Sunday, October 25, 2009

Louisville - Proof on Main

This week Conde Nast Traveler published an article listing 21C as the reader's choice for hotels in Louisville. In honor of that distinction, here is a profile on the restaurant in 21C, Proof on Main.

Proof on Main was established in 2006 as a new and inventive restaurant for downtown Louisville. Being housed with the 21C Hotel means that it also takes contemporary art and incorporates it into their decor and into your meal. The plating of the various dishes are unique and complement the feel of the restaurant. The menu itself is one that tends to be seasonally and locally available foods, though that is not a core concept of the restaurant but rather the current chef Michael Paley. For instance currently the menu includes various squashes, beets, sweet potatoes and mixed greens, all of which are readily available in Kentuckiana this time of year. Several of the proteins on the menu also come from local resources including bison, rabbit and chicken.

The menu itself offers various options for how to enjoy the meal. The table can start with some different spreads, each focusing on great flavors of the season. Think of these as hummus or bruschetta style foods to put on toast. There are other plates also meant for sharing with the table such as the baked octopus, chicken liver pate, or bison bone marrow. We enjoyed the baked octopus on our visit and it seemed as though other tables did as well. The octopus itself was tender, delicately paired with various herbs, and cooked to perfection.

Several homemade pasta dishes next line the menu which are available as whole or half servings. We decided to try two of these and share them as sort of a second course. This is a wonderful and not-so-filling way to enjoy a great plate of something new. The two we tried were the Garganelli and Fazoletti. These two dishes couldn't have been more different, but both were absolutely amazing. Fresh, light pasta topped with fresh vegetables and proteins.

For entrees Proof tries to give one option for each protein, plus a special each night of the week. Having gone on a Wednesday we tried the diver scallop special which were cooked to perfection. The scallops were served atop a bed of spaghetti squash cooked with caper berries that were absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, the spaghetti squash was so delicious, the scallops almost seemed to be an after thought. I never complain about eating scallops, but this would also be a great side item or starter.

Not that we needed it, but it was decided that the warm vanilla pudding cake topped with bourbon soaked cherries. Who can say no to warm pie and bourbon infused fruit? It was the perfect end to a delicious meal.

Visit Proof on Main's website to learn more and book a table.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Louisville - Mark's Feed Store

Recently I reviewed Kentucky Barbeque Company because of the hankering for good ribs we had one night. Well, unfortunately (for the waist-line) that craving returned quicker than expected. Instead of driving the 10 minutes over to Frankfort Ave we decided to try the Bardstown Road location of Mark's Feed Store.

Similar to the visit to KBC, my husband decided to go for the combo which let him try some of each. I decided to go for a beef pulled barbeque sandwich. Of course the whole meal was one of comparison to KBC. Unfortunately for Mark's, their meat is dry and leaves one wanting a big glass of something to get it down. The sauces they have are all good, but a necessity rather than a nice addition. Perhaps the meat had been left in the smoker too long or was kept under a heat lamp, but I would definitely prefer to drive back over to Frankfort Ave next time I have a hankering for barbeque. If I return, I'd like to try the burgoo (a stew with all the meats and 7 vegetables) and cornbread as that's what someone recommended after I had already eaten.

We did have a delicious side item with our meal though that is not always something you see on a menu: fried pickles. When I've had fried pickles before at restaurants they were of the dill spear variety. These were thinly sliced dill pickles, meaning much more fry but lots of delicious. The atmosphere of Mark's is pretty nice and if you want a good place to take the family, it is very family friendly inside (unfortunately KBC was not). The prices aren't bad (I would say an average of $10 per person) and there is plenty of parking in the back. I'll give Mark's a 2.5 star (out of 5) for food, but if you want a decent and cheap place to go, this is probably a good place to stop.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Louisville - Sapporo

Some of you reading this may know that I used to live in Japan and that I often cook Japanese food at home. As such I tend to be really critical of Japanese restaurants, though I still enjoy going out and trying to relive my happy days spent on Lake Shinji. To start, let me say that Sapporo is extremely convenient, but certainly not the place most recommended for a good Japanese meal. We decided to go with a few others and see what it had to offer.

From the outside, Sapporo does not look like what I expected to see. In fact walking in it is much larger and nicer than one would think. There is a huge drinks bar at the front and they have a great selection of Japanese beer (not just the standard Sapporo rice beer or Kirin Ichiban). As you wander in further you see to the right a big open area where teppanyaki (Japanese grills) are set up. About halfway back on the left a huge sushi bar along the wall with probably a dozen seats. My group sat at a regular (non-sushi, non-teppanyaki) table.

Probably 2/3 of the menu were various sushi rolls, so we figured we had to start there. We decided to go with the eel roll and the Thai chili roll, if only because I liked all the ingredients and didn't want something fried. Both were delicious and were huge. They ranged in price from about $6 - 15. I could easily have made a meal out of one plus some soup and miso or edamame. There really are a ton of options for rolls, and even the pickiest of eaters could find something they liked. Next time I would maybe try the $35 sushi and sashimi chef's special because it looked pretty impressive and the chef chooses what to give you. This is always a great option at a sushi restaurant because sushi chefs will often give you the freshest, top-quality fish.

When it comes to entree options I would definitely say that Sapporo is not the place to get Japanese food. They had a few teriyaki dishes - something I never once at while living in Japan - a few udon/soba options and a few tempura options. To me those are very American-friendly Japanese dishes, so I can't say I was impressed. Additionally, they were very expensive ranging from $10 - 16.

Overall I would give Sapporo 3 stars (out of 5) but I would say I probably will go back. Why? Because it's convenient and has a great atmosphere. I think I'll stick to the rolls next time and get my fill that way. For more standard Japanese fare, I think I'll keep looking.

Sapporo Japanese Grill and Sushi

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Louisville: 732 Social

A few weeks ago my husband and I walked by 732 Social, saw the crowd, glanced at the menu, and said "we must come back." Fortunately we had the opportunity to visit last night with his parents, and enjoyed every second. Though the farm-to-table food and organic wine concept isn't new, it is one of the few in Louisville. 732 Social takes this concept and transforms these flavors into comfort food at its best, all inside the Green Building in East Market that is heated through solar panels and has fresh herbs and vegetables growing on the roof.

The menu at 732 Social is small, but offers plenty when fully understood how to mix all the options. Various types of cheeses (from each cow, sheep, goat, and ewe) and house-made charcuterie are offered as way to kick start this awesome meal. We tried all of the cheeses and loved every second. The toasted black walnuts served The rest of the menu is split into small and large plates that the server encouraged we share. By incorporating these small plates the size of the menu grows. I decided to stick with all small plates while the others got one small plate and one large to share.

The small plate options we tried included the roasted beet salad, the special heirloom tomato and watermelon salad, the heffeweizen braised artichoke and the potatos au gratin. The salads were nice and light with great flavor combintations. The braised artichoke was delicious, with great flavors in the stuffing. The best small plate was definitely the potatoes au gratin though that I would eat until fat if given the option. It was that good. Small plates all cost less than $11, and I could easily have been full off of only 2 of these.

The large plate options tried included the cast iron roasted mussels, the Berkshire pork rib, the steak au poivre, and the whole striped bass (a special). All were amazing but I think I liked the pork rib best. It was fall off the bone, melt in your mouth good. The bass was served with a delicious black walnut vinaigrette for dipping it in that was awesome and a perfect complement to this light fish. Large plates range in price from $11 to $26 but the specials may be in the $30s.

The wine, cocktail, and beer list at Social was also very extensive, much of which were organic or bio-dynamic. They had several available by the glass ($6-8.50) which is always nice. The server was very knowledgeable about the wine list because all servers also work shifts as bartender which I think is really smart.

A trip to Social will not disappoint. Though it may not be the cheapest meal around, I could easily be satisfied off a $25 (pre tax/tip) meal or a $50 meal. Either way it is well worth it and I look forward to returning and trying more - especially that ratatouille and beef short ribs - soon!