Our Top 3 Food Picks: Kentucky’s Taste of Innovation at Churchill Downs

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Every year during the annual Idea Festival, Louisville restaurants combine efforts and rally together within the walls of Kentucky’s Churchill Downs for an evening of music, food and pleasure.

From bourbon and great red wines to fish, soups, salads, pastries and more, you move from table to table sampling dish after dish.

To the left is the Pork Terrine from Proof Restaurant, which I ended up reviewing less than a week later. It was served with a hot sauce, sour cream and gherkins.

Located on the ground of the 21c Hotel in central Louisville, signature Proof on Main dishes, include their infamous Bison Burger, Warm Ricotta, Charred Octopus, and House-Cured Meats.

Many of their dishes are responsibly sourced and locally raised ingredients from the restaurant’s Woodland Farm and other regional purveyors.

I met chef Levon Wallace at the event, who was not just an interesting character, but passionate about his food, assuring me that their food was the best in the room. His enthusiasm brought me a smile.

Let’s just say that his pork terrine didn’t disappoint. In fact, I was thinking about its lingering taste half way around the room thirty minutes later.

The best mixologists, distillers, brewers, chefs and owners came together under one roof to let us taste and taste…and taste. Their theme this year was Farm. Feast. Fun. The theme is in celebration of the Farm-to-Table movement, where restaurants show their support for local farms, and sustainable food.

While most of the restaurants were either ‘high-end’ traditional fare or came from a sustainability ‘pitch’, sourcing what they can from local farmers, they also had the same Indian restaurant participate this year who had a table last year: Shalimar.

Shalimar had a couple of traditional Indian dishes which included chicken, lentils and vegetables. Below is a chicken Indian curry from Shalimar. What I ate? Chicken tikka masala and chana masala with gonzo beans. In their restaurant, they also offer a number of chicken, seafood and lamb curries and kormas. They also have an intriguing sounding Goat Curry, served with herbs and spices in a thick curry sauce.

Below, Seviche’s chef and team had a table next to Proof and was serving a spicy and very delicious seafood bisque. Little did I know at the time that I’d be reviewing their restaurant also less than a week later. What I ate? A seafood bisque with a green arugula puree topped with champagne vinegar, olive oil, pepper and sea salt.

Below is S. Dean Corbett of Cobetts’ peanut butter brioche. The peanut butter addition albeit it subtle just didn’t do it for me to be honest, even though it was a creative and interesting idea. The cranberry sauce ‘worked’ but I found the dish overall a little too dry.

I reviewed Mayan Cafe last year, which was top notch and I’d happily return for another meal. The presentation at Taste of Innovation was somewhat deceiving and it wasn’t until I bit into chef Bruce Ucan’s puff pastry did I have that aha moment, you know, the kind where you’re dying for another bite and you know you’ve landed somewhere special. What I ate? Ojaldra puff pastry served with butternut squash, goat cheese, chayote salpicon and sorghum aioli.

Lillys Bistro won We Blog the World’s Taste of Innovation Top Picks last year.  I was on a whirlwind tour to make it to every table so I didn’t have the kind of time this year to chat with every owner and chef, including Kathy Cary, the magician behind Lilly’s Bistro’s creations. They prepared an over-the-top delicious sweet potato gnocchi with kale and ham. What I ate? Sweet potato gnocchi with country ham, kale, a bourbon mustard cream sauce. The dish was sauteed before our eyes in a wok using a sage butter sauce for additional flavor.

Another presentation that didn’t knock me out visually but was surprisingly yummy. Below is Silver Dollar’s beef cheek masterpiece created by chef Jonathan Schwartz. What I ate? Beef Cheek sope with re-fried beans, pickles, onions, jalapeno and radish.

Grasshoppers is all about farm-to-table. They prepared a sweet potato apple soup with garam masala that was to die for…

Let’s not forget the scrumptious Cvap Savory Basil goat cheese tarlet with heirloom tomato and honey salsa. What I ate? The crust was made from toasted panko, melted butter and parmesan cheese. The filling consisted of capriole goat cheese, eggs, milk, egg white and basil pesto. The heirloom tomato salsa included diced tomatoes, honey, cornstarch, red sweet Thai chili paste and salt and pepper.

The North End Cafe served three different kinds of local grass fed meatballs and spices. What I ate? Shitake mushrooms, cabbage, scallions in a ginger soy sauce (my favorite). Secondly, they had a meatballs served mole style with mexican sauce and meatballs with feta, olives and a marinara sauce. The chef behind this creation was Christopher Seckman and his team.

The Marketplace Restaurant served a Ricotta Gnocchi with Truffle Cream, not quite as good as Lilly’s to die for gnocchi, but it was definitely delicious.

Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse’s chef was hilarious. The would-be fourth generation coal miner chef told me story after story, joke after joke  as he shared a little history with me of his past, including his childhood growing up in western Kentucky.

It’s always difficult to come up with a top three because I was a happy camper after leaving every table. See our blog post from last year’s Taste of Innovation for our top picks from last year. Our top three this year goes to:

  • Seviche Restaurant for their out-of-this world seafood bisque. I couldn’t get it out of my mind after two hours. I also reviewed their restaurant before I left Louisville. Am in love with their food, ambiance, service and chef Anthony Lamas, who btw, is part Portuguese, part Mexican and part Spanish.
  • Lilly’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi with country ham, kale and bourbon mustard cream sauce. (she was in our top three last year too – I LOVE Kathy’s approach to food and her cooking).
  • Proof on Main’s Pork Terrine. I spent a couple of hours sampling a number of dishes a few days later. An additional thumbs up for their scallops, fettucine and tartare.

Photo credits: Renee Blodgett.

Renee Blodgett
Founder
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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One Response to Our Top 3 Food Picks: Kentucky’s Taste of Innovation at Churchill Downs

  1. tanned traveler September 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    all this food looks so yummy! Time to visit Kentucky.

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