Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Napa River Grill

As I've said, my husband is not culinarily adventurous, so to try a new restaurant, I usually have to scour the menu and make sure there is at least a selection of chicken fingers from which he can partake. (eye roll) While this makes it extremely difficult to try some new restaurants with my sweetie, occasionally I find one that is a home run for us both.

Napa River Grill was just that.

I know, I know. The Louisville Food Geek had never been to the Napa River Grill? For shame! But, as my excuse, see above. I've been drooling over their menu for quite awhile, mentioning it to the husband unit repeatedly, and finally put my foot down that we were going to drop in on this long-time Louisville establishment for lunch.

The location in Westport Village is beautiful and inviting (as nearly every business in Westport Village is). Walking in, we were greeted by a very cordial host and immediately shown to a table. The settings, decor, and ambiance were all impeccable. After looking over the menu, I decided to try a few of the lunchtime choices by ordering the 3-selection lunch, including their signature house-made tomato soup, Atlas Peak Club Sandwich, and the California Spinach Salad. My husband chose to stick with just the soup and the Napa House Salad. Before any of these goodies came out, however, we were graced with their fresh-baked corn bread, served in a small cast-iron skillet and topped with green chile butter. We started to inhale it the second it hit the table. Sweet, buttery, crumbly, but oh-so-soft, and with a little kick of Mexican flavor from the butter, it was unbelievably good.

Next came the soup. A ramekin covered in a glorious puff pastry which you broke through to get to the creamy soup inside. It was a perfect balance of sweet and salty and the pastry was heaven scooped up with it, the taste and texture of the most perfect croissant you can imagine. At first, the serving was intimidating due to its size, but after taking the first bite, you could see the ramekin was only half filled, giving just the right soup-to-pastry ratio.

When the sandwich and salad were brought out, I was further impressed. The sandwich was a pile of tender, flavorful turkey, which is roasted in-house; along with bacon, tomato, lettuce, havarti cheese, avocado, and a chipotle aioli. While I'm not usually a fan of chipotle (many cooks tend to be heavy-handed and the smokiness dominates many dishes), this sandwich had the perfect balance of all flavors. The salad was tasty, the goat cheese was unbelievably creamy and, overall, the salad was well-balanced with little bursts of sweetness from the raisins.

Napa River Grill is definitely a new favorite and I plan to go back soon. The Asian Ahi Nachos are calling my name!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Friday night I decided to give a recipe found on a whisk and a spoon a try. Raw asparagus, pecorino, and red onion salad. I absolutely love asparagus, but had never tried it raw. Which is odd, since I tend to love all my veggies raw, or just very lightly steamed. I want some serious crunch when I take a bite.

I started chopping up the asparagus and tried a raw piece. YUM! Crunchy and bright, and the salty pecorino I just knew would complement it well. I followed the recipe and let the salad sit for awhile in the fridge before spooning up my dinner and I think I would only change a few things when making it again. I'll cut back on the onion a bit, either the one I used was too potent or I used too much, it overpowered the asparagus. Also, I might add something to give it a little sweetness. It just wasn't as balanced as I would like it to be. Maybe a vinaigrette made with the vinegar, oil, and a bit of honey to give it that sweetness.

I paired the salad with a twist on my normal meatloaf. Instead of just mushrooms, green peppers and onions mixed into the basic combo of beef, egg, and breadcrumbs, I used chopped artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, garlic, and sliced baby portobellos. I topped it with spaghetti sauce rather than my usual barbeque sauce. I also had some green onions given to me by a family member that I wanted to try sauteeing.

The outcome? The meatloaf was good, I think I like the original better, but my husband loved it. The onions were horrible. Way too hot and they got tough rather than tender. I'll stick to sauteeing regular old white or yellow onions. I also used what remained of the container of mushrooms and sauteed them in the same pan as the onions with a little soy sauce and some spicy-sweet mustard I had on-hand, and those were perfect. All-in-all, it was a delicious dinner, and I'll definitely make the salad and meatloaf again.

Friday, June 18, 2010


My favorite part about spring and summer is all the fresh produce. Particularly, the berries. Raspberries are my first pick, but blue, black, and straw are all well-loved too. The only bad thing is the short time they last when you take them home. But, that just means you have to eat them sooner...and then go buy more!

My breakfast this morning was just a bowl of raspberries and a Kashi bar. Simple and good. But now I need to go stock up on more berries to make fruit salad for my family for tomorrow morning. Darn.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee

Sometimes it gets lonely with my husband away on business all the time. Sometimes. But other times, I just revel in it!

That's how it was Sunday morning. I slept in a bit, and when I finally rolled out of bed, I decided to treat myself to a coffee and cinnamon roll from Java Brewing Company. I've missed Java. Ever since I left my old workplace, where there was a Java right around the corner, I have only been in a handful of times. I thought it was time to reacquaint myself.

Java is Louisville-based, all the roasting happens in our great city, and I happen to think there is no better cup of coffee anywhere. While I will go to Starbuck's for a latte or macchiato, I won't touch their basic coffee. When I want excellent, flavorful, perfectly roasted and brewed coffee, I go to Java.

So that's where I trundled off to Sunday morning. I decided to visit the location on Highway 42 in Prospect. Just as every other location, Java has the ambiance down pat. There is nowhere else on Earth I would rather curl up with a book and a cup than one of their cushy, well-used leather couches or chairs. The music is always subtle and mellow, and you are perfectly welcome to spend hours there, just hanging out.

I ordered my usual, a "huge" dark roast. It always packs a punch. Pair that with the cinnamon roll, which the baristas are happy to warm up for you, it's just a little slice of coffee heaven. I sat and savored for a good hour, when the barista approached and asked if I would like a latte on the house. Ummm...sure! :-) I've already had more caffeine than I normally consume in a week, but who cares? I'm sure not going to pass this up.

I have to say, it was one of the prettiest lattes I've ever had! He did a beautiful fern pattern in the foam, I almost hated to drink it...almost!

After polishing off the latte, I was good to go...for about a week! As I left, I was excited to see some Lotsa Pasta sandwiches available in the cooler. I grabbed a couple to take home for lunch over the next couple of days. As always, they were excellent as well. One was a wonderful mix of artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, onions and olives. The other was a mix of cheeses that was perfectly sinful, especially after I zapped it for 15 seconds! The cheeses got ooey-gooey and oh so yummy! I just might have to make a trip to Java every weekend.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

First Time for Everything...

Obviously, I haven't posted in quite awhile. Studying for an MBA while working full time and having a 45-minute commute (one way) doesn't lend itself to much culinary experimentation! :-) I haven't been anywhere new recently. The times I have been out in the last few months have been unmitigated disasters nearly every time, so I decided to try something new at home.

A couple days ago I decided to try my hand at paella. Having never attempted it, I was a little nervous, but nonetheless, decided to give it a shot...on a weeknight...after being at work for 10 hours. Maybe not the best plan to start with.

Searched for a recipe online and decided to go with Tyler Florence's "Ultimate Paella" recipe. It seemed realistic, so I stopped by the grocery to pick up the ingredients, took them home, and started in on it.

Sauteing the chorizo, garlic and onion went perfectly, browning the chicken was a little tough as the chicken stuck to the pan, but this being my first true foray into using my stainless steel skillet, I kinda expected that. But then, it started getting dicey. I didn't read the recipe clearly and forgot to drain the tomatoes before adding them. whoops. So it didn't caramelize like it should, but I figured it would be okay after the rice soaked up the excess liquid, I would just not add all the water called for.

The rice cooked as it should, and then I added back in the chorizo and chicken...soooo...there are special paella pans for a reason. A large skillet was NOT big enough. Slopping over the sides and much frustration followed. Proceeded to let it cook for the requisite time...check the chicken, and it's still raw. Really raw. 2 hours have already passed, 9 o'clock is swift approaching, and knowing that there was no way to cook the chicken any faster without destroying the rice and everything else in the pan, I decided to give up the game.

So what did I learn? To either roast the chicken while the rest of the rice and everything else was cooking, to just use boneless chicken breasts instead of on-the-bone chicken, or to boil the chicken and shred it and add the already cooked chicken to the paella.

Maybe I'll try it again. When I do, I will cut the recipe in half to prevent the Mount Vesuvius of paella from swamping my stove.

Live and learn.