Monday, July 25, 2011

Rare & Well Done is getting a face lift!

Hi all! Rare & Well Done has gotten a facelift and it's own website! I'm still putting the finishing touches on it but I couldn't wait to share it with you all.

Please visit the new site and let me know what you think! I posted a new review of Coal's Artisan Pizza, and in about a week I will be automatically forwarding this blog to the new one.

The new site is:

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Garden fresh produce...minus all the work

I'm not sure if you've noticed but I've been slacking off a bit on my posting this summer and there are two main reasons....

One...I'm working on rolling out an updated Rare & Well Done site...complete with my own domain name and everything! Stay posted. It should be up and running soon and I would love your help with it. Do you want more of anything specific...happenings in Louisville...weekend getaway ideas for food centric food trends (p.s. I'm probably going to use all of these so any other ideas would be great!).


Two...All those damn fresh vegetables!!! I want to venture out and blog about new restaurants so badly, but when my garden is filled with fresh vegetables literally falling of the vine with ripeness I simply can't help but rush them into the kitchen and have them for dinner. If you didn't plant a garden this summer and aren't drowning in collard greens and cucumbers (p.s. if anyone has recipes for collard greens and cucumbers together I'd love to hear it...otherwise I'm going to be selling them on a highway off ramp) you might want to check out all of the local farmers markets to and experience the bounty for yourself.

Check out this link:

Did you have any idea we had so many farmers markets in the area???? Enjoy the bounty of the season Louisville.

Oh, and one more thing. If you ARE drowning in cucumbers like me why not make some benedictine or a refreshing cocktail!?

Here's a link to a cucumber cocktail recipe I posted some time back:

And here's a benedictine recipe I got off an index card in the Churchill Downs museum(don't judge until you try it). I made it this past weekend and it was a huge hit. Just be sure to drain the cucumber/onion mixture thoroughly before mixing with the cream cheese and let it set in the fridge for at least 6 hours before serving. I made tea sandwiches out of it...I dipped veggies in guest wanted to spread it on a bagel for breakfast:

Peel one large cucumber and a medium/small onion. Grate them into a pulp. Strain the pulp to remove all liquid. Discard liquid. Add drained cucumbers and onions to one package of cream cheese. Enjoy. The recipe actually calls for green food coloring but please, this isn't St. Patrick's day. If you want to go crazy I would recommend a hint of cayenne and a touch of lemon juice.
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Road Trip - Destination...Nashville!

A few weeks ago the hubby and I were in Knoxville, Tennessee...for about an the airport...after it closed for the night.

Our plane was diverted because of bad weather in Louisville and although I was pissed off about our delay I looked out the windows of the cute little airport and thought, "Hmmm. I don't think I've ever been to Knoxville before. I bet it's nice. I'd like to come back".

Summer, to me, is about taking lots of weekend trips. Living in another region of the US allows Nick and I the opportunity to take a lot of small road trips to destinations that until now would have been out of the question for a weekend trip. After our little stop in Knoxville Tennessee I realized I hadn't written about our fun little road trip to Nashville Tenessee. It's about as close to a New Orleans atmosphere as you can get on a tank of gas.

First tip for a fun and relatively inexpensive Nashville getaway...Priceline your hotel. I know I talk about Priceline like it's the best thing to happen to travel since the invention of the airplane, but it kinda is. Nick and I have stayed in some very classy digs in some very expensive cities for as low as $45 a night. Here's a link to my old tutorial for those of you who haven't read it....

We priceline'd a lovely hotel on the Broadway strip in Nashville. All of the bars and honky tonks line Broadway, so if you want to bar hop, staying near the Broadway strip is your best bet. We got a got a wonderful deal on a room at the Union Station hotel (it's a Wyndham Grand but the hotel used to be Nashville's main train station back in the day). I highly recommend it(picture above). The location was perfect. The staff was wonderful. The ambiance and old school charm was delightful.

Now that you've got a place to stay it's time to plan your itinerary. Here are my hits and misses for Nashville:

Hit: Gaylord Opryland Hotel
Located on the north end of Nashville this isn't your typical hotel, and although I don't recommend staying there due to it's location, I feel it's worth a visit just to look around. The behemoth is filled with botanical gardens, cascading waterfalls and even offers a boat ride through the hotel. When's the last time you took a boat ride through your hotel?

I'm not sure that you're technically "allowed" to wander around the hotel without being a guest, but Nick and I parked in a far away lot (don't park in a pay lot) and just happened to wander through a random unlocked door near the convention center section of the property. Whether it's frowned upon or not to take an unescorted tour of the property I'm not sure. I am sure, however, that this hotel is breathtaking and worth a look.

Miss: The Country Music Hall of Fame
I love me some old country music. I'm not the biggest fan of the new stuff, but play me some old Merle Haggard and I'm a happy girl. Needless to say, I was really excited about visiting this museum. My disappointment set in when we realized that the bare bones basic admission was a a whopping $20, and if you wanted to see some of the old studios where folks like Elvis first recorded their music you had to pay upwards of $30.

We decided that we couldn't visit Nashville without going to this museum so we sucked it up and bought tickets around 3:45pm, only to be told that we had better hurry because the place closes at 5pm...on a the tourist section of Nashville. This isn't some government owned Smithsonian. This is a privately owned museum that's charging $30 per person to show you a bunch of gold records glued to the wall. They might want to re-think their hours.

The museum itself was alright I suppose. There was some nice info about the very early history of country music and a few neat bits of memorabilia, but when all was said and done I almost wished I had saved my $20 and used it to tip the hard working musicians at the honky tonks later that evening.

Hit: Any bar on Broadway with live music and no cover charge...and there are a lot of them
All you have to do is google "no cover charge Nashville" and lists of bars with live music and without a cover charge pop up. We spent ALL night bar hopping and I'm still not sure we hit all of them. I suppose it's the competition amongst all the bars on Broadway that breeds good music with cheap booze. Beer was inexpensive. Mixed drinks were affordable. The musicians were amazing (although I could have done with more country music and less Tom Petty...I mean, when in Rome right?). This bar hopping, live music, rowdy all night long atmosphere is the reason we went to Nashville and I loved every minute of it.

Miss: The Parthenon
I don't know who's bright idea it was to recreate the ancient Parthenon in the middle of Nashville, but it seems like a waste of money to me. It's on the list of must-see tourist spots in Nashville, but I'm telling you now, it's alright if you miss it...I promise.

Hit: The Food!

I emailed the bloggers at Nashvillerestaurants.blogspot before we left to get their take on what the Nashville food scene is all about. If you're heading to Nashville I highly recommend perusing their blog first.

I was most intrigued by a type of fried chicken called "hot chicken". Basically it's a spicy fried chicken that's sauced with a blend of spices, heavy on the cayenne. We tried to hit up Prince's, a local favorite, but they were closed(when they were supposed to be open), and so we tried out another shack called Pepperfire. Although the preparation took what seemed like forever, and the seating at Pepperfire was less than comfortable(3 plastic tables next to a very busy road) the end result was pretty amazing. The chicken was moist and delicious. It was spicy...very, very spicy. And the texture of the breading and subsequent saucing was unlike anything I've ever eaten before.

Give it a shot if you're in town. The name certainly doesn't lie.

I searched and searched for an amazing (but not amazingly expensive) restaurant within walking distance of Broadway for a pre-bar hopping meal, but kept finding bad reviews, or worse, tourist trap restaurants. Finally I broke down and we tried this place called Merchants that was given a "pretty good considering it's in tourist central" review. I have to say, regardless of Merchants' address, it was fantastic.

We ate at the bar because the place was packed. We ordered some signature cocktails from a very knowledgeable and pleasant bartender. I told him I liked gin (liked is an understatement), and that Nick liked bourbon (a gross understatement), and he hooked us up with some great drinks. I wrote down the name of both on a napkin but after dinner we went bar hopping so you can imagine that I have no idea where that cocktail napkin is now. I wish I could remember the names because you simply must try my gin cocktail if you go(just ask for the gin cocktail with Chartreuse in it).

We skipped appetizers and went straight for the main course. I ordered a pork pot roast over a sweet potato puree and Nick had braised lamb over a smashed potato. Both seemed somewhat boring on the menu, but hearty enough to keep us going throughout the night. We could not have been more wrong about the boring part. My pork pot roast was sublime. I have no idea what cut they used but it stood up to the braising without falling apart, and it stayed moist at the same time. Pork magic. The sweet potato puree must have had something else in it because it layered with flavor. I licked my bowl clean.

Nick's lamb was no slouch either, and I wish I could have gone around the restaurant telling people to put down their burgers (it seemed like everyone there ordered a burger that night) and try one of these amazing entrees instead. Our meal was inexpensive and delicious. How could anyone not like this place.

The rest........

Nashville locals seem to love their "meat and three" , and although we didn't get a chance to dine ant one, you might give it a shot. They're basically cafeteria type places that serve, you guessed it, a meat and three sides (although I'm sure you can have more or less than three if you desire). Next time we visit we'll be sure to hit one up.

We missed out on touring Yazoo, a local brewery, because I didn't do my homework to see when their tours were offered. But we made sure we didn't miss out on their beer. We grabbed a six pack for some hotel drinking and were very happy with the quality. I highly recommend it.

While we were touring (or trespassing) the Gaylord Opryland, we stopped by Cooter's Place, yes, Cooter's, to get our pictures taken in front of the General Lee. This place was a tourist trap if there ever was one, but it's also a good laugh, so stop in if you're near the Opryland hotel.

The Nashville Farmers Market is one of the best I've seen in recent years and is a must see if you're in town. We picked up some local artisan cheese, a few blueberry bushes, some ham hocks and a boat load of collard greens.

The Grand Ole Opry is one place we didn't check out. My parents caught a show last time they were in Nashville and loved it, but Nick and I were only in town for one night and you can only do so much.

Nick and I don't often visit the same place twice, but of course, there are some exceptions, and Nashville might just be one. Sometimes you just get a hankering for good live music, and lots of it...for cheap booze, and lots of it...and a good 'ol fashioned night of dancing, bar hopping and good times...Nashville certainly has lots of all of it.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Food Truckus Ruckus

An anonymous birdie told me that all of the Louisville food trucks (and boy are there a lot all of the sudden) will be gathering for the first ever Food Truckus Ruckus this Saturday. That means for the first time since this whole Louisville food truck scene has started, you'll be able to find them all together in one place!

It looks like the trucks in attendance will be:

"Lil Cheezers Gourmet Grilled Cheesemobile, Morels Vegan Cuisine, Mozzapi, San Diego Sandwich Works, and more."

They'll be meeting this Saturday, June 18th, from 11am to 3pm at Fresh Start Growers' Supply in the back lot.

There will be plenty of mobile food to choose from (duh) as well as live music and door prizes. I like live music. I like door prizes. And you all know I like or otherwise.

So head on out this Saturday and see what all the fuss is about. And if you go, please shoot me an email with your thoughts on the budding food truck movement here in Louisville. It has a lot of people talking, and I'd love to hear YOUR take on it!

Image courtesy:
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Harvest - Meet your dinner

I recently finished reading a book called In Defense Of Food, by Michael Pollan. Among many other messages in the book the one that stood out in my mind was that of eating "food". I know you're all thinking, "Uhhh, Jessica. We don't eat anything other than food. What kind of epiphany is this?". What Michael was really saying by things like "eat food" or even basing his book on defending food is that we've recently been eating things that may not really qualify as, well, food.

I'm not on a soapbox here. I don't spend boatloads of money on certified organic things. I won't even walk into places like Whole Foods (more like hole in your wallet). I try to buy local if it's affordable, though I admit I typically choose cheap over local. But when all is said and done, I really do like being able to recognize my food.

In Pollan's book he says something like, if your great grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, maybe you shouldn't either (I guess if you're 15 and reading this you should add another "great" to the equation...but you get his drift). I like cooking. I like following food traditions. My grandmom's pierogies are made with potato, egg, sour cream, butter, flour, salt and pepper. I would chose them over a bag of Cheetos any day of the week.

I'm not sure if Ivor Chodkowski and Peter Kuhl, the owners of Harvest, know what their great grandmothers used to cook. I'm not sure if they know Michael Pollan. But I am sure that they know their ingredients, and even know the farmers that grew them. Pictures of those farmers are displayed on Harvest's walls. A map of those farms hangs prominently in the middle of the restaurant. And aside from giving you their cell phone numbers, all the farmers' info is right there for you to see.

Sometimes I'm wary of places that boast "farm to table" eats. Often I find the price tags to be outrageous. I know they're saying, "Shouldn't you pay more to support local farms?". Maybe I should, but sometimes I don't. Harvest didn't make me choose. All of the entrees, with the exception of their steak, were under $20.

We started with some cocktails. I had the Kentucky Champagne ($7). Nick had a glass of Pappy Van Winkle 15 year ($12). My Kentucky Champagne was, and I don't use this word often, whimsical. It was Old Forrester, Tuaca, Ale 8 and lemon peel, mixed together and served in a champagne glass...but of course. I thought it was delicious. Nick thought it was, and I quote, "dreadful". I would, and will, try and make it for my next party. Nick can drink the Old Forrester on the he often does anyway.

We shared the daily bread board to start($6). Five hog jowl scones shared the bread board with some sorghum butter. The scones were amazing. The hog jowl added some texture and just enough meaty flavor. The scone batter itself was near perfection. The scones melted in your mouth like a true southern biscuit should. The butter was good enough. Slightly sweet and creamy. I thought it should have been served a bit cooler (it was a little oozy) but all in all a good accompaniment.

For our mains the hubby ordered the fried chicken ($19) and I ordered the pulled pork ($17). Nick's fried chicken was delicious. It was served atop a hoecake with a mound of greens. The chicken was smothered in a white gravy. His only complaint was that $19 seemed a bit steep for fried chicken. "The seasoning is wonderful. I still can't put my finger on that one spice that makes it different. The chicken is moist. The dish is a success, but they aren't exactly reinventing the wheel." said Nick.

My pulled pork was to die for. It was served with a side of savory bread pudding (forgive me for this but OMG was that bread pudding good) and topped with strands of dark greens in a slaw of sorts. The dish was also drizzled with a very yummy and light herb oil. The pork wasn't doused in sauce as too often is the case and the smokey, sweet flavor that pork naturally has shone through. The slaw added a crisp respite from the rich pork and pudding. I was a happy girl.

We almost caved in and ordered dessert. There were 3 or 4 options along with some desert cocktails that all looked delicious, but our full bellies got the best of us and we called it a night.

The wait staff and service in general was top notch. Everyone was attentive and extremely nice. It was very full at 7pm on a Saturday so I recommend reservations.

The decor was a bit sparse. I liked the portraits of the local farmers. I like the idea of the map but honestly it was a bit of an eyesore. The rustic wooden tables were nice and the layout was fine. I never really give much thought to decor but even I noticed the place could use a splash of color.

I think that Harvest will enjoy many years of success. In my opinion the cuisine was honest, delicious, fresh, and best of all, it was, as Michael Pollan might put it, real food.

I have to add one more thing before I go. The cuisine at Harvest seemed VERY reminiscent of the cuisine at Hillbilly Tea. If you're reading this post because you're thinking of going to Harvest but still haven't tried Hillbilly Tea I highly recommend it as well. Their service isn't as fantastic as Harvest's, but the cuisine is amazing and the prices are almost ridiculously low for the high quality.

Harvest on Urbanspoon
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Swiss Chard & White Beans

It's been one heck of a wet spring here in Louisville. I'm not a big fan. Nick's not a big fan. And even the dog looks outside on the 5th rainy day in a row and seems to be thinking, "really?". Our garden, however, seems to be shouting, "Thank you!".

I have to rephrase that. It's not really "our" garden. Nick has done the majority of work in it this spring and we're already reaping the benefits of his backbreaking labor.

So far we've dined on things like sweet, sweet spring peas, delicious broccoli, crisp boston lettuce and just about the most beautiful vegetable I've ever seen...rainbow swiss chard.

Look at this vegetable! Just look at it! It's beautiful isn't it? Some people take pictures of their rose bushes. Some folks snap photos of their tulips. I, personally, can't stop photographing this damn chard.

I haven't posted a recipe in a while but I couldn't resist sharing this with you. It's not even a recipe. It's 4 ingredients, a little salt, a little pepper, a whole lot of flavor, and a great way to cook any leafy green you've got.

Swiss Chard & White Beans

-1/2 cup dried white beans
-1 bunch fresh swiss chard
-2 cups stock(chicken, pork, veg., whatever)
-2 or 3 strips bacon

You have to start this recipe the night before, unless you want to use canned beans(which I do often as well). I, however, prefer dried beans if possible.

The night before, soak a handful or two of beans in water. The beans will soak up a lot of water during the night so be sure you cover them with plenty of it. Just stick the soaking beans in the fridge and forget about them until the next day.

About an hour before dinner drain the beans and throw them in a pot of simmering stock. Simmer slowly for about 45 mins. If the stock level gets low just add some water. Meanwhile, render a few strips of bacon, low and slow in a pan. When the bacon is done remove from the pan but don't drain the fat from the pan. When the beans are tender throw them in the bacon fat along with some roughly chopped swiss chard. Toss quickly, add a smidge of the stock into the pan to loosen the pieces of bacon stuck to the bottom of the pan, salt and pepper to taste, and you're done!

You can crumble the bacon on top at the end or save it for breakfast the next morning. You can wilt the chard slightly or completely. You can use a ratio of more beans to chard or more chard to beans. You can tweak it to your liking. It's good in the summer, winter, spring and fall. It's my go-to dish when I need to use up any greens. It's delicious.

My vegan brother can even omit the bacon and boil the beans in vegetable stock. It won't have that smokey finish but it will still be yummy.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bourbon Guilt - The new Bulleit Rye is delicious

My husband often experiences what I call "bourbon guilt". He'll see a bottle of, let's say, Dickel in the liquor store, begin to reach for it and inevitably stop short. Since moving to Kentucky he finds it hard to buy brown liquor that isn't bourbon. This is a bitter sweet dilemma. Bourbon IS good, bourbon IS great, but there are still a heck of a lot of yummy non-bourbon spirits out there.

Recently, Nick worked through his bourbon guilt and purchased a bottle of the new Bulleit Rye.

Nick is a loyal Bulleit bourbon drinker and he wasn't disappointed in their new rye. It's made with a 95% rye mash, aged between 4 and 7 years and weighs in at 90 proof.

I find it to be sweet and smooth. A nice departure from some of the more woody bourbons.

Nick says, " A tasty and worthwhile departure from even the most fine bourbons made. Bulliet uses its proven ability to make spirits to craft a one off that is very enjoyable."

I think I need to quote him more often, because honestly, I couldn't have said it better myself.

In true Bulleit form it's a reasonably priced, middle of the road spirit. A 750ml bottle
is going for a little over $20.
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