Friday, April 25, 2014

And now, the paper wine bottle

Wine in bottles, wine in jugs, wine in boxes, even wine in cans. Just when we start thinking we've seen every possible way to package the fruit of the vine, along comes an outfit with something completely different: Paper Boy, an outfit based in Sonoma, Calif., has launched a new line of wines packaged in a standard-size wine "bottle" made of recyclable cardboard.

Currently offering a 2012 Paso Robles Red Blend and a 2012 Mendocino County Chardonnay, Paper Boy promotes its package with plenty of exclamation points and capital letters: "It's super-light. It's ultra-green. It stays cooler longer. Recycles better. It tastes great. & it's here...THE WORLD'S FIRST PAPER WINE BOTTLE!"

The world's first paper wine bottle, the firm says, is "80 percent lighter than glass, produced from pre- and post-consumer waste and recycled/organic materials, it is an ultra-green package."

Read my full 30 Second Wine Advisor column on, with this week's tasting report on a good, affordable Chianti in a traditional <i>glass</i> bottle.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream."

Black raspberry chip ice cream at the Comfy Cow.
Comfy Cow now a herd
Voice-Tribune review by Robin Garr

"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream."

Once a popular ditty of the "Roaring Twenties," this folk wisdom has grown into a simple truth. Who doesn't like ice cream? As Mary's father used to say, even after an ample meal, "There is always room for ice cream."

And with Spring belatedly breaking after one of the most relentless Winters in recent memory, the signs of the season include, in addition to green buds, bright flowers and insane allergy-pollen levels, long lines of hungry supplicants forming around just about every ice-cream shop in town. Even the perennial ice cream trucks have brought their clangy rendition of "Camptown Races" back to the streets of our fair city.

I know that some folks nostalgically favor soft-serve ice cream at a half-dozen iconic old neighborhood ice cream spots around town. The Cincinnati ice cream empire and the ice-cream-and-pie folks also have fans.

But none of those options could fill the ice cream-shaped hole in my heart after Ehrmann's bakery closed years ago ... until Tim and Roy Koons-McGee brought us the Comfy Cow.

Read my full review on and click to it in this week's Voice-Tribune.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I'll take 'Restaurants with Unusual Names' for $500

Tacos “hecho a mano” at Chapinlandia.
LEO photo by Frankie Steele.
Hay!! Chi Wa Waa! Where in the heck is Chapinlandia?
LEO's Eats with Robin Garr

Hay!! Chi Wa Waa!? Chapinlandia? What the heck is going on here? Did someone just yell, "Alex, I'll take 'Restaurants with Unusual Names' for $500"?

Nah. It's simpler than that. With a month of World Cup soccer coming up in June, I'm scouting venues to catch key matches in the company of crowds whose cheers really mean something.

Just as there's nothing quite like being part of the home crowd for U of L football at the Pizza Bowl or UK hoops at Rupp, you can't beat the excitement of a Mexican-American crowd cheering Mexico at a taqueria or a bunch of enthusiastic Argentine-Americans yelling it up for Argentina at Palermo Viejo. GOOOOOOOOLLLL!

Read my full review on LouisvilleHotBytes, or click to it in this week's LEO Weekly.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A fresh look at Merlot

It has been 10 years since the movie "Sideways" made Merlot a laughingstock with the snobby character Miles's angry remark about "#$%&ing Merlot," a laugh line that actually drove down Merlot sales in the U.S. while starting a mini-boom for the Pinot Noir upon which the script lavished praise.

Of course, Merlot is what it is. Most wine geeks aren't going to have our tastes affected by a funny line in a movie; and that includes the screen writers and directors, who had the same character later going gaga over Chateau Cheval Blanc, a Right Bank Bordeaux that's predominantly Merlot and Cab Franc, another variety that he disdained.

So for this month's Wine Focus in our online WineLovers Discussion Group, we're seeking to give this much abused grape a second chance.

Read my full 30 Second Wine Advisor column on

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Love and serve one another

Love and serve one another
Sermon by Robin Garr
Thursday, April 17, 2014 (Maundy Thursday)
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
Louisville, Kentucky

“One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean’.”

It must have been frustrating to be one of the apostles.  As much as they loved Jesus - or at least 11 of them did - he rarely made things easy for them.  “Not all of you are clean”?  Come on! Give us a clue, Jesus?  Who is the dirty one?  

Even a bunch like the Twelve, who were entirely capable of arguing about which one of them would get to sit at the boss’ right hand in heaven, would slouch right back in their seats and shut up when Jesus got serious about something like this.

And it got worse.  In a few verses of John’s gospel that are skipped over in tonight’s reading, there’s a little interchange that appears in similar words in all four gospels: “Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.” 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Warm and welcoming Irish style at the Irish Rover

Fish and chips at the Irish Rover.
LEO photo by Frankie Steele
Irish Rover takes us to the Emerald Isle
LEO's Eats with Robin Garr

I'll never forget my first and only visit to Ireland. We spent a week or two driving around the country, learning wrong-side driving and stopping at every pub we could find to enjoy a pint of Guinness.

Damn, it was hard to find traditional Irish music, though. Pub after pub after pub, the food and the mood were Irish, but the music was international rock. When I finally found a crew with a harp singing "Danny Boy" in a tiny pub in Killarney, it was jammed with American tourists, of course.

You want Irish music? Check out Oxegen in Kildare County every July. It draws hordes of 100,000 or more, luring them in with performers like, um, Eminem, R.E.M. and Snoop Dogg. OK, let's face it: It's the same the whole world over.

Really, if it's Irish music and huge crowds you want, you might as well visit the Irish Rover on St. Patrick's Day. Personally, though, I think Yogi was right: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

But any other day of the year, if you want warm and welcoming Irish style in Louisville, you can't improve on the Irish Rover, the amiable eatery that has become an indelible part of the Frankfort Avenue landscape since 1993.

Read my full review on LouisvilleHotBytes, or click to it in this week's LEO Weekly.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tortilla of Spain, I adore you ...

I guess just about everyone knows by now that a Spanish tortilla is not the same thing as a Mexican tortilla. The delicious Spanish tortilla is something like an omelet, but slow-cooked and hearty, almost always loaded with thin-sliced potatoes and often other veggies as well.

Tonight for dinner I constructed a tortilla with three large free-range local eggs, about 12 ounces of waxy fingerling potatoes, a smallish fennel bulb, onion and garlic.  I cut the fingerlings lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices and cut them in turn into rough squares; parboiled them for about 7-8 minutes until tender but not falling apart; shocked then with cold water, drained and set aside.  I sliced the onion and fennel thin and minced the garlic fine, and broke three fresh, free-range eggs into a bowl, beating them briefly with a fork and seasoning to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

The prep work takes about as long as the actual cooking, although it's worth noting that a tortilla goes low and slow; in contrast with an omelet which cooks in a minute or two, a tortilla might take 10 to 15 minutes to get where you want it to go.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Does the Buddha daydream?

We Meet The Buddha on The Road at Saigon Café
Voice-Tribune review by Robin Garr

Buddha's Daydream at Saigon Cafe.
Does the Buddha daydream?

As the ancient story is told, more than 2,500 years ago when Siddharta Gautama experienced his awakening, his six years of meditation and study provided him with sudden vast insight into the meaning of life. Thus he became the Buddha, "The Awakened One," and one of the world's great religious traditions was born.

So meditate me this: Does an Awakened One sleep? Probably not. What would be the point? But surely the Buddha daydreams, for what is daydreaming, after all, but random meditation?

Buddha's Daydream! It's a Zen koan, and it's a dish at Saigon Cafe in St. Matthews.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Martinez crew slams another towering blast

No "I" in the winning t-e-a-m at The Place Downstairs
LEO's Eats with Robin Garr

Cornish hen at The Place Downstairs.
LEO photo by Frankie Steele.
Just weeks after smacking a home run with El Taco Luchador, their tiny taqueria-style eatery in the midst of the Baxter Avenue fun zone, the team of  Fernando and Christina Martinez and Fernando's cousin Yaniel Martinez have slammed another rocketing blast high over the left field bleachers with The Place Downstairs.

The place, specifically, is downstairs (via a quick elevator ride) within Mussel & Burger Bar, another of the Martinez's growing list of restaurant success stories. With Chef de Cuisine Ethan Ray in the kitchen and the affable Rick Moir, late of Equus and Jack's, presiding over a skilled team in the front of the house, The Place Downstairs hit the ground running after an extended series of "soft openings" last month.

It is already generating such a buzz, and operating - for now - on a tightly constrained schedule of dinner only on Wednesdays through Saturdays only, that you'll want to take advantage of its reservations policy and stake your claim on a table now. By Derby it's likely to be one of the hottest tickets in town.

Who knew that Mussel & Burger Bar even had a basement?

Read my full review on LouisvilleHotBytes, or click to it in this week's LEO Weekly.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Broccoli and cheese pasta revisited

A standard quick-and-healthy meal around here involves cooking broccoli, stirring it into a cheesy sauce and pouring the result over pasta.  You'll find the basics from my Oct. 29 2013 report at this link.

Tonight I revisited the dish, making a change or two mostly just because I have a hard time making exactly the same dish twice.  This time I let the broccoli cook past the parboiled stage until it was fairly soft, then chopped it roughly before returning it to the Cheddar-and-Parmigiano Mornay.  I also stirred in a dollop of Dijon mustard, a flavor that I thought would work and play well with the broccoli; and separately sauteed a bit of chopped onion and minced garlic to bring additional flavor to the mix.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spaghetti with butter, garlic and black pepper

If you want to go all ethnic, you could call it Spaghetti Aglio Et Olio e Pepe. Either way, this is just about as quick and easy a dinner as pasta gets.

Start with 4 ounces spaghetti (to serve two), and get it to simmering in a large pot of salted water. While the spaghetti is cooking, smash and mince a few big cloves of garlic - plenty is good - and cook it gently - don't let it get too brown - in 1 or 2 tablespoons good butter. (I used Italian Parma butter, but that may be overkill.  If you can get your hands on local organic butter to avoid the industrial product, antibiotics and GMOs, though, I recommend it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Guacamole de los fuegos del infierno

There is an ugly story behind the made-in-Mexico production of two flavor favorites - guacamoles and limes - which are reportedly spiking in price at U.S. groceries while bringing down gangster terrorism to families in Mexico's Michoacán state, the country's primary source for U.S. exports of both fruits.

I'm not sure how to discern the ethical course of action for American consumers, either.  Decline to buy limes or avocados, in hope of denying the Caballeros Templarios ("Knights Templar") gangsters a tiny share of profit? But will that approach deal additional punishment on the already suffering farmers whose only connection with the gangs is the tribute they must pay?