This is the story of a local girl who made good. Very good. Kathy Cary of Lilly's grew up a carefree country girl on a gentleman's farm in Kentucky, left home to cater to the rich and famous in the nation's capital, then returned to open what is today the most celebrated restaurant in Kentucky. This month, Cary returns to the Beard House for her fifth appearance, bringing two of her chefs in tow. We can't wait to sample more of her adventurous food and her Southern hospitality.
As a girl, Cary's favorite place was the kitchen. She loved helping her mother entertain and her grandmother prepare huge holiday meals for her large extended family. As an adult, Cary worked in kitchens in Washington, ultimately running a catering company whose clientele included Edward Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, and the cast of All the President's Men. She returned to Louisville when she married, and in 1979 opened La Peche, a gourmet store/catering company named for her favorite fruit. (The peach, she has said, is "the most perfect thing you could possibly eat.") Today, there is La Peche I and La Peche II, and Lilly's (named for Cary's daughter), where Cary reinvents Southern classics, like her scrumptious Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cake with Orange-Basil Ice Cream.
Cary will be joined at the Beard House by two of her chefs at Lilly's, one a local like herself, the other a transplant from another land known for its warmth and hospitality. Josh Lococo was born and raised in Louisville and has cooking in his blood. His grandparents operated the Old Stone Inn, once a bastion of classic Southern cooking in central Kentucky's horse country. At Lilly's, he likes to create classically based dishes with new ingredients, especially those brought to the kitchen's back door by local farmers who know that the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor will receive loving treatment at Lilly's. The restaurant's commitment to local seasonal products appears in a tag line on every menu: "God bless our local farmers!"
Finbar Kinsella came to Louisville from Dublin, where he trained at the Waterford Regional College and worked as head chef at Kytler's Inn in Lilkenny, reputedly the oldest inn in Ireland. After crossing the Atlantic, Kinsella worked as sous-chef at Vincenzo's and Equus, two of Louisville's best restaurants, before signing on with Lilly's in 1991. Kinsella likes to experiment with new flavors-Asian is a current favorite-experiments that Lilly's diners enthusiastically devour.
Cary has received a lot of good (and well-deserved) press. She was named a Great American Chef by Gourmet and one of the Premier American Chefs by the American Dairy Association. She has been written about in The New York Times, Wine & Spirits, and Food & Wine. But none of this has gone to her head-a simple meal at home with friends remains one of her favorite things to do. One close friend, who says he'll happily travel 100 miles for dinner at Cary's house, told Bon Appétit that even if he and his wife have other plans, "when Kathy invites us over for dinner, well, the plans change." If you're not free on the 24th this month, when Cary and her crew cook at our house, we suggest you change your plans, too.
Crisp Corn Tortilla with Parsnip Purée and Country Ham
Shelby County Egg Tartlets with Kentucky Lake Caviar
Fried Oysters with Chipotle Aïoli on Cornmeal Crackers
Spring Onion Crêpes with House-Smoked Salmon
Herb Biscuit with Venison Sausage, Jalapeño Jelly, and Purslane
Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Creamy Midway Grits in Chipotle-Mount Rainier Cherry Sauce
Roasted Heirloom Beets with Potato Gnocchi and Shaved Aged Goat Cheese in Rich Chicken and Balsamic Broth with Truffle Oil
Seared Ahi Tuna in Toasted Nori over Dou Miao with Wasabi, Mango, Lime, and Cilantro
Dry Herb-Rubbed Duck Breast with Smoked- Duck Demi-Glace on Pearl Barley Risotto, Wild Mushroom Ragoût, and Garlic Confit
Lemon Mascarpone Cake with Bitter Chocolate, Lemon-Thyme Syrup, and Hart County Blueberries
Woodford Reserve Bourbon Balls