Can’t say I can recall the last time we ran Restaurant Roundup twice in the same week, but like new restaurants from Dustin Staggers and Fernando Martinez, the news just keeps on coming.

The Table to open in Portland this fall: In a generally generous city like Louisville, I’m surprised the idea of “pay what you can” restaurants has been slow to take hold, but apparently that’ll happen this fall with the opening of The Table at 1800 Portland Ave.

The Table graphicAccording to its website, it will follow a nonprofit model of “social entrepreneurship” by serving locally grown, fresh food prepared and sold without a set price. Those who can afford to pay, choose how much, and those who can’t, benefit by eating wholesome meals.

The site also says, “We provide creative payment solutions for everyone,” which could mean a lot of things, but sometimes that’s a bit of volunteer help at the restaurant.

To show how tough a go these restaurants are, Panera Bread Co. CEO Ron Shaich experimented with some pay-what-you-can stores that garnered mixed success. The failure of a St. Louis store proved that even good meals for generous prices don’t always generate enough goodwill.

Let’s hope operators of The Table know how to overcome those hurdles.

Masticate to the music: Last Sunday I attended a Musical Pairings dinner hosted by Barbara Werner, a former chef who has created a five-book series that teaches people to pair music with their food in order to enhance flavor.

You read that correctly: not enhance mood or pace, but the way food and drink taste.

Sissy Van Winkle and Carol Butler chewed and chuckled while listening to select tunes during the Musical Pairings dinner. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Sissy Van Winkle and Carol Butler chewed and chuckled while listening to select tunes during the Musical Pairings dinner. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Long story short is I didn’t get it, any change in taste, that is. Call me a party-pooper pragmatist, but while Werner’s musical choices were fun and will definitely make me recall the foods I ate that night when I hear those songs, I didn’t experience a flavor epiphany at any time.

Did a song make me feel more upbeat or serious or silly? Sure. Music always has that effect on me. I was even tempted to do some white man chair dancing on occasion, but thankfully having to hold a camera and a Manhattan barred me from such asynchronous activities.

Others in attendance said they noticed stronger flavors during some parts of songs, but couldn’t that just be the effect of the third bite of the same dish?

Dunno for sure. Werner, a delightful and bubbly sort, said serious study of her theory is underway at Harvard. I’ll look forward to seeing those results.

Blue Dog ‘declairs’ National Kouign Amann Day: Yep, go ahead and see if you can pronounce “kouign amann.” If cops used that for a sobriety test, not even teetotalers would pass.

kouigndayIt’s pronounced “queen a-mahn,” and it’s the name of a round crusty cake, made with a yeast-raised laminated dough — meaning multiple layers of butter- and sugar-laden pastry are rolled atop one another. Just like your fat cells will do once you’ve eaten one.

But life’s short and we all need a splurge, and on Saturday, June 20, Blue Dog Bakery and Café will serve seven different flavors of this iconic Breton pastry. According to a news release, the bakery sells traditional kouign amann every Friday and Saturday, but this weekend it’ll add strawberry rhubarb, pistachio mascarpone, dark chocolate ganache, vanilla apricot, and BLT versions.

“The kouign amann represents the pinnacle of our recent exploration into Viennoiserie,” said Blue Dog’s head pastry chef, Andy Wolf, who with clear, malicious intent, added yet another unpronounceable word to this news item. “This event will be a celebration of our expanding knowledge of laminated doughs.”

Need more info? Seriously? Wouldn’t you crawl across broken glass for a kouign amann? If so, call 899-9800.

June 29 opening for Stout Burgers & Beers: It took a couple months longer than expected — and what restaurant rehab doesn’t? — but the opening of Stout Burgers & Beers will happen Monday, June 29.

Stout will open in the Highlands on June 29. | Photo by Sara Havens
Stout will open in the Highlands on June 29. | Photo by Sara Havens

This restaurant, located in the former La Bodega Tapas space at 1604 Bardstown Road, is the three-unit Los Angeles-based brand’s first unit outside the City of Angels. Another opening is scheduled soon in Nashville.

Expect big, unique burgers and craft brews. Zero not to like.

Noodle news: Park those chopsticks until next week. We just learned that the opening of the new Yang Kee Noodle restaurant in Middletown has been pushed back to Friday, June 26. If you’re interested in being the first to try it out, it’s in the new Middletown Commons located at 13301 Shelbyville Road.

Shiraz in Clifton closes: Doing just the opposite of the previous two companies, Shiraz Mediterranean Grill at 2011 Frankfort Ave. is now closed. It was the longest-running of the company’s four restaurants and independently operated. The remaining Shiraz restaurants are located on Hurstbourne Parkway, Poplar Level Road, and U.S. 42 in Holiday Manor.

APRON Taste of Independents is July 12: APRON will host its first-ever Taste of Independents on July 12. Nearly 30 restaurants will be on hand at The Olmstead serving up food samples and cocktails in order to help raise funds for the nonprofit organization.

Apron-Logo-300x222APRON, in case you didn’t know, was created to help employees at independent restaurants who face financial difficulties in emergency situations.

Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 day of the event. There will be a silent auction, and the event will be fun. Consider spending your Sunday afternoon (1-4 p.m.) helping out this worthy cause and getting a belly full in the process.

Storyteller Dinners continue tonight with Maker’s Bill Samuels: Down One Bourbon Bar is hosting another Storyteller Dinner tonight at 7 p.m., and this time the tale spinner is Maker’s Mark chairman Bill Samuels. If you’ve never heard him wind up, you’ve missed a treat. He’s a character.

The dinner is a Cajun seafood boil served family-style alongside several Maker’s Mark cocktail pairings. Call 566-3259 to make your reservation. (I went to the Jim Beam/Fred Noe event, and it was a ton of fun.)

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Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.