Brunch is so often a contentious topic. Everyone has their favorite spot at which they load up on their eggs, that are done â€œjust rightâ€ and served with bacon cooked perfectly to their specifications. Throw in some waffles, omelettes and French toast and you have the beginnings to a slumber-inducing chomp-athon.
Some places do certain things right, and few do a lot of things well. One place that can humbly claim to rustling up a majestic brunch composed of a swathe of delectables is BLU Italian Grille at the Louisville Marriott Downtown under the direction of chef Graham Weber.
â€œWe noticed we had a lot of locals here, and a lot of farmers wanting to have some form of relationship with us and the food that we do here,â€ explains Weber. â€œBrunch was a meal period where we noticed we had a lot of locals and where we could incorporate homegrown produce.â€
The goal is to offer standard brunch fare using only the freshest ingredients while providing options that are slightly more unusual, setting BLU Italian Grille apart from any preconceived notions diners may have of a large corporate entity. The food is unique and not to be found in any other Marriott.
â€œWe didnâ€™t simply want to do only Kentucky Proud because some of the farms are closer in Indiana than they are here,” Weber says. “When we have guests from out of town trying things like the elk patÃ©, they get a kick out that, while the locals can leave feeling proud they helped the community.â€
Other than a surge of overwhelmingly positive feedback, the real proof in the pudding has been the foot traffic at BLU, which has doubled in the past few months, according to Weber. While it could be the fact that word is finally getting around about the live jazz on offer during Sundayâ€™s affair or the plethora of options at the omelette station, it may also be a number of dishes that are unique reimaginings of timeless classics.
A good example is the textured-yet-velvety consistency of Weberâ€™s oatmeal brÃ»lÃ©e. Cinnamon bursts through and flavors the sweet caramelized sugar on top of the perfectly-cooked oatmeal. Perhaps an even better example is BLUâ€™s version of the brunch Hot Brown, a perfect marriage between one of Louisvilleâ€™s favored culinary treasures and Eggs Benedict. Weberâ€™s version is poached eggs with a generous lather of rich mornay sauce served atop turkey and an English muffin. Unlike most places, there is an Eggs Benedict station alongside the omelette station where patrons can order a brand-new take on a timeless classic each week.
But the unquestionable crowning glory of the brunch at BLU Italian Grille is the Homegrown Table â€“ a vast array of local produce, all sourced within 150 miles of the restaurant, with the vast majority much closer. Nor is it local for the sake of being local.
â€œWhat weâ€™re offering is not simply tomatoes or cucumbers grown locally,â€ Weber says. â€œInstead what weâ€™ve found is really interesting local produce for people who are little more adventurous. People come in and ask how we get locally-grown greens and we can tell them about the hot houses in Indiana and the hydroponic farms.â€
And interesting it most certainly is. Crispy baked lavash sits next to regional chive-covered creamy goat cheese. With the growing trend of using hydroponically grown greens, BLUâ€™s Homegrown Table offers lettuce as fresh as can be, given the fact itâ€™s still alive straight from the experienced growers’ hands. If youâ€™re looking for something more substantial, there are also artisanal meats from Smoking Goose meatery in Indianapolis. Spicy, paprika infused capacolla sits beside an elk patÃ©. Freshly made cider quenches the thirst while fresh and zesty yogurt and homemade granola provides a scintillatingly fresh and crisp taste. An even more unorthodox offering is the dark chocolate covered strips of apple-smoked bacon. While it may raise a few quizzical eyebrows at first glance, on taste the juxtaposition of the smoke and salt of the bacon alongside the sweetness of the rich chocolate is a treasure to behold.
BLU Italian Grille at the Marriott Louisville Downtown, 280 West Jefferson Street, Louisville, 40202. Phone: 502.671.4285. Brunch buffet is priced at $24.99
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune