Look who’s reviewing restaurants!

Rick Pitino

U of L basketball coach Rick Pitino, whose flashy new Website, RickPitino.com, has become a must-visit bookmark for Cardinals hoops fans, has added an unexpected feature: A series of restaurant reviews, currently featuring his thoughts on a number of Louisville steakhouses and high-end Italian eateries in New York. Now online are Rick’s comments on Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris and Pat’s steak houses, as well as reviews of the trendy Babbo, Campagnola and Bravo Gianni in New York. An earlier report on Louisville’s Porcini appears to have scrolled off the list.

His reviews are light, bright and consistently positive (“I have never had a bad meal there,” he says of Morton’s, and of Ruth’s Chris he goes on, “You’ll find it difficult to find a bad meal”). But he’s got an unerring eye for value, correctly zapping both chain steak houses’ wine lists as “extensive and overpriced.” Speaking of Morton’s, he advises, “Make sure you bring plenty of money or plastic …”
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Artemisia owner Gail Schwartz dies

Saffron's

Gail Schwartz, co-owner of Louisville’s Artemesia restaurant, died on Jan. 7 after a long battle with cancer. Gail was one of the people in the Louisville restaurant community who people seemed to genuinely appreciate. She’ll be missed. Expressions of sympathy may be directed to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society c/o Finance Department, 1311 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY 10605, (800) 955-4572, http://www.LLS.org/donate.
Click for her obituary in The Courier-Journal.

Saffron’s, Part Deux

Saffron's

Springing back into action after way too long a break (forced by the demands of my WineLoversPage.com website and wine-related travel to Portugal early in the holiday season), I resume this journal with excellent news for local fanciers of good things to eat: Saffron’s, veteran restaurateur Majid Ghavami’s classy Persian spot that I rank among the city’s best places to dine, is about to open a second downtown location.

Saffron’s Buffet will open soon in the space at 558 S. Fifth St., just north of Chestnut Street, that had housed Manoosh’s until the latter put up the shutters last autumn. (It was originally scheduled for opening in January, but significant renovation needs have prompted some delay. Watch this space for more news.)

Saffron’s Buffet will feature many of Saffron’s popular Persian dishes, styled for buffet service and priced to enjoy at $7.95 for all you can eat. Continue reading Saffron’s, Part Deux

Café Glacé opens for business

Cafe Glace

I’m updating this report with the happy news that Café Glacé has quietly opened its doors in a “soft opening” this week, looking to a more formal “grand opening” (and, with any luck, the arrival of its sign) next Friday.

We spotted activity in there today, popped in and found the genial proprietor, Aziz Ghazipour, in attendance with his staff (including his brother and partner Azim and his wife), and a dozen gelato pans all filled brimful with seductively rich Italian ice cream made in a fancy, imported-from-Italy Carpigiani gelato machine. (Pink grapefruit was a grown-up ice cream, more tangy than sweet; mocha was gently coffee-and-cream, a great match with an iced lattè from Heine Bros. next door. They’re $2.35 for a small cup.)
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The deep, dark secret of Danish

Danish Express

Here’s one of those dark secrets that culinary experts usually speak of only in muted tones: You know the classic Danish pastry, the delight of pastry lovers and brunch fanciers for nearly two centuries? Listen close, I’m going to whisper: It isn’t really Danish. It’s Viennese.

Depending on which story you prefer, it’s either a matter of corporate spying (Danish Royal baker Christian Ludvig Olsen “borrowed” the recipe from an Austrian baker he met in Germany in 1834 and brought it home), or of management union-busting (the Danish King summoned “replacement workers” from Vienna when his bakers went out on strike, and the strike-breakers brought the secret of this tasty delight along).

Either way, the Danes have made this succulent pastry their own, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better model in the Old Country today than you can have right here in the Derby City at Danish Express, (102½ Cannons Lane, [502] 895-2863).
Continue reading The deep, dark secret of Danish

A bouquet for La Rosita

La Rosita

Again today I forge into Southern Indiana, following where a fellow foodie has led. This time I’m indebted to LEO’s erudite Marty Rosen for the published pointer to La Rosita Taqueria (2535 Charlestown Road in New Albany, [812] 948-0401), which jumps into a dead heat with, Rosticeria Luna (5213B Preston Highway, [502] 962-8898), as my favorite 100 percent authentic Mexican eatery in town.
Continue reading A bouquet for La Rosita

A.J.’s coffee, cream and gyros

A.J's

I have to give the credit to Lisa Hornung of Gannett’s Velocity weekly for blazing the trail to this funny little roadside spot in rural Southern Indiana with its sign that proudly proclaims “4,081 GYROS SOLD” (as of Oct. 18, 2005), but I headed on over to A.J.’s Coffee ‘n’ Cream as soon as I found out about it, and the short journey led to a memorable lunch.

Just a couple of miles from the landmark Polly’s Freeze (in fact, it’s at the same I-64 exit, going the other way), A.J’s bears a marked resemblance to Polly’s. It’s a small, free-standing white cottage just large enough to hold a kitchen and a couple of people working inside, with hand-written menus plastered all across the sides and front of the building. Walk up, call your order through the screen window, and hang around. Continue reading A.J.’s coffee, cream and gyros

What’s new around town

Our sibling print publication, Food & Dining Louisville Edition, will be on the streets with its Fall 2005 edition in a few weeks. Here’s a free preview, our quarterly report on openings, closings and changes on the local restaurant scene:

As we do every quarter, Food & Dining comes up with a quick, rough-and-ready diagnosis of the health of the local restaurant business by tracking recent restaurant openings and closings. This round, the doctor’s report is good, amid considerable activity: A total of 30 new restaurants have opened for business around the metro area, while only about 20 (including, unfortunately, a disproportionate share of mom-and-pop ethnic spots) closed their doors.
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Westport General Store

Westport General Store

Look, don’t make the same stupid mistake that I did. For months I’ve been putting off an evening trip out to Westport General Store for no particularly good reason. “It’s too far,” I whined. “It’s way out in the country. Takes forever to get there.”

Yesterday afternoon, as we drew toward the close of one of those achingly beautiful early-autumn days with blue October skies as brilliant as a sapphire and foliage popping against it like a postcard with colors too bright to be real, we finally packed the car with provisions for a long trip and hit the road to Westport. Huh. It’s just 20 miles out US42 from the Watterson, a 25-minute trip out one of the most scenic highways in the region … and that’s before the leaves start to turn.

Less than a half-hour. One-sixth of the time you’d have to wait for a table at P.F. Chang’s on a Saturday night. And when we got there, we found a cozy spot in a pleasant setting, where proprietors Will and Laura Crawford and their crew provide a comfortably sophisticated bill of fare that would in no way be out of place in the fanciest bistro on Bardstown Road or Frankfort Avenue.
Continue reading Westport General Store

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