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kentucky food blogger

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

An Evening At Keeneland: The Paddock Dinner Series

Hey, y’all!

I recently had the chance to drive over to Lexington and spend an evening with my friends at Keeneland. Keeneland has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember – from the time that I lived in Russell County, to college memories while at Centre, to days spent at the races as a twenty-something postgraduate. However, this was my first time attending a dinner on the immaculate grounds — and let me tell you: the Paddock Dinner Series was something to write home to your MeeMaw about!

Founded in 1936, Keeneland’s mission is to continually invest in the equine industry and to preserve the tradition of Thoroughbred racing. To merely say that they have accomplished this would be gross understatement; they are a world-renowned racecourse – a fact that we, as Kentuckians, should be immensely proud of. I would also argue that Keeneland serves as a meeting ground, an oasis of southern culture; there’s no place quite like it in the Commonwealth, or anywhere, as far as I am concerned.

The Paddock Dinner Series is held three times in the summer: once in May, once in June, and once in July. It typically occurs outside in the paddock, as the name would suggest. However, if you have been in Kentucky at any point during this year, you are well-aware of the fact that we have dealt with an immense amount of rain. That was the case on the evening of the dinner — however, it was moved into a gorgeous banquet room overlooking the paddock and it was just as gorgeous!

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

While the dinner was held inside, we were able to have the cocktail hour outside on the paddock, which was a treat.

The evening started off with some Citrus-Braised Carnitas Cones, which featured smashed avocado and a lime emulsion (I loved the presentation!), and Watermelon Ginger Elixirs, which were garnished with cherries and bourbon sugar.

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

The cocktail hour also wouldn’t have been complete without a bourbon + gin-based cocktail. Both were fabulous!

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

Once seated inside, my friend Jackie and I quickly started making new friends at the table. The meal was served family-style, as it was one long table subdivided into groupings of eight. This made the evening very intimate and personal, which I loved. And while family-style dining is casual, this dinner was both elegant and approachable — an intersection that isn’t easy to achieve.

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

Our meal started with Torched Hamachi, which was flown in that day from Hawaii and featured Japanese cucumber, young ginger, and a bourbon shoyu. I wish I could explain, in words, just how decadent this was. Y’all will just have to take my word for it.

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

Next came the Summer Melon, which was accompanied by grilled peaches, garden mint, marinated feta, and a warm cucumber vinaigrette. I could have quite honestly devoured the entire platter. In the same course was the Keeneland Cured Duck Ham, which was duck prepared in the style of country ham with chicory, smoked salt, and a blackberry chardonnay gastrique. All I can say is that it was exquisite — and unlike anything that I have had before. Two thumbs up.

After the Keeneland Cured Duck Ham, my favorite course came to the table: Country Style Slow-Braised Veal Short Ribs, which had a celery root mash, golden oyster mushrooms, and a glace de viande. They were so, so tender — and nearly melted in your mouth. With one bite, I asked a tablemate to pass the platter back to me.

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

It would be erroneous to forgo bragging on the Butler Farms Cherry-Smoked Lemon Chicken course, which had a dill pickle relish, carmelized young leeks, and bacon jam. This was definitely a table favorite.

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

The sides stood up to the main courses, as the staff quickly brought out Pan Roasted Market Vegetables – rainbow carrots, mustard greens, beets – and Duck Fat Marble Potato Confit, which had a garlic scape pesto & was flavored by port wine salt. Need I say more?

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

Well, actually I want to say more, but just one word: dessert.

Dessert was a Blueberry Madeline Trifle, which was eloquently topped with 18 yr. old balsamic, country créme, and a mint gremolata. Sweet, but not overly so — the perfect ending to a fabulous meal.

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

The Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KYThe Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

Hosted by Executive Chef Marc Therrien, I found the Paddock Dinner Series at Keeneland to be a decadent display of locally-sourced cuisine, elevated concepts, and beautifully-crafted cocktails. Apart from that, it was an evening of socialization — memories were made with old friends, new friends were made, and the accompanying live music was the perfect touch.

The standout aspect, apart from the food, was the setting. It doesn’t get much better than Keeneland – and I do hope that you will take advantage of future events on the grounds. Be sure to keep up with their announcements + act quickly — ticketed events sell out fast!

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) at the Paddock Dinner Series, Keeneland, Lexington KY

Until next time, Keeneland — I’ll see y’all at Railbird + at the fall meet!

As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,

JC

FTC: This is a sponsored post; however, as always, all opinions are my own.

 

The 502 Bar and Bistro, Norton Commons, Louisville, KY

Louisville Dining: The Summer Menu at The 502 Bar and Bistro

Hey, y’all!

It should come as no secret that I am a fan of Chef Ming Pu of the 502 Bar and Bistro, a fabulous restaurant nestled in the beautiful Norton Commons community in Jefferson County; to read my most recent menu review of the restaurant, click here.

One of my favorite things about Chef Pu is that he rotates the menu seasonally, utilizing and sourcing local meats, produce, and more. The culinary industry is built upon the shoulders of our local farmers — and I appreciate, more than anything, restaurants and chefs that pay homage to that in their menus.

The summer menu at the 502 Bar & Bistro was, as expected, fantastic. I went in with high expectations, because I know what Chef is capable of; however, once again, the depths of the flavor profiles + beautiful plating surpassed all of my preconceived hopes (and more).

My friend Shelby, who joined me for dinner, was equally impressed!

Eating Chef Pu’s food is an experience — the gorgeous setting (and patio, don’t miss it this season!), the cocktails, the transition between menu courses — and one that I greatly respect as a connoisseur of both the Louisville + Kentucky food scenes.

Now, to the best part — my recent dining experience!

The 502 Bar & Bistro

10401 Meeting St, Prospect, KY 40059

There’s no better way to start a meal on the patio than with a cocktail. Whether it’s a classic gin and tonic (my go-to), sangria, or a bourbon concoction — you can’t go wrong.

I started my meal with Asian-influenced short ribs — flavorful, well-prepared, and the perfect portion to kick off the evening.

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) at The 502 Bar and Bistro, Norton Commons, Louisville, KY

Next came the mussels, which are always a favorite of mine at the 502 Bar & Bistro. The tomato-based broth was so delicious that I didn’t want to leave a drop behind!

Another highlight? The baguette used for dipping, which is house-made and has small pieces of country ham baked into it. Yes, you read that correctly. Divine.

The 502 Bar and Bistro, Norton Commons, Louisville, KY

The last course before the main entrées came out was arguably my favorite. This beautiful, hand-crafted pasta was tossed in a ramp pesto with snow peas.

As much as I love pasta, it can often be too heavy – especially if it is not the main course. That said, Chef Pu executed this dish expertly: while the pasta was filling, the sauce and nature of the dish made it seem light and fresh. That is a feat in and of itself.

The 502 Bar and Bistro, Norton Commons, Louisville, KY

Now, the main courses!

Don’t even get me started on the glaze on this pork chop, y’all. Simply finger-lickin’ good. Generous in size, it was balanced by the accompanying succotash and grits, which were jam-packed with flavor (and the drippings from the meat – yum!).

The 502 Bar and Bistro, Norton Commons, Louisville, KY

My favorite entrée of the evening was, hands down, the chicken (sourced from Joyce Farms). Perfectly cooked, it was joined by another portion of the ramp pesto, beet gnocchi (the best!), and beautifully roasted carrots.

This is a dish that will wow even the toughest of critics — that I assure y’all.

The 502 Bar and Bistro, Norton Commons, Louisville, KY

Dessert? Yes, please! The summer menu features a new key lime pie, which is an all-time favorite of mine. However, don’t miss out on their high-end, delectable chocolates, which are made each day in-house. They are the best that I’ve had in the city!

The 502 Bar and Bistro, Norton Commons, Louisville, KY

You must visit Chef Pu and indulge in his creations; do tell ’em that I sent ya!

As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,

JC

FTC: This is a sponsored post; however, as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

 

 

 

 

Ditto’s Grill in the Highlands, Louisville, KY

Where To Eat In Louisville: Dittos Grill

Hey, y’all!

There are few things that I love more than the Louisville food scene. It’s where I largely got my start as a food writer; that said, it’s still where my heart is, as I still proudly live in Louisville and I don’t have plans to leave.

While I love the scene as a whole, there’s something even more special about finding a new-to-me restaurant. It doesn’t happen that often, as you might imagine, but when it does… it’s special. That recently happened at Dittos Grill.

Dittos has been a staple in the Louisville dining scene for decades; conveniently located on Bardstown Rd, Dittos plates up delicious, globally-inspired dishes in the popular Highlands Neighborhood of the city.

I am often skeptical of menus that feature a wide variety of cuisines; however, without hesitation, I can say that Dittos executes their menu seamlessly. In my opinion, it’s because they share my philosophy on food: simple dishes elevated by excellent ingredients.

Dittos rotates their featured menu on a monthly basis; whenever visiting, I highly recommend that you order off of it! On my recent visit, I started with the street tacos: stir fry chicken, mushrooms + bamboo shoots, rice noodles, diced cucumber, avocado, salsa verde and crispy noodles. Two thumbs up!

Ditto’s Grill in the Highlands, Louisville, KY

Next came the stacked ribs: two pounds of ribs, dry rub, and tobacco onions, served with a loaded baked potato. Disclaimer: I am generally not a fan of ribs, nor do I enjoy eating off of a bone. That said, I devoured these! They were moist and flavorful – oh, and the portion was huge!

Between courses (and, well, before and after, too!), don’t miss out on their cocktail menu. It’s all-encompassing, with an offering for any palate. Dining on the patio, on a beautiful, warm day, I decided to go with the white sangria — and it was so delicious! Definitely one of my favorite summertime drinks, y’all.

Ditto’s Grill in the Highlands, Louisville, KY

My third course? Dittos Sizzling Southwest Fajitas, my favorite course of the meal. The fajitas come with your choice of chicken breast, hanger steak, or shrimp on a bed of Spanish rice with sautéed onions and peppers. On the side, you’ll find shredded lettuce, tomato salsa, guacamole, shredded cheese, and flour tortillas. This is SO much food, y’all – and I love the build-it-yourself concept. 10/10 recommend.

Ditto’s Grill in the Highlands, Louisville, KY

After talking to the chef and one of the owners, the topic of soup somehow surfaced at the table. I was talking about how much I love creamy tomato soup, as it is my favorite comfort food. Immediately, he sent out for a bowl of his tomato soup for me to try. It was, to understate, the best that I’ve ever had. Creamy – and full of lemon and ginger – it was delightful.

Ditto’s Grill in the Highlands, Louisville, KY

Last – but certainly not least – was dessert. Dittos is known for their pies & sweets, and upon tasting them, I understand why. I sampled both the key lime pie (a favorite of mine) + the featured cobbler. As a Southern Kentuckian, I take cobbler very seriously and hold it to a high standard. Their cobbler rivaled any that I’ve sampled out of a cast iron skillet, which is an accolade that I was not planning to give.

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) at Ditto’s Grill in the Highlands, Louisville, KY

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) at Ditto’s Grill in the Highlands, Louisville, KY

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Dittos has a large menu, perfect for any diner or dining companion. I’m excited to explore it more myself. That said, everything that I sampled (read: devoured) was top-notch.

Also of note are the affordable prices. Lower than I expected, with portions that were larger than expected, it was a pleasant surprise, given the quality of the food. There’s also another deal that I want to mention: the 2 for $42 deal! The Dittos for Two menu allows guest to share an appetizer, order two entrees, and share a dessert – all for $42! That is one of the best deals that I’ve seen in the city!

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My experience at Dittos could not have been better. Delicious food, great company, and fantastic service. Oh, and if you’re like me and enjoy dining on the patio, you can bring your dog!

Ditto’s Grill in the Highlands, Louisville, KY

Visit Dittos Grill:

1114 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, KY 40204

As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,

JC

FTC: This is a commissioned post; however, as always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

Brick + Mortar Coffeehouse in Simpsonville, Shelby County, KY

Coffee in Simpsonville, KY: Brick + Mortar

Hey, y’all!

There’s nothing that I love more than exploring new-to-me places in the Commonwealth; and if you’re a regular around these parts – my nook and cranny of the Internet – you know that my favorite Kentucky road trip destination is nearby Shelby County, KY.

Shelby County is chock-full of activities. It’s hard to beat an afternoon (or the delicious corn!) from Gallrein Farms. Maybe you want to have a cocktail + tour the Jeptha Creed facility. Like antiques? Look no further than Wakefield-Scearce! Love wine? Talon Winery is delicious! If it’s time to shop, there’s no better place than the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass! Oh, and don’t get me started on the Saddlebred farms — there’s a reason Shelbyville is the Saddlebred Capital of the World!

The commonality between all of those activities? You’ll need an energy boost to get through it all and there’s no better place to get it than with a cup of coffee at Brick + Mortar Coffeehouse!

Brick + Mortar Boutique and Coffeehouse

6999 Shelbyville Rd.

Simpsonville, KY 40067

Brick + Mortar Coffeehouse in Simpsonville, Shelby County, KY

Brick + Mortar Coffeehouse in Simpsonville, Shelby County, KY

Located in picturesque Simpsonville, Brick + Mortar is everything that a small-town coffee shop should be: quaint, quiet, welcoming, and above all else, delicious.

I found the menu to be all-encompassing; there’s truly something for everyone! From hot teas, lattes, mochas, macchiatos, americanos, and espresso to chai tea lattes, cold brew, and frappes – I’m excited to go back and complete my quest of drinking my way through the menu.

Brick + Mortar Coffeehouse in Simpsonville, Shelby County, KY

I implore that you come to Brick + Mortar parched, ready for a drink; however, additionally, come hungry — you’ll love their food offerings!

Start your morning with toast + jam, granola + yogurt, or a power smoothie. Or, if you’re like me, the Elvis Presley — which is a grilled sandwich made with fresh bread, peanut butter, bananas, and local honey. The sandwich is a favorite flavor combination of mine — one that is simplistic, reminiscent of childhood, and one that will always be held near and dear to my heart.

Brick + Mortar Coffeehouse in Simpsonville, Shelby County, KY

In for lunch or later on during the day? Try one of their four signature paninis: ham + cheese, turkey + cheese, pizza, and grilled cheese. Apart from that, you can choose from a  range of sandwiches, such as chicken salad, tuna salad, pimento cheese, and a classic PB&J (with the option to upgrade to almond butter).

Brick + Mortar Coffeehouse in Simpsonville, Shelby County, KY

Oh, and did I mention the cookies, pound cakes, and other various pastries? I’ve never met a carbohydrate that I didn’t adore, y’all.

Brick + Mortar Coffeehouse in Simpsonville, Shelby County, KY

Each table was graced with a vase of fresh flowers, a fabulous touch by my standards. Additionally, the atmosphere of the shop was very conducive to working: it was bright, airy, and comfortable.

While there, I spent a couple of hours catching up on email, working on blog posts, and reading over contracts. After glancing at the clock, I realized that time had passed faster than I could’ve imagined; that, to me, was a sign that I was working in the right space.

Last but not least, Brick + Mortar has an attached boutique! Don’t miss out on their inventory, y’all — there were so many things that needed to come home with me!

Eat, work, shop — that’s the trifecta in my world.

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Adventure awaits in Shelby County, KY — and I know that you’ll be delighted by all there is to see, do, eat, and drink in this community.

As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,

JC

FTC: This is a commissioned post; however, as always, all opinions are my own.

 

The Perfect Itinerary For A Visit To Hart County, KY

Hey, y’all!

It’s no secret that I adore Central Kentucky. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Call me biased, sure — but, I believe it with my entire being. One of the best places to visit? Well, with my friends in Hart County, of course!

I hope y’all enjoy this guide that I’ve crafted; from sunrise to sundown, there’s so much fun to be had on this Kentucky Getaway!

 

 

Doughnuts at R&S Salvage Grocery & Bakery

235 Irvin Cemetery Rd., Horse Cave, KY 42749

There’s no better place to start your day than at R&S Salvage Grocery and Bakery. First and foremost, a warning: this place is HUGE! You could spend a good chunk of your morning wandering up and down the aisles — and if you have time, I recommend it. Among the inventory, you’ll see familiar brands and items; however, without hesitation, I can say that you will find many items that you didn’t know you wanted to try, but you will be so glad that you did.

 

 

While the groceries are great, the highlight is the bakery. Owned and operated by the local Amish community, these sweets are the real deal, y’all. Steps away from the case, one can see the young women working hard to make each treat — and, if I do say so myself, the smell is intoxicating. Both the doughnuts and the fried pies are glorious, all while being extremely inexpensive. My best tip? Come early — they sell out fast!

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) in Hart County (Horse Cave), KY

Side note: All small towns have a local watering hole where people hang out. In Horse Cave, that’s the bookstore — and I was lucky enough to take some doughnuts and fried pies to share with the morning crowd. These men, quite literally, solved the world’s problems around that wood table. That, to me, is Kentucky. Kind, genuine people — it was very reminiscent of my hometown. I am so appreciative that they allowed me to be their guest.

Explore Hidden River Cave

119 W. Main St., Horse Cave, KY 42749

Amazingly located in downtown Horse Cave (I couldn’t believe the location – it’s literally in the middle of town!), Hidden River Cave is a gem of our state. This was my first time visiting and I left in disbelief that I hadn’t been sooner! From the American Cave Museum, to an amazing zipline, to rappelling — adventure awaits at Hidden River Cave!

Hidden River Cave in Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

Oh, and it’s a fantastic photo opportunity!

Shop Locally

Downtown Horse Cave, KY 42749

After exploring Hidden River Cave, don’t miss out on the plethora of shops that downtown Horse Cave has to offer.

Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

From A Walk Through Time, to Geega’s, to Nana’s (love her!), to Caveland Antiques, to All Things By Mel, to Sims Studio and Art Shop — you’re sure to leave with a shopping bag or three (trust me on that one!).

Shopping in Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

Have Lunch At A Local Eatery

I couldn’t just choose one lunch in Horse Cave (and, if you’re like me, you’ll hit them both up!). That said, hear me out — they are two totally different experiences and I know you’ll be pleased by choosing either.

5 Broke Girls

904 E. Main St., Horse Cave, KY 42749

5 Broke Girls is self-described as homestyle cookin’ with a Texas twist — and with one bite, you might just be yee-hawin’!

From the southern hospitality, to the mason jars, to the chive biscuits, you’re in for a treat at 5 Broke Girls. But, don’t take your eyes off of the prize — the food. Chicken fried chicken (Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!), chicken fried steak, ham, fried okra… need I say more?

Food at 5 Broke Girls in Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

Food at 5 Broke Girls in Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

Food at 5 Broke Girls in Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

Oh, and don’t forget about dessert!

Food at 5 Broke Girls in Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

WigWam General Store

7015 S Jackson Hwy., Horse Cave, KY 42749

This is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of Kentucky cuisine. Fine dining is great — and as y’all know, I enjoy it regularly. That said, the culinary scene of Kentucky should be defined by what the people eat. The average Kentuckian. What I grew up eating. And what is that, you ask?

Fried bologna. Pimento Cheese. Country Ham. Soup Beans. Cornbread. Garden-fresh produce. Wilted Lettuce. Sweet Tea.

WigWam General Store, Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

Upon opening the door to the WigWam General Store, I knew that I was in the right place. A place reminiscent of my childhood. Sweet tea out of a plastic pitcher (and it’s damn good, y’all). Seats at the counter, much like those at my favorite Main St. eatery growing up. Having lunch at the WigWam General Store should be on your Kentucky Bucket List — trust me, y’all.

 

 

Visit Dennison’s Roadside Market

5824 S. Jackson Hwy (US 31E), Horse Cave, KY 42749

Sweet strawberries, fresh produce, Kentucky Proud goods, a family-owned farm — need I say more?

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) in Hart County (Horse Cave), KY

I wrote an entire post about how much I love Dennison’s. You can read that post here.

 

 

The synopsis? If Dennison’s isn’t on your itinerary, brainstorm again, my sisters and brothers!

Pet a Kangaroo at Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo

3700 L&N Turnpike Rd., Horse Cave, KY 42749

Yes, we have kangaroos in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. And Sloths. And Lorries. And Camels. And a plethora of other beautiful, extremely fascinating creatures — all of which can be found at the Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo.

 

 

I can’t ignore a favorite childhood story of mine here. My grandmother, the late Linda Sullivan, was a very crafty woman. One Halloween, most likely to appease her animal-obsessed grandson, she made me a kangaroo costume. It was a full-body suit — complete with a pouch (in which I carried a Beanie Baby kangaroo!).

I’ve always had a fascination with kangaroos — and that costume was one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received. I wore it multiple times/week after Halloween (much to the chagrin of my family, I’m sure)… I only stopped wearing it when I outgrew the costume.

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) in Hart County (Horse Cave), KY

Seeing live kangaroos for the first time at the Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo was, simply put, amazing. It took me straight back to that moment — to those precious memories with my Nanny — and for that, I will always be thankful. From petting a joey (with the guided assistance of the fabulous zookeeper), to feeding the ‘roos, to posing for photos… it was an unforgettable experience.

 

 

There’s so much to do at Kentucky Down Under — come ready to allocate appropriate time to see it all. You’ll be amazed, just as I was. Oh, and if you’re hungry for a snack (no judgement here!), their on-site eatery serves up some delicious, inexpensive comfort food. Sloppy joes, quesadillas, burgers, fresh fruit — it was all delicious.

There’s also a fudge counter in the gift shop!

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At this point, I know y’all will want to freshen up. If staying overnight, which I recommend, a convenient hotel is the Holiday Inn Express. I loved how close it was to downtown — and it’s right across the road from Kentucky Down Under!

Holiday Inn Express

750 Flint Ridge Rd., Horse Cave, KY 42749

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Another trip tip? If you need to stop at a rest stop, don’t miss out on the two in Horse Cave. As odd as it sounds, they are some of the nicest that I have ever visited. They see major foot traffic each year — seven digits — and upon stopping, you’ll see why.

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Enjoy Dinner At Turtlelini’s Pizza and Pasta

103 S Dixie St., Horse Cave, KY 42749

Turtlelini’s is a local favorite. The staff is friendly, the restaurant is homey, and dinner crowd was well-attended. While I don’t know this to be certain, I’d be willing to bet that the people that I saw inside were regulars. Always go where the locals go.

Turtlelini’s in Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

Pizza at Turtlelini’s is comprised of fresh, house-made dough + a seasoned sauce that is blended in the kitchen. It’s SO delicious — as are the cheese sticks! Don’t miss those. I’m drooling at the memory…

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As I always say, adventure awaits in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Even more true is that adventure awaits in beautiful Hart County!

Horse Cave, Hart County, KY

What are you waitin’ for? Go out and explore, y’all!

As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,

JC

FTC: This is a commissioned post; however, as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

 

 

 

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) Pride 2019

My Coming Out Story

Hey, y’all!

Did you know that June is Pride Month? During this time of year, I often experience a multitude of emotions. I think about my past — past struggles — where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where/who I want to be.

I try to be open here on the blog about my life – however, naturally, there are many things that I have not addressed. One of those is my coming out story — which is, for many LGBT people, the most personal of stories. I concur with that sentiment.

To fully tell this story, I’m going to invoke a timeline — taking you from my past to my present.

Childhood

Important background information: I’m from a small town in south-central Kentucky. One that I love with every ounce of my being. It is chock-full of amazing, talented people — people that have molded me into the man that I am today. That said, when you are different from the status quo, it was challenging to be there. I knew no one else like me. While I had adults and adult friends that always supported me, I did not always relate to people my own age (and I sometimes still struggle with that, largely a leak-over from childhood).

I was always the weird kid.

I was advanced academically — thus, I was often ostracized.

I preferred to hang out with girls, though was often encouraged to make friends with my own gender.

I secretly liked many things that we are socialized to believe are feminine — many of which I kept to myself… a burden that was, more often than not, too much to carry for a child.

I was obese — food was the one thing that helped me escape it all.

I was first called a “sissy” in second grade. I was seven. Looking back now, I didn’t fully know what that meant. But, I knew that it was a slam. And it hurt.

I was first called “gay” in the third grade. The class erupted in laughter. I was singled out. At the time, I knew that I was different — but, I hadn’t quite put my finger on it.

I was baptized that year. I’m both the step-son and the grandson of pastors. Would these societal sins be washed away? I hoped.

Not exactly — or at all. In the fifth grade, I developed my first true crush. It was a boy. I prayed that it was a mistake. It wasn’t.

In that moment, I experienced my first stint of anxiety. It crippled me — I was a child. Looking back at that quite literally breaks my heart.

Young Adulthood

I chose to have girlfriends because it made my life easier. I was still called every name under the sun — each slur associated with LGBT individuals — but, I had an alibi. I was safe… or so I thought.

Still, my locker was broken into.

I was threatened.

I was laughed at.

I was bullied.

I was harassed. 

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At this point in the story, it would be erroneous to not stop and thank the teachers at Russell County High School. Y’all know who you are. Several of you are avidly in this space, my blog. You took up for me in a time that I couldn’t – or, rather, wouldn’t – take up for myself. I love y’all for it.

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The summer between my junior and senior year of high school I had the privilege of attending the Governor’s Scholars Program at Centre College (my alma mater). My dorm was on the first floor of Nevin Hall. Upon meeting my hallmates, I quickly learned that a handful of them identified as LGBT, including my roommate. I couldn’t believe it. Before my own eyes — people like me. What was I to do?

While a Governor’s Scholar, you have a Focus Area (essentially, a major), along with a minor class + a seminar. In seminar, we discussed things that I had never experienced in an open dialogue. Privilege. Race. Oppression. Socioeconomic Status. Sexuality.

Around the second week, we played a game called “Cross The Line”. If the statement applied to you, you quite literally crossed a line. One of the questions, inevitably, was “Do you identify as a member of the LGBT Community?”

Time inched on at a glacial pace. Or so I thought. It seemed as if the entire group knew that I wanted to cross the line. I think they knew that I wanted to before I knew. After building up the courage, I did. This was my first – however minor – coming out experience.

I enjoyed the rest of my five weeks at Centre as a new person. However restricted, an out one. It was empowering. Scary. But, empowering.

I returned to Russell County – and, subsequently, to the closet.

I finished senior year with the most fond memories of my experience at GSP, which made me crave similar experiences in college. When people asked me how my summer was, I clammed up. I couldn’t tell them all of the details, as they were too revealing. Incriminating. All I could say was: “It was life-changing.”

I graduated at the top of my class. I wanted to be remembered as the academic, not the gay kid. That’s why I kept it in. After graduation, at Project Graduation (the school-led after party), I told my nearest friends my truth. Maybe 5 people. They knew. They all knew. They all celebrated me in their own ways — and for that, I am grateful. Especially for Katie, my best friend that you’ve seen here on the blog. She has been a rock in my life for as long as I can remember.

Looking back, in hindsight, I’m not remembered as the academic. I’m likely remembered as the academic that was also the gay kid. While I feared it at the time, I am immensely proud of it now.

College

I unloaded my belongings into my Centre College dorm room — the third floor of Caldwell  — more excited than I had ever been in my life. This was my time. My time to show academically what I have been preparing for my entire life. My time to justify all of the effort that I had put into books, to take that and launch it into full-fledged academia and then into a career. But, it was also the time to live my truth.

From the get-go, I was openly gay in college. Everyone knew it. And you know what? I was celebrated for it. My classmates and professors at Centre supported me in this transitional period — which was, to understate, powerful.

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) Pride 2019

The start of college was overwhelming. Books, parties, social life, and, in my case, boys. Frank Sinatra said it best — “What a world, what a life, I’m in love!” And in love I was. Head over heels with my first (and to this point, only) long-term boyfriend.

This relationship, among other things, gave me a glimpse as to what life could be for me. Normal — slow and steady. Exciting — spontaneous, laugh-filled, smile-inducing. I was experiencing what all of my heterosexual counterparts in life (the overwhelming majority) got to enjoy without thought. This was the first time for me.

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) Pride 2019

It — this new version of myself, my life — was addicting.

There was no going back.

I had to tell my family.

Coming Out To My Family

The most important person that I had to tell was, of course, my Grandmother Judy — a figure that y’all are very familiar with. She has always been my rock, and in this experience it was no different.

My head played games with me and told me to be afraid to tell her. And afraid I was! It was the summer after my freshman year at Centre. I was, as I said, in love — with myself, my life, and a man. I couldn’t gain the courage to say it out loud. So, I wrote a letter. I placed it on her coffee pot — the place that she visits first each and every morning. I placed it there and skipped town (to Nashville) for a weekend of concerts.

She called me the next morning. She read the letter. And she assured me, as always, that she loved me with every ounce of her being. We talk on the phone 3-5 times/day. But, seeing her name on the phone screen that morning was different.

I was afraid of losing my support system. The person that afforded me the opportunity to attend Centre — and afforded me the opportunity to travel and enjoy life as I knew it. That was scary as a 19 year old. Even scarier was the thought of losing my best friend.

I’m so thankful that I had her support — an experience that many LGBT people have not endured. For that, I ache — I hurt. When one part of a community hurts, we all hurt.

The rest of my family was not as quick to accept the situation; however, with time, it got better. That’s what the videos on YouTube told me would happen. I believed them to be true. And they were, luckily, in my case.

Modern Times

The relationship? It ended. Was it painful? More than this blog can express. But, more than the pain, powerful sentiments endured.

Both my ex and the Governor’s Scholars Program taught me how to be JC.

They made me realize that to love – to be LGBT – is to be celebrated; whenever safe, it is to be public.

The exact thing that I feared — what marginalized me in small-town Kentucky — is something that is as normalized in my life as waking up each morning and putting on my glasses.

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) Pride 2019

With a lot of help from my friends, a lot of love from family, a few twirls to Diana Ross, and Aretha Franklin as the soundtrack to my life — I transformed into the modern version of myself.

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One of the most profound resources that we have is social media. While it has drawbacks, I think one of the magical things that it offers is the ability to connect with people that you identify with. I found that community on blogs and on YouTube. However, young LGBT individuals now have even more powerful and avid resources — Instagram, Facebook, and many devoted online communities. Growing up in the rural south, I relied on the internet — and it was a safe space for me. I hope that anyone reading this blog, or any of my blogs, feels the same with my work.

JCP Eats is a safe space. It’s a space that shows that being LGBT is not a drawback. It’s a space that normalizes being gay in the public eye. It’s a space that you, dear reader, will always be welcome. Any and all of my recipes — come to my table. I will support you, feed you, listen to you, and uplift you.

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) Pride 2019

I owe that to the younger version of myself. I feel a duty to extend open arms to others, just as others did to me. That’s why I told this story — one that is deeply personal, yet revealing. One that I often think about. Wherever you are on your journey, there are many that have been there at some point in their lives. Seek them out — they will help.

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If you are a local reader, I hope that you will join me and my friends at Papa John’s this weekend at Kentuckiana Pride. I deeply respect companies that come out in support of the LGBT community both during Pride Month and throughout the whole year. Pride is not 30 days; it is 365 days long.

This year, Papa John’s is taking a stand. A stand for equality. A stand for inclusion. A stand for appreciation. A stand for validation. A stand for love.

And, quite frankly, I love them for it.

Oh, and I have a gift for you! For all of your pride food needs (and going forward), you can receive 25% off your regular menu price Papa John’s order with my code

JCPEATS25

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) Pride 2019

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As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!

… and this month, I really want to hone in on the living.

Live your truth.

Live loudly.

Live authentically.

Live unabashedly.

I support you.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,

JC

FTC: Papa John’s has provided free product and compensation in return for this post; however, as always, all opinions are my own.

 

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

Sushi To Go: The Perfect Dinner In Lexington, KY

Hey, y’all!

There are few things that I love more than sushi and convenience. Convenience and quality, at times, are mutually exclusive; however, I’m happy to let you in on a little secret: they don’t have to be!

Y’all know that I love the Summit at Fritz Farm — a fabulous development in Lexington, KY that offers a variety of shopping + dining options. However, eating at the Summit just got a lot easier!

My friends at Blue Sushi Sake Grill now offer order pick-up via their mobile app, which is available in the App Store of your smartphone. Yes. You read that correctly. Get excited, y’all!

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) at Blue Sushi Sake Grill in Lexington, KY

 

As an entrepreneur, I find myself constantly on the go — and I know that many of you feel the same. Whether you are a busy professional, an individual devoted to their family, someone with a jam-packed social schedule — we all want to, at the end of the day, make our lives easier.

When you open the Blue Sushi Sake Grill App, you will find that the entire menu is easy to browse, as it is subdivided into sections. The best part for me was that each item had a photo, which made my selections across their vast menu much, much easier.

The process is as simple as adding the item into your cart, paying with your card, and being told when to show up to pick up your items. The wait time for my order was around 30 minutes, which was more than reasonable because – well, to be frank – I didn’t hold back in the selection process. Everything was made fresh and couldn’t have been more delicious. Treat yourself, am I right?

What to order? Well, I’m so glad you asked! 

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) at Blue Sushi Sake Grill in Lexington, KY

As for appetizers, the crispy rice cakes, which are topped with spicy bigeye tuna, scallions, and tatami sauce, were a huge hit. I also really enjoyed the lettuce wraps + crab rangoons + fried calamari + seaweed salad with snow crab.

 

For sushi, buckle up, y’all. I tried several of the rolls — and they were top-notch!

The Hawaiian Roll was a crowd favorite, which was tempura fried and had salmon, crab, mango, and mirin mango purée. I also really enjoyed The Lion King, which was filled with a crab mix, cucumber, avocado, spicy salmon, eel sauce, and spicy mayo.

As for vegetarian options, a highlight was the Shiitake to Me, which featured mushrooms sautéed in coconut milk, shiitake and sweet potato vegan tempura, truffle oil, sweet soy, and thai basil; another one that received two thumbs up was the Thai Hippie, which was stuffed with tofu vegan tempura, avocado, cucumber, and carrot — and topped with thai peanut sauce, cashew with thai basil, cilantro, mint, and a red onion salad.

Blue Sushi Sake Grill in Lexington, KY

Like dessert? I definitely recommend getting the mochi, which is a variety of four sticky rice cakes filled with vanilla, chocolate, mango, and green tea ice cream. Other highlights include the chocolate torte, tempura fried ice cream, and chocolate spring rolls.

Whether you are headed to the ballpark, coming home from the gym, or you simply don’t want to cook at home, let my friends at Blue Sushi Sake Grill take care of dinner. I am sure that they will take great care of you!

JC Phelps (JCP Eats) at Blue Sushi Sake Grill in Lexington, KY

To learn more about their app, click HERE.

Want a present from me? How does $5 off your next mobile to-go order sound? To redeem, click HERE; after claimed, your offer is good for 14 days.

One last thing. A little secret, if you will. A little birdie told me that delivery will be coming to the restaurant later this year… stay tuned for that announcement!

You can visit the Lexington location of Blue Sushi Sake Grill at:

105 Summit At Fritz Farm Suite 130

Lexington, KY 40517

As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,

JC

FTC: This is a sponsored post; however, as always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

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