Wow! I’ve got to tell you about the cozy little place where we ate on a trip out to Oldham County the other day.
It was a small space, intimate but surprisingly comfortable as we sat surrounded by walls of glass that let in plenty of sunlight and the suburban view. The colors were muted, almost spartan, wsoft upholstery and crisp edges in shades of gray. The seating was most comfortable of all, form-fitting and even adjustable; and we could take our pick among scores of entertainment channels. Really, about the only downside I could see was the the big steering wheel in my lap that made it kind of hard to get at my food.
“Farm-to-table,” the buzz term for restaurants that seek out and celebrate the health and humane stewardship of local produce, meat and poultry, is one of the hottest trends on the local culinary scene. From Mozz on down to Toast, Harvest, Wiltshire, Garage Bar, La Coop, Taco Punk, Decca, Mayan Cafe and Rye, you needn’t walk any farther than you can throw a Weisenberger Mill grits cake to find farm-to-table cuisine in trendy NuLu.
In the ancient Bible story of the exodus, when Moses encountered a burning bush in the desert on Mount Sinai, it was a transforming event. The voice of his creator directed him to face down Pharaoh and lead his people to freedom. Now, that’s serious stuff.
In the 1986 comedy classic “The Three Amigos,” when Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Steve Martin encountered a singing bush in the Sonoran desert, it was a slapstick moment. They got a wacky a capella concert of golden oldies. That’s something, anyway.
If you’re sitting in a friendly diner working on a stack of blueberry pancakes, and you suddenly realize the bar at the back of the room offers selected tastings of small-batch and single-barrel bourbons with tasting sheets to record your impressions, you have almost certainly found your way to Bardstown, Ky. Continue reading Bardstown: epicenter of bourbon and good eats→
If you’re trying to save on fuel during a summer that makes the case for global warming and when gasoline prices flirt with $4 per gallon, there’s a lot to like about a friendly food truck operator who brings lunch to your neighborhood. Across the country, a veritable food truck race is under way, with food truck “pods” growing in with-it towns like Austin, Texas, and Portland, Ore. Continue reading Food truck fare hits the road in the Metro→
Last week when we got back from a summer trip to Florida’s Space Coast, it took me about 25 minutes to drive home from the airport to Crescent Hill in rush-hour traffic. The week before that, when we drove out to Westport General Store for dinner, the scenic trip required only about five minutes more.
This mere half-hour trek through the meadows, farms, forests and tract mansions of northern Oldham County is well worth it — the reward at the end of the road is an exceptional meal that matches, or surpasses, just about anything you’d find in the city.
Chef David Clancy is back at the helm, and that’s good news. The combination of Clancy’s kitchen crew with Westport’s amiable proprietor, Will Crawford, makes this a destination that would be worth an even longer trip.
Westport bustled in its early years, when it was a steamboat stop upriver from Louisville, and Westport General Store still has a bit of the look and feel of a rural village’s favorite gathering place, although there’s a stylish bistro overlay. Local bands and musical groups often perform here. “Like” its Facebook page (on.fb.me/westportgen) to keep up.
Crawford describes the restaurant’s culinary style as “upscale Southern cuisine,” and that’s fair; props also to his commitment to use local produce, meats and poultry to support his community and local farmers whenever possible.
Signature dishes include a local bison steak (market price), produced just down the road at Goshen’s Kentucky Bison Co., grilled to order with “smashed” potato and seasonable farm vegetables; and “red eye” shrimp ($15.95) wrapped in country ham from Shelby County’s Finchville Farms, served with Weisenberger Mill stone-ground grits and fresh collards.
A half-dozen main courses mostly sell in the range of $14.95 to $16.95. Vegetarians are well served by a trio of well-crafted dishes including a tomato-topped farfalle pasta ($12.95), vegan black-eyed pea stew ($10.95) and a chipotle black bean “burger” ($6.95). Sandwiches top out at $8.95 for the bison burger or fried fish sandwich, crafted from an 8-ounce fillet of cod. A sizable selection of appetizers, soups and salads are mostly $5 or thereabouts; and the kiddos are well taken care of with a children’s menu of simple, child-friendly dishes under $5.
Adult beverages are available, too: Westport General Store was the first restaurant to take advantage of Oldham County’s entry into the 20th century early in the 21st with “moist” laws allowing liquor sales in restaurants. Now it offers a short but respectable selection of beers, wines and bar service.
We started a recent meal with a shared appetizer order of Baby Hot Browns ($6.95), a spiral of thick-sliced toast points cloaked in a thick, cheesy Mornay and topped with plenty of crisp bits of locavore bacon and diced fresh tomatoes. It was garnished with a pretty sprig of large, fresh sage. Appetizer? Hah! It was delicious but filling, a hearty way to start a meal.
Mary ordered the vegetarian pasta pomodoro ($12.95), farfalle (bow-tie) pasta with a subtle tomato and sun-dried tomato sauce — no heavy red “gravy” here, but plenty of garlic — garnished with thin-sliced basil chiffonade and two fresh basil leaves.
My dinner choice, the aforementioned red-eye shrimp, suited me just fine: A row of plump, tender shrimp were blanketed under squares of Finchville’s finest and painted with a dark, reddish-brown, sweet-tangy barbecue sauce. The contrasting textures and flavors hit the spot, and a bed of creamy Weisenberger Mill grits and mild-flavored collards made for a country-style meal fit for a city boy.
A shared portion of a first-rate blackberry cobbler made with seasonal fruit under chunks of pastry crust ended the meal on a high note, and the affordable tab, $48.55 for two, left plenty of change to cover gas for the short trip out. Polished service earned a $10 tip.
As Crawford famously warns, don’t count on MapQuest, Google Maps or even your trusty GPS to get you there. Westport may be a historic village with roots all the way back to the 1780s, but these modern resources can’t find it.
Technology is hardly needed, though: Simply head out U.S. 42, through Prospect, into Oldham County, then pass Goshen and Skylight until you see a gigantic radio tower piercing the clouds on your left. Just before the tower, turn left on KY 524 and drive down the scenic, winding forest road until you reach Westport. The restaurant will be the brown building on the right with the veranda and, most of the time, a crowded parking lot out front.
I settled in, craving a po’boy, and asked the gent behind the counter what seemed like a simple question: “This month doesn’t have an ‘R’ in it. How are the oysters?” The raspy-voiced guy in the ball cap shot me a grin. “Are you kidding? You’re thinking about Gulf oysters. These are from Chesapeake Bay, and they’re good all year ’round.” Continue reading Road trip to Rick’s White Light pays off in good eats→
Pizza! It’s what’s for lunch, and what’s for dinner too. You can even enjoy it as breakfast, cold from the fridge or reconstituted in the oven. You can make it healthy with light veggies and skimpy cheese; or you can load it up with a meat lover’s special, double down on the cheese, and give a cardiologist nightmares.
Pizza! St. Matthews is awash in pizzerias these days, and I expect that’s because its burgeoning nightspot scene has become a rival to the metro’s other busy night-life zones, and all that boozy frolicking calls for something cheesy, salty and substantial that’s available late. Continue reading Frascelli’s offers a taste of New York in Crestwood→
Local historians argue to this day about whether the Harrods Creek community (“Harrod’s” Creek before the U.S. Postal Service deleted the nation’s apostrophes) takes its name from Capt. William Harrod, one of Louisville’s first settlers in 1779, or James Harrod, the pioneer explorer who founded a fort at what is now Harrodsburg, Ky., in 1774. Continue reading J. Harrod’s — comfy dining in Prospect→
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