Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cafe Lou Lou

Back in my mid-twenties, I often found myself heading out for drinks and dinner in the Clifton Area of Louisville. My "Bicardi and Diet"-loving roomies introduced me to a cozy little spot called Cafe Lou Lou. The atmosphere had me under it's spell immediately with funky Pop Art, bold colored walls, and a wait staff that were hip in a non-pretentious way. These were the days when I went to dinner for the drinks and the gossip. Great food was just an added bonus - a far cry from my current foodie state. I was a little baffled by the menu selections that feature Italian-Mediterranean-NOLA style cuisine. However, I fell in love with the first thing I ordered here. Simply, the Grilled Chicken Roll, which includes fresh greenes and tomatoes, pesto aioli, roasted red peppers, and feta cheese, all wrapped in lovely lavish bread. I would kill for it! With a choice of spicy Cajun Crisps (fries), Mediterranean pasta salad, or sauteed veggies, this roll has and will always be my Lou Lou favorite. My roomies had their order down to a science - Hummus appetizer, split the Four Cheese Calzone with a side Caesar Salad and keep the Bicardi and Diets coming...

Our hearts were shattered when we heard the news that Cafe Lou Lou was moving to the St. Matthews area. While I dearly adore this part of town, I was scared that Lou Lou would change it's ways in order to cater to a BMW driving crowd. Fortunately this has not been the case at all. My beloved Lou Lou remained much the same. In fact the decor, menu, and wait staff didn't change at all! When it first opended, the old roomies and I headed to new Lou Lou on a few Wednesdays for half-priced wine bottles. About a year later we moved to the Highlands and were elated to learn that a second location was opening. And even better...they deliver!! God knows how many Chicken Rolls were delivered to that address.

Over the past few years, I have sampled a handful of other menu options. You can't go wrong with any of their specialty Gourmet Pizzas such as Smoked Salmon, Buffalo Chicken, Mediterranean, and Hot Brown. There is also a "Build your Own" pizza option, several other types of Rolls, Sandwhiches, Pastas, Soups, and Salads. The prices are so reasonable that the dinner menu almost seems like lunch prices. I am not familiar with their beer menu but have heard it's good, offering a handful of options from BBC - a great local brewery, and some other micro-brews nearby. I might have to check out the beer next time I go, along with the  Black Bean Lasagna or perhaps the Jambalaya, both are known to be convicted killers. What can I say? I like to live dangerously. Until next time, Live to eat Cafe Lou Lou!! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Destin Seafood Extravaganza... A Happy Holladay

Nothing is better than a beach vacation, especially one that is filled with loads upon loads of fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. It's been about two weeks since I returned from paradise, aka Fort Walton Beach, and I am still coming down from my seafood high. Let's re-live my wonderful seafood extravaganza!

My brother Michael and I hopped a flight on Thursday evening and took off for a long weekend vacation with our parents in Florida. We were tickled to see Judi and Steve waiting for us at the gate, decked out in full beach gear. They had driven down five days prior and were already looking like locals. Mom's skin was glowing with a tan, dad was sporting a scruffy "beach bum" beard, and they were both grinning from ear to ear. I was absolutely famished and could not wait to chow on an early seafood dinner. We headed to a casual ocean-side restaurant called Floyd's Shrimp House http://www.floydsshrimphouse.com/ Luckily we didn't have to deal with a crowd and we were happy to sit near the beach volleyball courts that were still filled with players. The food at Floyd's can best be described as seafood bar food. My shrimp tacos were spiced just right and were sprinkled with a tangy sauce. I was a little envious of Micheal's grilled Mahi Mahi, which was much better than mom's Grouper. The Shrimp Queso app was a little weird but I kept eating it so I guess it wasn't bad and the Fried Pickles were super salty but I kept eating them too. I was feeling really tired and spaced out due to the long day of work and travel, so my recollection of this place is somewhat jaded. I will simply say that I liked everything just fine.

For our next seafood dinner, we headed to a Destin hot spot called Pampano Joe's. This neighborhood beach house is located along the scenic old Highway 98. It provides both outdoor patio seating with live music and indoor/outdoor ocean-side seating. We chose the latter. Beloved for it's bustling and down-to-earth atmosphere, you can't help but feel positive energy here, which is probably due to the lively wait staff and sing-along music. It has a Caribbean flair that is displayed in the general decor and the unique style of seafood. I went with one of the Caribbean entrees. The Island Shrimp were deliciously grilled and skewered, plump and juicy, ranking about a 6.5 on my spicy scale. I did not care for the jerk flavoring of my side of Chutney. It seemed too similiar to traditional BBQ sauce, which I don't care for. Poor Micheal was struggling with a sun burn this night. However, his frosty Pina Colada and scrumptuous Swordfish alleviated the pain. Light and airy in taste, with a firm texture and creamy to the maximum level, I was utterly envious of his meal. There were four artichokes and scallops engulfing the fish, all topped with fresh tomato and greatly enhancing the flavor of the fish. I guess I worked really hard at laying around on the beach all day, because I was the first to finish my plate. I happily sipped my beachy cocktail and helped everyone finish their meal. More happiness entailed when dad ordered a piece of Key Lime pie. Finger-lickin whipped cream on top of the rich and tangy lime, left us in awe. And please don't let me forget about the sinfully buttered, graham cracker, crust!

The next night we headed to another seafood joint on old 98 called The Crab Trap. http://www.crabtrapdestin.com/the-crab-trap-destin.html This quaint, ocean-side restaurant won me over with it's elegant yet casual atmosphere, impeccable service, and the best shrimp I've had in years. While I enjoyed the spicy kick of Pampano's shrimp, they just couldn't measure up to the plump, buttery, goodness of what I found at the Crab Trap. And speaking of Crab, it needs to be mentioned that this was my first experience cracking crab legs! That's right dear readers, I lost my crab cracking virginity on this special night. And stangely my mom was there to coach me along. Mom, Dad and Michael have been crab leg lovers for several years now, so they were more than happy to show me the way. I enjoyed every bit of the tasty legs. However, I must say that they wore me out...

The next night my family was ready for round two of crab legging at The Old Bay Steamer, but I chose to opt out and went with the Mahi Mahi special instead. This fish was A-MA-ZING. It was served on top of a beautiful tomato based linguini with a bit of wine flavoring .A great move on my part, as everyone tasted and immediately coveted my special meal. This place is a little more "under the radar". It sits a block or two from Fort Walton Beach and I am sure it has it's fair share of tourists, but it doesn't seem to be heavily marketed, as I was not able to find a website. The decor here is very colorful and jazzy, with a bit of a NOLA vibe. And the atmosphere is busy and energetic while keeping it's cool. The Old Bay Steamer definitely earns my recommendation, along with the other places.

We hit one more restaurant before flying out. However this unique, Irish brewery and pub is in a league of it's own and will be posted at a later date in time. Until next time, live to eat....SEAFOOD!!!