Saturday, June 9, 2012

Truckus Ruckus, Berry Pickin' and Za

My favorite ladies from the Deep South did visit in late April, just in time for the annual Kentucky Derby Festival.  True to my family's style we participated in none of the Derby activities on offer, choosing to forge our own itinerary for the weekend.

Without a doubt the highlight was a trip down to the Louisville Food Truckus Ruckus.  It was exactly what it sounds like: a roundup of all the local food trucks into a mobile food court.  All our faves were there:Lil Cheezers (gourmet grilled cheese), Grind (burgers) and Holy Mole (very interesting tacos).  A few trucks we had never patronized participated including one that was selling crepes with a staggering variety of filling options.  Although I had to stick with the tried and true Lil Cheezers, I did seriously contemplate the Peanut Butter and Nutella Crepe.

The day of the Ruckus Louisville was in a pissy mood, retracting spring and giving us midwinter instead.  Colder than seemed normal for April 25, we shivered our way through a walk around the parking lot to decide upon a worthy lunch.  While Fuschia, Mama and Mema all opted for some Texas style BBQ I kept the faith and waited, shivering and alone, for my delicious grilled cheese. Lil Cheezers never fails to satisfy me with their thick wheatberry bread, real butter, interesting toppings and hand cut kettle chips with curry catsup. This particular day I enjoyed the Courtney Jo, a hearty thin sliced roast beef, provolone and mushroom hot sandwich. 

Needless to say my sandwich was WAY better than their BBQ, but I graciously allowed them to a try a bite of the Courtney Jo as a consolation prize. 

A few days later I was in a baking mood, a rarity for me despite my culinary aspirations, and made use of a lazy person's no-knead bread recipe. This was a simple white, yeast dough designed to make boules (free form loaves). 

As you can clearly see, the loaves may have been less than impressive looking, but I swear they had a better crumb than I would have ever imagined.  Moist and flaky without the extreme density that so often accompanies homemade bread. Fuschia and I devoured the first boule in a single day, leaving me no choice but to bake two days in a row.

A few weeks after Mama and Mema went back down South and I had (shockingly) lost interest in baking bread, I realized that it was finally strawberry season here in the semi-frozen tundra.  Dragging Fuschia along, I headed out to a local farm in Southern Indiana.  As usual we had big plans to pick several gallons of berries, make jam and bake pies.  None of that would come to pass.  Due to my severe allergy to Kentuckiana I was incapacitated almost immediately upon arrival at Huber's Farm.  Settling for pre-picked strawberries (and paying 2x the price) we headed back down into the smog choked valley where I can breathe easier.

Along the way we decided to sample the berry bounty, picking out a ripe looking strawberry apiece.  If you've ever experienced fireworks made of champagne and ambrosia exploding repeatedly in your mouth, then you have some idea of how these tasted.  I've never, ever had such perfectly ripe, succulent, tasty strawberries in all my years.  After a hurried discussion about the importance of fresh fruit in a balanced diet we promptly devoured a quart of berries, staining our hands, chin and tongues a delicate shade of stuck-pig red.

Feeling the rush of all that natural sugar and the call of our  bellies, we debated all the way back down the interstate about our dinner plans.  I've been on an Italian kick lately, searching out excellent calzones, pastas and cannolis.  Occasionally I find myself weepy at the very thought of being hundreds of miles away from my three fave Italian places in all the world:  Gargano's of Albany, GA is owned by actual Italians and makes the most interesting, most authentic pizza I've ever had; Tomatino's of Montgomery, AL was the favorite haunt of my dad, Mr. RTR (that's Roll Tide Roll for the unenlightened), and myself for many years; Figo of Decatur, GA is a great Italian bistro with innovative salads and a wonderful create your own pasta menu.

Fuschia and I finally recalled a little place we'd heard about that would do for our dinner: Come Back Inn of Jeffersonville, IN.  The quaint downtown is lined with historic buildings, each seemingly deserted at 5:30pm on a Saturday.  We headed inside the restaurant only to discover the place was jam packed.  Turns out the locals love it.  Totally casual, yet lacking the kitsch of most Mom n Pop eateries, this place had the relaxed atmosphere we're both so drawn to.

A heated debate regarding entrees ensued, leaving Fuschia with no clear idea as to what she would order.  Gallantly offering my services I ordered for both of us: a mushroom and pepperoni pizza, Caesar salad and the Italian roast beef sandwich. Our shared feast appeared quickly thereafter, piping hot and wafting smells that can only be termed heavenly.  We went for the sandwich first, a delightful drippy mess of thin sliced beef, au jus and provolone.  Each mouthful was better than the last, no doubt, but I was really stoked about the pizza.

Family lore has it that Mama ate pizza almost daily while carrying me and it seems that I have food memory of those 8.5 months.  Pizza is my absolute favorite food: thin crust, pan pizza, red sauce, white, Chicago, NY, whatever.  I love pizza. I live for the stuff.  Our 10" shroom and pepperoni selection had an excellent crust in that it was almost nonexistent.  Toppings were piled right up to the edge, with cheese and sauce making an appearance.  It was fantastic, or at least the 1 piece I ate was.  Turns out the stomach can only hold so much au jus soaked bread and meat before it closes for business.  My pizza pie would have to slumber in the fridge while I recuperated enough to finish the job.