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Kentucky Maple Syrup

March 10, 2012

 My interest in maple syrup started in my high school anthropology class when we watched a lengthy, black and white, film documentary about maple syrup production in the northeast U.S. I’m not sure why I thought the production was reserved only to that area and Canada. We have plenty of maple trees around. 
Apparently people here have been thinking the same thing. Over the past few years, Kentucky maple syrup has been stocking shelves of local food markets right next to sorghum and honey.
This morning we headed out the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a historic attraction in nearby Harrodsburg, Kentucky.  What is a tourist attraction today was a site where the Shaker community once lived. Roads and buildings have been preserved and turned into education centers, shops, and museums. 
Animals are kept on site and represent specialty breeds owned by the Shakers. Milking Shorthorn Cattle are one example, and we were told this trip that with over 300 head, the Shakers once owned the largest herd in the US.
There is an inn on site as well as a restaurant, and that is the reason we made the visit this weekend. The special Maple Syrup Breakfast to be exact. We were able to dine on a breakfast buffet of pancakes, cornmeal cakes, bacon, sausage, and fried apples. Served alongside was maple syrup made on site. After breakfast, it was time to learn about the syrup making process.
Trees were tapped all along the paths within the village. According to our guide, sugar maples and black maples make the best syrup, and those were the trees we saw strapped with buckets. 
I’m sure you’ve heard that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. This means that the sap is about 3-5% sugar. Weather plays a role in yield and in sugar content. Ideal temperature is 40 F degree days and 20 F degree nights, and we haven’t had many of those in Kentucky this winter. 

We were able to watch the process in the wood burning evaporator. The sap goes into the top metal box, and is drained through the spout.

Then it is boiled, and boiled, and boiled until liquid is evaporated and the sugar syrup remains. 
I still hope to see the process in person in the northeast someday, but for now I’m content with adding maple syrup to my list of local foods.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes using Kentucky maple syrup.

Wheat Berry Salad with Fresh Cranberries and Orange Maple Dressing

Banana Bourbon Scones with Walnuts

Bourbon Sweet Potato Waffles with Maple Cinnamon Butter

Butternut, Flax and Walnut Bread

Cranberry Pumpkin Granola

Sweet Potato Date Bars

 

 

Beef Tenderloin Tips and Purple Potatoes

February 20, 2012

We’ve had about two pounds of beef tenderloin tips in the freezer for a few months now so we decided to serve them up last week for a very low-key Valentine’s Day dinner. If you are unfamiliar with the cut, it is a great option for getting a tender piece of high quality beef for a reasonable price. It is basically the tips from a larger piece of meat that turns into the very popular filet mignon.

I think this is one reason it took me so long to use it. I’m not exactly an excellent beef cook, unless a slow cooker decides to show up, and I didn’t want to ruin it. 
To ensure success, I used a recipe as opposed to creating one myself. And by I, I mean my husband. After dinner I told him his cooking with me was like the boy in the Google video on Valentine’s Day. He jumped rope with me, and that’s all I really wanted for the occasion.
We used a recipe for Tenderloin Tips with Mushrooms and Herbs from the Food & Wine section of the Seattle Times posted last year. We doubled the recipe due to the amount of meat, and we also doubled everything else except for the mustard and rum. We used rum instead of brandy.
Tenderloin Tips with Mushrooms and Herbs

The final result was tender pieces of meat in an amazing sauce with the sweetness of red wine, but the bite of dijon mustard. I rarely like a stew-type beef, but this one far exceeded my expectations.

The rest of the meal was plain and simple, but with a colorful twist. I found purple potatoes in Cincinnati last weekend! I’ve read a lot about their production and health benefit, and about the research being used in the evaluation of the crop so I was interested in trying them. They’re still rare in this area.

The color can’t help but make you happy in the kitchen. It is so deep and rich, and only intensifies when roasted. I chopped them up with some Fingerling potatoes, coated them in olive oil, sprinkled on some sea salt and dried rosemary from last summer’s herb garden. They were ready to go after roasting about 20 minutes at 425 degrees F.

I wouldn’t call myself a meat and potatoes person, but every now and then I can see why people love them so much.

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Tofu Po’Boy with Barbecue Cole Slaw

January 14, 2012

This Tofu Po’Boy sandwich is a remake of a sandwich I loved ordering from one of my favorite places to eat in central Kentucky, Windy Corner Market.

 
Tofu Po’Boy with Barbecue Cole Slaw | Fake Food Free
 
My first experience with tofu was not pleasant. I convinced myself to try it when I was in college because it was what healthy people ate. And being a nutrition major, well, I considered myself a healthy person. After ordering it at a restaurant, it arrived in a stir-fry, mushy and tasteless. This led to my conclusion that while I was healthy, I wasn’t that healthy. 
 
It wasn’t until I traveled to Southeast Asia and tasted tofu for what it truly is – an Asian specialty – that I began to appreciate it. There, it was most often referred to as bean curd, deep fried with a crispy texture, set atop a steaming bowl of veggies and noodles, and it most likely came homemade from the restaurant, or a vendor at the local market. It was delicious. 
 
Bean curd is what I like, not the healthy-people-eat-tofu version I received in the States during that first experience.  
 
Because frying isn’t my specialty, I had yet to make it at home. Then a few months ago I came across a post from Taste Hong Kong with step by step instructions on how to fry tofu. 
 
With tofu fresh on the mind, I met friends at Windy Corner Market on the outskirts of Lexington for a holiday lunch a few weeks ago. I’ve already written about this wonderful, must-try establishment serving up local foods. On my most recent visit, I branched out to try the Tofu Boy for Topher. As the menu describes, “Crispy fried tofu in Black Jack Barbecue Sauce stacked with Earthy Crunchy Slaw, tomatoes, pickles and our special sauce.” 
 
Tofu Po’Boy from Windy Corner Market in central Kentucky | Fake Food Free
 
Despite the mediocre iPhone picture, I assure you it was delicious.
 
So, I had some tofu-focused signs telling me that it was time to bring it to my kitchen. As a result, I have my version of the Tofu Boy for Topher. It is different in style and ingredients, but similar in flavors. I also still have a way to go with perfecting fried tofu, but practice makes perfect in the kitchen. 
 
Despite these shortcomings, I am ready to make this again for lunch tomorrow. It’s not Asian-style bean curd, but it’s a lot closer than the first version I tried. And surprisingly, barbecue sauce and crunchy cabbage go wonderfully with tofu. 
 
Tofu Po’Boy with Barbecue Cole Slaw | Fake Food Free
 
 
Tofu Po’Boy with Barbecue Cole Slaw
Makes: 2 servings
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Ingredients
  1. 6 pieces of tofu about 1 ½ inches wide & ½ inch thick
  2. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  3. 1 cup green cabbage, thinly sliced
  4. 1 cup purple cabbage, thinly sliced
  5. 2 green onions, sliced
  6. 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  7. 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce (I use a local favorite, KY Smokin’Grill)
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
  9. 12 inch baguette or bun
Instructions
  1. Prepare the tofu by using the instructions at Taste HongKong.
  2. In a bowl, combine the cabbages and green onion. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayo and bbq sauce. Pour the sauce over the cabbage and toss to coat. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cut the baguette in half and split down the center. Once the tofu is done, place three pieces on each half of baguette. Divide the slaw and top tofu. Enjoy right away.
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 Tofu Po’Boy with Barbecue Cole Slaw | Fake Food Free
 
 
 
Thanks for reading! All images and content are the property of Fake Food Free unless otherwise stated. Please do not republish full recipes and images without written permission. What is okay? Feel free to Pin images, share links to my posts or share the photo in a round up post with the title of this recipe and a link back to the post. Confused about copyright and food blogs? Here is some helpful information on Recipe Attribution. If you want to use a photo or full recipe, just ask. I’m sure we can work something out.  
 

Jerk-style Country Ham and Pineapple Tamales

December 6, 2011

This is the fourth in my series of Cookbooks for Christmas. Be sure to check out The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking, The Vegetarian Option and How to Cook Indian.

Before I moved to Kentucky, country ham was nothing more than the step-child of meat options on the Cracker Barrel breakfast menu. I had no idea why someone would select ham over bacon or sausage despite the fact that they all came from the same animal.
Then I moved to Kentucky. Suddenly country ham is everywhere. There are country ham biscuits as party appetizers and skillet-fried country ham for breakfast. It is a regular offering in the meat case at my local butcher, and my most recent job exposed me to a youth agriculture program where the kids made their own country hams to auction off at the local stock sale.
See, I told you. It’s everywhere.
My first encounter with country ham had me gasping for a drink of water. Salty. Very salty. Things haven’t changed much since that first impression, but I have found that I like country ham in things. Meaning, those things it is in helps balance the salty flavor.
A few weeks ago I got a copy of the cookbook Ham: An Obsessionwith the Hindquarter by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. I never knew there was so much one could do with ham. The book contains 100 unique recipes from the around the world.

Guess what is featured from my part of the world. Yep, country ham.
As I flipped through I saw recipes for Collards and Country Ham, Country Ham Butternut Squash and Chile Stew, and Country Carbonara. That doesn’t include all the things that don’t use country ham such as Steamed Ham Buns and Roasted Fresh Ham with Apple Wheatberry Salad.
If you’ve read a cookbook by Weinstein and Scarbrough before you know it’s as much about the text as it is about the recipes and photography. It is part comical novel, part recipe book. I was immediately sucked into the story about the taking of their pig from farm to market.  

So back to this country ham.

One thing that I wasn’t expecting (nor would most Kentuckians), was to see country ham Caribbean-style with a side of Mexican cuisine thrown in. The second I turned to page 151 I knew what I was making.

Jerk-style Country Ham and Pineapple Tamales.
Sounds pretty amazing, right? Not only was I excited about these flavors, but this was my very first time making tamales. As with post things I put off, I was left thinking – why in the world did I wait so long?
These tamales are simple to make. The construction takes a little time, but not so much that it’s overwhelming.
Now, let’s talk about these flavors. The spices, pineapple and rum are just what the country ham needs. The tamales are sweet with just a touch of saltiness. With all of the spices, the flavor explodes in your mouth with each bite. This recipe is such a creative representation of Kentucky meets Caribbean!

Jerk-style Country Ham and Pineapple Tamales
Reprinted with permission from Abrams Books

Makes 20 Tamales

Call this Bruce’s culinary free-for-all: a Caribbean filling made with American country ham and served as a Tex-Mex delicacy in corn husks. There’s not much more I can say, except they freeze well. Make them in advance, then wrap them individually in plastic and freeze for up to 3 months; thaw on the counter for 30 minutes before steaming as directed.

20 large, dry corn husks for tamales
6 ounces dried pineapple
10 ounces cooked country ham, rind removed and discarded, the meat cut into little cubes (a little less than 2⁄3 cup)
3 medium scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup dark rum such as Myers’s
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 cups instant masa harina
3 cups very hot water
2⁄3 cup peanut oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1. Put the corn husks in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Set them aside to soak until soft, about 30 minutes. If they all won’t stay submerged, place a little plate over them in the bowl to force them down into the hot water.
2. Meanwhile, put the dried pineapple in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 10 minutes, then drain in a colander set in the sink. Chop the pineapple into tiny bits.
3. Transfer those pineapple chunks to a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add the ham, scallions, rum, ginger, brown sugar, vinegar, 1 teaspoon cumin, the coriander, oregano, thyme, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cayenne, and garlic powder. Pulse until well chopped and thoroughly blended but not pureed. This is the filling for the tamales, so you want some tooth in the thing—in other words, no baby food.
4. Mix the masa, hot water, oil, onion powder, and remaining 1 teaspoon ground cumin in a large bowl to make a wet dough.
5. Take a corn husk out of the hot water and spread it on your work surface so that its natural curl faces you. Spread a generous 1/4 cup of the masa dough into the corn husk, smoothing it out but also keeping it near the thicker bottom of the husk, like a little bed of dough for the filling. Spread the dough out to the sides a bit so that when you roll the husk closed the long way, that dough will encircle and even cover the filling.
6. Place about 11/2 tablespoons of the ham mixture in the center of the dough in the corn husk.
7. Fold the sides of the husk up and over the filling, thereby also bringing the masa dough up and around the filling inside. Make sure the sides overlap and fully close, holding the filling tightly inside. Fold the wider bottom up over the husk and do the same with the narrower top. Tie these in place with butchers’ twine so the tamale will stay closed.
8. Repeat steps 5 through 7 with the remaining husks.
9. Set up some kind of steaming contraption: either a large vegetable steamer in a large saucepan with about an inch of so of water in the bottom, or a couple of bamboo steamers placed over a wok with a similar amount of water in it. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
10. Stand the tamales up in the vegetable steamer or lay them in the bamboo steamers. Cover, reduce the heat, and steam for 40 minutes, checking the water occasionally and adding more if necessary. In no event should the water rise and come in contact with the tamales. You want the water gently simmering in the pan or wok but not boiling vigorously. Once steamed, set the tamales aside for 5 minutes before serving, just so no one gets a steam burn from the incredibly hot filling inside. And don’t be a Gerald Ford. In the 1976 presidential race, he tried to eat a tamale still in the husk while campaigning in Texas. He lost the state. Unwrap the husk and fork out the tender filling inside.

Smoky Chili Non Carne from The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook

November 17, 2011

This morning, still groggy, I opened the door to let the dogs out.

Whoa! When did winter get here?

After several weeks of warm autumn temperatures, I do believe we are finally headed into the next season. I don’t mind it at all, but it’s going to take me a while to adapt. Maybe this will help.

If it wasn’t time for chili before, well it certainly is now! And not just any chili, but Smoky Chili Non Carne.

I had the opportunity to review The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook by Maggie Green and loved every minute of it. Maggie’s book is a wonderful, seasonal cooking resource divided by month. The chili can be found in November along with other warming, comforting foods perfect for the season.

You can head over to Cooks & Books & Recipes to read more about it and get the recipe.

Sweet Potato Date Bars

October 27, 2011

I’m always up for a challenge in the kitchen. This time it was sugar, or rather the challenge of not using it.

Sweet potatoes and dates, that’s what I had to work with. I’m not quite sure why those were the two ingredients I wanted to use, but I had them on hand so I went with it. Knowing dates are perfect for sweetening up desserts, I wanted to use as little sugar as possible.

It turns out I didn’t need to use any.

Now this doesn’t mean they are sweetener free. I did add a little bit of pure maple syrup, which by make-up is a form of sugar. Kentucky Maple Syrup actually which I never knew existed until this year. Turns out it’s excellent.

I decided to go sans butter as well and the coconut oil was perfect. I used it at a softened, cold butter like consistency for the crust and melted for the filling. You can make your own oat flour by simply pulsing old fashioned rolled oats in a food processor a few times.

Like a sweet potato pie, these bars have a soft, spiced filling and a crisp crust. The potatoes, dates, maple syrup and coconut oil (not to mention a wee bit of bourbon) come together to provide just the right amount of sweetness. I promise you won’t miss the sugar at all.

Sweet Potato Date Bars

Crust

¼ cup oat flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil, at a soft butter-like consistency
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp water

Filling

1 cup cooked sweet potato, peeled and mashed
4 whole, pitted dates, chopped
1 tbsp bourbon
6 tbsp milk
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
¼ cup virgin coconut oil, melted
1 egg
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with coconut oil.

In a small bowl, combine the oat flour and wheat flour. Add the coconut oil and with a pastry blender break it up into small pieces as you incorporate it into the dough. You should end up with pea size coconut oil pieces throughout the flour.

Add the syrup and the water. The dough should be somewhat crumbly, but hold together when pressed. Transfer to the baking dish and press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a small food processor add the sweet potato, dates, bourbon and 2 tablespoons of milk. Pulse until smooth and the dates are blended in and almost visibly unnoticeable. Add a little more milk if it is too thick to blend.

Transfer sweet potato mixture to a medium size bowl. Stir in the remaining milk and maple syrup. Add the melted coconut oil and stir well. Make sure the batter isn’t too warm if you used warm coconut oil. Allow to cool before adding the egg if it is. Add the egg and mix until combined. Finally stir in the baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt.

Pour the mixture over the crust, spread evenly. Return to the oven and bake 25 – 30 minutes, until the center is firm and an inserted knife comes out clean. Makes 9-12 bars depending on how large you’d like to cut them.

Woven Shrimp for Number 33

October 20, 2011

I turned 33 last week. And I emphasize the word week because the celebrations lasted roughly 7 days. Around here we believe that celebrating just one day simply isn’t enough.

In honor of the big day, there was one specific meal I wanted. Nothing else would do.

That meal was Woven Shrimp from Azur Restaurant and Patio in Lexington, KY.

If you find yourself in Lexington you should find yourself a seat at Azur, but don’t look for it downtown. Azur is actually located in a strip mall on the southwest side of the city. But don’t let the description of the location fool you. This modern establishment which serves lots of local products such as Kentucky beef and Kentucky seafood from our up and coming aquaculture farms, also boasts an inviting patio area.

So back to that Woven Shrimp. Actually let’s go back to the first course because those were equally exciting.

We opted for a Saturday lunch and settled in on the patio with jackets and the space heaters going (it was just too beautiful not to sit outside) and ordered a Kentucky Ale.

Next up for me, well, us, were Truffle Fries. These are one of life’s simple pleasures. No French Frie tastes the same after you’ve had one graced by the presence of truffle oil.

My husband ordered his favorite, Lobster Crepes. Crepes with a creamy lobster-based filling set on top of guava sauce and garnished with microgreens. Sweet, salty, rich – this is the crepe of all crepes.

We enjoyed our starters to their fullest extent and some a bit longer. We had to keep fries on the table and nibbled throughout our meal. You don’t just give Truffle Fries back to the waitress. You finish them even if you are full. I mean, it’s truffle oil!

Now on to the main course which for my husband was actually a starter. He was sold on the Fried Calamari which came topped with sautéed peppers, onions and Napa cabbage. This was a bowl of perfection. The calamari was light and tender. It almost melted in your mouth.

Now for this woven shrimp. To get you thinking in the right direction, consider coconut shrimp with three times the flavor and ten times the creativity.

Woven shrimp is jumbo shrimp covered with shredded filo and fried until crispy. Good, but it gets even better. It is set on top of risotto. Creamy coconut risotto with edamame and corn. Then it’s topped with a chili sauce.

It’s brilliant, classic and a bit breathtaking all at the same time. Hands down my favorite dish at a restaurant.

So remember, Azur, Lexington, Woven Shrimp.

Birthdays aren’t complete without dessert. My mom is a fabulous cake decorator and has owned a shop for years, so growing up I was never without a beautiful birthday cake. Now that I’m all grown up, I usually still get one, but it’s when we are able to get together near my birthday, not always on it.

So I usually have a substitute the day of and this year my husband went to Twisted Sifter, a nearby bakery whom I also mentioned in my post about Danville, Kentucky. On a side note, I might have mentioned rather strongly that I wanted a cake from there.

Inside this beautiful cake was the seasonal flavor, pumpkin pecan with a cream cheese filling covered in buttercream frosting. We kept saying we would freeze part of it, but then we made an excuse everyday as to why we needed another piece. Needless to say, we’ll just have to order another when we get a craving because none made it past my birthday week!

Thirty-two was a big year for me. We got a new pug, I published my first book, I ran my 2nd half marathon and we visited a few new places. All of that has me more than ready to face 33 and excited to find out what’s in store!

Banana Bourbon Scones with Walnuts

October 17, 2011

I seem to be big on adding spirits to my breakfast pastries. I justify this by considering them brunch-friendly. I mean, you break out the champagne or vodka at breakfast and people will look at you like you are a weirdo. Name your breakfast brunch and they’ll have a glass with you.

I experimented with bourbon in my scones back in April for Derby with Mint Julep Scones. I was happy with the result, so when those oh-so-common brown bananas were staring at me from the counter, scones came to mind, followed by bourbon.

Banana Bourbon Scones with Walnuts | Fake Food Free

With these scones, I cooked the banana down with butter and bourbon, caramelizing it just a bit. That went into the white whole wheat flour and I added a little crunch with walnuts. These scones are pretty sweet on their own, but for a little seasonal flavor I did a very light drizzle of a maple glaze.

Once again, don’t be afraid to have a little bourbon for breakfast.

Banana Bourbon Scones with Walnuts | Fake Food Free

Banana Bourbon Scones with Walnuts

Makes: 6 to 8 scones

Ingredients

 

1 overripe banana
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Kentucky bourbon
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp Demerara sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
1-2 tbsp milk or cream

Glaze (optional):
3 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
Milk

Prep

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the banana and mash with the butter. Pour in the bourbon and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes. Set aside

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the butter and blend with a pastry blender or fork until the butter is in pea-size pieces throughout the flour.

Pour in the banana mixture and stir until incorporated. Add the walnuts. Slowly add the milk or cream a tablespoon at a time until a dough forms. It should be firm enough to roll out for cutting the scones.

Place the dough on a floured surface and use your hands (or a rolling pin) to press it out to about ¾ inch thickness. Use a biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut out the scones. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the scone begins to brown and is firm in the center. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. 

To glaze, mix the confectioner’s sugar with the maple syrup in a small dish. Slowly add milk, one teaspoon at a time, until a thin, drizzling consistency is reached. Drizzle over cooled scones and let set before serving.

Banana Bourbon Scones with Walnuts | Fake Food Free
 
Thanks for reading! All images and content are the property of Fake Food Free unless otherwise stated. Please do not republish full recipes and images without written permission. What is okay? Feel free to Pin images, share links to my posts or share the photo in a round up post with the title of this recipe and a link back to the post. Confused about copyright and food blogs? Here is some helpful information on Recipe Attribution. If you want to use a photo or full recipe, just ask. I’m sure we can work something out.  

Kentucky Food Blogger Weekend Part Two: Incredible Food Show

October 16, 2011

As a general rule, I don’t get star-struck. Honestly the only person who might make me so excited I’d be nervous should I meet her face to face is Dolores O’Riordan of the greatest band ever, the Cranberries. Otherwise, I have favorite actors, singers and chefs, but I couldn’t care less about what they do on a day to day basis. No, I’m not a celebrity magazine readin’ kind of girl.

So when I found out that the Kentucky Food Bloggers were invited to attend the Kentucky Proud Incredible Food Show last weekend with special guests Michael and Bryan Voltaggio, I was thrilled with the offer, but not to the point where I was telling everyone I knew.

Then we got invited to a private meet & greet. Okay, the excitement grew a little. Not because I was star-struck, mind you, but that I thought it would be really great to talk with some chefs with such exciting restaurant concepts like Volt and ink.

Just to fill you in a bit on the Incredible Food Show, this is an event in Lexington, KY that has been growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. It is the place for Kentucky food producers to shine. Not to mention lots of our cookbook authors, established local chefs and those soon-to be chefs coming out of Sullivan University.

For a food blogger like myself it’s an ideal place to network and learn about more ways to promote dreams that have come to life in the form of Kentucky food products.

So this year’s show included a presentation by the Voltaggio Brothers. I headed to the arena with a few other food bloggers not quite sure what to expect. I thought a simple dish would be prepared with a few tips thrown out here and there.

Yeah, not even close.

Michael and Bryan were given a huge array of Kentucky products to work with – sorghum, soy sauce, produce. They claimed they had no real plan until they arrived at the show. What they decided on as we watched was an edible, vegetable landscape which reflected their expertise in molecular gastronomy.

I can’t keep all the great tips they had to myself, so here are a few things I learned from the show:

  • Roast parsnips and puree them with dates for a vegetable based spread for toast.
  • Use the greens of leeks by burning them. (Apparently burnt is the new caramelize.) Bake them in an oven like you would kale chips, just take them a step further to bring out more complex flavors.
  • Use a food vacuum sealer to tenderize raw foods. Toss thinly sliced kale with olive oil and seal. The olive oil breaks down the chemical structure of the cell resulting in a flavored vegetable that is tender, but still raw.
  • Soak fresh, thinly sliced jalapenos in ice water for about 2 hrs. The water will extract the heat and you can eat them like pickles.

Little by little, the vegetable landscape came together and things got crazy when it was time for the dressing. They went with a homemade ranch, but a typical dressing poured over the masterpiece just wouldn’t be good enough.

The goal was ranch snow. So out came the liquid nitrogen!

It was incorporated into the dressing and then put in the blender. Finally the ranch sprinkles finished off the dish. This picture is one of the dish via the big screen, so not super clear, but you get the idea.

The show was so much more than I was expecting. Awesome.

For the meet & greet after the show we were welcomed by the IFS staff into a room with an array of truly Kentucky foods – country ham biscuits, bourbon balls and Kentucky wines. When we finally got the chance to speak with the brothers we introduced ourselves as KY Food Bloggers and I was delighted when their face lit up a bit which showed recognition of what we do.

Funny, our first conversation went to their tattoos – Michael’s ink (his restaurant) and Bryan’s pig and rabbit which represented his son and daughter, one born in the year of the pig and the other in the year of the rabbit. After that we talked a bit about their restaurants.

Bryan shared about how Volt source’s food from several local CSAs in Maryland and often get the overflow which challenges them to use products and always be creative.

Michael told us a bit about ink.sack, the lunch extension of ink restaurant. They make everything in-house such as the corned beef tongue in their Reuben. They focus on small sandwiches so you can order two or three varieties. I have to say I was incredibly intrigued by the sandwich with curried chicken skin!

After the show I had a long time to browse vendors. My husband ran the Bourbon Chase over the weekend, a 200 mile overnight relay through bourbon country. They finish in downtown Lexington so it was a big weekend all around. I got to chat with vendors and authors while I waited to go to the finish line.

I ended the day with a few favorites so I’ll tell you about those. The first is Good Shepherd Sheep’s Milk Cheese from eastern Kentucky. Our first sheep’s milk creamery in Kentucky. I talked with them about a possible tour in the future and I’m hoping to make that happen in the spring when all the baby lambs are around! The cheese was a hard cheese with a smooth flavor. I’m due for a gourmet cheese purchase and this is on the list.

Next was Rooibee Red Tea out of Louisville. I had a nice talk with Jeff who you’ll see in the video if you check out the site. I still have quite a bit to research on Rooibos Tea and its extract, but this stuff is delicious. I tried an unsweetened version – no artificial sweeteners, certified organic. It is so nice to have bottled drink options that aren’t soda!

Finally, on my way out, I ran into Marlowe Granola. To think, I almost missed this booth! Now, I’m all for making my own granola, but when I find a product that uses the same ingredients I would, I have no problem buying it.

Marlowe Granola is also a perfect example of a great story and a dream that came to life. I talked with the owners a bit and the granola is “Mom’s recipe” that’s been made for over 30 yrs. They use local Kentucky sorghum as well. We even chatted a bit about food photography as the owner’s daughter took the photos for the site and they are gorgeous. I guess I should also mention that the product is darn tasty too! We’ve been enjoying it with milk and yogurt all week.

I can’t believe it’s been a week since our fun food blogger weekend, but now we are looking forward for all that is to come with such a great group of people who share the desire to support Kentucky foods!

Disclosure: The experiences and foods mentioned in the post were given to me free of charge. I was not required to post about them and received no compensation for doing so.

Food and Fellow Bloggers in Danville, Kentucky!

August 27, 2011

Picturesque; a term often overused yet I can think of few that better describe Danville, KY. Streets lined with manicured hanging flower baskets and old-fashioned store fronts. This small Kentucky city is full of history while managing to also be a trendy college town.

For the five years we lived in Lexington, I had always heard about Danville. I kept meaning to visit, but never took the opportunity. Once when we moved out of the city a little over ago, I got my land, my cattle farm view and my garden, but I also got Danville. Not bad timing either, especially for a foodie.

You see, Danville went wet just a little while back. If you are unfamiliar with small-town USA this means that they now allow alcohol to be served and sold in the area.

While going wet rarely brings the threat of people falling victim to a life of gambling and working the corners as many opponents fear, what it does bring with it are restaurants. Locally owned, locally sourced, unique restaurants.

Some of us in the area have begun the process of forming the Kentucky Food Bloggers Association. Word has been getting out and the Danville Boyle Co Convention & Visitors Bureau invited us to take a a food tour of the city, our first organized event as a group.

Nine bloggers from the central Kentucky area were in attendance. Cameras and notebooks in hand we tackled Danville one bite at a time.

Our first stop was the V the Market, a quaint shop offering everything from cheeses to wines and beers. You can get the rarest of imports as well as the varieties closest to home. Our host shared her interesting stories of how she sources her products and manages to get her hands on some of the rarest offerings in the area. Things like this blue goat cheese and Life & Limb crafted beer.

She worried she was boring us with her stories, but I could have sat on that couch and listened all night. Food, especially food this outstanding, is never boring to me whether you are eating it, hearing about it or taking photos of it.

Next was Mermaid’s Bar and Bistro. This little place is the perfect balance of modern and homey which was nicely represented by martinis sitting on the glowing bar right in front of the homemade meringue pie. We were served generous portions of Mermaid Punch which was followed by Porch Punch, both of which tasted like summer in a glass.

Soon after came a beautiful sampling of food. A prosciutto wrapped prawn, a portion of locally sourced tender steak and gently seared tuna with greens wrapped in a cucumber with a wasabi sauce.

Slowly starting to get full, but still in need of food to counteract the effects of all the punch, we walked down to 303 W of Danville. Bar food lovers, this is your place! This restaurant has the atmosphere of European pub meets US tavern. We were greeted with smiling faces as we marched in armed with DSLRs. We likely looked as if we were sniffing the air knowing that food was near.

We were greeted with a table full of appetizers. Pretzel sticks with pimento cheese, veggies with beer cheese, Wild Alaskan fish fingers, tortilla crusted pizza with spinach, artichokes and chicken, and two kinds of wings. We passed, we picked, we shared, and we got a bit of history about the location.

The most interesting to me was that the wood floors had been salvaged from Hamburg. Hamburg is an area in Lexington that is now full of strip malls, but it used to be a horse farm. The floors were from horse barns and likely had a few derby winners walk across them.

Bordering on “okay, now I’m starting to get really full,” we headed to the Bluegrass Pizza and Pub. Along with V the Market, this was the only place I had been to before, a couple times actually. The place itself isn’t our cup of dining-out tea, but that doesn’t take away from the pie. The pizza here is excellent and it has a lot to do with their crust – the ideal combination of crispy and chewy with just the right thickness.

This place is packed all the time and Thursday night was no exception. We were approached by several people who wanted to know who we were and why this crazy group was photographing their table.

We dined on the Mediterranean pizza with chicken, artichoke, olives and red onions. This was paired with bread sticks and a rich tomato sauce for dipping. And you can’t forget the cheese sticks! What is it about bread, cheese and garlic that is just so good?!

Now, officially full, we headed to the Beer Engine. One thing that has surprised me about Danville is that when they went wet, they went straight for the good stuff – microbrews and some of the most sought after craft beers around. V the Market, 303 W and Bluegrass Pizza all carry these types of beers. You can stop in for a pint or fill a growler (or two) to take home.

At the Beer Engine we were greeted with the kind of place where you just wanna hang out and perhaps discuss world issues over a pint. Or just drink a pint and discuss the masterpiece you have in hand. We got a unique tasting of some amazing beers and I didn’t get the names of all of them, but Dogfish Head Festina Peche and King George’s Nut Brown were part of the tasting. We also had a delicious stout and a honey beer. There were several in the group who did not drink, so the others of us who did took one for the team and made up for them.

Dinner, drinks…what else is there? If you didn’t just yell “dessert” at your computer I’m disappointed.

Yes, dessert!

All the dessert establishments were closed at the late hour our tour finished up, but they managed to host us without actually being open.

First, cupcakes from the Twisted Sifter.

Now I’ve visited this place a time or two and they are by far the best cupcakes I’ve had in the central KY area. (Did you hear that, Food Network? I’m talkin’ Cupcake War quality!) Not only that, but you can actually afford them more often than once a month which may or may not be a good thing. Our tasting flavors were Champagne and Pumpkin Spice. Speechless.

Burke’s Bakery is a Danville institution. I’m pretty sure I’ve never met anyone from Danville who hasn’t said something about Burkes upon answering the question, “Where are you from?” Burke’s is the epitome of an old fashioned bakery making the kind of cookies you used to get in Grandma’s kitchen. They gave us a bag of goodies including these cookies and one of their donuts. Did I mention they do all kinds of baked goods?

The cookies are small. Remember the kind we used to get when portion sizes were appropriate? This also means that a dozen will set you back a whopping $2.50 so when you visit be prepared to control yourself!

Dessert three. Yes, three and I’m not complaining. We got some gorgeous gift bags from Karamel Kreations. This place has holiday gifts written all over it for me. One of those – I could never make a caramel this good – places. I know that because there is a caramel missing from this picture. I felt it my obligation as a food blogger to try it before sharing it with you. You’re welcome.

I’d like to extend a special thank you to each of the staff from the Danville Boyle Co Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Danville Boyle Co Economic Development Partnership, and all the owners of the fine establishments we visited and tasted!

Danville – go, eat, drink, enjoy!

Disclaimer: All foods featured in this post were provided free of charge. I was not required to post about any food or establishment and received no compensation for doing so.