Dudley do-right

By Hyacinth Miles

I have to admit I tend to associate fine cooking with the exotic. It isn’t that I don’t like simple food, often I prefer it—it’s just that the phrase seems to evoke complexity, exotic spices, and strange smelling cheese—foreign things. Which makes local ingredients, what—not fine cooking? I think it’s because I tend not to distinguish between the phrase local produce with the phrase native produce. But obviously that’s wrong. Isn’t it?

So when I heard that Dudley’s was going to be preparing a series of meals using local produce I was curious enough about what would be included to convince a couple of friends to join me for an evening out.

I arrived under-dressed, since I’d been thinking more about the plan we had for later than the meal itself, and I’d almost convinced myself that everyone in the restaurant wasn’t staring at me when I tripped on the rug and went face first into the wall. Well, now they were.

“So sorry.” I murmured to the man I’d nearly impaled on his own fork, dusting myself off and trying to look casual.

We finally reached the table. My friend Jess leaned over. “Is this a nice restaurant?” she whispered.

“Um yeah.” I said suddenly feeling guilty about the expense. “Is that okay?”

“No, because I’m such a rude person I don’t know how to handle myself.” she said,

obviously battling her own demons of insecurity.

“Where’s the sommelier?” asked Sarah.

We all had a chance to calm down a little while we looked at the menu. The Patio Grill out was a set menu giving you several options for appetizer, second course with two sides and dessert. We all ordered something different so that I could try a full range of Kentucky ingredients and just to make sure this was a wholly Kentucky themed evening I ordered a bottle of wine from one of the local vineyards.

I’ve always been suspicious of any wines claimed to be made locally (or anything made locally that claims to be wine). My suspicions turned out to be well founded. The wine was bad, but my expectations (and standards) were low, so I nodded to the waiter. But after he had left I leaned forward. “Brace yourselves guys.” I chuckled “It’s really bad.”

Sarah took a sip. “This has turned.” she said.

“Really?” I was embarrassed. I hadn’t thought it was that bad. “I thought it was just, you know, Kentucky wine.”

“No.” she said, insistent. “Trust me, I was raised by wine snobs. I’ve had $2 bottle of wines from Italy that weren’t that bad.”

My own extensive hock drinking experience has never been a particular source of pride, so I silently reflected that a $2 bottle of Italian gas station wine had a sizable advantage to a $20 dollar bottle of Kentucky wine in that one was from Italy.

“Send it back.” she continued. “I’ll do it, if you’re embarrassed that it’s already been poured. It was obviously bottled with a pocket of air in it.”

“I’ll do it.” I said. “It was my mistake.” Sarah ignored me. The waiter returned.

“This wine has turned,” Sarah said in a stately way. “It has obviously been packaged with a pocket of air in it.”

I tried to think of something charming and non-queen motherish to say to him, as a counter weight Sarah’s dignity, but failed. He left with the wine and Sarah continued to talk about the various sizes and qualities of air pockets in wine bottles until the waiter returned slightly abashed.

“I can’t really bring you another bottle of that wine.” he said “It’s supposed to taste like that, you know.”

“I told you so.” I said, always unwilling to pass up any opportunity to be immature.

“Can I bring you something else?” asked the waiter desperately.

Jess and I ordered a Kentucky ales, unable to let go of what was beginning to seem like an unhealthy determination for a local-themed night. After a second Sarah did too.

When the food came it was wonderful. Dudley’s a Lexington institution, but I’d never had as good of a meal there, or really anywhere in Lexington. I’ll chalk it up to the freshness of the ingredients, but their variety was a little anti-climactic. It turns out that the vegetables that grow in Kentucky during the summer are very similar to the vegetables that grow in Kroger all year round. Well, now I know.

The highlight of dinner was Sarah’s cold melon soup, so I’ve included a recipe for a similar soup with many of the same ingredients. n