Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

Food

On Mint Juleps and Margaritas

A true Kentucky Mint Julep, from The Bluegrass Tavern in Lexington, KY

In social settings, regardless of what city I’m in, one question comes up repeatedly as soon as I reveal that I hail from the Bluegrass State.

“Do you drink mint juleps?”

It could be the third Thursday in November, and for some reason all anyone wants to talk about from that moment forward is the Kentucky Derby and its ubiquitous cocktail.  Inevitably someone in the crowd either makes “the best mint julep” or knows someone else that does.  Sidebar conversations tend to break out at that point over whether the julep should be “strong” or “sweet”, whether the mint is incorperated as an essential element or used more as garnish.  It’s no wonder there is confusion among outsiders over how to make a proper mint julep.  Kentuckians can’t agree on the correct preparation either.  Books have been written on the subject.  It would not surprise me to discover a thesis at the University of Kentucky has been written on “The Psychological and Social Aspects of the Proper Preparation of the Mint Julep Cocktail”, such is the level of diverse opinion on the subject.

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Fall in the Pumpkin Patch

Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but for me Halloween really marks the end of Fall.  The pumpkin patch has been picked cleaned, the apples have all been harvested, and the bright colors of autumn have mostly faded away.  However, like every year there are plenty of harvest memories to be cherished.  The slideshow below helps us remember just a few of those moments (it advances automatically but may take a few seconds to load).

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Leaving Your Culinary Heart in San Francisco

The view from the bar at 54 Mint

Some places you just never plan to see. No matter how much you’ve heard about them, they just never seem to make it onto you “must go there someday” list. Too many other destinations beckon more loudly, more forcibly, for your attention. For me San Francisco was one of those places, and it was definitely somewhere that I would have never made a conscious effort to see. So it was only by chance and through a business trip that I ever made it to the city at all. Now, the problem with business trips is you never have enough time to do and see everything you want to. Your schedule is rarely your own, so the best you can hope to do is cram in as much as possible before, after or in the free moments between your “official” reasons for being there. That was how I came to San Francisco and those were the circumstances under which I would have to operate. I was determined to make the best of it I could.

Truthfully, I had mixed feelings going in.  If ever a city invoked strong emotions among warring factions, it was San Francisco.  Whether my biases came from the East Coast or the right-wing, I came to town – fully prepared by my own prejudices – to hate the place.  Despite that, everyone I talked to was confident my experience would be the opposite of what I expected.  So it was with some guilty sense of prejudging a destination that I set about making the best of what I was sure would be a mediocre trip.

With limited time to do and see an entire city, I had to make some decisions on what I would intentionally leave off my “to-do” list. First thing to go: The Golden Gate Bridge.  My focus was, not surprisingly, going to be on San Francisco’s culinary and whiskey scene (the latter warrants its own treatment in a separate blog post).  The downside, I had a very busy schedule while in town and thus would be held – somewhat hostage – to the area immediately around the Moscone Center.   In short, if I couldnt’ walk to it during my breaks and brief free time in the evening, I wasn’t going to see it.

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Cheers from San Francisco


I can’t say that visiting San Francisco next week is one of those “bucket list” items for me that everyone seems to talk about so much these days.  However, the chance to enjoy some of the best the city has to offer is hardly an opportunity one passes on.  What I now about San Fran could easily be summarized on the back of one those vintage postcards. (more…)


Channeling Mexico

I’m lucky in that I don’t have to encourage my son to take an active role in food choices around the house.  His favorite past-time (next to playing with Lego’s) is hanging out in the kitchen.  He’s happy to do the most menial chores provided it somehow pertains to preparing a meal.  Grocery shopping, such a labor when he was younger, has become an almost hilarious experience as the now eight year old browses the produce and meat selections, asking questions and combining flavors in his head prompting regular outbursts like “Oh Daddy, I bet these would taste great together!”. Coupled with the fact that he’s met few foods he doesn’t like or won’t try at least once, it’s a pretty simple exercise to turn him in an active participant in cooking.  My challenge to him lately has been to pick at least one recipe from our cookbook library each weekend.  He takes his job to heart, and will if allowed come up with a whole menu instead.

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A Mid Winter Repast

In the end, I think it came down to the simple fact that we were all just so damn tired of the cold.  And the snow.  And the ice.  We needed a night of good company somewhere warm.  So it was inevitable I suppose that we ended up spending most it in the kitchen.  While we have a deserved reputation for the improvised “shop in the morning, cook in the evening” dinners, this time the conversation started several days in advance.

“Fish sounds good”, was Charlotte’s reply on the phone Thursday night when I asked if we were going to cook this weekend.  Without little instruction or opinion besides that, we each set about determining what our contribution to the meal would be.  The division of labor for dinner is less about who prepares what dish than about utilizing the combined resources of our kitchens, along with the requisite dividing and conquering of a shopping list.  Sometime after our initial conversation, dinner for 2 plus 2 (2 adults and 2 kids) on Friday became dinner for 4 adults and 3 kids on Saturday and the whole affair was relocated to Carlie’s farm.  “I have plenty of wine” Carlie volunteered, having just celebrated her birthday the week before and receiving from her friends a more than adequate restock of her wine cellar.  So it was on Saturday afternoon with the wine shop crossed off the “to-do” list that we made final preparations for dinner on the farm.

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Fall Farmer’s Market

The chefs from Saul Good Restaurant take on the team from St. Joseph Hospital in an Iron Chef competition inside the 5/3 Bank Farmer's Market Pavilion in Lexington, KY.

With all the food blogs, internet sites and television shows it is almost forgivable for thinking that words are what food is all about. During the run of the World Equestrian Games those words might come in any one of dozens of different languages. Maybe that’s why the Farmer’s Market this past Saturday seemed a little more vibrant, a little more international. The background chatter one hears and usually tunes out was instead focused as strange sounds and intonations reached my ears. So perhaps it’s fitting that this blog post shows, more than tells, what the market looked like.

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