Central Kentucky - the "Wearing of the Green Bean" Tour (Just After St. Patrick's Day)
During our Spring Break, my spouse and I (joined by my brother, who drove down from Indianapolis) headed to Central Kentucky for the better part of a week (Tuesday-Sunday). We stayed at our old favorite, Beaumont Inn
We flew nonstop from Minneapolis to the Louisville airport and headed straight out for lunch at the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen
. We chose the one on Shelbyville Road because it was sort of en route to our destination and has a deli. It wasn't crowded when we arrived around 1:45 p.m. We decided we should be sensible and order sandwiches, but the sheer volume of delectable desserts made us think twice about that. In any event, I had a BLT on ciabatta and my husband had a corned beef sandwich (it was the day after St. Patrick's Day). He enjoyed his corned beef (Boar's Head); my BLT was rather sparse on the interior and served on bread that I found to be too thick. The tomato was pretty anemic, too - but hey, it was mid-March.
On to the serious stuff: the desserts. I chose my favorite pie, cherry, with coconut ice cream; he had wild blueberry, with a special ice cream, salted pistachio. Everything was fantastic. My cherry pie was tart, but not too tart, on a great, flaky crust; the coconut ice cream was some of the best I've had anywhere. My husband was equally pleased with his pie, but I didn't taste it, as I don't care much for blueberries. The pistachio ice cream was wonderful. Neither ice cream had that hint of artificial flavoring you often get in those flavors -- not surprising, since everything is supposed to be natural and made from scratch there. I couldn't resist a slice of the strawberry cake to take away with us. It was dense, very strawberry-y and absolutely natural tasting, too. The clerk asked whether I wanted it with cream cheese or buttercream icing. I chose the latter, and it, too, was fresh-tasting and delicious. I love pie, but this place may have caused me to shift my loyalty to cake, at least if it is as good as theirs is.
From there, it was off to Harrodsburg, to check in, and eventually, have dinner in the Old Owl Tavern
which is on the Beaumont Inn
premises. It was really hopping on a Tuesday evening. I ordered their fried chicken livers, which come with gravy, and two sides -- double green beans. (I love green beans, as you'll see.) The chicken livers were good -- creamy interior, and no bitterness -- and the portion was ample. The green beans, however, tasted as if they'd had a salt shaker dumped over them. My husband had the hot brown, which he said was "just the right size" -- in the past, we'd found the serving size of this dish to be too big at Beaumont Inn. It's a "both turkey and ham" version, and hearty.
Wednesday, spouse and I headed to Lexington. We stopped on the way at Doughdaddy's Doughnuts
in Versailles. It is connected to a BP station and couldn't look less prepossessing from the outside. But they have a huge selection of doughnuts. We tried several. The glazed doughnuts and the cinnamon twists were the best, in our opinion. Everything was very fresh -- they claim to make batches every three hours -- and in addition to doughnuts, they sell a variety of Kentucky Pride goods, like salsa spiked with Ale-8-One.
From there, we went to Joseph-Beth Booksellers
, a great independent bookstore. The latest edition of Roadfood
was prominently displayed. I love this bookstore. They have all kinds of things, such as British imprints, that you can't find elsewhere (or on Amazon).
Then it was off to Winchester for lunch at Hall's On the River
. We hadn't been there in many years, and I understand that it has changed hands a couple of times in the interim. We had enjoyed our last visits, so decided to return. Seating was limited to the bar area, so it was a little cramped, as the place was quite busy. Unfortunately, they were also understaffed -- only one guy working as host, bartender and waiter -- and we had to wait an extraordinarily long time for our food. It was, I'm sorry to report, mediocre. I had the hot brown, with very thickly sliced turkey and country ham. It's a matter of taste, I guess, but I didn't like those big hunks of meat in my hot brown. The cheese sauce was OK. Green beans undistinguished. My husband had a pimento cheese melt which he didn't finish and he said the french fries too salty and not really worth eating. I'm sorry to make a negative report, and maybe the problem was that they were just unprepared for the volume of customers they had that particular lunchtime on a chilly, gray Wednesday. Hall's
is at one end of the Beer Cheese Trail, so if Beer Cheese appeals to you, it still might merit a stop if you're in the area.
From there, we drove to Nonesuch to go the Irish Acres
, home of The Glitz
. They had just opened the day before for the season. It's a terrific, upscale antiques mall in a converted school house, and we had a lot of fun looking around the place. There's period furniture, which is great if you have a truck and not so great if you are flying. So we bought a necklace (which was accidentally placed in the discount case, but which they sold to us for the price marked, anyway) and a pair of Staffordshire candlesticks. We chatted with one of the owners who said her mother had invented the Nonesuch Kiss
dessert served in The Glitz
(about which Jane and Michael Stern have written).
Then it was back to Harrodsburg to meet my brother at Beaumont Inn
, and eventually, to have dinner again in the Old Owl Tavern
. Experience was better on Wednesday than Tuesday. I wasn't very hungry, so I just had the pulled pork quesadillas (which were good, if a little "wet") with a side of green beans, which I am happy to report were much better this time than the previous night -- the way they are supposed to be at Beaumont Inn -- porky, but not too salty. My husband had a Greek salad, which he raved about, and my brother had a fish special -- I forget what variety it was, but he very much enjoyed it. This time, they offered us a basket of corn muffins (baked in one of those serrated-edge tins), which were very good. Our waiter hadn't offered us any bread on Tuesday, and next time, we'll make a point of asking for it.
The next day, we went to Danville and straight to Burke's Bakery
. I wrote about this place last year after our first visit to it. It's a terrific small town bakery. We arrived so early that they didn't yet have my favorite petits fours, but the clerk said they would have them later in the day, and that we should return. I did get a dozen fondant drop nut cookies. They change the tint on the fondant frequently -- that day, it was pale blue. They are buttery and delicious "tea-sized" cookies, and very addictive.
We then went to the antique mall, Not Just Antiques
, which has an eclectic collection of things without being as flea market-y and junky as many of these places are. One of our favorite aspects of it is that one booth holder has a huge collection of vintage radios. Didn't buy any of those, but did get a 1937 board game called "Question Box," which consists of a couple of hundred question cards "to hold your own radio quiz!" It was great fun to play, especially bearing in mind that you had to answer the question as it would have been answered in 1937. For instance, what was the capital of China (in 1937)? Answer: Nanking. Who was the youngest person elected President of the United States (as of 1937)? Theodore Roosevelt. You get the idea. Amazingly, the set, though a little dog-eared, was only missing one card.
From there, we drove to Stanford. We had lunch at the Kentucky Depot
on the outskirts of town, and nowhere near the restored L&N Depot downtown. They had a lunch buffet (salmon croquettes and chicken and dumplings), but we all ordered off the menu. I had a three-vegetable plate -- corn pudding, turnip greens and (you guessed it) green beans. The green beans were very good, the corn pudding exceptionally creamy, and the turnip greens came with a small contained of white vinegar to add to your taste. Husband and brother both had BLTs, which they enjoyed very much. My meal came with a choice of a yeast roll or cornbread. I chose the yeast roll, and it was fine, but I think, commercial, and a tactical mistake, because, as I was leaving, I saw other people eating the "corn bread," which were homemade corn pancakes, like I've had in Tennessee. I should have asked, and next time, that's what I would choose. Highlight of the meal was "brown sugar pie," a special of the day. It was unlike any brown sugar pie I've ever had -- more like a butterscotch cream pie, with about three inches of meringue on top, and a very flaky crust. Obviously homemade, and very, very good. Nice place, and worth a visit.
Incidentally, the guy at the antique mall in Danville has told us to go to the Bluebird Cafe
, which is right in downtown Stanford, chef-owned (and the chef has credentials from Cincinnati and Chicago, apparently) and a farm-to-table place. It looked very busy as we drove by, and might be worth a stop on a future visit. Stanford seems like a nice town, and they seem to be working very hard to renovate it and turn it into a tourist destination.
We went by the L&N Depot, too. Although we were able to go through the caboose that sits outside it, this is our second failed visit -- the depot has a small museum, but it was locked up tight and had no indication of when it might be open. Well, I'll amend that -- it's a community center now, too, and they had a city council meeting scheduled for there that evening. But we couldn't hang around. We had to get back to Burke's
to get those petits fours -- which they had, by that time, in both white and chocolate cake. I asked for two of the white cake versions, which are my favorites. It's classic white cake, with a hint of almond flavoring, topped with butter cream icing and decorated with a flower -- choice of rosebud or forget-me-not that particular day. I wanted to get some cream horns, too, but the guy in front of me bought the last two. I was so angry with him. He probably lives there, and could get them anytime! That's my one complaint about Burke's
-- their inventory varies from day to day and hour to hour. If you have your heart set on a particular item, you'd be wise to call ahead.
Dinner that night was at the Trustee's Office at the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill
. We've had mixed experiences here over the years, but that night's visit was terrific. The meal starts with a relish bowl of chilled carrot and celery sticks, scallions, pickles, two kinds of olives, cherry tomatoes and miniature corn. Usually there is also pickled okra, but there was none that night. The waiter did get us some pickled watermelon, when we requested, even though they had to get a jar out of the basement. They gave us a huge portion. The meal also comes with great miniature cornsticks and yeast rolls. For entrees, my husband had the beef burgundy, which he's enjoyed on a prior visit, and was equally good this time. My brother had another fish special (and again, I'm forgetting what it was) and I had sauteed shrimp which was surprisingly not garlic-y (a plus for me). Passed vegetables were corn pudding (absolutely delicious -- some of the best I have had anywhere), a squash casserole (which I passed on), and whole wheat noodles tossed in EVOO, which may not be authentically Shaker but were surprisingly good. We were really too full to choose from the dessert tray, but the strawberry shortcake was tempting. The berries themselves were wonderful. The shortcake was a dense biscuit, which is not my preference for shortcake. But it was a good version if you like it that way, topped with real whipped cream. Great service and very pleasant atmosphere.
Friday, we made a quick stop at Dedman's Pharmacy
in downtown Harrodsburg. It's now a cafe and fudge shop, and was doing a land office business at about 11:30 a.m. It took quite a while to pay for our peanut butter fudge because of the long line of folks ordering lunch. The chalkboard menu looked interesting, but we were on our way to the Olde Bus Station
. As the name suggests, it's the converted Greyhound station also in downtown Harrodsburg, now turned into a small diner. It can be cramped inside during the lunch rush, but they also have a large outside deck. The thing to eat there is hamburgers or cheeseburgers, which both my husband and brother had. My brother said the hamburger was "exactly like one you would have gotten at a roadside cafe in the 1950s" -- which was a compliment. I'm not a hamburger eater, so I chose a BLT, and it was fantastic. Very classic -- toasted white sandwich bread, fresh lettuce, meaty, crisp bacon and thick (but not too thick) sliced and RIPE tomato. And I had green beans off the vegetable list of the day for my side, and they were wonderful. The place also serves a perfectly-mixed fountain Coke, and they had soft-serve banana ice cream as a special for the day.
From there, it was off to Lancaster, mainly because we'd seen signs for it while we were in Stanford. We were actually warned away from it by one of the staff at Beaumont Inn, and I can sort of see why. There's not much obviously there (other than the headquarters of Mom Blakeman's Pull Candy) to appeal to tourists, and the place seems sort of run down, although they do have a converted Opera House (the Grand Theater) that is used for traveling concerts and road shows and looked impressive from the outside. We went to Collector's Paradise
antique mall, which was quite a jumble of "stuff" in a dank and dimly-lit warehouse. I think they, too, had just opened for the season, so it probably unfair to judge from this particular visit. We bought only a few odds and ends -- old sheet music, vintage postcards -- though we had a nice chat wtih the owner. We stopped by another antique "mall" on our way out of town. Let me just say that the atmosphere was sinister, the staff hostile, the attached "cafe" unpleasant-smelling and highly suspect, and the collection of tools for sale in the cluttered warehouse rather . . . surprising. I doubt that we were their preferred clientele. We didn't feel welcome, and we left pretty quickly.
Dinner that night, and on Saturday night, was in Beaumont Inn's
dining room. My husband and I always have the same thing -- fried chicken for me, country ham for him -- with green beans and corn pudding. They never change, and are always good. My brother had stuffed filet of sole, and he and I split an order of chicken livers the first night -- same as in the Tavern, and equally good. I wish Beaumont Inn would improve their rolls at dinner -- they are OK, but commercial -- but everything else was delicious (and not too much salt on the green beans!), although my brother longed for the olden days when they served their filet of sole simply fried, rather than stuffed. Their homemade blue cheese salad dressing is very good, too.
Saturday, we went back to Lexington, because we'd read in the newpaper that Joseph-Beth
was having a Community Appreciation Day where everything in the store was discounted. Naturally, my brother wanted to go, and besides, the Woodford County Humane Society was hosting an adopt-a-pet event at the store. We're all cat lovers, and enjoyed interacting with the two very engaging cats that the staff had brought in. Then, we hit the road to get to Shelbyville for lunch. On the way, we stopped at the Rebecca Ruth
candy stand in Versailles to buy bourbon balls (which they claim to have invented), bourbon caramels (even better), almond bark, coconut creams, etc. Great stuff.
In Shelbyville, our destination was Science Hill
, about which I've raved many times before on this site. Let me repeat that we have never been anything less than thrilled with our food here. It's an old girls' finishing school converted into a dining room and small "exclusive" shopping complex, including the fabulous Wakefield-Scearce silver vault, which is always worth a look. Science Hill
is a "ladies-who-lunch" kind of place, and often seems to be hosting a few small birthday parties and wedding showers on Saturdays, but it is never loud and our smaller group of three (or two) has never felt crowded or out of place. The waitstaff has been there forever, is welcoming, gracious and efficient. The food is varied and always delicious. I usually have fried chicken (allegedly, Julia Child loved their version) which is served with green beans, carrots, and smashed potatoes. My brother had the fried Kentucky trout, and my husband had a bibb lettuce salad with turkey, country ham, and other vegetables, like beets. He usually has their chicken salad, which we make at home to their recipe, which, at the restaurant, is also served with a huge fritter dusted with powdered sugar. But this time, he stuck with the salad, which he really enjoyed. We had two baskets of their outstanding biscuits and hot water cornbread. And for dessert -- their warm brown sugar pie (like chess) with whipped cream can't be missed.
After a turn around the gallery, we decided to stop at the Shelbyville branch of the Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen
-- not because any of us needed dessert, you understand, but because my brother hadn't yet visited one of their places. This outlet was smaller than the one in Louisville, and didn't have quite as large a selection of baked treats, but there was still plenty to choose from. My brother had "plain" vanilla ice cream; my husband, chocolate chip; and I had coconut again. All of the flavors were impeccable. I was just too full to get cake or pie. All this eating is not my usual practice, and it was starting to take a toll.
We had dinner at Beaumont Inn again on Saturday, and the only real difference from Friday evening was that they had shrimp and grits as a special, which my brother devoured with gusto.
Sunday, we lingered to have brunch in the dining room. It's a limited menu, and includes a first course, entree and dessert. The first course can be their famous cornmeal batter cakes (which we had every morning at breakfast, included in the room charge for overnight guests), a salad, fruit cup, or something along those lines. Entree can be eggs and sausage and bacon, or fried chicken and ham, or catfish, etc. The highlight for me at brunch is that they offer you a basket of homemade cloverleaf yeast rolls and those serrated-edge corn muffins, which are out of this world. We were all too full for dessert, but the choices included Derby pie, bread pudding, or their Robert E. Lee cake.
We had some time to kill before our flight, so we all drove over to Midway, where we'd had good luck antiquing in the past. Unfortunately, this was a Sunday, and much of downtown Midway was closed. There were only one or two shops open. We stopped into the Grey Goose
tavern, primarily to use the restrooms, but even though they were doing a thriving brunch business, they were happy for us to take up a table just to have beverages. My husband had a Guinness; my brother had a local ale; and I had a Coke. Can't speak to the food, but, as I said, the locals dining there seemed very happy with what they were eating, and the host was most gracious to us, even comping my drink because it was forgotten in the initial order.
Then my brother was off to Indianapolis, and spouse and I started a slow (by choice) trip back to Louisville. I was a fan of the "Little Colonel" books when I was a child, and asked whether we could stop in Pewee Valley (now considered a suburb of Louisville, and where most of the stories take place) to look around a bit. The most interesting thing was the Confederate Cemetery
, which is the final resting place of about 300 CSA veterans, all of whom died in the now-defunct Confederate Home. http://www.civilwar.org/civil-war-discovery-trail/sites/pewee-valley-confederate-cemetery-and-monument.html
I love wandering around old cemeteries. Interesting to look at all the names, and to see how long-lived some of these veterans were -- many were in their 80s when they died. Thie cemetery has a directory at the back (or the front, depending on which way you enter), which we didn't check until AFTER my husband found a gravestone bearing the name of someone who was in one of the Kentucky CSA regiments and who shares my last name (which is not all that common; most of the family lived in Virginia, Missouri or Indiana). That was a pretty neat discovery! I'll have to do a little research to find out how we're related.
From there, it was off to the airport, and back to a very frigid Minneapolis.
Sorry if I've gone on too long here. To cut to the chase, here are my green bean ratings:
1. Science Hill. No contest. Everything you want green beans to be -- porky, succulent, full-flavored, delicious.
2. (Tie) Kentucky Depot and Olde Bus Station. Very respectable meat-n-threes green beans.
3. Beaumont Inn (dining room and tavern, except for the first night in the tavern). Nicely done, if just a little generic.
4. Hall's on the River. Undistinguished, but at least not too salty, unlike most of the other food there.
post edited by rumaki - 2014/04/01 12:54:41