After an exhausting drive from New Orleans to Lexington, I met up with my girlfriend Miss Wright and we went out for dinner. However, downtown was crawling with people for Thursday Night Live (runs through August, has a short break and then continues into October), so we doubled back to a place that caught our eye on the way, Blue Stallion Brewing.
They had a food truck in the parking lot, some outdoor seating and an open bay door for the delightful evening air. We drank their beers — Miss Wright had a German Pilsner and I opted for the Hefeweizen — while we perused the menu from the Gastro Gnomes. The Pilsner was fresh and clean, exactly what you expect. There was no bitterness but it wasn’t sweet either and a hint of orange on the nose added some complexity. My Hefeweizen was similar in drinkability, bright and crisp like a Sauvignon Blanc. It showed no sign of the clove notes or wild fruit tones that sometimes turn people off of wheat beer. They did not offer a lemon and that was just perfect with this version of “breakfast beer.”
From the Gastro Gnomes we chose Bourbon Chili Cheese Fries, Poblano Pepper and Buttermilk Braised Chicken Tacos and “The Hub” Open Faced Sandwich (proceeds are donated to the family of Harry ‘Hub’ Johnson and will remain on the menu through April). The chili cheese fries disappointed a bit because no bourbon flavor shone through. Fritos were advertised but not in evidence. The dish was tasty enough, but perhaps they need a different description. The tacos were my favorite. Served with drunken goat cheese and fried jalapenos, they were incredibly flavorful and I wanted more! Some people might find the jalapenos a bit too spicy but I think that’s why beer was invented. “The Hub” was chicken fried bacon and buttermilk gravy topped with a fried egg and served over Texas toast. We ordered ours with the egg cooked through (Miss Wright’s request) which eliminated the runny yolk component. Although I enjoyed “The Hub” I think it would have been a home run the way they want to serve it.
During the meal I sipped a Munich Helles. Although this word means “light” (or “bright”) in German, it is not a light beer, just not as heavy as many other options. The vivid golden straw color was appealing and the beer was round and easy to drink with subtle flavors and just a hint of bite in the middle — a perfect answer for people who want something safe but not boring.
Note: There is additional parking across the street and the railroad tracks (closer than that sounds).
The following night, after a day at Keeneland, we decided to try The Grey Goose on Jefferson St., which might as well be paved with plates for a few blocks since there are so many dining choices. Lots of happy exploration for the future.
We parked and walked toward the restaurant when we happened across a wine shop called Wine + Market. A tasting was underway, so we headed right in. They serve sandwiches, carry some beer and also display an impressive array of cheese, but we were there for wine.
The selection offers some bargains, lots of mid-range wines ($12 to $25) and a few upscale options for the occasional splurge. You will see no grocery store brands in the roughly 150 bottle selection.
The star for us was a Cava, called biutiful.
It is a Brut Nature, which means no sugar is added during the dosage. The blend is 80% Macabeo and 20% Chardonnay and the pretty green/yellow color looked good in the glass. The bubbles are typical of Cava, large and not as elegant as Champagne, but it comes at a much better price! ($12.95 at W + M, imported by Grapes of Spain). Pear and green apple dominate the nose and the palate reminded me a bit of green apple Jolly Ranchers but without the sticky sweetness. Miss Wright said she smelled hay and clover. The style is soft, no rough edges here, with a long finish that made my mouth water, leaving the impression of not being as dry as it is.
Since Miss Wright’s wine rack was empty, we bought a bottle of that and a red from Santa Ynez I hadn’t seen in a while (Andrew Murray Syrah, Tous Les Jours 2012, $15.95). This little gem was dark and rich in the glass with hints of Syrah’s funky nature and a big, velvety mouth feel. The wine rack is empty again.
The Grey Goose beckoned and we moved through the crowd to get our names on the list. Once seated (not too long), we ordered some mini corn dogs and cheddar broccoli bites – deep-fried goodness. The corn dogs were nondescript, as predicted by Miss Wright, but the cheese and broccoli mix was delicious.
The wine prices are ridiculous ... in a good way. It looks a lot like they take the price and basically put a corkage fee on it. I found two South African reds but they were out of the one I ordered, so we opted for the second, a Shiraz by Leatherwood for $30. The name (and price) made me a bit nervous but it was fine, nothing thrilling but very drinkable, no off flavors and it has a horse on the label!
Wine Tip: As warm weather approaches, don’t hesitate to ask for an ice bucket for your red wine. Most restaurants do not have a wine cellar and some store bottles much too close to the kitchen. When red wine is served hot, alcohol is more pronounced and fruit more muted. We chilled this red down and it made a huge difference.
One of the specialties at The Grey Goose is pizza, nearly every table had at least one, so that narrowed our choices for the main course. The pesto version had my attention, but a special with apples and a honey Bourbon sauce spoke to Miss Wright. According to our waiter, they usually happily build half and half pizzas but the kitchen was adamant about not doing that with the special. So, we deferred to him and he said the pesto was the right choice, “But add some chicken to it.” So we did.
The pizza looked like a target, concentric circles of bright green pesto and dark, thick balsamic reduction. Pizza dough makes or breaks a meal for me and this one was delicately soft and absorbed the oil and garlic sauce wonderfully. They advertise “New York Style” and the thinness meets that criteria, but this crust did not have the crunch I expect from that style, it was more like a thin focaccia bread. Delicious, but you won’t mistake this for a slice in the Big Apple.
Lexington impressed me, and there is much more to sample. Maybe we won’t wait until the fall meet at Keeneland to return. We will, unfortunately, not be back in time for Lexington’s Craft Beer Week, May 10-18.