By Lindsey McClave
Given the fertile nature of the Bluegrass, it’s no wonder that Louisville chefs cook seasonally, changing up their menu offerings as the weather turns and the temperature shifts. As we roll into the chill of winter, we can find comfort in the soul-warming dishes we’ll begin to see on local restaurant menus. Here we highlight four dishes that put a cozy spin on an otherwise frosty season.
Start with Duck
La Chasse, a French restaurant, located on Bardstown Road, recently blew out the candles on its first birthday cake, and is fast becoming a Louisville favorite. Its menus rotate four times per year, including the extensive cocktail list crafted by owner and award-winning mixologist, Isaac Fox. The winter menu is as promising as ever, the duck confit a standout rich with flavor and perfectly composed. Cooked in fat, the duck meat melts off of the bone, the edges of the skin crisped just so. A savory-sweet apple and cardamom compote cuts through the duck’s richness, and chorizo-apple lentils act as the warm and hearty base of the dish. Roasted Brussels sprouts frame this beautiful and filling meal.
Braised Short Ribs
Spanish tapas are the star at Artesano, a Westport Village hot spot, with a handful of large plates also available for those looking to truly indulge. The chefs behind Artesano’s delicious creations know that on the coldest of nights, they have a winner with their braised short rib dish, which is set atop a puree of roasted butternut squash and garnished with pickled shallots and mustard salad greens. A perfectly fried, sunny-side-up egg crowns the presentation, the runny yolk acting as a binder and unifying this winter-rich meal.
Chef John Varanese always has something up his sleeve, and is constantly turning out new seasonal offerings at his Frankfort Avenue eponymous restaurant, Varanese. This season, we’re craving one of his ‘house favorites,’ a pecan encrusted California white bass paired with assorted veggies and set atop molasses whipped sweet potatoes. The dish is finished with a bright honey jalapeno butter sauce and garnished with microgreens, adding a touch of freshness.
Oven Roasted Rabbit
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a local Louisvillian who doesn’t adore Mayan Café on East Market Street. A Louisville institution, the food served at the Mayan Café is rich with the flavors of the Yucatan, yet crafted with ingredients harvested from the farmlands of the Bluegrass. The oven-roasted rabbit served with fried plantains and grilled cactus is a highlight of the restaurant’s thoughtful menu offerings. Blanketing the dish is a pipian rojo sauce, a mole sauce made with pumpkin seeds, the very same seeds that happen to be the secret ingredient in its famous lima beans.