Monday, April 25, 2011

Guest Post: Matt from Li'l Cheezers Explains!

Update: When this was originally posted, I titled it "Mike from Li'l Cheezers..." The man's name is Matt.  Geez Louise, Lou.  It was right there in the email.  My apologies to Matt.  Matt says this happens all the time, for some reason... 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about Li'l Cheezers, the new grilled cheese truck making the rounds in the city.  I'd watched the business develop via their Facebook & Twitter posts, and I was-- as many people were-- dismayed when I saw that they'd hit a red-tape wall regarding city ordinances.  I emailed the folks at Li'l Cheezers and asked them for the skinny.  But they were, understandably, too busy to be able to respond at the time.  Since then, Li'l Cheezers has pushed through the frustrating blocks and the truck is up and running and routinely selling out!  Fabulous news!  Now that the bureaucratic nightmare is mostly over, Matt Davis was nice enough to drop me a lengthy email with the Li'l Cheezers story.  With his permission, I reproduce the story here:

Basically (if basic is even possible) what happened was that 3 years ago an ordinance was passed to regulate pop up vendors on the side of the road selling swap meet Nikes and fake Persian rugs. They were also selling food and anything else they could to make money. By the addition of the word "food" in that vendor ordinance the regulating agencies took it upon themselves to police up all mobile food vendors that weren't compliant with the local vendor ordinances. Unknowingly infringing upon liberties given these mobile food vendors by the Health Department which is a state entity. Local trumped state for about 3 years and that was clearly not the way its supposed to work. Once that was realized by the Mayor's Policy Analyst he called the IPL and basically got the problem solved. The Inspections, Permits and Licenses division and more specifically the division of Alcohol and Beverage control are still charged with making sure we are permitted properly by the health department and we are doing everything we are supposed to be doing but we are no longer required to meet the requirements of the local ordinance regulating Stationary and Mobile Vendors and Peddlers as long as we are legal with the health department.

There were other concerns as well like the competition that we give to brick and mortar establishments but I will not apologize for having a different concept. Qdoba doesn't apologize to Taco Bell, and no one is crying about the unmanned Redbox movie rental cabinets across the street from the closed-down Blockbusters. I am sure they didn't have to have a meeting at the Mayor's office and they took jobs and industry from the community. And is that money local? It would seem to me that anything taking jobs away from the area ought to be pumping as much money back into the local community as possible.

Primarily I think food trucks got a bad rap because they are hard to regulate, they can move anywhere, and if you aren't paying attention they could potentially sell anything, and I recognize that as a problem. But ANY business can do that and the daily operational practices of a business are only as good as the owner and employees of said business. I am a 15 year EMS veteran both civilian and military, a homeowner, taxpayer, father, and husband. I bring an ethical standard to my business practices that are without question. I am not trying to sit in front of a restaurant and undercut your prices and steal business. I don't want to go where the food IS; I want to go where the food ISN'T like industrial parks, office parks, and construction sites. People might only get 30 minutes for lunch and that leaves 4 options: bring it from home, raid the vending machines, skip lunch or race to the closest fast food joint and slam your food on the way back to work. If an option is in the parking lot of an office or industrial park and it provides a quick and easy food option within walking distance, then it gives employees a chance to sit, converse, digest, and clock back in on time. Happy employees are much more productive employees and that's important especially in direct customer contact based services.

Beyond that, late night bar crowds are our bread and butter on the weekends. I am not hurting any local business by sitting near 3 or 4 bars with no 3am food options close by. If having a food truck there keeps one drunkard from making a run for the border then the contribution these trucks make are even more lucrative than sales tax revenue.

So it would seem that the problem is solved for now and we have been doing excellent. I am so thrilled with all the positive response from the concept, the food and the rally of support for our culinary contribution. Unlike EMS, now I see smiles on faces when we show up, I see people happy about our presence and I see people raving about the food. I couldn't ask for a better response with over 600 Facebook and Twitter followers in the first 2 weeks and the location offers rolling in. And the press.... I don't even know where it is all coming from. All over the internet, newspapers and word of mouth is amazing.

Thank you so much to Matt-- I don't know him personally, but I love his story, and his commitment to all things local and ethical.  Haven't tried Li'l Cheezers, but as soon as we get a spate of better weather, I will track down the truck-- cheese and bread are my two of my favorite food groups (if only he served bourbon... nirvana!).  You can find the Li'l Cheezers food truck by following them on Twitter (@lilcheezers).  Or just keep an eye out for the Spongebob-yellow truck!  Good luck, Mike!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Trailer for ANOTHER EARTH: Mapother Stars

Holy cow!  Well, y'all know I have a little celebrity crush on local actor William Mapother (Ethan from LOST, yeah yeah sure... but he's been grand in everything I've seen him in. Including GLEN GARRY GLENROSS at Actors.

Well, the official trailer for his award winning Sundance 2010 film, ANOTHER EARTH is out.  Back when I first mentioned this film, I said, "A Louisvillager AND sci fi?  Love!"

I had no idea.  This looks astonishing.  Wow.  Beautiful.  Now I really can't wait.

Speaking of Mapother.... And kids, if you follow me on Twitter (@loueyville), you already know this story... I totally let you folks down.  When Roommate and I saw BOB at Actors Theater, I sat RIGHT IN FRONT of the lovely Mr. Mapother.  And you know what I said to him?  Nothing.  I said nothing.  Have had a crush on the man for years, and I said nothing.  Because that's how I roll.  (See: the first paragraph of this post)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Keillor & Collins at the Kentucky Center

Garrison Keillor is a polarizing figure.  There are people I love and respect with every ounce of my being who think Keillor is odious. I, on the other hand, have a huge, massive, fan-girl crush on the man.  Love him, love him, love him. Eat him up with a spoon. Good gravy, when he announced he'll be retiring soon, I fell into a catatonic gloom.

When I first met Roommate (nine years ago this May!), we instantly bonded over our mutual love of the tv show Ed and of Prairie Home Companion. Together we've made two pilgrimages to St. Paul to see PHC live, and we saw PHC when it came to New Orleans.

One of the most memorable nights of my life was on New Year's Eve just after Katrina.  Roommate and I decided to splurge, and we bought tickets to Keillor's New Year's Eve dinner and show up in St. Paul.  Keillor, ever the good host, made his rounds during dinner to all the tables.  And when when he found out we were from New Orleans (and had met him briefly during his New Orleans show), he spent extra time with us.  It just felt so special.  And then the show itself? Brilliant and beautiful and moving and seriously one of the best ways I can think of to ring in the new year.  A new year after such a damned awful year.  And perhaps the best part of that night? Billy Collins.

On Thursday, Garrison Keillor will interview Billy Collins at the Kentucky Center.  Collins was our Poet Laureate from 2001-03 and is seriously the most accessible, enjoyable living American poet, in my most humble and perhaps limited opinion.  You don't like poetry, you say?  You'll like Collins.  He's charming and smart and funny, and while I have a super special place in my heart for 2004-06 Laureate Ted Kooser (what a nice guy... and if you were on his mailing list, you got a love poem every Valentine's Day... swoon),  Collins may be my favorite living Laureate.

I bought my tickets as soon as the event was announced.  Which turned out to be a good thing because the event has been so popular, they're now simulcasting it to other theaters.  So go.  Seriously.  Go.

BTW: Who is our current Laureate? Kay Ryan. Who wrote a poem that was on my fridge for years and which comforted me during the loss of some of the most important people in my life.  Read "Things Shouldn't Be So Hard" here on Keillor's "Writers' Almanac" web page.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lil Cheezers: Street Food in Louisville

I've been watching the Lil Cheezers food truck story unfold on Facebook and Twitter for a while now.  Watched their excitement grow as the gourmet grilled cheese truck came together and watched their frustration mount when they hit a permitting wall.  I even contacted them to get more of the saga, but they wrote me back a polite "we're awfully busy, get back to you soon."

I'm not entirely sure how the permitting ordeal played out, but on Facebook they were very complimentary of the folks in Mayor Fischer's office.  And they've been out, slinging their grilled cheeses, the past couple of weekends.

Food trucks and street food are wicked hip these days, and folks in Louisville seem to be clamoring for a more vibrant local street food scene.  Tonight the NYT article about late night street food "raves" in San Francisco is burning up local Twitter.  And I know that there's a new "street food restaurant" opening up in the rebuilt old Mimosa building on Bardstown.  A while back, a local entrepreneur held a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to open Morels Food Truck, an all-vegan operation.  I know I've heard something about a Mexican food truck too...

I'm really not familiar with the idea of "street food."  I lived in NYC for five years, and the only things I ate out of vehicles were hot dogs, donuts, and ice cream.  But I'm more than willing to accept that there is a street food vacuum here in Louisville that's slowly being filled.  We wish Lil Cheezers all the best!

Lil Cheezers' menu looks delish and reasonable.  While all their specialty sandwiches are appealing, I'd be more than happy with a $5 grilled brie sandwich, straight up, no add-ins.

They'll be at Record Store Day (something not-Thunder) on Saturday the 16th at Ear X-tacy from 9am-10p.  Last gig they had, they sold out before their time was up, so I recommend going early!  Can't wait to try it out.

Louisville Little Bit 1: Jack Fry's

When did I get so shy? I remember being something of a brazen badass when I was a teenager.  But as an adult, I'm definitely socially... well, back in the day we used to say "socially retarded," so I am the less-repulsive synonym of that.

Last night, I volunteered at the Louisville Public Media pledge drive, and I didn't introduce myself to a soul there.  Just did the answering phones thing (which was monumentally painful for me; I am so phone adverse that the only reason I HAVE a phone is that Mama Lou won't email or text) and ducked out.  I did, however, feel compelled to chime in on one conversation.

A lovely Bellarmine freshman (so nice to see so many young people volunteering!) was saying that she and her friends wanted to get all dolled-up and go out someplace super fancy for a friend's birthday... on a freshman budget.  And when she said something about her male friends wanting to wear their seersucker suits, I said: "Jack Fry's."  She'd never heard of the place and wanted a description, so I said: "It looks like somewhere Sinatra would've hung out."  She picked up her phone and made a reservation right then.

And that made me remember an idea I had for this blog.

The only New Year's Resolution that I've mostly kept is that I wanted to try new (to me) restaurants more.  Because we live in the most awesome, restaurant-heavy neighborhood in the city, Roommate and I tend to get in ruts.  So the goal was to branch out.  Eschew the old faithfuls for new untrieds.  The problem is: so many of the restaurants we haven't tried aren't really in our budget.  What to do?

Well, there's no rule that says that in order to go to a new restaurant you have to really eat there.  Right? I'm not a (groan) foodie.  I'm not a food critic.  I don't have to taste a whole bunch of things to decide whether or not I like a place. The point is to soak up the atmosphere and maybe have a little bit of something.

So every once in a while I will post a Louisville Little Bit where I tell you about how to get in and out of a restaurant that might normally be a budget-buster for a modest amount of cash.

Louisville Little Bit 1: Jack Fry's

Jack Fry's is one of the closest restaurants to my house.  And I've only been there twice.  Well, three times now. I've known full well that Fry's has very reasonably priced burgers, and I've heard many times that their burgers are among the best in the city.... but for some reason, I've avoided the place because I'd held in my head their $34 steaks and $32 fish dishes.  It just screamed "special occasion" or "important night out" to me.

As I said, Jack Fry's looks like a place where Sinatra would've felt quite at home.  Live music most evenings. Dark. Old pictures on the wall.  Fry's was established in 1933, and it probably hasn't changed much since, even though it changed hands from the original owners to a long-time employee in 2003.

When you live in this neighborhood, Jack Fry's is synonymous with "good smells."  Walk by Fry's during dinner hour when you're hungry, and the smell of cooking food is almost unbearable.

A few months ago, I got a bug up my butt to have a really killer burger.  And after hemming and hawing for a while-- it was a very ordinary night, a Wednesday or a Thursday-- somehow Roommate and I decided on Jack Fry's.  This was shortly after Roommate's heart attack, and we figured that if he was going to splurge on something less-than-good for him, it might as well be fantastic.

And I'll never hem and haw over Jack Fry's again.  What a delightful-- and fairly reasonable-- special night!  Their burgers are all they're cracked up to be and under $10!  The service was exceptional.  When I heard that one of the specials of the day came with brussel sprouts (one of my favorites) and asked if I could sub the sprouts for the burger's fries, the waitress didn't bat an eyelash.

Manhattans (my cocktail of choice) are reasonably-priced and delicious.  There are a few bottles of wine under $30.  And when it comes to atmosphere, between the decor and the live jazz... Jack Fry's can make an ordinary Thursday night feel like a special occasion.

One of the things I like most about Jack Fry's is that it is as swanky as you want it to be.  I didn't feel uncomfortable at all in jeans and a sweater.  I'd feel right at home in a cocktail dress.

A cocktail at the bar along with a burger or an appetizer... a little bit of Jack Fry's and you can get out of there for under the cost of their $34 steak!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Show Public Radio Some Love!

I moved to Louisville nearly five years ago.  (Side note: I just realized that at this point I have lived in Casa Lou longer than I've lived in any one dwelling since I was a child.  Huh. Wild.) Since that time I have listened to only two radio stations in the city: WFPK and WFPL.**

Louisville's Public Radio is one of my top ten favorite things about this city. Hell, I lived in NYC for five years, and I don't think their public radio is anywhere near as good.  We're so damned lucky to have WFPL and WFPK (and I'm sure we're lucky to have WUOL; it's just not my thing).  Waterfront Wednesdays, the whole news team at WFPL, Laura Shine (who doesn't have a HUGE girl-crush on Laura Shine?), and of course all the usual great NPR stuff.  

The C-J recently did a good article about local public radio and the political scene.  Check it out here

Anyway, there is no way I could possibly pledge what I owe to Louisville Public Media, so I volunteered to answer phone during their fund drive.  You should too.  Or better yet, dig deep and pledge at 502-814-6565 or online

**That statement is 99.99% accurate.  Sometimes if Roommate and I are in the car and a Reds game is on, we'll listen to sports radio.  And sometimes if I can't sleep, I listen to Coast-to-Coast with George Noory because, shit, I want to believe!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Comedy/Tragedy Face: Actors Theater Late Seating

Today's blog about Actors Theater's April Late Seating is brought to you by the Comedy/Tragedy face. 

This Friday (April 15) is Late Seating at Actors.  Doors open at 10p. The show begins at 10:30p.  And get your tickets in advance because these shows often sell out.  (And this one likely will.)  Performers include music from Adventure, performances by Le Petomane and Johnny Dobring, and an audience-generated art project.  There will also be give-aways, a cash bar, and all kinds of other fun.  That's the happy, Comedy face part.

I've only made it to one Late Seating-- the one on the rooftop of the garage with the Pass back in Fall 2010, and it was one of my favorite nights in Louisville. I've also tried to go to two more, but they sold out.  I promised myself after the last sold-out show I missed that I would try to get to as many Late Seatings as possible...

So now the sad news (Tragedy face) from Actors' press release:  

For over 5 years and 20 successful performances, the Late Seating has showcased more than 80 local artists and entertained more than 3600 patrons. April's lineup marks the Late Seating's final program of the season and with this Actors Theatre today announced that the Late Seating Co-producers: Mike Brookes, Cathy Colliver, Matt Dobson, Paul Doyle and Emily Ruddock, will retire as creative and logistical curators of the series.... Late Seating will now enter a hiatus following the April 15th performance. Actors will reconsider the series upon the arrival of its soon to be appointed Artistic Director. (emphasis mine)

Here's hoping Actors brings back Late Seating quick and in a hurry.  We wish Brookes, Colliver, Dobson, Doyle, and Ruddock the best and thank them for a great series.  And get those tickets early, kids.  Once word gets out that this could be the last Late Seating in a while, it's sure to sell out.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bats and Horses... upcoming events!

So college basketball season is over, and Roommate is in mourning.  That UCONN-Butler game was awful, but the women's Texas A&M vs. Notre Dame game more than made up for it.

One door closes, and another door opens... the Louisville Bats baseball season starts this Thursday, April 7 with a series against Toledo.  I couldn't be more excited.  The weather has promised to be nice, and it's still my spring break.  Someone who doesn't know me very well (yet) asked me if I planned to be at opening day for the Bats... and he was genuinely taken aback by my response.  I didn't mean to rock the "are you crazy??" face.  But I guess I did.  I will be there with proverbial bells on, folks.  And I have no doubt, win or lose, it will be a highlight of my spring vacation.

In other sporting news...

Churchill has announced that its first day of Spring Meet will be under the lights.  April 30 at 6pm with an 11-card race.  Personally, I have somehow missed ALL of Churchill's under the lights programs, so I am super excited for this.  General admission for Downs After Dark is $10. The Downs have planned more After Dark events have been planned for June 17 & 24 and July 1.

In addition to the After Dark nights, Churchill has also released their programme for Friday night concerts in the paddock.  According to their website the line up looks like this:

• May 13: The Villebillies (eclectic rap, rock and other genres);
• May 20: Keller Williams (combines elements of bluegrass, folk, alternative rock and other genres);
• May 27: Dawn Landes and the Hounds (country/folk and indie-rock);
• June 3: Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons (indie-rock);
• June 10: Wax Fang (experimental psychedelic rock).
General admission for these race dates will be $3 until 7 p.m. but will increase to $10 after that time. Admission will be free on May 13.

Read more: Churchill Downs starting spring meet under lights, launching concert series | Business First 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Humana Fest 35: Sweet

This is the second year in a row that, thanks to the generosity of the folks at Actors Theater, I've been able to see every Humana Festival play (I still think we should earn merit badges for these sort of achievements).

Humana Festival is one of the great joys in my life.  And this year's generally stellar line-up has confirmed that this is truly the "most wonderful time of the year" in Louisville.  (I know I sometimes say that about Bats Season, but Bats Season lasts too long to really fit that moniker... it's just that in the dead of winter, when Bats Season feels synonymous with "temperate temperatures" and "sitting outside with a beer and good friends," Bats Season feels so darned magical.)  Any Louisvillager with a drop of theater-geek blood in them should feel uncommonly blessed to live in the city that is home to this amazing festival of New American Plays.

This year's festival has seemed a little less diverse than previous festivals.  It's leaned toward the narrative plays and has featured fewer abstract, experimental works.  No complaints here, I guess.  While some of my favorite plays from last year's Festival were the more abstract ones (METHOD GUN and FISSURES immediately come to mind), and at least one of my least favorites was a narrative (yeah... GROUND... hm), narrative plays tend to appeal to a wider audience.

But if there has been a fairly consistent common denominator among the Humana Festival plays this year, it might be this: sweetness.  The best of the plays have all featured tender, loving, sweet portrayals of complicated characters.

Most notably, EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM starred three characters (and only three characters) who were fleshed out by the playwright (A. Rey Pamatmat) with beautiful care and respect.  When I left that play, I told Roommate, "I think I just fell in love with a 16 year old gay nerd.  Is that wrong?" (I was speaking of Benji-- if you didn't fall in love with him, you most certainly wanted to adopt him, right?)

BOB, too, gave us characters-- centrally, Bob himself, but support characters, too-- worthy of our love.  Through Bob's rise and fall and rise and fall and rise again, actor Jeffrey Binder's deep connection to his character kept us invested and rooting for him, even during the ugly moments.  The four-person chorus, who played all the support characters, morphed themselves into (and out of) complex people in the blink of an eye-- so many of whom drew the audience's genuine care and concern.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the tragedy that draws Katha and Ryu into their "not-cult" in MAPLE AND VINE felt absolutely authentic, tragic but sweet.  ELEMENO PEA features the most abrasive characters of the Festival, but when it all comes to a head, the play is really about Devon (played by the delightful Cassie Beck who was the best thing about last Festival's CHERRY SISTERS) who has made very ordinary-- haven't we all done stupid sh*t for love?-- mistakes that are laid bare in the most sympathetic way.  And DEVIL AT NOON, while being the most experimental show of the Festival, still set forth some of the most authentically wrought and deeply relatable characters of all the plays (see my previous post).

The two Humana Fest plays that didn't really toot my horn still had "sweetness" at their core.  I wish I could say that the Fest was a clean sweep of awesomeness, but I can't.

I was so hyped up to see THE EDGE OF OUR BODIES, written and directed by Adam Rapp.  I'm a big fan of the HBO series IN TREATMENT, and Rapp wrote for the "Sunil" storyline this past season-- the best storyline of the season, and perhaps my favorite storyline of the series.  I expected complex beauty from him, and EDGE fell short.  I wanted to be invested in Bernadette, but despite the fact that I share her New England prep school/Ivy-bound background and got all her in-crowd jibes about Loomis Chaffee and whether or not Mount Holyoke is as "overrun by lesbians" as Smith College... I still felt absolutely left in the dark.  I have no idea what happened in that play.  None. When the crowd applauded at the "end," I felt embarrassed.  I thought, "Oh no, the crowd thinks the play is over because she's walking out that door...." But it was, indeed, over.  I LOVE plays that give me something to discuss.  But this play left me utterly perplexed.

And I wish the Apprentice show had left me perplexed.  Last year's HEIST was an apprentice show that melded site-specific theater with audience participation... my experience with HEIST was, in short, one my top five nights in Louisville.  THE END, the apprentice show this year, had moments of utter brilliance (I will never forget playwright Marco Ramirez's segment called THE ONE THEY CALL THE BLOOP), but overall THE END felt like a high school skit about the apocalypse.

But, my goodness, this year's Humana Festival was a treasure.  The best Humana Festival I've seen since I moved here in 2006.  Even the less-successful works were imbued with sweetness and respect and love.