Know Savoring KEntucky By The Compan(ies) We Keep
This week includes two big Savoring Kentucky milestones. First, on Tuesday our treasured sponsors will gather to enjoy each other get a sneak preview of a wonderful new food space in Lexington. Friday through Sunday, Savoring Kentucky and good friends Country Rock Sorghum from Woodford County will share Booth 509 in the food section at the 2015 Kentucky Crafted: The Market at Lexington Civic Center. We'll have sorghum, maple syrup, and books about how to use them in Kentucky meals—with gorgeous art and craft all around.
The sponsor gathering features Lexington's beloved "pasta guys," Lesme Romero and Reinaldo Gonzalez of Lexington Pasta Company, whose good foods fill lots of home and restaurant plates year-round in central Kentucky. The pasta guys have huge hearts for our community, and generously offered to host our event at their new site at 962 Delaware Avenue in Lexington.
Although they are in the thick of transforming an old garage into a fantastic new, expanded production space and a new restaurant, these guys have not missed a single day of pasta production, blessedly keeping kept both retail and wholesale customers from suffering pasta withdrawal.
The new Delaware Avenue space will include a new restaurant called Pasta Garage, an Italian Café. The new café and its excellent kitchen will make it easy for Lexington Pasta to offer a larger calendar of cooking classes as well as a regular "Chef's Table" opportunity, featuring guest chefs who cook, serve, and connect with eight fortunate diners seated a couple of feet away from the stove, right in the kitchen.
Funded in part with community support—a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign—the main Café space, appropriately, will feature a loooong community table. Easy to envision, yes? And exciting to anticipate.
I'll be bringing lots of copies of two books to Kentucky Crafted later this week: Classic Kentucky Meals and Sweet, Sweet Sorghum. It will be fun, sharing a booth with Country Rock, which just won coveted second place recognition in the national sorghum competition at the 2015 NSSPPA (National Sweet Sorghum Producers and Processors Association) convention in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
A sidenote: For something so sweet, there's a fierceness in this sorghum competition. I speak from direct experience; I served as one of five judges for the event. Each judge evaluated 33 syrups on taste, clarity, and smoothness. Sweetness, determined by Brix level, also played a key role in the competition. All judges, and some handily available sorghum experts, agree that sorghum quality continues its extraordinary climb. Of the 33 unmarked syrups I tasted, I would have happily bought and enjoyed a case of all but four. In past years, color also factored into judging, but NSSPPA has wisely removed that criterion, recognizing that fantastic sorghums come in every shade of amber.
This year Danny brought seeds of a new variety of sorghum, 1810.
In addition, he brought syrup made from the 1810 variety, samples of syrup from cane he grew in Montgomery County and some Country Rock produced in Woodford County. The colors of these two sorghums, as well as their tastes, reflect the variations that derive from a huge range of variables that affect the final syrup, including soil nutrients, rainfall, temperature, ripeness, field handling, and cooking practices.
I enjoyed taking part in NSSPPA this year, as a sorghum cheerleader who has written two books that include a good bit of sorghum in both stories and recipes. Unlike my story-filled half hour, most of the conference presentations included a good bit of hard science and hard-earned experience about cultivating and cooking the sweet juice of this extraordinary plant, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench, which seems so uniquely our own, and yet is grown and used for many purposes all over the world.
Randal and Jill Rock and I will be glad to see you at Kentucky Crafted this weekend. Randal, who is a soil scientist, will be able to answer all manner of questions about growing and cooking sorghum. I learn a lot every time I am around him. I'll do my best to answer questions about using sorghum in cooking. We will be in the very back of the huge Lexington Civic Center space, with all the other food vendors. We have a corner spot, so you will find us easily at Booth 509.
And do note that Randal and Jill will be selling their own 2015 Bluegrass Maple Syrup, harvested and cooked this year from Woodford County trees. It deserves its own billboard; it is so incredibly delicious.