As hard as it might be to believe, a career spent writing humor columns did not prepare me for the rigors of restaurant ownership. Shocking, I know, but true. Yet restaurant ownership remains the dream of many a deluded soul out there in the world. So as the owner of Gracious Bakery + Café and its subsidiaries here in New Orleans, I would like to share with such interested parties my keen insights gleaned from the past three years of proprietorship. Learn from my mistakes so that you in turn do not make them. Or better yet, open up a traveling cat circus. That would be the safer bet. Continue reading Humor— Tips and Pointers for Opening Your Own Restaurant
Earlier this year my wife and I decided that, since we didn’t already have enough problems, we should open yet another bakery. But, unlike our other locations, this one would have a secret ingredient to boost the bottom line — booze! We lucked into a prime location in the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. Being the only writer on the Food & Dining staff not actually based in Louisville, some context might be helpful. Down here we have this thing called Mardi Gras, which is sort of like our version of the Derby. And as the Derby has its buildup of events like Thunder Over Louisville, Pegasus Parade, etc., Mardi Gras builds to a similar crescendo over the three-week period leading up to Fat Tuesday. Continue reading Humor — Our First Mardi Gras
When winter winds nip at the nose, when the clouds spit snow and puddles freeze – that is the time for comforting meals of stew in steaming bowls accompanied by chunks of crusty bread.
Stews are an elemental food, harkening back to dim times when a single earthen pot simmered over a fire, the repository for whatever was hunted and gathered that day. Most cultures that eventually coalesced from our first ancestors kept this primordial food memory, and at the heart of most cuisines are many and varied stews, whether they are called pot au feu, goulash or râgout, boeuf bourguignon, bigos or burgoo, cassoulet, cholent or cioppino, feijoada, hasenpfeffer or hot pot.
The practical value of the stew concept is neatly summarized by The Oxford Companion To Food, with a description that cuts to the heart of the ubiquity of stew in so many cultures: “The mixture of ingredients in a thick and opaque sauce casts a veil of uncertainty over the proportions of expensive ingredients to cheap ones.” Stews stretch what is available to sate many stomachs; the flexibility of the concept allows for the satisfying of varying tastes; and the use of available native ingredients permits endless variations on a theme.
HopCat is a beer bar like the Rolling Stones are a rock band and LeBron James is a basketball player. Simple descriptions don’t always tell the whole story.
In fact, HopCat is a craft beer conundrum. It’s a growing Midwestern company boasting 12 regional locations, with more to come, and yet each one generally has more locally brewed beers on tap than nearby “indie” craft beer bars.
Uniquely tailored to their chosen neighborhoods, HopCat locations consciously seek to be as much a part of their community as the mom-and-pop joint right down the street.
HopCat garners national praise, but it soft-pedals superlatives, modestly describing itself as “a home for craft beer lovers,” as well as promoting recycling and sustainability, engaging with local breweries and beer geeks, and serving food “like mom would make if she loved craft beer.” That is, if your mom had room for an eye-popping 132 draft beers, which is HopCat’s signature.
Tailgating is always a fun occasion to get friends together to cheer on your favorite teams. In the winter months football is still in season with the Big Game coming in February, and basketball is just getting started. We thought we’d invite some of our favorite chefs over to share what they like to serve when they’re “homegating.”
Well, the restaurant growth in the Louisville area continues apace. Since the last issue in August, Food & Dining this issue is adding 33 new restaurants to its listings, a dozen of which are additional outlets of existing businesses. Only 15 restaurants have closed, or have announced that they will do so; three of those closings are businesses that are folding one of multiple locations. So, polish up those charge cards and get ready to try some new dining spots. Continue reading Coming & Goings
Although the focus of this issue is Bourbon, it is important to know that corn has other uses besides forming the backbone of a Bourbon’s mash bill. In fact, of all the agricultural benefits ensuing from the European conquest of the Americas – the so-called Columbian Exchange – the most universally successful has been corn. While it is hard to imagine the cuisine of southern Italy, say, without the tomato, or that of India or Thailand without the chile pepper, or half the economy of Switzerland or Belgium without chocolate (all New World foods unknown elsewhere before 1500), corn – or more properly maize – was the most quickly accepted and adapted worldwide. Before the end of the 16th century, corn was a staple crop of central Africa (brought by the Portuguese from Brazil), increasingly grown in India and China and making headway into European cuisines, most eagerly in Italy, where corn meal replaced millet in the cooked mush that gourmets now relish as polenta. Continue reading Cooking with Ron— Corn
With the growing emphasis on using local ingredients whenever possible in cooking, it is only natural that restaurant chefs would experiment with uses for Bourbon, a local product with a long and storied history in Kentucky. As Jess Inman, chef at Equus, said, “We might as well embrace what is around us.”
F&D invited Inman, Shawn Ward of Ward 426, and Dean Corbett of Equus and Corbett’s: An American Place to put together a party menu that highlighted the flavor potentials in cooking with Bourbon. And Tim and I added a rich Bourbon-enhanced dessert alongside a seasonal Maple Manhattan cocktail, which plays nicely with flavors born of the charred oak barrel. Continue reading Easy Entertaining— Cooking with Bourbon
South Africa was certainly on my list of wine countries or wine lands, as they say in South Africa, to visit but not at the top of my list. It should have been. I am very happy that I accepted an invitation to speak there and endured the incredibly long flight to this Southern Hemisphere country to find perhaps the most naturally beautiful wine country I have ever visited. Continue reading Cork 101— The wines of South Africa
You’ll hear one sort of pitch at a sales meeting, and see another thrown during a baseball game, but brewer’s pitch is completely different. Brewer’s pitch is a resinous substance used to line wooden barrels so liquid doesn’t come into contact with the wood. That’s because exposure to a wooden barrel affects the flavor of its contents, and generally over the centuries, brewers have preferred their wooden vessels to be neutral. Brewer’s pitch remains a handy means to this end, and anyway, stainless steel long ago supplanted wood for beer’s storage and serving. Continue reading Hip Hops— Bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Stouts