Down in bluegrass horse-racing country, April is full-blown spring racing toward summer-and the sure sign of the beginning of the easy season is the Kentucky Derby. It's such a big deal that nobody wants to wait till May to start celebrating the races, so Kentuckians start early. The official Kentucky Derby Festival starts on April 15 this year, 20 days before the main event, but we're starting even earlier, hoping that an early Derby dinner will help hasten the season of seersucker suits and fabulous hats in these damper, chillier climes. And besides, once the Derby festivities get under way, how could we coax a great Kentucky culinarian like David Larson, chef/owner of The Pampered Chef and chef-in-residence at Labrot & Graham Distillery, to leave it all behind for an evening in Greenwich Village?
Larson is a Kentucky boy born and bred, and he comes from serious gastronome stock. When he was a child, ordinary breakfast fare around the Larson table might include, for instance, creamed sweetbreads on toast. After college, this gifted chef headed for Washington, D.C., where he worked front of the house at the Watergate and Embassy Row hotels, but it soon became clear that wild horses couldn't keep him away from the culinary life, so he spent two years as an apprentice to Washington chef/caterer Susan Fischer before heading back to Kentucky. In 1980, he launched his classic American restaurant, The Pampered Chef, in Lexington. Over the years, the comfortable, clubby restaurant and its soul-satisfying food have earned a dedicated local following. Critics are serious fans, and the Louisville Courier-Journal gave The Pampered Chef three-and-a-half stars in a glowing review. In 1996 Larson signed on as chef-in-residence at Labrot & Graham, a distiller of handcrafted Kentucky bourbon whiskey. The food-and-wine pairing was perfect-Larson's regional cuisine is the ideal match for Labrot & Graham's smooth, elegant Kentucky flavors.
In the season of April showers, Larson brings real, unfiltered Kentucky sunshine north for one night only. Break out your racing duds and head over. This one's a solid bet on a sure winner.
Dates Wrapped in Shelby County Bacon
Kentucky Spoonfish Caviar on Spent Grain Blini
Curtiswood Farm Carpaccio on Tarragon-Orange Toast
Pleasant Hill Cheddar-Pecan Biscuits
Green Tomato and Mountain Ramp Bisque
Glenn's Creek Watercress Custard with Old Kentucky Ham, Watercress Sauce, and Limestone Lettuce
Corn Flour-Crusted Sea Scallops Served on Jonathan Apples with Woodford Reserve and Cider Beurre Blanc
Cold-Smoked Roast Rack of Kentucky Spring Lamb with First Harvest Green and White Asparagus and Silver Queen Corn Pudding
Meringues Filled with Woodford Reserve Chocolate Ice Cream and Burnt Sugar Sauce