Archive for November, 2012

Would you like a blindfold with your menu?

Have you ever thought you were in the dark about  Lexington’s dining scene? At Natasha’s Bistro & Bar you literally could be.
Natasha’s Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade, will serve guests a Kentucky Proud menu to eat in complete darkness. It’s designed for the senses of smell, taste, sound, and texture. Participants will remove their blindfolds after each course.
Natasha’s owner Gene Williams quotes Miami chef Adrianne Calvo about the concept of dining in the dark: “The concept of ‘Dark Dining,’ which enjoyed significant popularity throughout Europe for several years before its introduction in various major cities throughout the United States, has been defined as a sensory overload that maximizes flavor by suppressing vision, creating the ultimate in dining experience.” The dinner will be at 6 p.m. Monday. Tickets are $49. Call (859) 259-2754  or go to Beetnik.com.

Special events

Bistro La Belle Market and Cafe will join other downtown Midway merchants in supporting The Homeplace in Midway and its “Voices in Cloth” quilt show on Saturday.
Bistro La Belle will serve Laura’s white bean soup and Weisenberger Mills cornbread from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The meal is free, but the café will accept donations for The Homeplace. The regular menu will be available. Bistro La Belle is at 119 East Main Street. The quilt show will be at 128 East Main Street. Call (859) 846-4233 or go to Bistrolabelle.com.
Woodford Reserve Distillery serves a holiday buffet on Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 22. Chef-in-residence Ouita Michel and her culinary team have created a menu of Kentucky favorites and seasonal specialties. Distillery tours are offered before dinner. Seatings are at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Cost is $50. The Distillery is at 7855 McCracken Pike, Versailles. Call (859) 879-1812 or go to Woodfordreserve.com.
■ On Monday, you can help Baby Health Service by dining at Nick Ryan’s. The restaurant’s “Monday Matters” program donates a portion of the day’s proceeds to charities. Baby Health provides free quality health care to children without insurance. Call (859) 233-7900 or go to Nickryans.com.
■ When you make a donation to your favorite charity through Goodgivingguide.net and you could win a catered dinner for eight.  Mulberry & Lime, a gift/home furnishings shop in the historic Matthew Kennedy house at 216 North Limestone, will be the site for the dinner that will be prepared by Dupree Catering. Wine will be provided by Wines on Vine.

New menus

The Village Idiot, 307 West Short Street, has a new winter menu.  Chefs Andrew Suthers and Wyatt Sarbacker have put their personal touches on classic cold weather comfort food. Included are ham hock ragout with Lexington Pasta’s spinach gnocchi and pork belly en croute with pickled onion and whole grain mustard.
On Monday, the restaurant will serve a prix fixe dinner featuring seasonal dishes to compliment selections from Schlafly Beer and wines from Vanguard. The dinner will include a reception of hors d’oeuvres and three courses each paired with wine and beer. Cost is $49. Call (859) 252-0099 or go to Lexingtonvillageidiot.com.
Casanova Italian Restaurant, 855 South Broadway, has some new menu items. Included are bronzini acqua pazza, (a fish owner Leo  Capezzuto imports from the Mediterranean Sea), Neapolitan traditional sausages with rapini, and spaghetti aglio olio scampi. Casanova is accepting reservations for Christmas parties. Call (859) 309-3313 or go to Casanovaky.com.

Contribute to good cause with restaurants’ help

Now that the turkey and fixin’s are a thing of the past and we move on to days of harried holiday shopping, let’s not forget about helping others. Here are some ways restaurants are spreading cheer this holiday season.
Heirloom Restaurant, 125 East Main Street, Midway, will have a dinner Thursday to benefit a proposed senior-care center called The Homeplace at Midway. There will be two seatings for the three-course dinner, at 5 and 7 p.m. The cost is $50. The menu includes sweet potato soup or panzanella salad, aged rib-eye or crab cakes, and molten chocolate cake or cranberry walnut crostada. Call (859) 846-5565 or go to Heirloommidway.com.
■ On Wednesday, several Lexington restaurants are participating in Dining Out for Life and will donate a portion of their proceeds to AIDS Volunteers Inc. Go to Avolky.org for a list of ­participating restaurants.
T.G.I. Friday’s is having its third annual Can for a Fan virtual food drive. The company will donate one can of food for every new Facebook fan or Pinterest like. Nine regional food banks will benefit, including God’s Pantry. Go to Facebook.com/eatattgifridays or Pinterest.com/eatattgifridays/canforafan. On Pinterest, users may like the God’s Pantry pinned logo, and an additional can of food will be donated. The food drive ends Dec. 31.
Specials
■ Before or after hitting the Black Friday sales, stop by Doodles Breakfast and Lunch. The restaurant, 262 North Limestone, will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, serving omelettes made with local farm eggs, and shrimp and grits. Call (859) 317-8507 or go to Doodlesrestaurant.com.
Old Chicago Restaurant, 1924 ­Pavilion Way, is having a winter mini beer tour featuring beers brewed ­exclusively for the restaurant chain. The kick-off party is Wednesday, and the event continues through Dec. 31.
Three of the 10 seasonal beers chosen locally by the restaurant are: Old Chicago Black Diamond porter, Sam Smith Winter Welcome ale and Leinenkugel Snowdrift Vanilla porter. Old Chicago World Beer Tour members who complete the winter mini tour will receive a long-sleeved T-shirt. Register at Oldchicago.com. Call (859) 977-4640.
■ A special holiday treat returns to Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant, 3395 Nicholasville Road, in Fayette Mall. The signature capirotada dessert will be available for $1.99 through Dec. 31. It’s a Mexican bread pudding served warm with a traditional cream sauce and vanilla ice cream. Call (859) 971-0922 or go to Abuelos.com.
■ The weekend specials at The Julep Cup, 111 Woodland Avenue, include smoked sweet potato and chicken soup, roasted beet salad, braised pork ­shoulder served over skillet potatoes and collard greens, grouper with black beans and rice with pineapple curry and fried plantain, and pear and frangipane pie. Call (859) 226-0300.
■ Cameron Irvin, chef at The Fifth Street Café in Millersburg, has created a new menu for the restaurant at 113 East Fifth Street. Lunch items include roasted chicken salad sandwiches, pork belly Reuben, and an open-face smoked salmon sandwich. For dinner, there’s braised beef brisket, rosemary-roasted half-chicken, Dijon herb-crusted pork chop and pan-seared trout. Call (859) 473-0552 or go to Fifthstreetcafeky.com.
Special events
■ Sam Beall, proprietor of Blackberry Farm luxury resort in Walland, Tenn., will sign copies of his new cookbook, The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm (Clarkson Potter, $60) in ­Lexington and Louisville on Monday.
Beall will be at the Williams-Sonoma store in Fayette Mall, 3473 Nicholasville Road, from noon to 2 p.m. Call (859) 272-5856.
Beall will travel to 610 Magnolia restaurant, 610 West Magnolia Avenue in Louisville, for a dinner and book signing that evening. Magnolia chef Edward Lee will create dishes based on his inspiration of the recipes and menus from the book. A reception and book signing will be at 6:30 p.m.; ­dinner with wine pairings will begin at 7. Tickets are $125 and include a copy of the book. Call (502) 636-0783 or go to 610magnolia.com.
Announcements
Thai Orchid Café, 1030 South Broadway, is closed for vacation and will reopen at 11 a.m. Dec. 18. Go to Thaiorchidcafe.net.
Jean Farris Winery & Bistro, 6825 Old Richmond Road, is accepting ­reservations for holiday parties. Call (859) 263-9463 or go to Jeanfarris.com.

Brining makes a turkey tender and juicy

Cooking the Thanksgiving turkey isn’t difficult, it’s just takes a little more effort. Because of its size, we have to take some extra steps to keep it from turning out dry and tough.

One of the best ways to make sure your turkey is juicy and tender is to brine it. Brining is a process that greatly improves the flavor and moisture content of lean meats such as chicken, turkey and pork.
Here’s how it works: When meats are marinated in a solution of sugar, salt and water, the proteins unwind and form a hollow tube. Water travels into the tubes and becomes trapped, adding moisture to meats. When herbs and spices are added to the brine, the flavors are trapped in the meat. This technique is called flavor brining and greatly enhances the texture, flavor and juiciness of meats.
During the cooking process, meat can lose as much as 30 percent of its water. Properly brined and cooked meat can reduce the water loss by as much as one half.
Will brining make the meat taste salty?
Unless you brine for too long, your meats will not be salty. The salt causes water and flavor to travel into each strand and fill up the hollow proteins, allowing the meat to hold in moisture and flavor.
Brining tips and tricks

■ After you remove the meat from the brine solution, many of the herbs and spices might have settled to the bottom. We recommend rubbing the settled flavorings directly onto the meat just before cooking. This step really maximizes the flavor.

■You can always add more flavors to your brine by stirring in fresh herbs, citrus slices, or other seasonings into the brine when heating. Substituting fruit juice, beer or wine for some of the water also will add flavor.

■ Do not brine a turkey that has been “basted,” “enhanced,” “marinated,” or is already classified as kosher.

■ Do not brine a turkey if you plan to deep-fry it.

■ If you bought a turkey with a pop-up timer, leave it in place. If removed, the timer will leave a hole for juices to escape.

■ Brining takes up precious refrigerator space. You might want to rearrange your refrigerator shelves ahead of time to make room for the brining bird.

■ If there is no room in your refrigerator for a huge bird, use a cooler lined with a turkey-roasting bag. Make sure the water temperature remains below 40 degrees throughout the process. You might want to add ice.

■ If you are going to brine your turkey for 4 to 5 hours, use a brine proportion of 1 cup coarse kosher salt to 1 gallon water. Coarse kosher salt is recommended because it completely dissolves in water.

■ If you are going to brine your turkey overnight, or as long as 14 hours, use a proportion of 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt to 1 gallon water.
You can brine any size turkey. The key will be to ensure that you have a large enough container and enough brine to keep the turkey submerged.

Roasted brined turkey

1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 pounds), brined
Turkey brine:
7 quarts (28 cups) water
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
6 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 bottle dry riesling
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme
Bring 1 quart water, the salt, bay leaves and spices to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Line a 5-gallon container with a large brining or oven-roasting bag. Place turkey in bag. Add salt mixture, remaining 6 quarts (24 cups) water, and the other ingredients. Tie bag; if turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.
Note: The turkey needs to soak for about 24 hours, so plan accordingly. Soaking the turkey overnight in a solution of salt and water ensures moist results. When you add aromatics to the brine, the resulting roast is infused with a subtle character all its own.
Lining the brining container, whether tub, stock-pot or bucket, can minimize cleanup, but finding a place for the turkey can require some creative refrigerator rearranging.
If there simply isn’t room, place the bagged bird in a cooler and surround it with ice, replenishing as necessary to keep it at 40 degrees. Makes enough brine for one 18- to 20-pound turkey.
Roast turkey, basting with pan juices every 30 minutes and rotating the pan after 2 hours, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the thigh registers 165 degrees. It should be 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Transfer turkey to a platter, reserving pan juices for gravy. Let turkey stand for 30 minutes before carving.

Blue Heron bar is open on Jefferson Street

Birds of a feather are flocking together on Jefferson Street. The owner of The Grey Goose has opened a new bar, called The Blue Heron, across the street from his popular pub.
“The Heron is a rustic little neighborhood bar that features a beautiful mahogany back bar built in the 1880s, a working fireplace around which are gathered a collection of leather club chairs and ottomans, and a one-of-a-kind centerpiece chandelier,” said Jeff Wheeler, who is general manager of The Blue Heron.
It and The Grey Goose are owned by Keith Clark.
An extensive selection of bourbons are available along with hand-crafted cocktails made with freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, house-made syrups and infused liquors.
The bar, at 185 Jefferson Street, is open at 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and at noon Sunday. It’s available for holiday parties. Call (859) 221-2357.

Announcements

■ Just in time for holiday gift giving, the Ruth Hunt Candy Co. has doubled the  retail space at its new location, 213 Walton Avenue.
The Mount Sterling candy factory, known for its Blue Monday candy bar, was founded in 1921, when Ruth Tharpe Hunt began selling her homemade confections from her home. She moved to a factory location in 1930, and the company still makes candy using Hunt’s original recipes. An open house will be Dec. 3 to 7.
The Woodhill Plaza store now is closed. The new store also has a full-service, official U.S. post office. Call (859) 268-1559 or go to Ruthhuntcandy.com.
■ It’s an all-new Lock and Key Café in Georgetown.
Colleen London opened the business as a cafe in 2006 in the former Bank of Georgetown building at 201 East Main Street. Over the years, the concept for the Lock and Key has changed a few times, but now it’s back to a coffeehouse/café.
The chicken salad is still a specialty and new items have been added to the breakfast and lunch menu. A daily special now is available. Hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Call (502) 867-1972 or go to Lockandkeycafe.com.

Special events

Chateau du Vieux Corbeau Winery in Danville will have an open house 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Winemaker Dominique Brousseau will offer guided cellar tours at 1 and 4 p.m. She will explain the wine-creation process and discuss the various pieces of equipment she uses in the process.
Brousseau will release her newest wine creation, called “Trouble,” which is named after one of her geese.
“This white blended wine is sweet and subtle and will sneak up to bite you on the bottom, just like its namesake,” Andre Brousseau said. The winery will also offer refreshments, with recipe cards, using the Chateau’s wines.
The winery is at 471 Stanford Avenue. Call (859) 236-1775 or (859) 236-1808.
■ It’s cold outside, but the cooks at Kathy’s Country Kitchen in Clay City are grilling outdoors. On Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant at 20 Black Creek Road is serving hand-cut prime rib, ribeye, New York strip, and sirloin steaks, with baked potato and salad. Prices range from $11.99 to $13.99. Call (606) 663-4179.
Azur Restaurant, 3070 Lakecrest Circle in Beaumont Centre, is having a chef series dinner on Wednesday. The Spanish-themed five-course dinner is $55. Call (859) 296-1007 or go to Azurrestaurant.com.
■ The Greek Dinner Night at Panagia Pantovasilissa Greek Orthodox Church, 920 Tates Creek Road, will be 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The menu features gyros and spanakopita and wines from Horseshoe Bend Winery. Go to Greekdinner.com.

Thanksgiving meals to go

Thanksgiving is Thursday. here are some places that are offering carryout meals.
■ The chefs at Azur will cook your Thanksgiving meal for you to pick up on Wednesday. A 20-pound turkey, which serves 15 to 18, is $70. Sides, at an additional charge, include green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and sausage-sage stuffing. Call (859) 296-1007
Mary Lou’s BBQ, 226 Walton Avenue, is offering a smoked turkey for $49.95. Sides including green beans, candied yams, corn pudding, oyster dressing, mashed potatoes and spiced apples, are $6.99 a quart. White chocolate bread pudding with bourbon sauce is $24.95. Call (859) 252-4227.
Cracker Barrel restaurants are selling Thanksgiving dinners to-go for $54.99, which serves six. Country hams are $38.99, sugar-cured hams are $39.99 and whole pies are $7.99. Go to Crackerbarrel.com for locations.
Ramsey’s Diners are offering the Thanksgiving turkey dinner for $18.95 a person. Included are turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, four vegetables (from a list of 10) and rolls. Orders of vegetables are $15 for a serving for six. Call (859) 252-7926 by Monday for pickup on Wednesday. Ramsey’s desserts, made by Missy’s Pies, are available by calling (859) 253-0449.