The Kentucky Derby absolutely lives up to all the hype. And speaking of, did you see the Preakness today? It looks like we may have witnessed the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years. We’ll know 3 weeks from now!
So what made Derby Day so amazing? Well of course there was hat-watching, and viewing/speculating/pretend betting on all the other races that day, standing with 165,000 people as the horses leaped out of the gate, but truthfully, the experience of drinking a Julep at the Derby, enjoying a little Kettle Corn and a fancy lunch from The Streetside Lounge (Where the buns were kept in a separate chafing dish from the BBQ and brats thank you very much!) and experiencing a slow, sweet meal from De la Torre’s Spanish restaurant will remain with me long after the multitude of hats, people, and races blur in my memory.
De la Torre’s is located on Bardstown Road, a few (long) blocks down from Avalon. It shares a kitchen and management with its sister tapas bar, La Bodega, located immediately next door. We were really torn between sampling a variety of small plates, and trying the paella offered in the restaurant. The paella won. Although, I have to say, we very nearly threw it over for the roast suckling pig that was the chef’s special that night. If only Louisville was a tiny bit closer!
While we were waiting for the paella to arrive we nibbled on a beautiful plate of Spanish cheeses, and sampled the grilled calamari. I love calamari, but rarely enjoy it outside of my kitchen because most restaurants prepare it with flour. This calamari was not only beautifully presented, it was grilled over a tiny charcoal brazier. It never would have occurred to me to prepare calamari on my backyard grill, but after tasting this appetizer I’m definitely going to try! Calamari has the perfect consistency to stand up to the heat of a charcoal grill, and the smoky flavor it gets from that application made me want to ask for seconds.
The paella was a traditional seafood paella complete with lobster tails, shrimp, scallops and more calamari. The rice was the perfect consistency and deeply flavored with saffron. It was a true pleasure.
A word about paella: Like most traditional dishes, paella varies from region to region, restaurant to restaurant. In España, seafood paella is usually considered Paella Valenciana- or Valencian Paella. Valencia is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean, and their regional dishes are filled with fresh seafood. Traditional paella from Madrid includes chorizo, chicken wings, pork, and shrimp. Clearly a landlubbing dish for a landlocked city. But one that is no less delicious.
If you make paella at home, you don’t need a fancy paella pan- although a good cast iron skillet might come in handy. You don’t even need to spend a fortune on fancy ingredients. Use what you have on hand and spend your money on good saffron and paprika.
As fabulous as our previous courses were, it was dessert that knocked me out. Normally I would have chosen the chocolate dessert, but I was intrigued by the preparation of the banana…I was delighted and surprised with the flavor, and texture. And even though I was full, I couldn’t put down my fork!
De la Torre’s is a wonderful, low-key restaurant with a wonderful old-world, intimate setting. It the perfect landing spot after the crazy crush of humanity that was the Derby. They even offer gluten-free Spanish beer (yay!) I’m only sorry I couldn’t try more of the menu.
As our trip wound down and I packed the car to head home, I had one last stop to make before hitting the road. A locally owned coffee shop called Quills. I’m grateful for Starbucks and all when I’m on the road- especially because I have fond memories of frequenting the original Starbucks at Pike Market in Seattle, where I attended college. However, I prefer the ambience and coffee of a locally owned establishment.
Quills is right off of I-64 on Market Street in New Albany- if you’re driving cross country and you need a pick-me-up- here’s your chance! Not only do they have free wi-fi, their own brand of coffee, and a case full of goodies, some of those goodies are gluten-free! And the coffee?? Best cup I had in Louisville!
Derby Day Mint Julep
Now for that Julep Recipe I promised- there are several variations of a Julep- below are a few
1 tbs mint infused simple syrup
Pour over a cup of crushed ice and serve with several mint sprigs- enjoy!
One shot of Kentucky Bourbon
1 tsp powdered sugar
6 sprigs mint
Dissolve powdered sugar in a bit of the bourbon, add crushed ice and the rest of the bourbon, add the mint- enjoy.
Muddle 1 tbs sugar and 1 tbs chopped mint
add a bit of bourbon to dissolve the sugar
add crushed ice
pour 1 shot of Kentucky Bourbon over the top
Add mint sprigs- enjoy!