Chef Maria's Greek Deli

"I'll have a gy-ro," a patron requests.
"We don't have that. You can have a yeer-o. In Greek, our 'g' is pronounced like a y," Chef Maria Bell proclaims.

With that exchange, I knew I'd found my new favorite neighborhood deli. Anyone with standards that exacting is bound to create some amazing food.  

Let me tell y'all, she didn't disappoint.

The lamb gyro meat was insanely fresh and flavorful without the greasy texture so often associated with that dish. The feta cheese was salty and mellow and perfectly seasoned. And the tzatziki? Well, it was good enough to eat with a spoon.

Zorba the Greek pita. Amazing.
As we awaited our food, Chef Maria painted an enchanting verbal picture of Greece -- "The air smells like the ocean" -- and showed us all the take-away delicacies her deli offers. My beau and I walked away with plans to visit often, and possibly book a trip to Greece soon.

It's good to see that some folks still want to do things perfectly.

Chef Maria's Greek Deli is located at 102 Fairfax Avenue in Louisville's St Matthews neighborhood. You can order online here and sign up for cooking classes here.

The Hot Brown at Louisville's Cheddar Box Too

I love hot browns.

They're a matter of some debate here on HerKentucky, but I simply adore them. The ingredients? I mean, it's turkey, bacon, cheese and tomatoes. What's not to love? 

And then, there's the story of the hot brown. I have to say, it rekindles my Scott and Zelda obsessions when I hear that Louisville's famous Brown Hotel first served the filling, warm, open-faced sandwich as a midnight meal for Jazz Age flappers and their beaux, providing the fuel by which they could Charleston the night away. Good Lord, it just makes me smile to type that. 
Joan Crawford in Our Dancing Daughters.
These days, hot brown is one of those quintessentially regional cuisines that you just have to try if you visit an area. Visitors to Central Kentucky just have to try a hot brown. And those of us who live here, well,we either love them or we hate them.

Now, I've tried appetizer hot browns and breakfast hot browns. I've had the eponymous sandwich from the Brown Hotel (always my favorite!), and I've followed their recipe to make my own. But, this weekend, I found a whole new adjective to describe the hot brown: "light."

The Cheddar Box Too! is located in the Chenowith Square shopping center in Louisville's St. Matthews neighborhood. It's a delightful little lunch nook -- a spinoff of one of those old-school delis that sells delicious pimiento cheeses, salads and baked goods.  The hot brown was light and delicious, with farm-fresh tomatoes and a light hand on the mornay sauce. I had a side of baby field greens with house-made cherry balsamic vinaigrette, which made the meal decidedly more "ladies who lunch" than "flapper." I guess I'll put my Roaring Twenties daydreams aside for another day, but this was a really great sandwich.

Who serves your favorite hot brown?

Kentucky's Regional Cuisines

Have y'all read your July issue of Southern Living yet?

I just loved the Letter from the Editor this month. Lindsay Bierman, who has done a great job with giving the magazine a hip and relevant edge, addresses the big issue of Southern food. It seems a small-town newspaper criticized the venerable publication for using "exotic" ingredients like fennel, and claimed they should get back to the basics by including more traditional Southern recipes like fried chicken, grits, and so on. Mr. Bierman does a lovely job of countering those complaints. He notes that Southern food is an inclusive cuisine, encompassing styles from Cajun to Lowcountry to Appalachian. I loved this manifesto so much that I mentioned it on Twitter. And, no big deal, the editor of Southern Living tweeted us back.

Now, if you write about Southern lifestyles, there are three gospels to which you adhere: Southern LivingGarden and Gun, and the Oxford American. Getting a tweet from the editor of one of these publications... Well, it's like one of those Belieber kids hearing back from The Biebs. It made my day: Lindsay Bierman liked what we had to say!

Mr. Bierman's manifesto also got me thinking about the foods that define Kentucky. There's Western Kentucky's mutton barbecue. There's Central Kentucky's beer cheese and burgoo. There are the Louisville foods I traditionally think of as "Derby Recipes" -- benedictine and hot browns. As the holy trinity of Southern lifestyle magazines are starting to tell us, there's the stack cakes and soup beans of my youth, now re-branded as Appalachian cuisine. There are country hams and tomatoes. And that doesn't even count all the ways we can cook with bourbon. There are so many tastes that are unique to the Commonwealth. As Mr. Bierman articulated in his "manifesto", there are new tastes and old tastes and room for inclusion. And they all taste pretty darn good.

We'd love to hear from y'all. What foods are your idea of "Kentucky Cuisine"?