The fall season is here! The air is cool, the leaves are turning, and there is plenty to look forward to in terms of football, movie, and food reviews.
One of the most eagerly awaited food fests is the Speedway Fall Beverage Challenge. Held in the small town of Lexington in central Kentucky, the challenge is a seven-day-a-week competition among independent restaurants there. More than 20 eateries vie for a coveted championship crown, and you can follow all the action live on social media.
The challenge started in 2017 and is named after the famous Kentucky Derby. The races are held across seven different categories, and restaurants must serve a different kind of beer, wine, or liquor each day of the competition. You can get all the information you need about the challenge by visiting their website here. The first event is scheduled for October 4th, so you have plenty of time to get ready.
Here are some of the most unique items you will find on the menu at participating restaurants during the fall months:
Chilled Blue Moon Cocktail
You won’t find this cocktail anywhere else in Kentucky, and it’s definitely a local favorite. It’s made with gin or vodka and Champagne, and sometimes it even has a shot of whiskey in it. This unusual drink was created in 2012 by chef James Beard award winner Keith McNally and is named after the famous Full Moon Café in New York City. Since then, it has become a regular part of the menu at several downtown Lexington restaurants. We’re sure you’ll find something different to drink each time you visit one of these places.
This year’s menu items from the Kentucky Derby are going to be available during the entire month of September, so you’ll have the opportunity to try them all. On the menu are the Chilled Blue Moon Cocktail, Dirty Rice, and Wonton Soup. Be sure to try the chicken fried steak and the chocolate bourbon cake, as well.
Deep Fried Fish
Not many other states can boast as many restaurants as Kentucky does. One of the most popular food trucks in Lexington is Fishtown Grill, and it doesn’t hesitate to show off all its delectable creations. You’ll find deep fried fish on the menu, along with other items like hush puppies and shrimp burgers. Don’t forget about the popcorn chicken either, as well as the barbecue-spiced chicken.
What makes this food truck stand out is how it uses local ingredients to their fullest. For example, the restaurant buys its fries from a local shop, and it uses the homemade mac and cheese as well. All these products are organic, so you can be sure that the food is as fresh as possible. When you visit Lexington, be sure to have your camera handy so that you can capture all the flavors of the vibrant downtown lifestyle.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Although this Southern staple is most often served during the summertime, it has been known to pop up on restaurant menus during the fall as well. The secret to the deliciousness of these crispy green tomatoes is quite simple: they are first fried in vegetable oil and then served with spicy chicken and waffles or a batch of biscuits and gravy. You can indulge in this mouth-watering treat any time of the year, but it is especially wonderful when served during the fall. These tangy and savory morsels are a great way to enjoy one of America’s most popular vegetables.
Warm Peach Cobbler
A cobbler is a type of dessert that combines two of America’s most popular fruits – peaches and apples – into one mouth-watering dish. What makes this dessert unique is that it is served warm, instead of cold. It was first created in the 18th century and was inspired by the European dessert called cobblers. It is often associated with southern cuisine, as it was most likely prepared with peaches from the region. This warm summertime classic is going to be available throughout the entire month of September.
What makes this particular dish so special is that it is served alongside other traditional desserts like ice cream and pie. This way, you get to enjoy a variety of flavors in one bite. It is also relatively inexpensive, considering how much work goes into it. It is not uncommon for restaurants to charge about the same price for a bowl of fruit and a warm peachy cobbler.
It’s not just about the food these days, is it? The menu at Frying Pan Organic Farm and Provision definitely provides for all appetites. The restaurant serves up some of the best farm-to-table food around, using only the freshest of ingredients and creating traditional and unique dishes alike. One of the most popular items on the menu is the fried catfish, which you can see in the photo above. It is a spicy, garlicky finger food that is a must for all fish fans.
This Kentucky classic has been around for more than 100 years and is often served at picnics, church suppers, and other community gatherings. Its rich, velvety texture is a marriage of cheesecake and pie, and it is often seen as a dessert to end a meal rather than as a standalone item. While its taste remains unchanged, the method of serving it has evolved over the years. Initially, diners would help themselves from a communal plate, which resulted in lots of food wastage. Nowadays, individual plates are used so that everyone can find a piece of this delectable dessert. In fact, the tradition of serving Blackberry Cheesecake continues at the restaurant, and you can get a taste of it by ordering one of their famous cheesecakes. It is important to note that, although made with blackberries, this dish is not related to the popular summertime drink of the same name. The restaurant’s name came about because of its similarity to the blackberry pie that was sold in the region at the time. This dessert is a perfect example of how the food culture in Kentucky has evolved and adapted to the times we live in now – for the better.
Chilled Crab Salad
We can’t talk about the Kentucky Derby without mentioning the Crab Salad. That’s because this humble side dish has become such a phenomenon that restaurants all over the region serve it as a daily special or by itself as an appetizer. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it is incredibly easy to make, and it requires very few ingredients. Restaurants in Lexington frequently use lump crabmeat from the Atlantic coast, and they mix it with creamy, crunchy, and spicy coleslaw. It’s a great way to showcase the wide variety of seafood that is available in the area. While the salad remains mostly the same year-round, the restaurant adds different ingredients and variations as needed, so you will always find something new to try. The only thing that might change is the type of crabmeat used. On the menu are the Chilled Crab Salad and the Spicy Crab Salad, alongside other traditional side dishes like hush puppies and cornbread. For a healthier alternative, you can opt for a soy-based dressing instead of the buttermilk one usually associated with traditional Crab salads.
Shrimp and Grits
You might not expect to see Louisiana on this list, but the home of Cajun Country boasts one of the most unique and varied cuisines in the world. If you visit Lafayette, the capital city, you will find Creole, Southern, and Native American influences galore. One of the most popular dishes to represent this unique blend of cultures is shrimp and grits. A thick, creamy cornmeal is the base for this dish, which is then studded with large shrimp. You can order this popular Louisiana specialty either cooked or uncooked, and the menu at Lafayette restaurant Ruston’s offers both options. This versatile food can be served cold or at room temperature, and it can be accompanied by either hot or cold sauces. It’s a great way to combine two of America’s favorite foods – shrimp and grits and Louisiana’s Creole cuisine – into one satisfying dish.
Another unique dessert that you can try in Lexington is the Gingerbread Boys. This nostalgic treat is made of gingerbread men crafted in the shape of traditional gingerbread houses. If you visit this historic city during the first week of September, you will find numerous restaurants and coffee shops offering this unique dessert. You can opt for the classic option, which features jolly faces and gingerbread houses, or you can go all the way and decorate your edible cookie skyscrapers or cars with frosting, jelly, or chocolate.