Friday, May 22, 2009

610 Magnolia, Louisville KY: unusual restaurant, amazing food, creative chef

Located in the heart of historic Old Louisville on an out of the way side street is 610 Magnolia, from the outside, a small, unpretentious building with no indication that it is, indeed, one of the finest restaurants, and maybe the finest restaurant in Louisville. If you were to walk by during the day, you would never guess that on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, an extraordinary chef was creating extraordinary cuisine.

Offering his guests a combination of southern hospitality and urban sophistication, he has created an interior which is a simple statement in elegance with the original wooden beams along the ceiling, mullioned windows, and French doors leading to alovely garden patio. Inside the restaurant are highly polished mahogany tables, Frette linens and Riedel crystal that add up, along with the unsurpassed wine list, to a truly unique dining experience.

Chef Edward Lee has been cooking professionally for 10 years in America and Europe, training under Chef Frank Crispo in New York. At 25, he opened Clay, a successful Asian-inspired restaurant in the NoLiTa section of Manhattan. "I was the chef, the manager, the dishwasher and the host there. After five years, I was looking to rise to the next level."

He discovered 610 Magnolia eight years ago, while researching the best American restaurants. A regular customer in New York who was also a Louisville native, told him about the restaurant and its eccentric chef, Ed Garber. When Lee visited Garber during Kentucky Derby week 2001, they began a mentor-apprentice relationship that resulted in the passing of the torch from one Ed to another. Garber closed 610 Magnolia in July. Lee, in partnership with businessman Brook Smith, reopened 610 Magnolia on September 11, 2003.

610 Magnolia has reopened, in 2003, under the leadership of Edward Lee, a former innovative New York City chef who has studied under Ed Garber, the former chef and proprietor. The restaurant is now open to the public three nights a week. The restaurant focusses on New American cuisine, blending the eclectic with classical European techniques to produce a contemporary and exciting approach to dining that has always been the benchmark of 610 Magnolia. Chef Lee brings to the diners of Louisville a top tier dining experience comparable to the finest restaurants in this country.

Chef Lee believes that a true dining experience requires an entire evening. So there is only one seating nightly. "Your reserved table is yours for the whole evening,” he said. “That's what it takes to make a dinner memorable." The menu changes week-to-week depending on the seasons. The restaurant is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tables will not turn. Reservations are required. A full bar serving a small a la carte menu opens at 5:30 p.m. 610 Magnolia is also available for private events.

Photos: courtesy Dan Dry
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Surviving the family road trip: Base yourself in Louisville

This year, all of us are going to have to come up with some creative ideas for summer travel. The economy is still in a slump, but the kids are out of school, they've worked hard all year and, hopefully have gotten passing grades! They really deserve a break. One of the most painless ways for folks to take the kids along on vacation is to take a car trip. You can stop along the way, they sleep in the back seat, play video games, and listen to music with ear-phones on. They can eat snacks and drink beverages in the car and even take fido along. Most dogs love to travel with the family. And, it's a lot cheaper that airflight.

There are many cities in the US that make good central locations for a week-end or week-long getaway. And the choices in accommodations are better than ever. Nearby state parks offer both cabins and lodges in beautiful woodland settings, farms or ranches are great places for kids, and if you want to include some city life, a bed and breakfast is ideal.

Our national parks are astounding. Most people don’t realize that many state parks have lodges and cabins that you can rent. In South Dakota, you can rent a rustic cabin — there’s A/C but no bathroom — that sleeps four for $35 a night, or a lodge that sleeps eight for $150 (800/710-2267, . In West Virginia, you can rent a modern cabin that sleeps four for under $100 a night (304/558-2764,

In Kentucky, Cumberland Falls offers beautiful affordable accommodations
( Besides relatively cheap lodging, you get inexpensive activities like hiking, fishing, kayaking, biking, etc. Some even have golf courses! Plus, the rangers usually lead programs and activities designed for children.

Farmstays are B&Bs or working farms, where you help ocan out as much as you like, or just explore the area. This trend first took off in Italy, where they’re called agriturismi. A room that sleeps four usually goes for around $100 — and that includes farm-related activities and breakfast. You can help gather eggs or feed sheep at Leaping Lamb Farm Stay in Alsea, Ore. The daily cost for a family of four starts at $125 — and the seventh night is free (877/820-6132, A week at the Herds Inn at Hedgebrook Farm in Virginia is $750 (866/783-2681, Working Cows Dairy is a farm near Dothan, Ala., that rents a cottage that sleeps six for $300 per week (334/886-3839,

Some states have farm associations — including Pennsylvania (888/856-6622, and Vermont (866/348-3276, making it easy to locate farmstays. Other states such as California (805/238-3799, maintain agritourism sites where you can find farms that rent rooms or welcome day visitors. And you can always just Google your state’s name and the phrase “farm stay.” Most of Kentucky's farmstays are B&Bs and are associated with the Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky (

Bed and Breakfasts are ideal for combining what a city has to offer with the surrounding area. You can situate yourself in a beautiful Inn for a week and take day trips to small villages, farms, lake, beaches or whatever you like. A city like Louisville, in Kentucky, is perfect. It has all of the above, plus outstanding restaurants, museums, theater and many attractions. There are a whole host of events and festivals going on all summer, from the Shakespeare Festivals in Old Louisville's Central Park to My Old Kentucky home pageants to the Kentucky State Fair.

An advantage of staying in Louisville is that it is very accessible from other states; such as Illinois Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa and Arkansas, etc. The innerstate highway system is amazing and easily leads right into downtown Louisville. Another advantage is that Louisville has aproximately 18-20 awesome bed and breakfasts (, most centrally located.

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