Category Archives: Guest columnist

Essays, reports and commentary by special guest writers.

Product wrangling

I’m a morning person. Not that I greet the day by springing from bed singing songs with cartoon woodland animals like Snow White, all cheerful and such. But I am the morning person at a restaurant. I’ve always enjoyed being the first one in, greeted by a clean, cool, quiet commercial kitchen, with plenty of space and sparkling equipment to start the day’s prep.
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Family meal

Did you know that many professional cooks have poor eating habits? We taste dishes over and over all day while we tweak and verify for consistency. We nibble at our mise-en-place: a few roasted pine nuts here, a few slices of prosciutto there. A plastic tasting spoon shoved in your face with a “Taste this and tell me what you think!” when you have no idea what you’re tasting. Continue reading Family meal

Navigating a Tasting Event and a Bit of Other Derby Advice

Derby Derby Derby Derby Derby! For those of us in the biz in Louisville, it’s New Year’s Eve plus the Fourth of July times Easter Brunch this week. At least it’s not Derbygeddon this year (Derbygeddon is the nickname given to the years in which Derby and Mother’s Day fall on the same weekend. Yikes!).
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Our judge rules Sidebar delicious

Sidebar, the latest about-to-be-hot spot in the Arena Zone, a hip bar and grill with a legal theme, is set to open to the public any day now. This week it’s been serving “VIP” guests in soft openings, something I generally avoid, so I invited HotBytes correspondent Antonia Lindauer to check it out. She likes the looks of the place, and offers us this quick preview:
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Go West … to St. Charles Exchange

FVK Swizzle. Jolea Brown @Creative Photography.
Go west, they said. So St. Charles Exchange did. This new spot bucks the recent trend to Nulu (East Market Street), opting instead to open up on Seventh just off Main, across from the entrance to 21c. The concept is “1900s hotel lobby bar,” and by Jove, they’ve done it. After a couple drinks at the bar, you’ll find yourself looking toward the grand set of double doors as if they lead upstairs to your honeymoon suite. The suspendered, vested and newsy-capped waitstaff appear as though they’d procure a carriage for your ride home, if only you asked. Sweeping mustard-gold curtains cascade down the ceiling-height windows, which, during a recent grand opening, let in just enough sunlight to illuminate the dining room’s dusky ambience. The flooring is refurbished wood from an old Kentucky barn, and the ceilings are paneled in deep brown-black wood. Mirrors run the length of cushioned banquettes, while small gold lamps add an air of mystery: this is the restaurant I go to in New York for a bite to eat and a Bellini at midnight.

I’ll make a late night stop at St. Charles Exchange for snacks from the Larder – cheese, olives and pickles, ham, crudités – and an artfully mixed cocktail, such as the FVK Swizzle. The picturesque gin-based drink, featuring citrus flavors and a hit of absinthe to keep you honest, is brightly slashed across the top by pink grapefruit syrup.

A die-hard Springsteen fan, my husband was obligated to try the Darkness on the Edge of Town, a stormy rum drink served over one massive hunk of ice. Had I sampled any of the punches, my pick would have been the Well-Deserved, simply for the name. Exclusively American wines and beers round out the beverage program.

A variety of delectable deviled eggs was offered – curry, truffle, barbeque – the selection will change daily. But the winning hors d’oeuvre, by several lengths, was Elvis on Horseback: peanut butter-stuffed dates, wrapped in bacon, atop a smoked banana vinaigrette. A list of five Plates (“Mains”) range from $22 to $29, and a lamb burger is offered for $15.

Listed hours are Mon. – Sun., 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. A private room is available, and they anticipate opening their cool, shaded below-ground-level outdoor patio July 1.

St. Charles Exchange
113 S. 7th St.

Tom + Chee and goetta makes three

Tom + Chee

Grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup: the classic combination you grew up with. Done adequately, it’s a comforting duo that fills you up and cures what ails you. Taken to the next level, with super-fresh ingredients and creative flavor combinations, it can be downright transformational.
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Craving French bistro? Here comes La Coop!

Preview by Deb Hall
This is a report on a pre-opening media tasting. La Coop opens to the public on Tuesday, April 24.

The latest addition to the East Market corridor – La Coop-Bistro A Vins – aims for the welcoming ambience of a neighborhood French bistro, and succeeds very well. They’ve done amazing things with the former 732 Social space- now transformed from its former industrial vibe into a warm and inviting space that feels very much like the actual bistros in France.
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Verbena could make Grandpa proud


Verbena Café is one of those places that always seems to smell like home. For Mike Cortino, the smell is likely a reminder of much more.

Mike and his wife, Laurie, opened Verbena in Norton Commons this past autumn. They based Verbena’s fare on dishes served in restaurants founded by Mike’s grandfather and operated by his family back in the 1960s in Chicago. Verbena specializes in omelets, crepes, pancakes, waffles and eggs Benedict, and offers sandwiches, entrées and salads for the lunch crowd.
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At Cluckers, it’s all about chicken — and the sauces

My friend Joe’s face flushed to a deep crimson, and his eyes welled with moisture.

“I can’t even describe how my mouth feels right now,” Joe said after devouring 10 Cluckin’ Inferno Wings at Cluckers, a new chicken-centric bar and grill in New Albany. He later added: “I’m hurting.”
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