The IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference was in Louisville, Kentucky this year and boy did I have a wonderful time. I hadn’t been to Louisville in 20 years — last visit the Kentucky Derby. The city is built around the Ohio River with charming brick buildings and unique restaurants and distilleries to explore.
The event was held at the Marriott in Louisville, which was centrally located to walk to many restaurants, sites and shops. My first evening, I wandered over to Proof on Main, which prides itself on chic farm-to-table cuisine. The interior, Eclectic Southern with crystal chandeliers and pink lighting, a precursor to the cuisine. For me, bourbon was definitely a priority while in Louisville. I had visited the Bourbon Trail a few years back, which stretches to the East of Kentucky, towards Lexington, but this time I was looking forward to sampling the distilleries of Louisville.
My cocktail of Michter’s Bourbon, Sherry and Fig Syrup on a large rock of ice…tasted divine. I ordered at the bar and enjoyed a Butternut Squash & Foie Gras Pop Tart with sweet vegetable filling oozing from the flaky pastry with a smear of pureed mousse over the top. I had never had anything quite that deliciously different. The Charred Octopus with a splash Lime and Grilled Bread was tender with a slight chew, nice.
The next day, a field trip to Louismill – Millers & Bakers of Fine Grains. Tom, the owner and lead miller and baker, toured us through his newly constructed cafe space. The building was gorgeous with a brick and wood structure, including folding doors to enjoy the outdoors in the summer months.
The mill and wood fired oven were both located under the same roof – both exquisite pieces of equipment. Yes, you have met a baking fanatic with some experience baking in my wood oven – not so easy. The mill imported from Austria with separate chambers to collect the hull, endosperm and milled grain.
Louismill makes the freshest of products, milling and packaging grains for shipment in the same week. The wheat flour, pastry flour, grits (city & country), cornbread mix, cookies mixes are all hand crafted. We had a spectacular meal of breads, grits, pizzas (Mozza Pi) and a smoky s’more. The English Muffin was the best I have ever put in my mouth, made with sourdough starter. Just second to the Rosemary Foccacia that had more holes than anything I have witnessed.
We had a special guest at Louismill — IACP member, Amy Halloran who has written an extensive book on wheat growers, milling and baking and how it has evolved over years called, The New Bread Basket. Amy prepared her favorite food — pancakes, made with Louismill grains.
That evening, the IACP conference began with a grand scale tasting of local Louisville restaurants, markets and cafes. I mingled with members and sampled the small plates from some of the vendors. I especially enjoyed the Duck Waffle Tacos, Country Ham Biscuits, Oysters with Collard Green Liquor and Beignets with Creme Anglaise from Pappy Van Winkle, yes! Here is a partial list of some who provided the food and drink.
The sessions at the conference were more than informative and I especially enjoyed the panels and hearing from some of the best in food writing, publishing, editing and photography. The second evening, I attended the Culinary Trust Fund Raiser at Harvest restaurant in Louisville. The farm-to-fork cuisine and bourbon were amazing. Michter’s Bourbon, one of the sponsors, offered a variety of bourbon including a new release Rye Bourbon, made by the first female Master Distiller, Pam Heilmann. Michter’s does tours and tastings by appointment only, so call ahead.
My favorite treat of the evening was talking with Chuck Talbott, owner of Black Oak Holler Farms. He raises Ossabaw Boars, which feed on acorns and paw paw, similar to pigs in Spain and Italy. The Woodlands Pork Ham was mouth watering and hard to come by. The hams cure for two years and local restaurants like Harvest create dishes with this artisan cured meat.
Some other dishes that evening; were the Rabbit Roulade, local Kentucky Cheese and handmade Ricotta Mushroom Pasta. The dessert plate with Raspberry Chocolate Torte and sugar dipped Pate a Choux was a grand finish.
Harvest is definitely worth a meal or two, while visiting Louisville. A group of us headed to Brown Hotel for a night cap and more conversation. The historic hotel is uniquely restored and a great spot for another bourbon cocktail and if not with IACP, a great spot to stay while visiting Louisville.
There is so much more to explore in this quaint city and I see myself heading back in the near future.