellent Mayan Café, “exotic mushroom,” appended to the Aztec “cuitlacoche” without the literal translation.
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Zen and the art of vegetarian dining

Big Salad
Big Salad: City Café’s Jim Henry used to make this big salad for himself, but his customers at the Mid-City Mall location convinced him to add it to the menu. It’s a vegetarian meal in itself. Photos by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(City Café, Zen Garden, Shiraz)

I’m a carnivore, an obligate carnivore. I like meat and find it hard to imagine life without beefsteaks, pork chops, poultry or fish on my plate.

And yet … and yet … when I wax philosophical, I can see some strong arguments for vegetarianism.

I can see it when I think about eating for health and nutrition; and I can see it when I remember reading “Diet for a Small Planet” back in the day, and learning just how many resources are spent on getting a steak to my table.
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Fat Tuesday Valentine at Joe’s OK Bayou

Joe's OK Bayou
Nothing says “I love you”: like a plate of gumbo, jambalaya and fried crawfish tails from Joe’s OK Bayou. Dig in! Photo by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Joe’s OK Bayou, Ramsi’s Cafe on the World)

It’s a long way from the Louisiana bayou country to the shopping centers that are rapidly replacing forests and fields on New Albany’s far north side, but once you step into Joe’s OK Bayou, the distance seems to disappear. Or some of it, anyway.

Like its Kentucky-side counterpart in Plainview, this relatively new edition of Joe’s (it opened the autumn before last) turns bland shopping-center space into a modest replica of a Cajun-country saloon. The walls are painted to resemble a fishing shack surrounded by cypress trees and subtropical birds. Zydeco music in the background and glowing Abita beer signs complete the Acadian ambience, and the food does a reasonably good job of evoking the bayou country, too. Continue reading Fat Tuesday Valentine at Joe’s OK Bayou

We belly up to the Indian buffet

Shalimar
Serving fine Indian fare for more than a dozen years, Shalimar is Louisville’s longest-lived Indian eatery. Photo by Robin Garr

(Voice-Tribune, Jan. 11, 2007)

I’ve loved Indian food ever since I first discovered it as a youngster during a long-ago trip to London, where I was instantly smitten by the curry houses around Victoria Station.

I came home with a lifelong love for this exciting, aromatic and sometimes fiery fare, but it took years before it would be easy to enjoy it in Louisville. Through the ’80s and into the ’90s, it seemed, our city simply wasn’t ready for such exotic cuisine, and a sad series of short-lived family-run Indian restaurants came and went.

Eventually, though, a few Indian spots showed staying power, and for the past few years we’ve enjoyed a choice of at least three good options – Kashmir in the Highlands, Shalimar on Hurstbourne near I-64, and India Palace, which moved last year from the Buechel area to Shelbyville Road near Hurstbourne.
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