In mid-July, I spent an afternoon and evening in Louisville, Kentucky. The afternoon was packed with activities, but I had three hours in the evening to myself for dinner and some city exploration. I had a wonderful driver, who was a Louisville native, and in a short time he took me to the city's landmarks and gave me a great Louisville history lesson. (If you ever need car service while you're there, I highly recommend R&R Limousine!)
When I found out that I would be in Louisville, I knew that I had to go to Proof on Main. It's relatively new at only a year old, but it's considered one of the city's best places to eat. The restaurant offers everything from breakfast to dinner with ingredients sourced from local farms, more than 50 Kentucky bourbons, and it's located next to (and is a part of) the 21c museum hotel and is decorated with contemporary art that is rotated regularly.
It took me a long time to decide what to have for dinner. The menu was amazing, and I wanted everything. But with some help from my friendly waiter, I decided to start with Proof's local mixed lettuces, which is a bright, crisp, light salad, tossed with roasted grapes (so sweet!), shallot, Manchego, and Banyuls vinaigrette. Banyuls vinaigrette is made with Banyuls wine vinegar that is made from Banyuls wine that comes from the Grenache grape grown in Southern France. It's an aged vinegar with a nutty flavor. What a great start to my meal.
For my main dish, I chose the Marksbury Farm bone-in pork chop. And the first bite was heavenly. In fact, I "mmm"'d so loudly that the waiter heard me as he passed by. "You really like it, don't you?" he said. All I could do was chew and smile.
The pork chop was wrapped in country ham that had a little crispness to it, and the chop was so juicy. I don't think I've ever had a pork chop that juicy before. It was served with garden peas and pea sprout shoots on a purée (pea?) and topped with slivers of shallot and rye granola. I never would have thought to add rye granola to a pork chop, but it brought out the savory flavor even more and added some crunch to the pork and the pea sprouts.
I was having such a good time while eating this that it convinced the people at the table next to me to order the same dish. They thanked me.
Dessert was a no brainer. I went with the gelato and sorbet tasting for two reasons: (1) it's like three desserts in one, and (2) a portion of the proceeds for this dessert was going to Kosair Children's Hospital.
The gelato and sorbet are made in house, and for today's tasting I had these three flavors: raspberry, pistachio, and white chocolate with pretzels. Each scoop was cold and creamy, and I cleaned that dish GOOD.
Needless to say, I absolutely stuffed myself at Proof, and I really want to go back to Louisville for more.
After dinner, I took some time to explore 21c, which is the weirdest and coolest hotel I've ever seen. The outside has these giant red penguins on the edge of the roof, and they're inside as well. I asked my waiter what the penguins were all about, and he said that they were some of the first art pieces commissioned especially for the hotel.
There's contemporary art in every corner of Proof and 21c, but I was really surprised by what I found in the ladies' restroom. The mirror that goes the length of the wall above the sinks has these little LCD screens in it, spread out randomly within the mirror. And in the screens play these videos of open eyes, which are looking everywhere -- up, down, side to side, and even looking at you. Although I didn't check it, I heard that the men's restroom has a two-way mirror where the urinals are, and as you're doing your business you can watch people on the other side of the mirror. I'll have to sneak into the men's room next time.
I found this cool exhibit next to the restrooms, too:
Then I hopped back in the car and did a drive-by of Churchill Downs , which I didn't realize was in the city. I always thought it was out in the country. I really need to watch the Kentucky Derby sometime. I'd love to drink some mint juleps and wear a big ol' fancy hat.
It was a short trip, but I'm glad I could squeeze in dinner at Proof and some time to check out some of the city's popular sites. I forget how close I am to Louisville, but I ought to make it a point to plan a long weekend there and do some exploring and also some bourbon tasting.