Reporters experience this all the time: You start an interview with a story in mind, yet the subject leaves you thinking about something bigger and better.
That’s the case with this year’s Cured & Crafted, the second annual artisan food, drink and craft festival hosted at Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery in Butchertown (1121 E. Washington St.), on Saturday, April 9, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Excited as the distillery’s co-founder, Joe Heron, is about the event, he envisions C&C as a much larger festival, one that could answer the too regularly asked question: How can Louisville create a significant food and drink event that showcases the city, this region and the best of Kentucky?
“What’s on our mind right now is the question of how we celebrate and elevate food, that natural cultural element of our city, and without it all being so forced,” Heron said. “It doesn’t have to involve Bobby Flay, it has to involve the neighborhood chef, Bobby Benjamin. It’s about Butchertown, us, not them. It’s personal.”
And with a properly firm but encouraging gig, he added, “I feel the city lacks a little confidence in having a serious festival when we should have all the confidence of the world!”
(The Mayor Greg Fischer-appointed “Bourbon and Beyond” committee should think about that. It’s what local restaurateurs have insisted all along: Such a festival should be about us, our restaurants, our city — not celebrity chefs. Bourbon is super important, but start with Louisville’s food community first.)
Heron said last year’s Cured & Crafted drew more than 1,000 people of every stripe to sample the works of two dozen local vendors of food and drink: sausage makers, restaurant chefs, drink makers, ice cream shops, cheese makers, coffee roasters and more. The goal, Heron said, was to celebrate local craftsmanship by connecting producers and consumers in a family-friendly environment.
“There’s not much that showcases food and beverage in this town outside of the typical festivals,” Heron said. “There’s nothing else that says this person does great bread, or that regionally, this is the country ham capital of America. And frankly, I’m sick of having to pay $10 every time I want to go and do something interesting. It’s one reason why it’s free to come to this.”
Free admission also draws families, he said, adding that last year’s petting zoo will return.
“So many little kids came, plus skinny jeans hipsters, and young people coming here and then shopping at Work the Metal (in Butchertown Market),” he said. “When we do Cured & Crafted, I fall in love with Louisville because it’s honest and authentic. There’s no pretense to this festival. Everybody comes, people wear shorts, the music’s great. It’s about the people and the city of Louisville.”
It’s also about listening to live music and, of course, eating and drinking great food. Doctor Girlfriend will bring the tunes, and the following purveyors will sell samples of their wares:
- A&C Baking Company
- Artisan Craft
- Brick Walker
- Butchertown Grocery
- Butchtertown Pie Co.
- Caldwell’s Quirky Cookery
- Commonwealth Cure
- Crosley Cruiser
- Foxhollow Farm
- Heine Brothers’ Coffee
- Johnny’s Diner Car
- Louisville Independent Business Alliance
- Louis The Ton
- Louisville Cream
- McDowell Farms Salsa
- Red Hot Roasters
- Renegade Sauces & Preserves
- Roots Underwood
- The Beer Syrup Company
- The Comfy Cow
- The Sweet Shoppe
Heron loathes the term “craft spirit,” but he acknowledges a company the size of Copper & Kings is tiny compared to Kentucky’s spirits giants. Still, he believes small firms like his make up a significant and sometimes overlooked core of local food and drink makers whose work should be featured under the banner of the city’s real festival.
“This is not about us making money, because we charge no admission and no vendor fees, and we put it on ourselves,” Heron said. “My dream is that Cured & Crafted becomes the artisanal food festival in Louisville.”
He insisted that won’t happen with years of committee discussions or over-planning, but by local producers having the chance to distinguish their work in a single showcase.
In the near term, he wants local breweries and local artists to join the festival. And down the road, he envisions the festival overtaking the heart of Butchertown much as the St. James Court Art Fair fills Central Park.
“I think it would be great if the whole of Washington Street was closed off from top to bottom, and it was full of food and drink and art and nobody was charged a cent for it,” he said. “We have to think bigger, we have to think imaginatively, we have to live adventurously, and we have to build our community.”
That means thinking beyond the obvious and relying on outsiders to manage it.
“Bourbon is great, but it’s just one dimension of it all, especially when you know about the great beer community here,” said Heron. A second Cured & Crafted event is being planned for the fall. “Why do we have to put on these things that involve promoters when we can do it for ourselves? I really hope it outgrows the space and what it is now.”