The Year in Lexington Food, Drink, and Restaurant News: Ace 2012 Year in Review

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Although HuffPo insists that food trucks are over and offers 12 reasons why they’ve jumped the shark (“Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A and Rachael Ray’s dog food line all have food trucks”), the battle for street eats was still one of Lexington’s biggest food stories in 2012. And it rages on, with two food trucks shut down in early December for permitting issues.

It was a boom year for food, liquor, and restaurant news in Lexington, Kentucky in 2012. Food truck wars. A new stop on the bourbon trail. Donuts returned to Limestone. The food trucks are not yet free in the Free the Food Trucks movement. And dozens of new establishments opened with hopes of clawing their way to the top, or even the middle, of Lexington’s thriving dining corridors.

Pop Ups are another trend Lexington has been a little slow to adopt, but one we can get behind, and the Korean Pancake pop up at Institute 193 served up some of the tastiest fare in Lexington this year. For five bucks. Please, may we have some more?

2012 kicked off with a bang when Lexington’s Stella Parks was named a Best New Pastry Chef by Food and Wine Magazine. They selected her blood orange panna cotta with a toasted Champagne marshmallow as a standout (we’ve long been in love with her macarons, and you can read the Ace 2011 “This Year’s Models” profile of her here.)

Spring brought the fifth annual Bluegrass Food Summit, with a focus on the role of local government in leading the shift toward the localization of food in Kentucky. “A shift toward local food means more than encouraging everyone to buy food that was grown within some prescribed distance. It is a broader, deeper change…” Kakie Urch profiled Lexington’s Watershed Farm initiative at the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program as a model program.

The Kentucky Coming to Ground documentary also made it to the screen. “Coming to Ground” documents the way that the tobacco bill, in a decade, has turned the state’s tobacco crop into the thriving “Kentucky Proud,” sustainable, farm-to-table, forage forward agricultural diversity we see at the state’s farmers markets, in the cities’ best restaurants and even in the dining halls of the University of Kentucky dorms. And it shows Kentucky serving as a policy model, a leader.”

Dozens of new restaurants, bars, and food businesses opened in Lexington in 2012. Henry Clay Public House opened on North Upper. (You’ll find their live music listings weekly in Ace’s online calendar.) The Village Idiot gastropub opened at 307 W. Short after a brief fire-related delay. Shakespeare and Company, the Dubai-based restaurant with the opulent decor and Cheesecake-Factory-sized menu opened around the corner at 367 West Short. Rosetta opened in the space at the old Mia’s at the corner of Limestone and Short. The resurgence attracted the attention of the Washington Post in a travel article about Lexington’s Public Square. Table 310 added weekend brunches and Ace’s Patrick O’Dowd gave it a Big Wet Kiss

Over in Chevy Chase, Stuarto’s Olive Oil opened a second location. Cole’s on Main opened at the corner of Ashland and Main with an ambitious menu and a lot of potential. And the folks who brought you the ever-popular Grey Goose on Jefferson opened a new craft cocktail bar across the street, The Blue Heron (in the former Ace office), expanding Jefferson’s ever-growing drinks and dining corridor. Just down the street, Stella’s added dinner service, and Nick Ryan’s expanded.

Trader Joe’s, at long last, opened on Nicholasville Road and had everybody California Dreamin.

Ace hosted a pop-up gallery with Rideout Photo at West Sixth in September.

Craft brewing and beer pubs took off in a giant way in Lexington in 2012 with the opening of West Sixth Brewing in The Bread Box, in the old Rainbo Bread Factory. Joining the scene this year were Country Boy Brewing at 436 Chair Avenue and Lexington Beerworks at 213 N. Limestone.

In other Spirits news, wine and liquor sales might soon arrive at Kentucky groceries (soon being a relative legislative and judicial term); Kentucky Ale released the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout; Woodford Reserve celebrated their 200th anniversary; Town Branch Distillery opened in Lexington and was added to Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. Kentucky Bourbon Trail also added a new sibling to the family in 2012, the Kentucky Bourbon Craft Trail. (And did you know you can also get Kentucky Proud rum these days — distilled right here in Lexington?)

Bourbon isn’t the only trail blazing in Kentucky these days. We also have a doughnut trail (as documented here through 24 years of exhaustive research), and more recently, in the New York Times.

And so it ends as it begins for a very good year for food — the perfect circle that only a perfect doughnut can actually symbolize.

Krispy Kreme celebrated its 75th anniversary this year, and N. Limestone celebrated a return to its rightful reputation as a bastion of Lexington doughnut goodness when North Lime Coffee and Donuts opened on N. Limestone, across the street from the former home of Lexington’s original Spalding’s.




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