In Louisville, that means rich fare like pit-smoked barbecue, chocolate-pecan Derby pie, and the Hot Brown, an open-face sandwich made with turkey, bacon, and cheese sauce. But it’s also a celebration of the abundant farmland around the city. Greens, tomatoes, melon, and corn are easy to come by in season. The latter holds a place of special importance because it’s used to make bourbon, Kentucky’s most famous product.
Even with these traditions, though, Kentucky cuisine is open to all comers. The spirit of the cooking—using what’s fresh and in season, of slow-braising meats and greens, and making use of all parts of the animal—lends itself well to adaptation and fusion with other types of food. Chef Anthony Lamas is leading the charge in that area.
Originally from central California and of Latino heritage, Anthony runs a restaurant called Seviche. The food is a blend of Latin and Southern flavors, but don’t call it fusion cuisine. “My food is more organic than that,” he says. “I just use the local ingredients, and I cook the flavors I like. There’s some crossover, too. Southern food uses a lot of corn, and Latin food uses a lot of cornmeal, for example. Both have a tradition of smoking or slow-cooking big cuts of meat.”
When Pete Evans arrived in Louisville to film Moveable Feast, Anthony was eager to show off what he says is the most vital part of the local food scene: the farmers and artisans who make the ingredients. Chef Daniel Wright, who specializes in barbecue and American street food, made the hour-and-a-half drive from Cincinnati to cook with Anthony and Pete. First, the crew went to Woodland Farm to pick up bison meat. Anthony gets a lot of the meat for his restaurant from the 1,000-acre sustainable farm, which specializes in heritage livestock breeds.
Their next stop was the oldest of the nine distilleries on the Kentucky bourbon trail: Woodford Reserve. The “Kentucky brown water,” as Anthony calls it, is deeply embedded in the area’s history and cuisine. Cocktails like mint juleps and old-fashioneds abound, and bourbon is also a component in signature dishes like Derby pie, bread pudding, and barbecue sauce.
Meeting the makers
Finally, they headed over to Ambrosia Farm to gather fruits and vegetables, cook the feast, and serve it. Proprietor Brooke Eckmann grows 82 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, as well as other seasonal vegetables, and supplies lots of local restaurants, including Seviche.
When the guests gathered at the flower-decked table at the farm, they ate grilled and smoked meats and farm-fresh vegetables. A little rustic, a little refined, and Southern with Latin notes, this feast truly encapsulated the flavor of the Bluegrass State.