Exploring Louisville, Kentucky: Part I

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I just got back from a conference in Louisville, Kentucky. (Pronounced Lou-uh-vul). I admit I wasn’t really looking forward to the location, but at the same time I do like exploring new territory.

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With some free time, a few colleagues and I headed a short distance outside Downtown to the Butchertown Market. The historical brick building was really cool with a few retail shops including Cellar Door Chocolates. My BFF asked me to bring home some bourbon balls so I knew this is where I should get them.

What is a bourbon ball? Essentially they are chocolates made with buttercream and bourbon. Kentucky is well known for making bourbon. I picked up the classic bourbon balls as well as the bake apple flavored ones. The sales lady said baked apple was her favorite. The apples are puréed into the mixture. Bourbon balls are not baked so that the bourbon stays in your mouth for a bit.

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We needed to grab a bite of lunch before heading back to the conference. I was happy to discover that the Blind Pig was across the street which was on my list of places to eat in Louisville. The Blind Pig was cute inside and out. The building was also made of brick and the tables were made of hand carved wood.

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What to eat? I was contemplating between the Ivory Bacon Sandwich or the Bacon Butty Sandwich. The waitress recommended the Ivory Bacon which is house made boudin blanc sausage, bacon, muenster cheese, and aioli. I could not resist pork on top of pork. It was a great sandwich with loads of flavor, and the fresh greens I substituted to replace the fries made me feel like I was being a little healthier.

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There is more to blog about Louisville, so stay tuned for Part II of Louisville which promises more bourbon.

Easter Eggs: Natural Dyes

I remember a time back in elementary school when my teacher asked all the students to bring in onion skins. With the bulk of onion skins brought in, she taught us to dye eggs with it. That’s a memory that came back to me when I was reading my recent issue of Eating Well magazine. In an article called “Color Your World,” it describes how today Americans consume more than five times the amount of food dye than in 1955.

My magazine also had instructions on how to make natural egg dyes. I thought this would be perfect to replace PAAS dye for Easter eggs. The three natural ingredients I would use would be beets, turmeric, and red cabbage.

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I cut up one large beet, chopped a quarter of a red cabbage, and added a tablespoon of turmeric into three separate bowls. I poured about two cups of boiling hot water into the bowls and let them steep for about two hours.

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I removed the beets and cabbage from their bowls and added two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar in each bowl. At this point, I added hard boiled eggs into the bowls and put them in the fridge. I let the eggs soak overnight.

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In the morning, I was amazed with the color. I pulled the eggs out of the liquid and placed them on a wire rack to dry.

My naturally dyed eggs came out beautifully. The beet produced a beet violet color, the turmeric produced a natural yellow color, and the red cabbage produced a light blue color. I am glad I can bypass PAAS dye this year. Happy early Easter!

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Dosa: South Indian Flavors

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My friends and I crossed the Bay Bridge and attended CAAMFEST, the film festival put on by the Center for Asian American Media on Friday night. Although the festival is held in several venues around the Bay Area, it is centered in Japantown in San Francisco. We had a 9:15pm screening, so we planned for a nice leisurely dinner before the show. I made reservations for Dosa located at the corner of Post and Fillmore, which was very close to the theater.

Dosa serves South Indian cuisine. As a group of three, we decided to share a bunch of plates. We were first served some complimentary papadams, which are spiced lentil chips. It’s always nice when you get something to snack on while you wait for your food.

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It didn’t take long before our Dosa arrived. Dosas are crepes made of rice batter and black lentils. We ordered the thin version which came out rolled with dips on the side versus being stuffed. It came with a potato mixture, some chutneys, and a soup known as sambar.

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Bhel puri was served next which is a mix of puffed rice, mango, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and coriander. Two chutneys accompanied this dish, one sweet and one spicy. It was an exotic mixture of ingredients with a variety of favors and textures.

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The Chennai chicken was another small plate we ordered which were pieces of boneless, skinless chicken marinated in yogurt, coriander, and cumin and deep fried.

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The trio of grilled lamb chops were perfect for us to each have one chop. It was marinated in spices, lentil sauce, spiced potatoes, and cauliflower. We ordered a side of lemon basmati rice not knowing that there was a small side that came with the entree.

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The bhatura, the oversized, soft, puffy wheat bread was a beauty. This hollow bread was great to eat with the lamb chops.

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With plenty of time before our movie, we sipped on chai and coffee and shared a saffron cheesecake.

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I had a great experience at Dosa. I have eaten some of these dishes before at other restaurants, but the quality at Dosa is much higher. With another location in the Mission district, you have twice the opportunity!

Dan Sung Sa: For the Young and Hip

There is a stretch of Telegraph Avenue between West Grand Avenue and West MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland that I refer to as “Korea-town”. I occasionally shop at Koreana Plaza, the Korean grocery store. I don’t tend to eat at the Korean restaurants on Telegraph Avenue because it is a sketchy area. My BFF introduced me to one of those restaurants, Dan Sung Sa and I had to write about it.

Korean tacos became popular several years ago and it helped launched the food truck scene. Our first appetizer at Dan Sung Sa serves Korean nachos. Tortilla chips were topped on a bed of lettuce and essentially smothered with Korean beef (bulgogi) and nacho cheese. The bulgogi had a sweet flavor and mixed with the savory chips and cheese was amazing. It was gourmet junk food at its finest.

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One of my favorite Korean dishes is Bi Bim Bap which is a rice dish cooked in a stone pot with meat and vegetables. Cooking in the stone pot leaves a layer of crispy rice at the bottom that I love to eat. It had beef, mushrooms, cucumber, carrots, bean sprouts, and an over easy egg on top. This version of Bi Bim Bap was probably the best I have ever had because of the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients.

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We ordered spicy chicken wings which were likely deep fried with a thick layer of sauce. The waiter told us it was a popular dish. They were very flavorful and without rice, I could not eat more than three pieces.

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Our last dish was chicken gizzards. The dish was stir-fried with onions, peppers, carrots, and jalapeños. The texture of the gizzards was both chewy and crunchy. I enjoyed them, but probably not a dish for the masses.

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Dan Sung Sa screams young Asian hip. They stay open until 2am so if you are hungry after a night out of dancing, Dan Sung Sa is a great option. Unless they card me for being too old, I will be back to try some other options.

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In Orlando: Blue Zoo

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I just got back from a Business trip to Orlando and stayed at Disney’s Swan & Dolphin Hotel. I was at this same hotel last year for the same conference so was familiar with the property and the food options. Blue Zoo is a Todd English restaurant located in the hotel that I didn’t get a chance to try last time around. I have been to his restaurants in Washington DC and Las Vegas.

It was our first night in Orlando and we were able to get seated at a booth in the bar area. The four of us shared the Classico flatbread which had roasted tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil. This was a nice starter to share. It wasn’t spectacular, but I found the tomato sauce to be really good. Must be the roasting.

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We each ordered our own item, but we did some sharing and I was able to taste everyone’s dish. One colleague who was feeling like crab, ordered the crab nachos which had lump crab, black beans, salsa, and cherry peppers. This is probably the last thing I would have ordered because of the combination, but it was better than I expected.

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Another dish was the raw bar selection platter. It came with main lobster tale, oysters, clams, jumbo shrimp, ceviche, and tuna crudo. The restaurant takes pride in sourcing the freshest seafood. I had a clam, shrimp, and a piece of lobster tale and thought it was excellent. My friend who ordered the dish was happy with it except her last bite. She had one bad oyster and had to spit it out.

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Another dish ordered was the black truffle heritage chicken. The chicken came with truffle potato gnocchi and spinach. Who would have thought the chicken would be the best dish. The chicken breast was juicy and had a crispy skin. But the real star was the gnocchi. It was soft and fluffy with a slight char and the truffle flavor was wonderful.

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I was looking closely at their bar menu and decided to order the burger. It came with delicious homemade potato chips. My gourmet burger was grilled to a perfect medium rare which is what I requested. The meat was extremely juicy and eating it made me feel like I was on vacation. It hit the spot.

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Blue Zoo had a couple of glitches, but overall I think it rates well for Orlando.