If Kentucky is the new California, Chef Stephen Williams is the new Alice Waters (sorry, chef) whose cozy neighborhood bistro has one fork planted firmly in the canon of Kentucky-proud, the other in classic French. The two-story brick house Bouquet occupies is a homespun beauty of unspangled elegance: warm woods, spiced walls, bronze silk, and charming sidewalk tables that slow-jam to the rhythm of the seasons. Even though Williams relies heavily on local farmers and food artisans—and the nearby community garden that he tends with neighboring chefs—his menu is less about conceptual statements than good hearty food, from small plates through dessert. With sous chef Bhumin Desai, Williams evokes the commonwealth in such dishes as corn spoonbread partnered with roasted chicken and country ham; sorghum-laced sweet potato flatbread; farm salad with Kentucky sheep’s milk cheese, pickled shallots, and cornbread croutons; and smoked buttermilk grits with sausage and fried egg. Even in dishes that depart from Kentucky’s drawl, vegetables, legumes, and interesting grains abound (I’ve got a major crush on the halibut with fennel, edamame, bok choy, and basil cream). These dishes reflect a humble—but rarely modest—cohesion of flavors and textures.
519 Main St., Covington, (859) 491-7777, bouquetrestaurant.com
Originally published in the March 2013 issue.