Last night’s 1920s-themed event, the 39th Annual ORIGINAL Taste of Louisville 2012 at the Mellwood Arts Center, was a blast! In addition to unlimited samples from local vendors, there was a great live jazz swing band (Billy Goat Strut Revue), a beer and wine garden, a cocktail competition, and a silent auction. Proceeds will benefit Community Health Charities, as well as the Kentucky Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.
For the Bombay Sapphire “Speakeasy” cocktail competition, Varanese, Marketplace, Napa River Grill, and Martini’s Bistro selected their best bartenders to compete. Gary Gruver from Martini’s won with his “Speakeasy Bluegrass”, a delightful combination of Bombay Sapphire gin, West Indian orange bitters, sweet vermouth, lemongrass, lemon juice, egg white, and thyme. It was refreshing, light, and definitely fit the Prohibition era theme.
As for beer, Against the Grain had some delicious products with fun names, such as the “Mockless Lobster”, “Whamstein”, and “Chamomile Tow”. Also, West 6 Brewery had a fruity IPA that was bright and fantastic, and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout tasted like whiskey and beer made a delicious baby. My favorite was New Albanian Brewing Co.’s “Black Bluegrass”, which is made of lemongrass, blue agave nectar, and black pepper. [Black + Blue + (Lemon)grass = Black Bluegrass]. It was intriguing and delicious. Also, “Hoptimus”, their double IPA with lots of hops (hence the name), was wonderful.
Inside, Dumante served an Italian pistachio liqueur. It was remarkably good and my vote for Best Beverage. Mostly because the lady behind the table gave me extra when I mentioned that it had been a long day.
Now, it would be incredibly boring for me to list and describe all of the offerings from this evening, so I’d like to mention the highlights. Everything I tasted this evening was good, but these bites truly shined in that dimly-lit room by offering something surprising, exciting, new, and/or technically sound. If I didn’t mention you, please don’t be offended – I see and appreciate all of your hard work. Also, these are just the opinions of a strange little lady. Here are my favorites:
+ Decca’s offering was my second bite and my vote for Best Appetizer. Described as a “handcut steak tartare” with sourdough breadcrumbs and pickles, it was a compact powerhouse of flavor.
+ Brix Wine Bar served mango BBQ pulled pork with blue cheese cole slaw, which was perched atop fresh focaccia bread. Unexpected combination, but it worked! All made from scratch, all fantastic.
+ Marketplace served a roasted corn and spinach risotto fritter on pesto aioli with a drizzle of delectable honey sauce. One of the prettiest bites of the evening, and it was perfectly fried – not too greasy, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Excellent.
+ Varanese gave out bourbon barrel-smoked pork with an apple-bacon chutney that offered a wonderful pop of tart flavor. Very tender and a great balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. My choice for Best Entrée.
+ Against the Grain served pulled pork potato chip nachos. Yum. :)
+ Seviche served a sweet corn and country ham chowder with lemon, arugula mojo, and Benton’s bacon. It had some serious flavor and a great punch of acid. Very well-balanced and flavorful.
+ The Crowne Plaza made lobster-truffle mac and cheese. It was rather good, and the two chefs behind the table were friendly and precious. I wanted to pinch their cheeks, but I was too busy inhaling lobster and truffle-laced macaroni and cheese.
+ Corbett’s served a Creekstone flat iron beef steak roulade with goat cheese and Asian BBQ sauce. Hard to eat without a knife, but the flavors were clean and the meat was perfectly cooked.
+ The Bristol Bar & Grille served a beautiful square of braised ribs on top of creamy grits. Definitely one of the top 3 prettiest dishes of the evening, and it was delicious.
Now, there weren’t many desserts, but they were all wonderful! (If I left someone out, please let me know!!)
+ Kern’s Kitchen was passing out samples of derby pie and their new product, Pecan Pie. I can’t decide which one I like better!
+ Edible Arrangements served beautiful chocolate-dipped fruits. My favorite was the chocolate apple dusted with cinnamon.
+ Sullivan University offered a selection of 3 hand-rolled chocolates. The best was the milk chocolate with orange filling. I had 2. :)
+ Cellar Door, as usual, wowed me with a terrific truffle. The shiny, dark crimson chocolates were filled with a soft and luxurious substance infused with the South African caramel cream liqueur with which it was paired, called “Wild Africa”.
+ Blue Bell’s “Triple Caramel” ice cream was sensational. Who needs a boyfriend when you can snuggle on the couch with a cup of this stuff? I’d show you a picture, but I couldn’t stop schnarfing it long enough to snap a photo. Guess you’ll just have to go buy some.
Upon entry into the festivities, guests were given small cards with categories on them (ie. Best Entrée, Best Dessert, Best Beverage, Best Appetizer, Best Overall) for voting. After making the rounds, these cards were dropped appropriately into fish bowls positioned at the front of each exhibitor’s table. At the end of the night, winners were announced. Here are the results:
+ Best Appetizer – Zanzabar
+ Best Entrée – Bristol Bar & Grille
+ Best Overall – Crowne Plaza
+ Best Beverage – Wild Africa Creme Liqueur
+ Best Dessert - Blue Bell Creameries
Congratulations to the winners! Everything I ate was delicious, and you should all be proud. Can’t wait until next year!