Tuesday, March 9, 2010
LOUISVILLE ROAD TRIP - Part II
Our next stop was The World's Second Most Awesome Art Market where, with no tats to show (well, Cindie's single small, tasteful one was covered by her turtleneck), we definitely felt old. But the facility where it was held, Louisville Glassworks, was a real find. It's home to three glass studios, including one for architectural glass (plus they have a mobile studio - how cool is that?). It sponsors a variety of workshops, including an upcoming BYO - Blow Your Own . . . Beer Mug workshop. The gift shop was sorely tempting (they also have an online store). A jazz club serves tapas on the lower level, upper floors apparently house condos and a boutique hotel, and our server at the Carolina Shrimp Co. told us they sometimes host rooftop parties. The afternoon was still young, so next we decided to check out 21c, the "museum-hotel" whose owners are supposed to be bringing the same concept to downtown Cincinnati (adjacent to the Contemporary Arts Center and across from the Aronoff in the old Metropole Hotel). I thumbed through Velocity (the free weekly Louisville entertainment tabloid we'd picked up at lunch), for an address for Cindie's GPS. But as we neared the place, I saw something that made me take notice. On the corner we spotted Proof on Main, the hotel's much touted bar/restaurant, and knew we must be in the right place. Housed in converted tobacco and bourbon warehouses, the hotel is part of a thriving new art gallery row on West Main Street that I will definitely make a point of exploring further on another visit to Louisville. Upon walking through these doors at the 21c, you pass a check-in counter, but are essentially in the first of several gallery spaces. The museum is dedicated to collecting and exhibiting 21st century art (hence its name), some of it interactive and media-driven. Even the bathrooms (which came in second in the 2008 Top 10 Best Restrooms in America list - yes, there is such a thing), are unique, as we learned from a patron as we walked the hall. The men's urinal is just on the other side of that hall; there is one-way glass so the men can see out but the women can't see in - although they don't necessarily know that. So what about those red penguins? We just had to ask. And we learned the owners were at an art show in Italy when they were captivated by the red penguins shown by the Cracked Art group. They bought 40 or 45 afterward, most of which are perched on top of the building or above the entrance. "But we have about a dozen we play with," the concierge told us. Repeat clients who they know have a sense of humor might discover a red penguin in their shower. Or a couple getting married might be greeted by a pair dressed in wedding dress and tux. He said the owners plan to commission more penguins for their Cincinnati hotel, although they will be in a different color. For more photos of the penguins, a video of the hotel's annual birthday pajama party, and more, check out their facebook page. With a little more time to kill before we could check into our more affordable suburban hotel, I suggested a drink at either the Seelbach or the Brown. Cindie opted for the Brown. Built in 1923 and recently renovated, the Brown Hotel is the essence of old Southern opulence in Louisville. We made our way to the lobby, where the bar prominently displayed an array of bourbons. I'm not much of a Bourbon drinker. But when you're in Louisville, at a place like the Brown, that is simply what one does. Unless you're one of the young men who sat down next to us. "I've driven all the way from New Jersey to have a real mint julep," said one. They said they were on their way to Utah, tasting their way across the country to Utah. Since their last stop before Louisville was the Woodford Reserve distillery, we weren't sure whether the tasting focus of their extended road trip was food or drinks. But they did order a Hot Brown, which was invented at the Brown hotel. I was tickled to read in the wikipedia entry that Bobby Flay failed to prevail when he challenged the hotel's chefs to a Throw Down. Sometimes it's best not to mess with tradition. Next stop: Lilly's.