Southern Chef Salute: Ouita Michel
This Midway, Kentucky, chef creates fab food that speaks Bluegrass.
Holly Hill Inn is one doily short of looking like my grandmother's place all over again. Then Ouita Michel greets me like a long-lost sorority sister at her 1845 Greek Revival-turned-restaurant. Don't you just love the South for these moments? Ouita does too.
In fact, Kentucky rules her menus―from the sous-chef-grown freshwater prawns to the divine lamb and pork from nearby farms. She whips up her state's signature sandwich, the Hot Brown, and yes, that's a taste of revered Woodford Reserve bourbon I sense wafting through the rack of lamb.
The theme isn't local-schmocal―it's local luxe. Ouita spins Bluegrass with bountiful artistry: lemon grass-scented rabbit, butterflied trout with black walnuts and Chardonnay sauce, a roasted garlic flan flanked with fresh-from-the garden vegetables.
It's not fussy―just fine. You'll find no foams or trendy techniques here. Want to eat Ouita's favorite? It's pork (from country ham with corn custard to stuffed roulade of pork to chargrilled chops). Want to meet the family? Husband/sommelier Chris selects your wine; preschooler Willa may peek around the corner to see if you're happy. Not that there's a doubt. You are happy.
You'll find Ouita mostly at Holly Hill Inn. But she and Chris, with family members, also own Wallace Station Deli and Bakery near Midway (must-have burgers, bourbon ball ice cream) and Cleveland's at the Woodford Inn in Versailles (all things sacred― country ham, fried chicken, corn pudding, greens, biscuits). You'll be a satisfied Southerner.
426 North Winter Street (less than 1 minute off I-64); www.hollyhillinn.com or (859) 846-4732.