Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cheeseburger, Kentucky

Dear Mouse, 

Hello and Happy New Year from Louisville KY!!!

So this is where I've been since Christmas, working on this show, learning to play bass in high heels, and living in a big apartment that has both a microwave and a dishwasher. No, I'm not in The Future, just in Kentucky! Where, by the way, it is COLD. WTF. I thought this was The South.

I'm slowly discovering the city. You don't really want to live here without a car, but I've managed to cajole my way into a few rides to places that like this one:

Yes, Mouse, the birthplace of the cheeseburger.  (Sure, there's some debate about this... how many people, after all, probably had the idea at the same time to slap some cheese on their favorite hot sandwich? But, hey.)  There you have it and there I had lunch yesterday. A few of us, guided by a listing in RoadFood, headed over after a promotional performance in a local record store (maybe the last of its kind: real vinyl, racks of CDs, the works). It was a cold, grey, and rainy 3PM and we had just rocked our way through Alice Cooper and the Rolling Stones; perfect cheeseburger conditions.

And, as it turned out, a perfect cheeseburger.
Kaelin's, est. 1934,  greeted us warmly and sat us at a big square wood table in high seats that left my short legs dangling above the floor. This had an instant regressing effect on me and caused me to go old-school and order a Bacon Chee. As you know, I haven't had one in YEARS. (Wait, am I lying? I might be lying.) 

 I went with pepper jack, which is ubiquitous in these parts. (So is mayo, which I forgot, but I managed to get rid of it.) I was  impressed by the real, thick, chewy slice of bacon though dismayed for a moment when I saw no pink inside my burger.  ("How would you like that cooked?" does not happen at this joint, though I didn't miss it.) The taste/texture -- slight char, perfect firm/softness - reassured me.  Otherwise, all was as it should be: white rings of onion, tomato slice, lettuce leaf, a couple of pickle slices, and a toasty bun. When they ask you if potato chips are ok or do you want fries, don't be a fool. The skinny fries are crisp-tender (ha!!! don't I win something for using that?) and hot when they get to you. 

 Also, the burger - and this is a real point win with me - was the right size (no wimpy 'patty' but still fits in your mouth without a forklift), AND it did not slide around or fall apart. It maintained the well-constructed bite all the way through. In short, the Burger Abides, Mouse. The Burger Abides. (Louisville is also the birthplace of Lebowski Fest. Moment of Silence.)

One after another great hit from the 80s played softly the whole time we were there, which if you're me is a true meal enhancement.  Sodas come in big red plastic cups with straws, and, in accordance with local custom, the minute you hit the halfway mark you receive a new, full one to put next to the first. 

As an appetizer, our table shared a heaping plate of fried pickles, a local delicacy that I still can't quite believe exists. I took a picture, but my aim was so affected by the salt corroding my body that it came out blurry. We're talking sandwich pickles, the green-yellow ridged circles that come in a jar ...  battered and fried til hot and crispy. The waitress put the plate down and pointed to a small saucer of white that came with it. "Horseradish - Ranch sauce." Then, with a shrug, "A lotta folks like 'em with ketchup". She exited, leaving me to wonder if it made me cooler to eat the sauce or not. I went with it, because fried pickles are maybe the one thing I don't want to put ketchup on. I ate about six of them before I gave up. You know how I adore pickles, so it pains me to say that they are Just. Too. Salty for me. Maybe the heat brings it out...? I think I'll probably go with the Fried Green Tomatoes when I return.

We never got to the Derby Pie (a pecan pie/chocolate chip cross-breed) or the Biscuit Pudding with Bourbon Cream for dessert (we did, after all, have a second gig that night). So I'm going to have to take the GC - from whom I received frequent, hungry texts during this meal - back for a test run.
Located ironically on 'Speed Avenue", I noticed as we slowly plodded back to nap between shows.

The second gig was in a swanky museum/hotel/restaurant/bar which everyone kept reassuring me "is just like New York!" I look forward to eating there, but for now I'm pretty excited about the native culinary gems of Kentucky. More to come.

The Boo.

PS. Incidentally, along with the microwave and dishwasher, I'm getting used to having my instruments transported/set up for me between shows by our fabulous crew. When I get back to NY, you can have this job.

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