New Northern Kentucky Distillery In the Works

August 12, 2012

(photo of Nth Degree Distilling CEO Mollie Lewis from the Courier-Journal.)

The Courier-Journal is reporting that a new distillery based in Newport, Kentucky will be added to the Bourbon Trail next year when construction is complete:

A bourbon micro-distillery in the works in Newport will become the seventh stop along the state’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail — and the only one in Northern Kentucky.

CEO Mollie Lewis says she hopes that The Nth Degree Distilling attracts about 700 visitors a week for tours when it opens next year. A groundbreaking was held last month.

Lewis told The Kentucky Enquirer that the “N” has more than one meaning — it stands for Northern Kentucky, Newport and “the Nth degree, which means all-out.”

She said the craft distillery will be different from most other bourbon makers in Kentucky in that it will reflect a forward-looking enterprise in an urban market.

Larry Ebersold, a former distiller at Pernod Ricard USA in Lawrenceburg, will be the master distiller.

Nth Degree Distilling CEO Mollie Lewis is an old friend, so it’s exciting to hear about her new endeavor. You can read more about her in this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer.


Some Summer Brews for Before Summer Ends

July 31, 2012

Since it’s summer time, I’ve been drinking quite a lot of beer — mainly crisp, clean and lighter styles, though not exclusively. So I thought I’d just document a few beers I’ve been enjoying, from the obviously-summery to the not-so, some from larger craft producers to more obscure imports.

    • Des Rocs Blanche Double (Brasserie des Rocs, BELGIUM), 750ml, 6% ABV — The first beer on the summer list is the Blanche Double from Brasserie des Rocs. which is a lovely wheat ale with lots of character, even a little bit of malt. Unlike a number of American wheat beers, however, it’s fairly dry and crisp, not as “wet,” if you will, on the tongue. Old Town had 750s for the low, low price of $4.99, but they may be all gone. Also, just so ya know, Brasserie des Rocs brews in a turn-of-the-century style known as “Methode Traditionelle des Annes 1900,” so there’s a lot of completely harmless sediment in the bottle.
    • Ovila Abbey Golden (Sierra Nevada Ovila, UNITED STATES) 750ml, N/A ABV — Sierra Nevada’s Ovila project makes a number of Belgian-inspired beers, and one of the best I’ve had is their new Golden, just released this July. Complex, with hints of pepper and apple, though definitely refreshing. Be careful opening this bad boy, though — it’s under major pressure, and I almost took a digit off while opening.
    • West Sixth IPA (West Sixth, UNITED STATES) 12oz CANS, — I’m not a huge fan of hoppy beers in the summertime, but I’ve found the IPA from Lexington, Kentucky’s West Sixth to be seriously good drinking fun. Hoppy and bright, but not punchy or obnoxious, this is a good summer beer for hopheads who won’t touch anything lighter.
    • Estrella Damm Inedit (Estrella, SPAIN) 750ml, N/A ABV — It’s pretentiously described as “the first beer specifically created to pair with food,” and it’s got some serious foodie (I hate that word) credentials since it was created with the help of Ferran Adrià, but skeptics shouldn’t hold that against Inedit, which is a decent lager-style beer. Certainly not as complex as its specs would have you believe, but still very tasty, though perhaps a little too light. Still, paired with more acidic Mediterranean flavors, this is a delicious beer.

  • India-style Saison (Nogne O, NORWAY) 1 pt .9oz, 7.5 ABV — This IPA-style Saison had me completely bewildered, as at first that seemed like a strange, unpleasant combination. However, my taste buds were persuaded, and I think this would be perfect for drinking when grilling brats with caramelized onions and a good spicy mustard — don’t forget the cole slaw!
  • Jaar & Dag Amber Saison (Brouwerij de Molen, NETHERLANDS ) Draft, 7.5% ABV — I tried this rather unusual Dutch “amber saison” at the Holy Grale last week, and was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it. Maltier and hoppier than regular saisons, but intriguingly sweet and tasty.
  • Summer Ale (Brooklyn, UNITED STATES) 12oz CANS (also available in bottles), 5% ABV — Probably predictably, my go-to beer this summer has been Brooklyn’s Summer Ale, though I prefer it in CANS rather than bottles. A version of an English “light supper ale” (a style which, admittedly, I have next-to-no experience with), the Summer Ale is crisp and clean, but not cloying. There’s a fair amount of citrus here, but it’s not fruity enough to pass for something obnoxious (sorry, I but I dislike most fruity beers).

What are some of your favorite beers to drink during the summer? Let us know in the comments below.

I’ll have some new saisons within the next week, so when I taste them, I’ll do another update of this post.

At Least They Didn’t Call Them “Mixologists:” The C-J on Craft Cocktails

July 30, 2012

I’ve always been pretty skeptical of the Courier-Journal‘s cultural reportage. It’s easy to joke that once some cool new trend is covered in the C-J, it’s already over. However, today’s paper has a well-reported article about the craft cocktail movement here:|newswell|text|Home|p.

Local bars and restaurants The Silver Dollar, Meat, Proof on Main, St. Charles Exchange, Doc Crow’s*, La Coop, Rye, and Decca are profiled, along with a few of their bartenders and bar managers. If I have one complaint, and it’s a pretty minor one, it’s that a few other innovative bar programs in Louisville aren’t mentioned — I’m specifically thinking of the Blind Pig, though I’m sure there are others. But that’s really just a minor quibble. It’s a generally gracious article without the kind of pretentiousness usually on display when craft cocktails are discussed — and thankfully no one refers to themselves as a “mixologist.”

I still haven’t been to St. Charles Exchange, Doc Crow’s, La Coop, or Decca, but clearly they’re interesting spots worth checking out.

*FYI — apparently Doc Crow’s web site domain has expired. Get it together, people!

It Wasn’t a Ruckus, But We Tried Some Food Truck…Lucky Us!

November 16, 2011

Over the weekend, I finally got to try some food truck action here in Louisville.  Thanks to the CROPPED OUT Festival this past weekend, which you can read about here, I got to sample some delicacies from both the Holy Mole Taco Truck (on Friday) and the El Rumbon trailer (on Saturday). You can read a really cool profile of Holy Mole over at the Courier-Journals web site here:

On Friday, the Holy Mole Taco Truck headed over to CROPPED OUT after the Veteran’s Day Parade (picture from the parade above is swiped from Holy Mole’s blog). The truck’s offerings included chorizo, fried fish, and chicken mole tacos, and we opted for the chorizo, which Chef Max Balliet told me comes from Stone Cross Farms. The taco was sweet and a little smoky, not too spicy, and a really great bargain at $4. The avocado salsa that topped the taco would give La Rosita‘s a run for its money. Speaking with Austin, Texas resident and musician King Coffey (whom you may know from such cultural jammers as SHIT & SHINE and, uh, the BUTTHOLE SURFERS), we remarked that Holy Mole may not compete with Austin’s taco trucks. However, King was psyched on trying the chicken mole taco, and reported back that it was “excellent.” Yay, Holy Mole!

I ran into Holy Mole again on Saturday afternoon outside the Flea Off Market, a brand-new indoor/outdoor flea market taking place in Louisville’s Market Street district (editor’s note: we will never refer to this part of town as NuLu, sorry!). Other food trucks and eateries taking part in the market were (favorites) Busta Grill, Please & Thank You, Louisville Dessert Truck, Wiltshire Pantry, Rye, and perhaps a few more I might have missed. Unfortunately for the food trucks, though fortunately for me, I already had a lunch date to meet up at the Blind Pig in nearby Butchertown, where I had the Italian sausage sandwich (sweet, very tasty) with fries, and a Brooklyn Companion wheat wine (more on that below).

The El Rumbon cuban food trailer showed up Saturday night at CROPPED OUT, and what a revelation it was. I had their basic cubano, which was GIGANTIC! Stuffed with just about everything, it also came with a side of chorizo-laden “latin” rice that was incredible. At $7, this was clearly the best food bargain to be found in town!

Now on to the drinks imbibed this weekend:

  • Dark Star Porter (Bluegrass Brewing Company, Louisville), 5.6% ABV — BBC, the New Albanian, and Cumberland Brews were all represented at CROPPED OUT, but for some reason I stuck with the BBC’s Dark Star Porter, an old favorite, for most of the weekend.
  • The Companion (Brooklyn Brewery, New York) Specs not available — The Companion is Garrett Oliver’s wheat wine equivalent to a barleywine, and boy is it tasty. Nice maltiness, with a fairly high ABV (though we’re not sure the exact number), it was a perfect, ahem, companion to our meal at the Blind Pig. It’s also available on tap for a limited time at the NachBar.
  • Des Rocs Brune (Brasserie des Rocs, BELGIUM), 9% ABV — (from last week’s entry: probably the maltiest beer I tasted over the weekend, according to its specs it has 7 different kinds of malt, and 3 different hops. So tasty I bought a 750ml bottle at the Louisville Beer Store to drink at home.) So I opened that 750 bottle and loved it, but followed it with…
  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve, 15 years old (Old Rip Van Winkle, Frankfort), 107 proof — Probably my favorite of the Family Reserves, because its smokiness is bold without being overpowering, I decided to open a bottle bought last year in celebration of the good weekend. Now I’ve got to go find a replacement from this year’s release to buy!

In the next entry, birthday dinners at Hammerheads and Harvest will be discussed, along with, finally, some more wine!

UPDATE: Apparently The Companion is no longer available at NachBar, so the Blind Pig might be the only place left in town to try it!

You Know It’s Almost Winter When…

November 9, 2011

Dairy Del Closed for Winter

The Dairy Del on Shelby Street is closed for the season!

That doesn’t mean there aren’t new places to check out, though. I know of two intriguing new places to imbibe drinks at during this upcoming winter season, both of which I’m looking forward to trying. First, the long-anticipated opening of MEAT, above the Blind Pig in Butchertown, happens this upcoming Tuesday, November 15th. Blind Pig GM/Sommelier Jeremy Johnson will be running the cocktail program, so undoubtedly there will be excellent drinks available (disclosure: I used to work at the Blind Pig, and Jeremy was my boss). They’ll be open 6 PM to 4 AM six days a week, and once I get the chance to stop by, I’ll report back. So far, we’ve heard the design is amazing!

Second, the Four Pegs Beer Lounge just had their grand opening last Friday. Located at 1053 Goss Avenue in Germantown (in the old Germantown Cafe), they look like a decent neighborhood option. They’re only open from 6 to 11 PM during the week, but they’re also open for lunch on Sunday after 1 PM. Just from passing by the place, it looks like they’ve done a nice job with the decor. And their beer list, while controversially bypassing any local breweries, still looks pretty solid.

Speaking of beer, we’ve had the opportunity to sample quite a few lately, mostly thanks to a stressful Breeders Cup weekend. So here’s the rundown of everything we’ve tried, and where you can get it, in the past week:

  • Guineu Riner (Ca L’Arenys, SPAIN), 2.5% ABV — really light, almost citrus-y session beer, that although described as “sour” seemed really quite refreshing. Currently on tap at the Louisville Beer Store.
  • Dieu du Ciel! Derniere Volonte Blonde (CANADA), 7% ABV — also relatively light tasting, almost a saison, yet with a nice maltiness towards the finish. Currently on tap at the Louisville Beer Store.
  • Three Floyds Broo Doo (Indiana, USA), 7% ABV — certainly the hoppiest beer I tried this weekend, yet with subtle citrus and toffee flavors, not really overwhelming with hops. Currently on tap at the Louisville Beer Store.
  • St. Bernardus ABT 12, 10.5% ABV and St. Bernardus Prior 8, 8% ABV (BELGIUM) — I don’t have a lot to say about Sint Bernardus, other than I’ve tried all of their beers (except the Grottenbier) and enjoyed them. The Sint Bernardus beers epitomize quality trappist beer. Available at Nachbar and the Louisville Beer Store, and elsewhere.
  • Rochefort 10 (Rochefort, BELGIUM), 11.3% ABV — another fine example of trappist beer, the Trappistes des Rochefort have never let me down with flavor. The Rochefort 10 has plenty of flavor — mainly of honey, fig and caramel — and at 11.3% ABV, packs plenty of punch, too. Available at Nachbar and the Louisville Beer Store, and elsewhere.
  • Des Rocs Brune (Brasserie des Rocs, BELGIUM), 9% ABV — probably the maltiest beer I tasted over the weekend, according to its specs it has 7 different kinds of malt, and 3 different hops. So tasty I bought a 750ml bottle at the Louisville Beer Store to drink at home.

Watch and Read: Lee on Top Chef, Brock in The New Yorker, Oliver’s Oxford Companion to Beer, Solzhenitsyn’s Apricot Jam and Other Stories

October 31, 2011

Probably the most anticipated food-related news around Louisville for the next week — aside from the millions of dollars expected to be made at local restaurants during the Breeders’ Cup — is the debut of the latest season of “Top Chef.” As you may already know, 610 Magnolia Executive Chef and Owner Edward Lee was picked to compete on “Top Chef: Texas,” filmed in the Lone Star State over the summer. If you haven’t seen his really rather goofy audition video, you can watch it here: Needless to say, we’ll be watching every night it’s on from the season opener, which of course is Wednesday, November 2nd at 10 PM.

(Photo of Sean Brock by Gabriele Stabile, from The New Yorker.)

Though it happens to be the annual cartoon issue, last week’s New Yorker has an excellent profile by Burkhard Bilger on Charleston, South Carolina Chef Sean Brock, known for his restaurants McCrady’s and Husk. Entitled “True Grits,” the piece goes into some detail not only about Chef Brock’s efforts to re-invent Southern cooking while staying true to heirloom ingredients, but also provides a lot of information I didn’t previously know about how Southern foodstuffs have changed over the centuries. For instance:

“You know how many strains of rice they tried to grow in this area?” Brock asked me, when we visited the farm northeast of Charleston where two-thirds of his produce is grown. “One hundred. One hundred different strains of rice. That’s crazy. So what happened? Why did that change? If they could pull it off in the nineteenth century, why can’t we do it today? Because we’re lazy, that’s why.”

…If the South was a [food] laboratory [in the nineteenth century], Charleston was its test kitchen. The city sat at a cultural and agricultural crossroads. It was home to Europeans, Africans, Native Americans, and Asians. It had ocean and farm, pasture and rice paddy, tropical fruit and temperate grain. A housewife wandering through its market stalls could find Italian olives, Seville oranges, Jamaican sugarcane, and Mexican chayote, all from local orchards and farms. Along the docks, she could choose from oysters, terrapins, sheepshead, and bastard snappers, among more than fifty kinds of fish.

Makes you wish someone would invent a time machine, no? The article definitely draws the reader into Brock’s world quite well, as well as the world of Southern food before World War II. Which is not to say that Chef Brock seems like a throwback, at all. Indeed, like Chef Lee, and, well, most chefs, Brock’s a-ha moment was inspired by elBulli’s Ferran Adria. And much like Lee, Bilger writes:

Brock’s genius is to have it both ways. His restaurants are like cleverly argued revisionist histories: they appeal to your nostalgia while reversing your expectations. McCrady’s, housed in an eighteenth-century brick tavern, is devoted to the arcane craft of molecular gastronomy. The dishes are laced with local oddities like cattails and pokeweed but inspired by the high-tech wizardry of chefs like [MOTO’s] Grant Achatz. Husk, which occupies a matronly Victorian four blocks away, is a more rustic affair. When Brock opened it, last year, he vowed to use no ingredient from north of the Mason-Dixon Line… At Husk, Brock is re-creating what Southern food once was. At McCrady’s, he’s showing what it could be.

Another fascinating read I bought this week, though by far less ephemeral than a magazine article, is the new Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver. At 868 pages, it’s a monster of a read, and I expect it to be something I can return to over and over again, much like Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson’s The World Atlas of Wine or Dave Broom’s The World Atlas of Whisky. Though I admit that I still haven’t read Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table, he seems like an inspired choice for editor of the OCB. If I have any small quibbles so far, it’s that it seems like Midwestern craft breweries are underrepresented: of course Goose Island‘s in there, as they should be, but what about Bell’s? Founders? 3 Floyds? Though GI is sort of the granddaddy of the modern Midwestern craft movement (which ultimately was recognized by their purchase by AB-InBev), I do think those three I mentioned are important (not to mention much smaller local brews, like the New Albanian or the BBC here in the Louisville area). Nonetheless, I’m excited to dive in.

Last but not least, you may not think of Soviet-era Russian literature when you think of food. Or at least you probably don’t think of anything positive regarding food. The Soviet prison system of GULAG — so aptly illustrated by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s work, including The Gulag Archipelago and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich — wasn’t a place where I’d expect to find a decent food writer, since most prisoners were limited to barely enough bread and soup to survive (neither of which tasted at all well, according to Solzhenitsyn). Understandably, you may be a bit puzzled why the last food-related read I’m mentioning is the new posthumous collection of short stories by Solzhenitsyn, Apricot Jam and Other Stories, even despite the title. Well, as I’ve learned from being on a major Soviet history and literature kick this year, the absence of good food does actually lead some writers to be wonderfully descriptive concerning food. For instance, in the title story, apricots become the prime ironic device linking the two main characters — a GULAG prisoner and an unnamed writer — in Solzhenitsyn’s “binary” storytelling method:

As long as anyone can remember, our family lived in the village of Lebyazhy Usad in Kursk Province…. The first thing in the orchard was a spreading apricot tree, and there would be heaps of apricots on it every year. My younger brothers and I would climb all over that tree. Apricots were our most favorite fruit, and I never tasted any as good as ours. In the summer kitchen in the yard my mother would make us apricot jam, and my brothers and I just couldn’t get enough of that sweet foam.

In “Ego,” the climax of the story takes place at a feast for partisans fighting the Bolsheviks after the Russian Civil War:

They met in a large house of a prosperous family that stood in the middle of the village, near the church and where the lines of houses met. The imposing woman of the house, not yet old, and her daughters and daughters-in-law had set up a row of tables to seat twenty. There was mutton, roast chickens, new cucumbers, and potatoes. Bottles of home-brewed vodka were set along the tables, together with some cut-glass tumblers….Glasses of vodka were poured, raising the mood and the fellowship of the meeting. Mutton and ham were sliced with long knives; smoke from the bracing homegrown tobacco rose here and there and spread across the ceiling. The hostess floated about the room while the younger women fussed, served, and cleared away the dishes.

I don’t know about you, but that reads like good food writing to me! I suppose that sometimes deprivation really leads to new descriptive heights. I’m only a few stories into Apricot Jam so far, but I highly recommend it.

Hello and Welcome!

October 28, 2011

Hi there, welcome to the inaugural post of Tasting Notes and Thoughts, my personal journal (and journey) through the culinary arts. In this blog, I will document what I eat and drink, and where, along with restaurant news from Louisville, Kentucky (often with a somewhat inside-baseball perspective, as I work in a fine dining restaurant here). I’ll try to be fair, descriptive, and honest, but I also expect that my writing will be polite, yet political. I’m not interested in pulling punches towards things I don’t like, though I don’t expect to throw any. Louisville is unique in that, for a city our size, we have a number of fantastic eateries of all stripes, and since I’m more inclined to be positive and optimistic, I don’t expect to be overly negative towards anything, unless being so is appropriate.

So a little bit about me: my name is Joel, I’m 36 years old, and I grew up in Louisville. I work in fine dining as a server and bartender, and have previously worked in everything from gastropubs to dive bars (albeit the latter was one frequented by fancy Manhattan chefs). I’m an avid enthusiast of wines, beers, and spirits, but I also like, say, orange soda. I love fine dining, but I’m also apt to pig out on chips and salsa when at home. My girlfriend has a fantastic garden, and is an amazing cook (not professionally, just yet), so we eat quite well. One of Louisville’s other culinary advantages is its low cost of living relative to other American cities, so it’s definitely possible to eat well on a budget.

So anyway, I envision most of my posts will be something like actual documentation of what interesting things I ate and drank in the recent past, with some smattering of news, opinion, and what-have-you. So here goes…

Well, nothing! I’m a little under-the-weather today, and I had a fair amount of Unibroue at the Nachbar last night, so my palette’s a little bit wrecked. In fact, I can’t quite remember which specialty brew it was, I’m embarassed to say. However, it was great, and a fun time was had by all (except for those friends of mine whose ears I talked off — sorry about that).

For lunch today, I joined my mother and girlfriend at Mojito Tapas, in Holiday Manor. Mojito is one of the most consistent, and consistently good, lunch spots that my mom and I frequent. Today we started with our usual appetizer: their fresh guacamole, served with fried plaintain chips. For my entree, I swerved from my typical choice of a cubano sandwich, and ordered the Masas de Puerco, which turned out to be excellent. Masas de Puerco is a dish consisting of fried pork, tender on the inside, topped with pickled onions and accompanied by rice and beans as well as fried plaintains. Though the pork skin wasn’t quite as crunchy as I anticipated, the dish was tasty and well executed. Oh and I drank a Coke. And needless to say, our service was excellent — attentive yet unobtrusive, friendly yet not sycophantic.

I worked tonight at the restaurant (I won’t say which, though it will probably be obvious at some point), and due to a disco nap earlier in the afternoon, felt pretty groggy. So I stuck with liquids: two double espressos, some Schweppe’s ginger ale (for my ailing throat), some Coca-Cola (caffeine is a restaurant worker’s best friend), and just a tiny nip of a quite delicious Mencia. Unfortunately, I’ve already forgotten the name of the Mencia (damn faulty Unibroue-soaked memory!), but I will update the post when I have it. Mencia is of course a wine native to the Northwest of Spain, in four particular Denominaciones: Bierzo, Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Liébana (this particular Mencia is from Bierzo). The nose was quite friendly, and the taste was smooth, silky, but with a flavorful hint of moss. It seemed perfect to drink right away, and I expect I’ll pick up a few bottles when I have some extra cash.

Following work, I went to Zanzabar, one of the best places in town to see live music (and what I saw is described at my sister blog The Other Side of Life here: There I had one Old Forester bourbon on the rocks, served by one of my favorite bartenders in town, Mr. Marc Demichele (who recently married! Congrats!). Despite my occasional reticence towards Brown-Forman products (which is to say that I have nothing against the company by any means, just that I do like variety for variety’s sake, and B-F is obviously one of the most positive, and positively large, spirit purveyors around), I think Old Forester is a generally underrated bourbon. It’s smooth without being cloying, and it’s not too smoky or harsh. And at most bars and restaurants in town, it’s a steal! (Zanzabar sells it for $4.50!) It reminds me of its big brother brand Woodford Reserve, though with a decent quality while obviously not being a small batch. I followed the bourbon with another Coca-Cola to stay awake, which is kicking in now as I write. Hopefully I’ll get to sleep soon!

So anyway, that’s the first post. I hope you liked reading it, and I plan to keep up at least a weekly pace. Thanks for your time, and, as I say to many of my patrons, I hope to see you again here soon.

UPDATE: The Mencia in question is La Muria, by Pago de Valdetruchas.

%d bloggers like this: