A Brown Cow for Daddy and other food weirdness

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Bourbon Stout Float at Jazz Factory, Bubble Tea at TaiPei Café, and more)

Illustration by Gina Moeller

Last week, when we spent a good deal of our Eat ‘N’ Blog efforts on a wide-ranging survey of the region’s ice creams and related dairy treats, let’s face it, we did it mostly for the kids. Ice cream, after all, is for youngsters … not excluding the inner child who resides within us all.

But ice cream doesn’t have to be a kiddie treat. Consider the remarkable new summer confection that’s drawing oohs and aahs (and yes, the occasional snicker) in the friendly confines of Louisville’s Jazz Factory. The Bourbon Stout Float is a Brown Cow for grown-ups, no mere root beer float but a robust, creamy cooler that substitutes real beer – rich, dark Bourbon Barrel Stout from Browning’s – for the namby-pamby soft drink of childhood.

To embrace the concept of beer and ice cream requires a serious paradigm shift, and even some of my more adventurous foodie friends reject the very notion with a high-pitched, wailing “Eeeeuuuwwww.” Wimps! Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it, I say; and Jazz Factory makes it easy, whipping up a Bourbon Stout Float in a hefty pint glass for $6.50, no more than you’d pay for a 32-ounce The Hulk Chocolate Smoothie at Smoothie King, where you’ll get no alcohol in your 1,300-calorie concoction.

Ice cream dip
Photos by Robin Garr: “Brown Cow for grown-ups.”

The affable Dan Moore, one of the bartenders at Jazz Factory, was pleased to build me a float – strictly for research purposes, you understand – and it was quite a process to watch. Using a chilled, heavy beer tumbler that gave new meaning to the term “pint-size,” Moore started dipping golf-ball-size spheres of Breyer’s vanilla ice cream (the one peppered with tiny black dots of vanilla-bean seed) out of a gallon box. He dipped and he dipped until the glass was just about full of ice cream – eight scoops, maybe – then placed the glass under the Bourbon Barrel Stout spigot and gently pulled the tap until the dark, bittersweet brew filled all the space around the ice cream and frothed gently to the top in a thick, tan head that, just like the immortal Hibernian black draught, appeared more than thick enough to float a farthing on. A short wait ensued – one mustn’t begin drinking until the head has fully risen – whereupon he presented the glass with a smile, a straw and a long spoon.

Pulling a pint
At the Jazz Factory: Dan Moore prepares a “Brown Cow for grown-ups.” It’s a Bourbon Stout Float – Breyer’s vanilla ice cream covered with Browning’s Bourbon Barrel Stout in a hefty pint glass.

It wasn’t bad. No, really! The potent bittersweet roasted malt flavor of the stout punches through the sweet creaminess of Breyer’s finest, and the bourbon accent from the oak barrels in which the beer was brewed sings a soprano high note. The blend of succulent cream and heavy stout comes across as smooth as a wool blanket on a winter night, but the arctic chill of frosty ice cream is just right for midsummer, and so was the cool jazz.

Eat the ice cream with a spoon, or let it melt into the dark beer in a cool, creamy blend – it’s good either way. The only real problem is that it’s so creamy and thick that a lot sticks to the glass, and the glass is too small to get your head in there and lick it all out.

It’s not going to be easy to go back to Dairy Queen after this.

The Jazz Factory, one of my absolute favorite venues for drinking, dining and music all three, offers an estimable menu provided by the folks at Jarfi’s Bistro, but take my word for it: One Bourbon Stout Float will more than satisfy your dietary needs for the evening. I’ll sample something more sensible next time.

The Jazz Factory
At Glassworks
815 W. Market St.

Bubble Tea
Photo by Robin Garr: TaiPei Café’s Bubble Tea: an exotic blend of green tea, sweetener, milk and chewy “bubbles” of tapioca.

Hey! What’s that stuff in my iced tea?

Speaking of strange and exotic drinks, a really weird craze has come out of Asia in the past couple of years, and no, we don’t mean Sudoku. It’s bubble tea, a.k.a. “boba tea” in some more ethnic spots; and while it’s been a bit slow arriving in Louisville, you can find it here if you look around.

A treat from Taiwan that quickly spread to the U.S. West Coast and more slowly around the country from there, bubble tea is basically a tall glass of sweetened tea over ice, often doctored with milk or other flavors, with a ration of “bubbles” – actually balls of tapioca – swimming in the bottom of the glass. You slurp it up through an oversize straw that’s large enough in diameter to allow an occasional blob of soft, chewy tapioca to pop into your mouth as an unexpected surprise.

I emerged from a downtown meeting the other day to find myself at the welcoming gates of Fourth Street Live, and suddenly remembered that TaiPei Café, a splendid fast-food Chinese place in the former Galleria’s fast-food court, makes a fine authentic version during the summer months. Once I thought of it, of course I developed a craving, so I wandered in for a cup ($3 small, $4 large). This is the real Taiwanese deal, no fancy flavors, just your choice of green tea, milk or a combination. Your order is made fresh on the spot: A good ration of green tea, a shot of fructose syrup for sweetening and a shot of cold milk are all shaken (not stirred) in a shiny metal cocktail shaker with about 50 dark-brown balls of tapioca, the size of green peas but much more gelatinous. It’s served in a standard plastic takeout cup with the aforementioned fat bubble-tea straw. Mine was lime-green and a full 7/16-inch diameter by actual measurement.

Like a Bourbon Stout Float, bubble tea may not be for everyone. It’s a little odd. Despite the high-intensity fructose, it was cold and refreshing and not at all cloyingly sweet; the floral, herbal character of strong Asian green tea stood out, mellowed a bit by the sweet and dairy flavors. I got a little tapioca’d out after about 20 of the chewy little things, but it’s just curious enough that I’ll probably try it again.

I hadn’t planned on lunch, although TaiPei really is one of the best of the fast-food Chinese genre, with well-prepared stir-fry dishes and a couple of more ethnic treats such as steamed bao buns; but my attention was suddenly riveted by a strange and oddly appealing meld of China and Kentucky: Bourbon Chicken! I brought a pint of it home in a styro cup for lunch. Boneless, bite-size chicken bits, tender and flavorful, are cloaked in a thin, not overly sweet brown sauce scented with black pepper and just a hint of the brown sugar and caramel flavors of bourbon. It reminded me of chicken barbecue with an elusive Asian flavor, and it was surprisingly good.

Who needs Maker’s Mark Lounge when you can get a taste of Kentucky’s nectar in your Chinese lunch? Load up on Bourbon Chicken ($5.88 as a meal with fried rice, $4 a la carte) and bubble tea, and you can get out of there in five minutes for less than $10.

TaiPei Café
Fourth Street Live
411 S. Fourth St.

More deli belly

When I compared and contrasted the new Herman’s Delicatessen and Stevens & Stevens in a recent Eat ‘N’ Blog, I declared the latter my preference in the small but competitive field of local deli by at least a bagel’s-width margin, taking the prize for quality, quantity and service alike.

Several of you gently reminded me that Louisville boasts another fine deli of long local standing, the eponymous Karem Deeb’s.

Fair enough, said I. I’m always willing to try a quick meal in the pursuit of food knowledge, so I headed out to Doup’s Point, the not-so-euphonious local name for the Highlands intersection of Bardstown and Taylorsville Roads, where I found that the former Deeb’s has boasted new management and a new moniker for the past couple of years. With John and Julie Morris at the helm, it’s now Morris Deli (“formerly Karem Deeb’s”), sharing space in a ’50s-style building with Mr. Deeb’s small but well-stocked bottle shop.

A small, crowded spot, it’s not what I’d call a traditional deli, lacking display cases for meats and cheeses and offering a broad but idiosyncratic selection of goodies that include some deli favorites (but no pastrami that I could see) along with less traditional options such as pork barbecue and country ham. Dine-in space is severely limited to a couple of tables and two bar stools, prompting most customers to go the take-out route. We brought home a fine corned-beef sandwich on thick, serious rye; saucy shredded pork barbecue on an eggy sesame bun; tasty side orders of creamy potato salad and perfect, tangy-sweet barbecue beans; and a hefty slice of moist pound cake with thick caramel icing, all for a modest $12.70 plus a couple of bucks for the tip jar.

If I’m nursing a serious jones for pastrami, lox and bagels or other real deli fare, I might not start my quest at Morris Deli. But this place shines where it counts, and that’s food quality and value. It’s a keeper. (Note: Morris Deli has an auxiliary site inside the YMCA downtown, which is a boon for the downtown business crowd.)

Morris Deli
(Formerly Karem Deeb’s)
2228 Taylorsville Road
555 S. 2nd St.

Down-home ups and downs

Speaking of affordable fare in the Highlands, Eat ‘N’ Blog correspondent SUZANNE M. BERNERT reports that she, her husband Rich and son Edward got a mixed feedbag when they dropped in on Andrew’s Good Home Cooking a while back. This old neighborhood spot gave way for a time to the short-lived PoBoy Shoppe, but has now returned, apparently little changed from the original.

The restaurant has about nine tables with a small cafeteria-type line at the rear, Bernert reports. A board listed the day’s specials, all $6 for a main course and two sides; choices included chicken, meatloaf and a salmon patty.

The guys had fried chicken, she said, and reported that it boasted a great crust and good flavor. Her choice, the salmon patty, tasted good but was not hot, perhaps a steam-table issue made worse by cold white sauce on top. “The rest of the meal was a roller coaster of very good and very bad,” she said. “The good were flavorful real mashed potatoes, well-seasoned kale and green beans. The bad were macaroni and cheese with absolutely no cheese taste; hard, stale dinner rolls and antique-tasting iced tea. After my husband complained about the rolls, they brought out some fresh ones as we were finishing our meal, but no real apology or explanation was offered.”

Andrew’s Good Home Cooking
2286 Bardstown Road


Fleur de Licious
If you’ve been thinking about dining at one of the fancy downtown restaurants with white tablecloths and candlelight and tux-clad servers but the cost has been holding you back, mark the week of Sept. 18-23 on your calendar right now, Bubba! The first week of autumn will mark the first outing of Fleur de Licious, a new venture by Louisville Central Area Inc. that’s aimed at luring wary suburbanites (and everybody else) downtown to dine. Participating restaurants in and around the central business district (including East Market and Main streets) will offer a deal that you can’t refuse: A full three-course dinner of appetizer, main course and dessert for either $20.06 or $30.06, depending on the restaurant’s price level and, perhaps, chef’s choice. This doesn’t include beverages, tax or tip, but hey! It’s a great deal.

Asian fusion
Speaking of the ‘burbs, a new Asian restaurant opens in the East End next week, as restaurateur John Chung unveils Kimis Asian Bistro, 1915 Blankenbaker Parkway. Described as “an upscale Asian bistro that blends traditional Japanese fare with Chinese and Korean flavors,” Kimis will feature such Pacific Rim dishes as sushi, Chilean sea bass with sweet mango, torched salmon in parchment paper with miso and shiitake mushrooms, edamame soup and, er, surf and turf. Following a grand opening on the evening of July 10, it will be open daily for lunch and dinner. Chung pledges an ongoing relationship with frequent fund-raisers for Kosair Children’s Hospital through the Children’s Hospital Foundation, affording patrons the opportunity to do good through eating well.

Mmmm, sliders …
How fast can you eat a dozen White Castle hamburgers? They’re small, they’re slippery and they slide right down (hence the popular nickname), and it doesn’t take long to put away a sack. But we’ll bet you can’t eat them as fast as Susan Chidress can make them. Childress, a White Castle employee from Louisville, was recently named WC Lounge’s “Fastest Griddle Champion” for 2006, topping winners from 12 national regions in competition at corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. “Contestants are tested on the amount of time it takes them to prepare and package 30 White Castle hamburgers,” according to a straight-faced company news release, which adds, “Bonus points are awarded for quality, accuracy and neatness.” The finished burgers were donated to a local mission kitchen, where hungry diners reportedly burped appreciatively.

Speaking of appreciative burping …
The national burrito-eating contest at Moe’s Southwest Grill is already under way, and if you’re interested in a public display of gluttony, you need to get registered by Monday, July 10. Each Moe’s outlet will draw 30 contestants at random from those entered, for competition in preliminary rounds later in the month. Winners of these rounds will compete head-to-head-to-burritohead until a city champion emerges on Aug. 5. The fun goes on through regional and national finals, culminating in what Moe’s cheekily declares “one of the greatest contests in modern sports, Moe’s national burrito eating finals,” to be held at Georgia Tech in Atlanta just before the Georgia Tech-Notre Dame football game on Sept. 2. The national champ will roar away on the grand prize, a custom Bourget chopper, saddlebags loaded with 2,860 Moe’s burrito vouchers, enough for one burrito a week, 52 weeks a year, for 55 years. Assuming you could live that long on a diet of nothing but burritos.