Thursday, May 31, 2012

On the Road 3: Liquor Barn, Lynn's Paradise

Bourbon Paradise

You're probably not going to find this all that shocking, but Louisville's a mighty fine place to shop for bourbon whiskey.  It's also a great place to drink it.

Which is kind of like saying that Detroit is a great place to shop for a car.  Or drive one.  (You know that Eminem soundtrack kicks in just as soon as you turn that ignition key.)

Anyway, this is a town that prides itself as a "gateway city," as the starting point for Kentucky's rather extensive Bourbon Trail.

 fig. a:  gateway city

This is also a town that's also cultivated its very own rather extensive Urban Bourbon Trail.

But if you've never been, I want to give you a sense of just how fine the bourbon shopping is.

1.  There's no shortage of liquor stores.

2.  The liquor stores tend to open for business early, and they hold long hours.

3.  Even the most generic-looking places can be a wonderland for the bourbon enthusiast, in terms of selection, quality, and connoisseurship.

Take the Liquor Barn chain.  As the name suggests, these are spacious stores.  It would be nice if they were housed inside of reconditioned timber barns, but this is the 21st century, so they're generally just refashioned supermarkets/superstores, with all the charm of a Safeway, a Staples, or a Toys "R" Us, depending on the location.

But the one I visited had a selection of bourbon that was impressive, to say the least, in addition to a selection of spirits, wine, and beer that was positively ridiculous.  Just how much bourbon are we talking about?  Well, they'd taken an entire supermarket aisle (a large one) and they'd renamed it Bourbon Street.  And with good reason.  The entire length of the aisle was fully stocked with bourbon--on both sides, top to bottom.  Bourbon whiskeys of all kinds and all makes.  Some common, many rare.  Some pricey, many very reasonably priced.  Most of the staff members I encountered seemed indifferent ("Bourbon?  Yeah, just over here..."), but the store manager was as savvy as they come, and not a snob by any means.  And Bourbon Country being what it is, this manager was on very good terms with many of the nearby distilleries, like other Liquor Barn locations, he frequently hosted distillers at his store, and he regularly visited the distillers to make his very own barrel selections.  More importantly, he was happy to dispense some advice.

And I was happy to take some advice.  I walked out with a few of his barrel selections, none of which set me back more than $30-35 (and all of which were phenomenal, as it turned out), and I couldn't have been happier, especially considering it was still 9:15 a.m.

P1020788 fig. b:  the remains of the Four Roses

If you're just blowing through town on a road trip, like I was,* and you're a bourbon fan, like I am, the Liquor Barn makes for an awfully handy pit stop.

Lynn's Paradise

If you watch a lot of television, especially of the talk show/food variety, you might have encountered Lynn Winter, of Lynn's Paradise fame.  She's got a big personality and she's something of a local/Kentucky legend (among other feats, she was the one who introduced the very first espresso machine to the Bluegrass State in the 1990s [!]), so she gets her fair share of air time.  In fact, I saw her on some morning show whipping up her delirious take on Louisville's famous Hot Brown sandwich not too long ago.  Anyway, her restaurant is one of those places that's big on personality, too.

lynn's 2 fig. c:  Lynn's mascot

You know the kind.  The ones with the arty/retro/über-kitschy ambiance.  The ones where one of your servers might just happen to be dressed like a pirate for no apparent reason.**  Well, Lynn's Paradise is one of those restaurants.  But somehow, quite miraculously, its oversized personality doesn't detract from the experience.  Their staff may dress funny, but they're friendly, they've got a sense of humour, and they're attentive without being clingy.  But, even more importantly, Lynn's happens to be one of those places that hasn't lost sight of the food.

lynn's 1 fig. d:  Lynn's bacon & eggs breakfast

Sure, your breakfast setting might come complete with a wacky "old salt" mug staring right back at you, but they know how to put together a thick-sliced country bacon & eggs breakfast with cheese grits and biscuits.  In fact, they know how to do it well.  And from what I could tell, Lynn knows her way around a Hot Brown, too.

Unfortunately, I was only passing through Louisville, but what I saw, I liked, and Lynn's definitely makes for a tasty, if somewhat kooky, stop.

Liquor Barn, multiple locations across Kentucky, including several in Louisville

Lynn's Paradise Café, 984 Barret Ave., Louisville, KY, (502) 583-3447


* ...which explains the car metaphor up top...

** Hell, what do I know?  He might actually be a pirate.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Real wines, fun times, rev. ed.

le joli mail detail fig. a:  the view from on high

Close out le joli mai in style on May 29th with a FoodLab/Oenopole co-production.  The festivities take place on the SAT's rooftop terrasse (one of Montreal's loveliest),

Oenopole-flyer-sat-NL fig. b:  Daumen + Oenopole + FoodLab

and the idea here is to pair Jean-Paul Daumen's brand new line of organic Côtes-du-Rhône and Vin de Pays wines, courtesy of Oenopole, with some grilled delicacies from your friends at the FoodLab (the menu according to Michelle:  "Grilled Toulouse sausage with apple and kohlrabi remoulade. In a bun." Yes!).  Now, doesn't that sound civilized?  Well, don't be so sure, because this is Montreal and the wine is going to be FREE.  (The grilled items will run you $5 a pop, just to maintain some sense of decorum.)

Jean-Paul-Daumen-Vielle-Julienne fig. b:  Das Daumen*

If you're not familiar with Jean-Paul Daumen, he's the talent behind the highly regarded Vieille Julienne label (Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes-du-Rhône), and this is a brand-new project from him, an ode to the new generation of vignerons who've revitalized the Rhône region and its methods.  As he explains things (in English, courtesy of his website):

This project is about winemaking, it is about buying grapes from parcels whose [soils] are rich, vibrant, and alive--an integral part of my philosophy.  [This] project is also about working sustainably... 
This is a new portfolio of wines for me, wines that are meant to be accessible and authentic.  I want them to be real wines, meant to be enjoyed without pretence.  They are modest, and straight from the heart. 
Finally, this project is about being true to my approach to making wine, which is working the the best and healthiest fruit in my cellar.  This allows me to simply guide the winemaking process, with the least intervention possible.  My work will remain nuanced, avoiding extraction and artifice.  My desire is to leave my imprint as an artisan, with the challenge of making wine that expresses purity of fruit, uniqueness of vintage, and a terroir's personality.

Bring your wine-loving friends--there will be lots of fantastic wine.  Bring your food-loving friends--the eats are going to be hot & tasty.  And bring your fun-loving friends, too--this is going to be a blast!


* photo credit: / route des vins imports

p.s.  Well, when I predicted things might get wild at the Daumen 5 à 7, I didn't think Mother Nature was going to get in on the action.  Thanks to all those who braved the elements (apocalyptic amounts of rain, hail, thunderstorms, widespread flooding, etc.) to come on down and make the event a smash hit.  We knew this was a wine town, but this show of devotion was impressive, to say the least.  You people are amazing!--aj

michelle & theo fig. c:  mission accomplished!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This is what quincaillerie sounds like, 2nd rev.ed.

Stay safe & strong, brothers and sisters--and keep putting your kitchenware to good use.


p.s.: thanks to nitavideo1 for the footage

p.s. 2: the scene in Montreal on May 22nd

p.s. 3: the scene in Montreal by evening time: "May 22 update #3:  Mile End and perhaps the whole city is banging on pots and pans right now!"

p.s. 4: vive les casseroleux!

p.s. 5:  this is just how big (and beautiful) the casserole movement has become.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let them eat well!, 2nd rev. ed.

With the streets of Montreal still very much occupied by the events of "Maple Spring" and the struggle over the Charest administration's proposed tuition hikes--Quebec's very own contribution to the international debates over austerity economics--you'd be forgiven if somehow you'd overlooked the fact that this Saturday marks the inauguration of Food Revolution Day internationally.  But there it is.  Note it on your calendars, and make an effort to take part, if you can (and if you care).

What, exactly, is Food Revolution Day?  Well, it's an initiative of the Jamie Oliver Foundation (JOF), a clarion call on the part of Jamie O to "stand up for real food."

FoodRevolution fig. a:  FRD

fnblogo fig. b:  FNB

The event's logo might look strikingly similar to Food Not Bombs' iconic clenched fist, but Food Revolution Day (FRD) is a somewhat more genteel (and somewhat less punk rock) occasion that nonetheless has some substance to it.

Jamie wants YOU fig. c:  Jamie needs YOU

As you might expect, the rising rate of obesity (a major bugaboo of Jamie's) is one of the main issues FRD is meant to address.  Part of the message here is to encourage people to make better food choices and learn to cook from scratch, instead of relying on the convenience foods and the processed foods that have contributed to this crisis.  But it's also about encouraging people to demand better food options, in school, as well as in general, and to address issues of food inequity around the world.  How can you get involved?  Well, the JOF recommends everything from throwing or attending an awareness-raising food event, to hosting your own dinner party (no processed foods allowed!).  But they're also hoping you'll donate money to the cause of food education.

raspberry social.001 fig. d:  AEB Raspberry Social

Here at " endless banquet," we've been advocating in favour of food events, the art of the dinner party, the development of good food habits, and the creation of sensible and sustainable food policy from the very get-go, so perhaps it's not surprising that Michelle got asked to participate in a local Food Revolution Day event.  There are a number of FRD happenings taking place this weekend in the Montreal area--you can check this handy interactive map for more details--but one of the more active local organizers is Appetite for Books in Westmount.  They'll be organizing not one, but two events for the occasion:  a Bake Sale on Food Revolution Day itself, and a Boxed Lunch Sale the day before, on Friday, May 18th.  That's the one that Michelle is helping out with--the Boxed Lunch Sale.  The idea is that Appetite for Books will be putting together a whole slew of Jamie Oliver-inspired boxed lunches, featuring ingredients from Fruiterie Atwater, les Douceurs du Marché, and Boucherie Westmount, tea from DavidsTea, and "a special dessert by famed pastry chef Michelle Marek," and they'll be on sale at the bookstore from noon until they last.  Sound tempting?  I thought so.  Minimum donations on the boxed lunches are $10, and all the proceeds will go to the Jamie Oliver Foundation's food education efforts (as will the proceeds from Saturday's Bake Sale).  So, go ahead--by a FRD Boxed Lunch for yourself, your friends, your family, your co-workers, whoever.  Eat well, get the word out, and support a good cause, all in one go.

Appetite for Books, 388 Victoria Ave., Westmount, (514) 369-2002


p.s.  If all of the above isn't enough to satisfy you, there'll be a Real Food Market taking place on Sunday, May 20th, from 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM.  The line-up includes such local hot shots as Michele Forgione, of Osteria Venti fame, and, yes, Appetite for Books (in case you weren't able to make it out to Victoria Ave.).  The fun takes place at Espace Réunion (6600 Hutchison) in Outremont, and 5 bones gets you in the door (with all the proceeds going to the Jamie Oliver Foundation, naturally).

p.s. 2  One last thought:  maybe, if we Canadians throw enough, er, weight behind Food Revolution Day, we can get the Jamie Oliver Foundation and others to put pressure on our feeble domestic food policies (as I understand things, funds raised from this first FRD will go to address food education issues in the UK, the US, and Australia only).  As a UN official suggested earlier this week, we clearly could use some help.  Urgently.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thrill of the Grill 3

Last year, we started a series on relatively quick grilling recipes, such as grilled sardines and Thai grilled pork skewers.  As I wrote at the time, there are times when you want to get fully invested in "slow and low"-style barbecue, in making use of smoke's considerable powers as both a tenderizer and a flavour enhancer.  But there are other times when,

you just want the pure thrill of the grill. You want the slight blackening, the light smokiness, the caramelized flavors, and the primal pleasures of cooking directly over flames. You want the payoff to come sooner rather than later. You want to take full advantage of the fact that cooking over a hot grill can be quick and easy. 

Well, it's that time of year again.  Our fully winterized balcony is a thing of the past, the barbecue is back in its place of honour, and our 2012 smoking and grilling season is well underway.  And one of the best recipes I've tested out in recent weeks is another relatively quick grilling recipe that takes us to an entirely different region of the world:  Iran.

land of bread and spice fig. a:  land of bread & spice

The recipe appeared in an article on the cuisine of Iran in the March 2012 issue of Saveur by Anissa Helou ("The Land of Bread and Spice").  The article begins with a rather unexpected anecdote about a meal at Ava Gardner's house in London in 1982, but it proceeds to make a case for the centrality of Iran's "complex and captivating" cuisine to the world's foodways (both geographically and culturally)--at least those of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia.  And it's a pretty convincing case.

Helou's account of modern-day Iranian cuisine in Tehran, Isfahan, and beyond, encompasses everything from home cooking, to restaurants, bakeries, and cafés, and, as the title suggests, it focuses on Iranian staples like spices and herbs, bread, and rice, of which she writes, "I've never seen so many different ways of cooking rice as I did in Iran," before describing the care which goes into making their revered polows.  Her text had me pretty hooked on the idea of cooking Iranian already, but Ali Farboud's photographs really clinched things.  Sometimes the anti-aesthetics of some of Saveur's food photography leaves me a bit cold, but, here, the article came with a photo-essay that lived up to the scope of Helou's article, and that I found positively enchanting.  That said, the photographs that I gravitated to on the afternoon that I read the article were among the least exotic and the most familiar:  Farboud's photographs of sabzi, the herb salad that's a staple of the Iranian table, and of jujeh kabab, spiced chicken and tomato kebabs.  I was looking for a quick grilling recipe at the time, and that was exactly what I found.

kebabs, sabzi   fig. b:  land of sabzi & kebabs

Actually, the recipe itself didn't hurt, either.  When I flipped to page 76 and found the recipe for jujeh kabab, its intoxicating blend of yogurt, citrus, and spices leapt off the page.  I felt like I had a pretty clear idea of just how succulent these kebabs were going to be, and the recipe didn't disappoint in the least.  A few hours later, when Michelle came home to a spread of jujeh kabab, sabzi, a garlicky yogurt spread, fresh limes, and grilled flatbreads, she couldn't believe her luck.

grilled chicken skewers fig. c:  Iranian-style chicken kebabs

lightly grilled tomatoes fig. d:  lightly charred tomatoes
Jujeh Kabab (Spiced Chicken and Tomato Kebabs)
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp ground cumin (preferably toasted and freshly ground)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp ground black pepper
2 tsp crushed saffron
1 tsp ground coriander
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
4 plum tomatoes
ground sumac, to garnish
2 limes, halved
grilled flatbreads, for serving 
Stir together the yogurt, lime juice, olive oil, zest, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron, coriander, garlic, and onions in a bowl.  Chop the thighs into large cubes, roughly 1-1 1/2" x 1 1/2-2".   Add the chicken to the yogurt mixture, and toss to coat.  Chill for 4 hours (you can "chill," too, but make sure you've placed the chicken in the fridge at least four hours before you intend to grill).   
When the chicken has been properly marinated, build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill.  Skewer the chicken on flat metal skewers (Iranian-style), or on wooden skewers that you've had the foresight to pre-soak.  Add the tomatoes to another skewer.  Grill the chicken and tomatoes, turning often, until tomatoes are soft and charred, about 7 minutes, and the chicken is cooked through and slightly charred, about 10-15 minutes. (I recommend starting the chicken directly over the medium-hot fire, charring the meat on all sides, and then moving the skewers to indirect heat for the remaining time.)  Sprinkle the skewers with sumac.   Brush the flatbreads lightly with olive and grill quickly.
Serve with the limes and the hot flatbreads.  
Serves 4. 
herb salad fig. e:  herbs & radishes
mint leaves
parsley leaves
If you've been slow to kick off this year's grill & barbecue season, let the flames begin.