Try One or All of These 11 Great Cakes in Honor of Duncan Hines

My friends at Mindy Bianca Public Relations tell me they love representing Bowling Green, Kentucky for many reasons, but at the top of their list is the fact it’s the hometown of Duncan Hines. Most of us know his name from boxed cake mixes sitting on the grocery shelves, but that’s just part of his story as Mindy would say. Here’s a big wedge of American pop culture for you … perhaps best served with a tall glass of milk.

Duncan Hines was a traveling salesman who didn’t know much about cooking but knew a lot about good food and he kept notes during his travels and made recommendations for fellow travelers. His notes became books and his books became best sellers with names like “Adventures in Good Eating” and Adventures In Good Cooking And The Art Of Carving In The Home Tested Recipes Of Unusual Dishes From America’s Favorite Eating Places. Mindy and her team selected these cakes in homage to Hines who was born on March 26, 1880. And these aren’ts any old cakes, they’re confectionary marvels that will make you want to hit the road!

Bundt Cake from The Cake Shop at Boyce’s General Store, Bowling Green, Kentucky

         Let’s start close to where Duncan Hines himself did … right near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Boyce’s General Store is a foodie heaven, serving as the kitchen and retail shop for two phenomenal dessert bakers, The Pie Queen and The Cake Shop. Though the dynamic duo who bake the cakes create all sorts of flavors – the display case simply makes your mouth water – we’re most intrigued by the bundt cakes. No matter which flavor you get, you can expect a cake that’s moist and rich and covered in a cream cheese glaze. If you don’t need to serve 10 to 12 of your closest friends, go for the mini sampler, which features one each of chocolate, apple spice, snickerdoodle and red velvet.

7-Layer Caramel Cake from Caroline’s Cakes, Spartanburg, South Carolina

For years, Caroline’s Cakes has been sending its delicacies out through their successful mail-order service. Last year, though, the bakers finally opened a storefront along Beaumont Avenue in Spartanburg, meaning that visitors to this town along the northern border of South Carolina can finally walk into a shop for an immediate taste of one of the city’s most delicious exports. The 7-Layer Caramel Cake features – surprise! – seven layers of moist yellow cake crowned by melt-in-your-mouth caramel icing. It’s a Southern classic that has achieved ultimate success: making it to Oprah’s list of favorite things! (It’s on our list of favorite things, too, but we know that doesn’t carry nearly as much prestige as Oprah’s.)

Hummingbird Cake from Lola

Historic downtown Covington, Louisiana Northshore

  When Hurricane Katrina blew through Louisiana in 2005, Keith and Nealy Frentz, who were both sous chefs at the world-famous Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans, found themselves out of work. They evacuated to Keith’s hometown of Covington and opened their own restaurant just a year later. It’s hard to decide on the very best meal at Lola – we can confirm that everything on the menu is delicious – but one thing is certain: You must end that meal with a piece of hummingbird cake. Nealy uses her grandma’s recipe to craft this moist banana cake that’s filled with chunks of juicy pineapple and a dash of cinnamon. It’s all topped off with a decadent cream cheese icing, ensuring that both the fruit and dairy food groups are beautifully represented. Hooray for Nealy’s take on the food pyramid!

Lane Cake from The Hummingbird Way Oyster Bar

Mobile, Alabama

         Lane Cake was invented by Emma Rylander Lane more than 100 years ago as an entry in Alabama’s state fair, with its recipe being officially published in a cookbook in 1898. It entered popular culture through multiple mentions in Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbirdand it ultimately bumped hummingbird cake (sorry, Nealy!) out of the way to become Alabama’s official state dessert. The cake gets its incredible flavor from its rich icing, which is made with chopped pecans, golden raisins, coconut and Alabama whiskey and then spread between layers and layers of moist cake. Chef Jim Smith, proprietor of The Hummingbird Way Oyster Bar, one of Mobile’s favorite restaurants, is the former executive chef for the State of Alabama … so we can confirm he knows his way around the state’s favorite dessert.

Italian Cream Cake from Cajun Pecan House

Cut Off, Louisiana, part of Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou

The MBPR team is proud to represent an array of Southern destinations, and you’ll see a running theme among them when it comes to their baked goods: moist cake, some sort of fruit or nut, cream cheese icing. Our favorite selection in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, aka “Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou,” is the Italian Cream Cake from the charming Cajun Pecan House. The place lives up to its name and tosses pecans on and in pretty much everything. Lots of folks come here looking for a pecan pie or a praline – both of which are delicious – but the bakers also put plenty of their namesake nut into a yellow cake batter that’s made extra-moist by the addition of coconut. Then they slather it in a rich cream cheese icing that’s topped with additional coconut and – you guessed it – more pecans! It feels more Southern than Italian to us, but we are NOT complaining!

Caramel Cake from Deep South Cake Company

Orange Beach, Alabama

Orange Beach, Alabama

         Your sweet tooth will get quite a workout at the Deep South Cake Company, which is home to a dazzling array of cakes and cupcakes. But the winner by a landslide – the bakery sells at least 1,400 of them between Thanksgiving and Christmas alone – is the legendary caramel cake. Shannon Rumley and her team put a lot of time and energy into this cake, which features a burnt sugar icing that Shannon’s mother and grandmother taught her how to make when she was just a kid. Achieving the proper consistency for the icing requires constant stirring, so this cake truly is a labor of love. If you’re not into caramel – or if you’re loyal to Caroline’s Cakes (see above) and feel guilty eating a caramel cake from anywhere else – don’t fear: Shannon’s second-best seller is a strawberry cake that cuts the sweet with a little zip from the berries.

Pink Champagne Cake from Spark’d Creative Pastry

The bake shop at the historic HOTEL DU PONT in Wilmington, Delaware

         Speaking of strawberries, how about that classic romantic combo of berries and champagne? There’s a lot to love about a stay in the historic HOTEL DU PONT in downtown Wilmington, but we think that being just a few paces away from the offerings at Spark’d, the hotel’s bake shop, is one of the strongest motivators for booking a room here. The Pink Champagne Cake is the delightful merger of strawberry cake, strawberry jam and Champagne buttercream icing. With a little advance notice, the hotel’s pastry team is also happy to create a custom design to ensure that the cake you order is perfectly suited to its recipient.

Gingerbread Cake from Mrs. Johnnie’s Gingerbread House

Lake Charles, Louisiana

         A Louisiana bakery that proves that so-called seasonal cakes are amazing all year round is Mrs. Johnnie’s Gingerbread House. Locals know – and visitors are finally discovering – that gingerbread is appropriate for every season, not just Christmastime. This low-key shop, which is easily mistaken for a neighborhood home, is hidden in plain sight. But those in the know (many of whom learned about the Gingerbread House thanks to a viral TikTok video last year) can tell you that this popular establishment offers a special cake that throws one heck of a Christmas party in your mouth. Leona Guillory Johnnie, the original owner of the bakery, spent 40 years perfecting the recipe. Today her son, Kevin Ames, continues her legacy, also serving traditional tea cakes and an array of pies.

Pinch Me Round from Jamaica

Mrs. Johnnie’s Gingerbread House

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Look for the “Cake Man” on the beaches of Negril during a stay at Sunset at the Palms

         It’s not gingerbread, but some people swear that ginger is the magic ingredient in a dessert that our client resort in Jamaica turned us on to. It’s called “gizzada,” but it also goes by the nickname “Pinch Me Round.” Though it’s technically more of a tart than a cake, the fact that a guy called the “Cake Man” sells gizzadas during his rounds on the beaches of Negril convinced us that the dessert warrants a spot on our list. Each islander has their own spin on this classic Jamaican dessert, which features a pinched pastry shell filled with plenty of sweet, grated coconut. Some bakers like to add a touch of ginger to give it a little kick. The dessert is said to have originated among Portuguese Jews who came to Jamaica to escape persecution, but over the years the Jamaicans have made the dessert truly their own. In fact, they say that the shape of the treat will remind you of the shining sun you’ll see on your trip to the island.

Tricia’s Jamaican Rum Cake from Market Wego

Westwego, Louisiana, in Jefferson Parish

         If you can’t get to Jamaica right now, you may be able to live vicariously with a visit to Market Wego, a proper Cajun market in southeastern Louisiana. Its owner, River Shay, says her grandmother, Tricia, simply loved visiting Jamaica. On each of her trips, Tricia liked to sample the island’s rum cakes. Over the years, she took what she loved about each variation to create her very own recipe. Her cake truly pays homage to Duncan Hines, because Tricia swore by using only a Duncan Hines cake mix as the base … and then adding an extra splash of rum at the end. Her recipe is still used to this day, and patrons order the cake at all hours – breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Flower Cupcakes from Dollywood

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

         Dolly Parton’s theme park is known for its delicious meal offerings – around here, “park food” means way more than hot dogs and funnel cakes – but during Dollywood’s annual Flower & Food Festival (this year held April 21 through June 11), the culinary team really steps up its game to make foods that are as attractive as they are tasty. One of our favorites is the collection of “flower cupcakes” available at Spotlight Bakery near the park’s entrance. Each flower cupcake is a beautiful work of art that celebrates the natural beauty of the park, which is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. And to bring it full circle, Parton recently collaborated with Duncan Hines’ namesake company, resulting in her very own line of cake, muffin and biscuit mixes.

Article: 6 Unique Restaurants Were Just Named America’s Classics By James Beard — See The List Here

6 Unique Restaurants Were Just Named America’s Classics By James Beard — See The List Here

FOX 59 Indianapolis: Small-town Indiana restaurant wins prestigious James Beard award

The Guardian: Restoring Hawaii’s ancient food forests

The Guardian: The farmers restoring Hawaii’s ancient food forests that once fed an island | Hawaii.

Our community has been using their skills and creativity to pivot, fill food system gaps, and serve Hawaiʻi’s nutritional needs during this unprecedented time.

Through thoughtful interviews and photographic portraiture, we spotlight the necessity of a collective commitment needed to sustain our emerging system of resiliency, of a self-sufficient Hawaiʻi. From Feeding Hawai’i.

Castillo de La Mota: In the Castle of the Queen

         Well, this doesn’t bode well I think upon seeing the entrance to Castillo de La Mota blocked by women archers dressed in long skirts under magenta jumpers each stitched with the insignia of a yellow bird with spiky feathers. But what is most daunting about the scene is that their bows are raised, arrows notched, and the strings pulled back. If they let go, we’ll be hit with a barrage of arrows.


         A man behind me grouses to his wife “another day, another castle” but then stops as he sees what is in front of us. It certainly may be another castle here in Spain but it’s not a typical day. I mean, when was the last time you were threatened by Medieval female warriors?

“Password,” shouts the tall woman who looks like she’s in charge.        

“Isabelle,” I call back without thinking.

  “Isabella,” she responds.


   But it’s good enough. The archers lower their bows and part, allowing us to cross the drawbridge into the fortified castle, one of many that belonged to Queen Isabella of Spain.

We are in Medina del Campo, a town known since the 15th century for its fabulous fairs and markets as well as being one of the places Queen Isabella of Spain called home.  And though it’s the 21st century, once inside the castle keep it well could be seven centuries ago.

         We are not only in Isabella’s castle, we’re also in her time. Men, women, and children are dressed in the everyday garb of 15th century Spain, soldiers wear bright red doublet cut with yellow inserts, red pantaloons that stop above the knee, white stockings and leather shoes ranging in colors like blue, red, and beige.

I don’t know much about 15th century weaponry beyond bow and arrows and swords–and even that is very limited. But here the soldiers not only carry broad swords and rapiers, but also pikes and spears. Silver helmets top their heads and somewhere metal collars, part of a suit of armor.

         La Mota isn’t a fairy tale castle, it was a large strong fortress that the townspeople as well as the King and Queen could go for refuge. She and her husband Ferdinand II lived in a royal palace in the town’s major plaza though Isabella wrote her will and took Last Rites at age 53 at La Mota. Dating back to the 11th century, it grew through the centuries becoming the largest castle in Castile.  

Called La Mota because it is on a small hill rising above the town, it has turrets (2), towers (4), thick walls and a courtyard.  Unguided tours are available as are guided tours which can be booked here    

         In her day,  Isabella, one of the few women rulers at the time, would have dined on rabbit, deer, bear, lamb, and bread. She would have enjoyed leeks but little else in the way of vegetables. Juan Alejandro Forrest de Sloper whose blog Book of Days combines his passions for world cuisine and as an anthropologist with a focus on rituals and celebrations. De Sloper was a professor of anthropology at Purchase College, S.U.N.Y for 32 years but he also spent time living throughout the world and learning to cook in all sorts of kitchens.

 In his post on Isabella he shares a dish from Libre Del Coch, a Catalan cookbook—the first written cookbook–written by Robert de Nola who went by the pseudonym Mestre Robert who was the chef to King Ferdinand I of Naples. The Catalan version was published in 1520 in Barcelona and translated to Castilian Spanish five years later. Parts of the cookbook are based on a famous medieval cookbook titled Llibre de Sent Soví.

The cookbook includes classic dishes that were popular with the wealthy (and Isabella was surely that) during the 1400s. Casola de Carn or Meat Casserole is like many recipes or receipts as they were called then, there’s no list of ingredients or amounts. It’s all a little murky for 21st century cooks, and phrases like “all the fine flavorings” are a little—no make that a lot baffling. There are also ingredients such as aggrestal (spelled in the recipe as agressta) means wild plant which can sure cover a lot of ground.

Casola de Carn

(Meat Casserole)

Cut the meat into pieces the size of a nut and fry it in pork fat. When it is well fried put in some good broth and set it to cook in a casserole. Add all the fine flavorings and saffron and a little orange juice or agresta and cook well until the meat begins to fall apart and only a small amount of broth remains. Add three or four eggs beaten with orange juice or agresta. When your master is ready at table, turn the meat four or five times to let the sauce thicken. When it is thick, take it from the fire and serve it in bowls, sprinkled with a little cinnamon on each.

There are some people who do not add eggs, or spices except cinnamon and cloves. The meat is cooked as stated above.

They add vinegar, for the flavor. It appears that many people do it in the following manner: the meat is left whole stuffed with cinnamon and cloves, and with the other spices in the broth. The meat must be turned from time to time so that it doesn’t cook more in one part than in any other. You can leave out the cloves and cinnamon if you follow the other directions correctly.

As wonderful as Isabella’s meal might have been, our luncheon at El Motero in Medina del Campo probably was equally good. Because Medina del Campo is a stop on the wonderful Rueda Wine Route, we indulged in the local wines and dined on fish, baby lamb, and a variety of whimsical dishes such as canelón de mango relleno de frutos de mar y gelatina de gazpacho (Mango cannellon stuffed with sea fruit and gazpacho jelly),  tartar de tomate, aguacate,salmón marinado ,wakame sobre pan de Cerdeña (Tomato Tartar, Avocado, Marinated Salmon, Wakame on Sardinian bread)and  Mini san Jacobo de lomo asado y salsa de piña (Mini San Jacobo roasted loin and pineapple sauce).

I did indeed dine like queen.

Romancing the Ruins: Heidelberg on the Neckar River

When Prince-Elector Friedrich V married Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of King James I in 1613, it was–like the majority of royal marriages—based on political alliances and gains. Love had nothing to do with it.

Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson

But sometimes it worked out differently and so it was between Friedrich and Elizabeth who fell in love.  Heidelberg Castle, where they lived, was already old, dating back to 1200s and the Prince-Elector wanting Elizabeth to love her new home added an English Palace and an elaborate Baroque garden.

But theirs was to be a tragic love story. There were battles, a throne lost, regained, and then lost forever. During all that, Elizabeth bore 13 children before Fredrich died and she sought life in exile.

Heidelberger Schloss

The castle, a romantic ruin of seemingly endless staircases and corridors taking you here, there, and sometimes nowhere, stands 330-feet above the Alstadt, Heidelberg’s wonderful old town. Towers and battlements protect stone facades, their decorative features still intact though the rooms behind them are gone. Views into the multitude of windows reveals not an interior but woods and the Neckar River below.

“Deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still, and beautiful,” is how Mark Twain described the Gothic-Renaissance castle. He was one of many poets and writers who spent time in what they considered the most romantic city in the world.

Photo Jane Simon Ammeson

The castle is also home to the Heidelberg Tun, a 58, 124 gallon wine barrel said to be the largest in the world.  It was built in 1751 on orders from Prince Elector Karl Theodor to store the wine paid in taxes by the region’s wine growers. We should all be so lucky to have too much wine.

Brews and Pork Knuckles

Taking the funicular down to the old town, I meet friends at Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus on Steingasse, Europe’s longest carless street. It’s one of those baronial style Germanic places with high ceilings, large wood beams, long tables and a lot of dark highly polished wood.

Famed for their Vetter’s 33, which they say is the strongest beer in the world, its alcohol content is—you guessed it—33%. But it isn’t all beer her, they’re famed for their  traditional German food and so I decide to go full German, ordering the pork knuckle, sauerkraut and dumpling with gravy. Skipping the 33, I opt for the Hubier—a mix of the lager and elderberry syrup.

History, Luxury and a Family Touch

Courtesy of Hotel Europaischer Hof Heidelberg.

My love affair with the city began several years before when I checked into the five-star Hotel Europäischer Hof Heidelberg. The hotel, one of the few five-star family run hotels in Europe, opened in 1865 and has been owned by von Kretschmann family since around the turn of the last century.

Courtesy of Hotel Europaischer Hof Heidelberg.

I’d heard that Sylvia von Kretschmann, who with her husband Ernst-Friedrich, ran the hotel for a half-century before their daughter Dr. Caroline von Kretschmann took over, regularly did the hotel’s large floral arrangements. So it was no surprise when I ran into this very elegant woman doing just that in Die Kurfürstenstube, the hotel’s opulent dining room that opened in 1866.  Such a romantic place and romantic tradition—how could I not fall in love?  

Courtesy of Hotel Europaischer Hof Heidelberg

Chocolate Kisses

My romance continued at Chocolaterie Knosel where owner Liselotte Knosel talked about studentenkussor or student kiss, a chocolate covered nougat created by her great grandfather Fridolin Knosel in 1863. His Café Knosel was frequented by male university students who admired women from a local finishing school who were, alas, chaperoned by their governesses. A gift of student kisses was a sly way to start a flirtation.

We don’t know how well it turned out for the students but these confections, still hand crafted, remain best sellers more than 150 years later. Café Knosel—the city’s oldest café—is my go to spot for coffee and a pastry at one of their outdoor tables overlooking the church on Marktplatz.

At dusk, on my last night, I boarded Patria, a 1930s ship for dining and a cruise along the Neckar River. Watching the city lights sparkle in the calm water, I knew that though my visit was ending, the romance was just beginning. I would be back.

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Great Reasons to Visit Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel

Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

Penguins, Bourbon, Art, & Haute Southern Cuisine come together in Louisville.

Much more than a place to lay your head, 21c Museum Hotel with locations in Louisville, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Chicago, St. Louis, Lexington, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Nashville, Durham, and Bentonville, Arkansas, is a total immersion into art or, maybe better put, it’s a night in the art museum.

Penguin Love. Photo of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

In Louisville, it started when I spied a 4-foot penguin at the end of the hall as I headed to my room but 30 minutes later when I opened my door, the rotund red bird was there in front of me. “Don’t worry,” said a man walking by. “They’re always on the move.”

Proof on Main. Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

The migratory birds, sculptures first exhibited at the 2005 Venice Biennale and now part of the collection of 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville add a touch of whimsy. But with 9,000 square feet of gallery space and art in all corridors and rooms, three-fourths coming from the owners’ private collection valued at $10 million, 21c is a serious museum.

Proof on Main. Photo of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

Carved out of five former 19th-century bourbon and tobacco warehouses, 21c is both part of the revitalization of Louisville’s delightful downtown and a transformation of art from backdrop into upfront and thought-provoking.

The sleek, minimalist interior — uber-urbanism with linear white walls dividing the main lobby and downstairs gallery into cozy conversational and exhibit spaces — is softened with touches of the buildings’ past using exposed red brick walls and original timber and iron support beams as part of the decor. Named by Travel + Leisure as one of the 500 Best Hotels in the World, 21c is also the first North American museum of 21st-century contemporary art.

Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

I find more whimsy on a plate at Proof on Main, the hotel’s restaurant, when the waiter plops down my bill and a fluff of pink cotton candy — no after-dinner mints here. For more about the cotton candy, see the sidebar below. But the food, a delicious melange of contemporary, American South, and locally grown, will please even the most serious foodinista. It’s all creative without being too over the top. Menu items include charred snap peas tossed with red chermoula on a bed of creamy jalapeno whipped feta,

Bison Burger. Photo and recipe courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

And, of course, the Proof on Main staple since first opening. 8 ounce patty, char grilled to your preferred temp (chef recommended medium rare), served with smoky bacon, extra sharp cheddar and sweet onion jam to compliment the game of the meat nicely. Local Bluegrass bakery makes our delicious brioche buns. The burger comes house hand cut fries. For the ending (but it’s okay if you want to skip everything else and get down to the Butterscotch Pot De Créme, so very luxuriously smooth and rich pot de creme with soft whipped cream and crunchy, salty pecan cookies.

Mangonada at Proof on Main. Photo and recipe courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

House-cured pancetta seasons the baby Brussels sprouts, grown on the restaurant’s 1,000-acre farm. Local is on the drink menu as well with more than 50 regional and seasonal Kentucky bourbons.

A meal like this demands a walk, so I step outside (more art here) on Main, a street of 19th-century cast-iron facades, the second largest collection in the U.S. Once known as Whiskey Row, it’s refined now as Museum Row on Main. To my left, a 120-foot bat leans on the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, across the street is the Louisville Science Center, and nearby are several more including the Muhammad Ali Center.

Heading east, I take a 15-minute stroll to NuLu, an emerging neighborhood of galleries, restaurants and shops. I’ve come for the Modjeskas, caramel-covered marshmallows created in 1888 in honor of a visiting Polish actress and still made from the original recipe at Muth’s Candies. On the way back to 21c, I detour through Waterfront Park, a vast expanse of greenway on the Ohio River, taking time to bite into a Modjeska and watch boats pass by.

21C MUSEUM HOTEL700 W. Main St., Louisville, Ky., 502-217-6300,

Pink Cotton Candy for Dessert. Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

As an aside, the idea for the cotton candy originated with co-founder Steve Wilson. Here’s the story, from the restaurant’s blog, Details Matter.
“A memory that sticks with Steve from his younger years is the circus coming to town.  Steve grew up in a small town in far Western Kentucky along the Mississippi River called Wickliffe He distinctly remembers the year the one striped tent was erected on the high school baseball field. Certainly not the large three ringed circus many others may remember, but the elephants, the handsome people in beautiful costumes…they were all there.  When Steve sat through the show he got a glimpse into a fantasy world he didn’t know existed. A departure from reality.  Oftentimes, after his trip to the circus, when he was sad or frustrated, he would daydream about running away to the circus. In fact, he’ll tell you he used to pull the sheets of his bed over his head, prop them up in the middle and pretend to be the ringmaster in his own crazy circus tent!  In his eyes, the circus was where everything was beautiful, and no one would cry.

There’s that darn penguin again. Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

“Fast forward many years later, Steve met Laura Lee Brown at a dinner party in Louisville.  He was immediately smitten and wanted to impress her.  SO naturally one of his first dates was a trip to the circus at the KY Expo Center.  Whether she was impressed or not, it seems to have worked.

“Years later, as Steve and Laura Lee were working on the development of 21c Louisville, they took a trip to Mexico City.  At the end of one particularly memorable dinner, the server ended the meal with pink cotton candy served on a green grass plate.  It was sticky, messy, and immediately brought back memories from Steve’s childhood.  It was a feel good memory he wanted to last.

“Steve often says 21c makes him actually FEEL like the ringmaster in his own circus, so as the restaurant plans were getting finalized, he wanted to incorporate cotton candy as an homage to that feeling.  As we opened up each new restaurant, the cotton candy continued, each time with a color and flavor to match the color of the hotel’s resident penguins.  Eight operating restaurants later, the hope is that each and every diner ends their meal a little sticky, a little messy, and feeling nostalgic about good childhood memories.”

And again! Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

Recipes courtesy of Proof on Main

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour

½ tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp light brown sugar

1 cup buttermilk

¼ heavy cream

6 tbsp butter

2 tbsp Crisco

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grate butter on the coarse side of the grater and put butter in the freezer along with the Crisco. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix cream and buttermilk in a separate bowl. Once butter is very cold combine with the dry ingredients with hands until a coarse meal is made. Add the cold dairy to the mixture and fold until just combined. Roll out dough on a floured clean surface and cut biscuits with a ring mold cutter. Layout on sheet trays 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes and rotate set timer for 8 more minutes. Once out of the oven brush with melted butter.


Smoked Catfish Dip. Photo and recipe courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.

This recipe makes a lot, but you can easily divide it—or put the extra in a mason jar and give to a friend as a holiday gift.


1 lb. Smoked catfish
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons small diced celery
3 Tablespoons small diced white onion
Juice and Zest of One Lemon
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper to taste


Lemon wedges
Hot sauce
Pretzel crackers
Fresh dill for garnish

Flake the fish with your hands until it is fluffy. Combine the mustard, sour cream, celery, onion, parsley, lemon juice and zest and the mayonnaise together. Combine with the catfish and mix until it is well incorporated. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve cold with fresh dill and lemon wedges, your favorite hot sauce and pretzel crackers.


“This is a slightly complex variation of a margarita, adding smoky mezcal, bright cilantro and tangy mango-tamarind syrup. It was created as a play on the Mexican sweet treat, the Mangonada, with mango, a tamarind candy stick, and Tajin seasoning.” – Proof on Main Beverage Director, Jeff Swoboda.

3/4 oz Banhez
3/4 El Jimador Blanco
1/4 oz Cynar 70
1 oz mango-tamarind syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
big pinch of cilantro

Shake together with ice, strain over fresh ice and garnish with a Tamarrico candy straw.

Proof on Main’s Mint Julep

1 cup mint leaves, plus a sprig or two for garnish

1 ounce sugar syrup

2 ounces bourbon

Crushed ice to fill glass

In a rocks glass, lightly press on mint with a muddler or back of a spoon. Add the sugar syrup. Pack the glass with crushed ice and pour the bourbon over the ice. Garnish with an extra mint sprig.

The Little Women Cookbook: Novel Takes on Classic Recipes from Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Friends

                  Louisa May Alcott published Little Women, her bestselling novel about the four March sisters and how they overcame adversity, back in the late 1860s. The first printing—some 2000 books—sold out in two weeks and had never been out of print since.  Translated into more than 50 languages, sales figures indicate that it is still the second most popular book among Japanese girls.

Jenne Bergstrom, co-author of The Little Women Cookbook

Women readers in particular like being whisked back 150 years ago to read about the girls as they mature into women, their father serving as a chaplain during the Civil War and the family mired in a genteel poverty–which is basically the kind where you don’t consider working because of your social standing, but really should.

Miko Osada co-author of The Little Women Cookbook

Both Jenne Bergstrom and Miko Osada love to eat, love to read, attended the same college (Oberlin) albeit nine years apart and work at the same library. Because they always wondered what the foods in the childhood books they read would taste like, they started the blog 36eggs. The name, they tell me, came about because they both pondered, when young, what the pound cake in the book Anne of Windy Poplars tasted like. The recipe called for 36 eggs.

 So it was a natural fit when Ulysses Press asked the two to write a cookbook to coincide with the release of the Little Women movie last December.  The result, The Little Women Cookbook: Novel Takes on Classic Recipes from Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Friends, is a charming look at the way the characters of the book would have eaten back then.

“We actually had made Little Women recipes before,” says Bergstrom, in a joint phone call with Osada. “All the things in the book are what people would have eaten during that time. Having historically accurate food is almost a way to time travel.”

It was a division of labor undertaken with a huge deadline with the movie’s release. It didn’t help that the two still had full-time jobs. It meant researching and cooking all weekend long and having Friday night dinners to test what they made on friends.

“I’m kind of the researcher and Jenney’s more the chef,” says Osada. “As soon as we got the deal, I wrote down every single food that’s mentioned in the book and made a food and drink index. To make sure I had everything, I read the book twice. That added up to a lot of Excel sheets. I’d done this before for our Harry Potter book and the Anne of Green Gables books.”

Not surprisingly, many of the foods eaten 160 years ago were seasonal.

“They had great instructions such as gather cucumbers while there’s still dew on them and soak them in cold water,” says Bergstrom. “I think a lot of the preparations were simple and really did showcase the food such as yellow squash. We have a recipe in there that’s very simple and really brings out the flavor.”

Using seasonal as a guide when recipes were vague (as they tended to be in old cookbooks) helped in deciding what ingredients would have been use.

“Strawberries wouldn’t have been in season when Amy had her midsummer party,” says Osada. “But raspberries would have been so that’s what we used for the Elegant Raspberry Ice Cream recipe.”

If they could go back in time and eat any of those meals, which one?

 “Amy and Laurie attend supper in a hotel in France and I enlisted the help of culinarian historians there about what they would have eaten,” says Bergstrom about chapter on Amy’s “Christmas Ball Supper in Nice.” “The food was very complicated with recipes saying takes as many truffles as you can and it meant making basic sauces that were the building blocks of other sauces, so we had to make sauces within sauces.  It would be amazing to go to that hotel supper.”

The book is divided into chapters named after the characters and then sub-divided into their activities and events that included food. For Jo’s chapter we get recipes for “Mrs. Kirk’s Five O’Clock Dinner” and “Jo’s Standing Joke of a Dinner.” We celebrate “Amy’s Little Artistic Fete,” Laurie’s “Jolly Picnic Lunch at Camp Laurence” and the “March Family’s Happy Surprise Tea” and “Apple-Picking Holiday.” The cookbook is illustrated with delicate line drawings and photos of many of the dishes.

“Being nerd paid off, making lists and having these super specific hobbies,” says Osada. “When we were making all these dinners, we didn’t know there would be a huge blockbuster of a movie.”

The following recipes are courtesy of The Little Women Cookbook.

Makes 6 servings

2 pounds butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons salt

3 tablespoons butter, divided

2 cups whole milk

2 eggs

3 tablespoons brown sugar, divided

½ teaspoon nutmeg, plus a pinch more

30 crumbled saltine crackers (about 1½ cups crumbs), divided

Boil the squash with the salt in a large pot of water until soft, 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain the water and mash the squash with 2 tablespoons of the butter.

Preheat the oven to 375°F and butter 
a heatproof dish that holds at least 
2 quarts.

Whisk the milk and eggs together in a medium bowl and add to the squash.

Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar, ½ tea­spoon nutmeg, 1 cup cracker crumbs, and more salt if needed.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and mix in a small bowl with the remaining cracker crumbs, sugar, and nutmeg.

Put the squash in the prepared dish and sprinkle the top with the crumb mixture.

Bake until heated through and browned on top, 30 to 45 minutes. It should be puffed and slightly set in the middle.

   Proper Roast Chicken

Makes 3 to 4 servings

1 whole roasting chicken, skin on, about 4 pounds

1½ teaspoons sea salt

2 teaspoons pepper, plus about 1 teaspoon more for the butter

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, 

⅓ cup flour, sifted

Drawn butter

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Sprinkle the chicken all over, inside and out, with the salt and pepper, rubbing it into the skin.

Take 2 tablespoons of butter, coat it in about 1 teaspoon of pepper, and put it in the chicken cavity.

Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off any extra.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Use it to butter the roasting pan a little, then baste the chicken all over with a basting brush.

Place the chicken in the pan, breast-up, and put it in the oven.

Have the melted butter on hand. Every 20 minutes, take out the chicken, close the oven door, and baste the meat all over with melted butter. Return the chicken to the oven as quickly as possible.

Roast 20 minutes for every pound 
of chicken. Check the internal tempera­ture after an hour of roasting by inserting a meat thermometer through the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone, and check the temperature gauge after 10 seconds. The internal temperature of the thigh should be 165°F.

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes while you make the drawn butter sauce.

Carve and serve.

   Charlotte Russe

Makes 8 servings

For the ladyfingers (note you can also use store bought ladyfingers:

3 large eggs

⅔ cup white sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

powdered sugar, for dusting

For the Bavarian cream:

1 cup fruit purée (strawberry, raspberry, peach, anything you like—the more exotic, the better!)

¼ to 1 cup sugar (adjust depending on the sweetness of the fruit—only something very tart like passionfruit would need the full amount)

1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice 
(optional; use this if your fruit isn’t 
very tart, or has a dull flavor)

1 (¼-ounce) envelope plain 
powdered gelatin

3 cups heavy whipping cream

For assembly:

fresh fruit, for garnishing

   Prepare the ladyfingers:

Put about 2 inches of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a heatproof bowl (the bowl of your stand mixer is perfect if you’re using one), combine the eggs, sugar, and salt. Set in the top of the pan with the boiling water. The bottom of the bowl should not be in the water—if it is, take some water out, or make a ring of aluminum foil to boost it up.

Heat while stirring until the mixture is quite warm, but not bubbling, about 
5 minutes.

Remove from heat and whip on high speed with the whisk attachment for 
5 to 10 minutes until it is very

light and foamy yellow. It will nearly quadruple in volume and should hold soft peaks.

Meanwhile, line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Sift the flour and cornstarch over the egg mixture, and gently fold it in with a spatula, only stirring until the flour is just combined.

Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch tip (or a sandwich bag with a corner cut off) and pipe 3-inch-long strips onto the baking sheets. They should be about 1 inch wide.

Sift a generous amount of powdered sugar over the piped batter.

Bake one pan at a time for 10 to 12 minutes, until puffed and set. Allow to cool on the baking sheets.

If you are making the ladyfingers ahead, store them in an airtight container so they don’t soften.

Prepare the Bavarian cream:

While the ladyfingers are cooling: In a small saucepan, combine the fruit purée and sugar to taste, and lemon juice if using. Add the gelatin and and heat until the gelatin is dissolved. Allow to cool.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then gently fold in the fruit purée.

Assemble the charlotte russe:

Lightly oil an 8- or 9-inch springform pan, then line the edges with the most attractive of the ladyfingers, bottom sides pointing in. Use the less attractive ones to line the bottom—you may have to break them up a bit to get good coverage.

Spoon half of the Bavarian cream into the pan, and smooth it out nicely.

Add another layer of ladyfingers, if you have some left. You can also add a layer of chopped fruit if it’s not too juicy.

Add the rest of the Bavarian cream, and smooth it out.

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Churchill’s Cookbook

It’s not pleasant to imagine what the world might have been like if Winston Churchill hadn’t been able to persuade his chef, Georgina Landemare to leave the kitchen where she was making a pudding and head down to the basement bomb shelter with him. The date was October 14, 1940 and the Germans were doing one of their nightly blitzes over London. This time a lucky strike by Luftwaffe bomb destroyed the kitchen—and most of the building–where they had been standing just moments before. Fortunately, both Churchill and Landemare survived.

Always a fan of Churchill and always interested in the history of food, I am delighted to have a copy of Churchill’s Cookbook, a release of Landemare’s 1958 cookbook originally published as “Recipes from No. 10.”  Churchill, famed not only for leading Britain to victory during World War II but also for his love of a good cigar, fine spirits and great food, once said “It is well to remember that the stomach governs the world.”

Besides Landemare’s recipes–short, easy to make, mostly French but with little in the way of detailed instructions—her book also has vintage photographs from the 15 years she cooked for the Churchills. An introduction by Phi Reed, director of the Churchill War Rooms which I visited on my one and only and very short trip to London, also gives historical perspective. The War Rooms are an underground warren of rooms that tunnel under the city of London where Churchill and his cabinet would meet and some of the work of the war would be done. “This is the room from which I will direct the war” Churchill announced after being elected Prime Minister in 1940 and visiting his underground office.

Photos courtesy of the Daily Mail.

The rooms are now a museum and houses some of the recipes from this book. Landemare, who started life in the “service” at age 14 as a scullery maid, was the widow of Paul Landemare, a distinguished French chef at the famed Ritz Hotel and most likely learned to cook from him. She made Churchill breakfast in the morning and stayed in his service until he finished his last whiskey of the night (and one can assume there were plenty of whiskeys in between). She was such a necessity that, as Reed writes in his introduction, “Georgina Landemare’s importance to Churchill was nicely and neatly illustrated on VE Day, when after giving his rousing speech to the massed crowds in Whitehall, he made a point of turning to his faithful chef and thanking her ‘most cordially’, saying he could not have managed all the way through the war without her.”

As an aside, here is a fun anecdote showcasing Churchill’s sense of humor and his love of food.

Georgina Landemare
Photo courtesy of

Invited to a buffet luncheon while visiting the United States, Winston Churchill asked for a second helping of fried chicken by saying “May I have some breast” to which the hostess reportedly replied “Mr. Churchill, in this country we ask for white meat or dark meat.” The Prime Minister abjectly apologized and sent the hostess a beautiful orchid the next morning along with a note reading “I would be most obliged if you would pin this on your white meat.”

Winston Churchill’s Favorite Fruit Cake

10 ounces plain flour

8 ounces butter

6 ounces sugar

5 eggs

10 ounces mixed dried fruit

4 ounces glacé cherries (cut in half)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little flour to prevent the mixture curdling.

Sift the remainder of the flour with the baking powder and salt and add this to the creamed mixture. Add the dried fruit and beat the mixture well.

Spoon into a greased and lined round cake tin.

Bake for 2 hours in a moderate oven.

Boodles Orange Fool

6 sponge cakes

4 oranges

2 lemons

¾ pint cream

Sugar to taste

Cut up sponge cake lengthwise in slices and place in glass dish.

Put in a basin the grated rind of a lemon and 2 oranges and the juice of all the fruit. Mix well with the cream and sugar to taste.

Pour all over the sponge cakes and allow to stand for six hours before serving.

The above recipes are from “Churchill’s Cookbook.”