"Shall we do another boring end-of-the-year wrap-up on the Louisville eats beat?" Robin Garr asks readers of The Voice-Tribune. Saying he's "been there, done that, over and over again," Garr declares he wants to "try something a little different" to "mark the cosmic calendar's flipping over to 2014." The difference in Garr's not-at-all-boring year-end column on the Louisville dining scene consists of adding a couple of quasi-reviews "picked off in casual dining expeditions over the holidays" to a rehash of restaurant visits from 2013.
To benefit any Voice-Tribune readers who may not have Jewish relatives or ever watched "A Christmas Story," Garr notes that "it's fun to go for Chinese on Christmas afternoon." He chose "perennial local favorite" Oriental House, giving both the eggplant with garlic and Mongolian lamb "a happy Santa 'Ho ho ho' and two thumbs up." Moving on to Mussel & Burger Bar, he praises both mussels and burgers as well as advising "in season, don't miss the memorable Elotes Callejeros."
Garr says he still gets "little shivers of anticipation" when he thinks about "the fried pizza at Boombozz," then checks off "Vietnam Kitchen's famous noodle dish, K8" before revealing he's currently "smitten" with Marketplace Restaurant at Theater Square, calling it one of his "favorite newer local restaurants." Summing up, Garr riffs on a Charles Wesley hymn, wishing for "a thousand tongues to sing the praises of every spot ... [he's] visited for Voice-Tribune reviews." He then encourages his readers to "get adventurous" by dining at "destinations like Mojito and Napa River Grill" before ending his end-of-year column with the not-at-all-been-there-done-that "Bon appétit!" [The Voice-Tribune]
Marty Rosen gets religion this week as well, and his faith is made of iron. Declaring that Dustin Staggers and Jose Ivaldy are "doing great things" as the new kitchen team at The Monkey Wrench, Rosen says "one of those things is using cast-iron skillets to fry chicken." Rosen preaches "for a Southerner, those skillets are the Holy Grail of frying. No other tool will do." (Somewhere in Heaven, Colonel Sanders is crying.) Rosen notes that Shirley Mae's Café on Clay Street also fries chicken in cast-iron skillets, but "where Shirley Mae fries only wings, Staggers offers big, moist pieces ... covered in a rich, golden cloak," going on to say Staggers "blends the tradition with keenly imaginative touches: the rich dark sweetness of local sorghum, hints of smoke, a dash of heat supplied by a fire-roasted banana pepper aioli." Rosen also likes the new menu's butter beans, though he's troubled they seem "a bit eccentric" offered as an appetizer before calming himself by intoning "there's nothing to stop you from ordering them as a side dish." His magnetic attraction to iron skillets resurfaces as he gushes over "banana peppers chopped and fried in those skillets, their tangy heat pitted against a smooth, sweet-hot mound of house-made pimento cheese and a bit of barbecue sauce."
Rosen likes the burgoo ("rich, smoky and peppery") but thinks his shrimp Po' Boy "just missed capturing the spirit of New Orleans." He enjoys both the "Dirty South" burger ("includes everything but an iPhone app: macaroni and cheese, fried green tomato, jalapeno and barbecue sauce") and the black bean burger ("pureed beans, jalapenos, roasted onions, fresh herbs, stewed tomatoes and basil aioli"), but believes they're both "pretty much a glorious knife and fork affair ... I'm skeptical anybody will be able to lift." Rosen ends by insisting The Monkey Wrench offers "some serious Southern cooking," and asks readers to donate any "old skillet that's not getting used." [Courier-Journal]
· A Year Of Delight In Memorable Dishes [Voice-Tribune]
· The Monkey Wrench [Courier-Journal]
· All Eater Week In Reviews [~ELOU~]