I’ve been to Louisville before and have even been to the Kentucky Derby. But on this last trip, I tried a bunch of new food, some at old-but-new-to-me places and some at places that have opened since my last trip nearly eight years ago.
First off, I was told that I needed to go to Graeter’s, which specializes in French pot ice cream (dense, custard style). I had both the Bourbon Ball and Black Raspberry Chip flavors, and surprisingly, I liked the Black Raspberry Chip better. Perhaps the best part of this ice cream is the chocolate chips, which are created by pouring melted chocolate into the pot and letting the paddle break up the then-hardened candy into various sizes. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a big piece of chocolate in one of your bites. Since visiting this store, I’ve found Graeter’s ice cream at my local Ralphs, though not all flavors are carried there. They do carry Chocolate Coconut Almond Chip, my new favorite flavor. How can you go wrong with chocolate ice cream dotted with coconut and almond pieces surrounded by those special chocolate chips?
When it comes to barbecue in Louisville, Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot and Smokehouse is a good option. With two huge meat smokers out front, you know you’re in for some good food. I got the half rack of ribs plate, which came with two 8 oz. sides and Texas toast — a lot of food. The ribs were super tender, but my favorite part of this meal was the broccoli and cheese side dish, a gratin-like casserole that I could eat all day long. In fact, I want some right now…
One of the things that I was hell-bent on doing while in Kentucky was to visit the Maker’s Mark distillery, so we drove to Loretto, which is a good hour and a half from Louisville, in the rain. And then we took the tour in the rain. But no matter; I was in bourbon heaven. Just look at my face:
The smell of bourbon immediately wafts over you when you enter this room. My heart skipped a beat! Unfortunately I visited at the one time of year when the distillery stops production to clean everything, so I didn’t get to see the whole process in all its glory. But the best part of the tour may just be the end, when you are treated to a free tasting complete with bourbon-infused chocolate. What?! Yes.
Kentucky is home to numerous bourbon distilleries, and you can tour most of them via the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Bourbon was born in this state, and 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is produced there. The spirit is the only one native to the United States, so if you’re ever in Kentucky, you should do your patriotic duty and visit a distillery (and imbibe, of course).
Speaking of bourbon, I was also fortunate enough to have lunch at the Pendennis Club, an old-school members-only club that dates back to 1881. This is where the Old Fashioned is said to have been invented, so of course I ordered one. Made with bourbon, Angostura bitters, water, sugar, and muddled maraschino cherry and orange, the Pendennis Old Fashioned was strong but wasn’t the best cocktail I’ve ever had. C’est la vie.
The last stop of my eating and drinking tour of Louisville was Proof on Main, a restaurant and bar inside the 21C Museum Hotel. The idea behind the 21C, which is also in Cincinnati, is to combine a boutique hotel with a contemporary art museum. The artwork here may even be a bit too much even for this Angeleno, but I’m not a big art person in general.
At Proof, I started off with a Woman & Work cocktail made with mezcal, simple syrup, peach bitters and jalapeno. With that description, I thought for sure the drink would be packed with flavor, but I found it somewhat disappointing. It wasn’t smokey or spicy enough for me. My dinner of pasta with clams was good, but I’m not sure I would order it again. Apparently the bison burger is the thing to get, and my husband liked his, so I guess I missed out.
I was in Louisville this time only for a couple of days, so I’m looking forward to returning for some more eats!