Justin and Kristin Gilbert spent three years in Italy, visiting gelaterie in more than 20 cities to mine artisanal secrets before opening their own shop. In choreographed musical numbers, the duo handcraft dense, flavor-packed gelato in small batches using local milk and fresh fruit. From a repertoire of more than 100 recipes, Justin and Kristin curate 20 flavors at a time. Past and present flavors include poached-pear zinfandel, orange-ginger dairy-free sorbetto, and chocolate orange—one of Justin's favorites, according to a feature in Louisville Magazine. Delicate crêpes conceal Nutella or lemon and sugar. The cozy shop also sends forth its mobile cart to cater office snack breaks, weddings with as many as 2000 guests, and Roman legions on the march.
Nicolette Spears used to think green tea tasted like bad, stale grass-clippings. So when she began studying the importance of brewing temperature, it was a revelation. “Green tea is like a vegetable: if you burn the leaves, it tastes really bitter. That was sort of an eye-opener to me.”
Now, at Louisville Tea Company, Ms. Spears brews more than a hundred tea varieties according to strict standards, paying attention to each brew’s optimal brewing temperature, steep time, and leaf-to-water ratio. She also considers her tea’s origins: she sources Japanese green tea directly from a small tea farm in Japan, and the Kenyan Ajiri Tea employs Kenyan women and funds orphan education in West Kenya.
Additionally, Ms. Spears strives to educate newbies about tea. At the tasting bar, she brews fresh pots of the shop’s tea of the day. During the shop’s classes and tea tastings, tea experts delve not only into tea origins and flavors, but the positive effects on human health and boring water.
Helmed by Connie Young and her two daughters, Lori and Kelly, Sisters Tea Parlor Boutique transports visitors to simpler times, when taking tea was a daily ritual. Before settling at tables for afternoon tea, guests are invited to visit the boutique's dress-up vanity area and don festive hats, wraps, costume jewelry, and gloves. Traditional tea service includes scones with tart lemon curd, tea sandwiches, and a sweets tray lined with decadent desserts—plus, of course, bottomless pots of loose-leaf tea.
The owners of North End Café don't just purchase local produce: they also grow vegetables and herbs in their own garden in Simpsonville. Since April, 2003, their chefs have championed this focus on local, seasonal ingredients with a healthy approach to cooking. North End Café's menu features traditional meals from around the world, ranging from grass-fed beef burgers and flatiron steaks to grilled fish and scallops to vegetarian lasagnas, stir-fry, and cakes. For sharing, chefs build eclectic small plates such as crab cakes, fried goat-cheese ravioli, and almond-crusted brie. They also prepare a range of vegan and gluten-free dishes, taking care to avoid the pyrotechnics that result when steak and tofu touch.
To accompany these meals, bartenders pour American and international wines, and blend cocktails from fruit and old-fashioned ingredients. At the Highlands location, a brand-new tap system spouts 23 craft beers, including imperial IPAs and peppery black porters. In warmer months, the aromas of cooking and laughter of clientele also fill the Highlands location's new outdoor patio, an expansive wooden deck surrounded by leafy plants and tall, wispy trees.
Whipping up handcrafted flavors with sugary virtuosity, Coco’s Chocolate Café provides patrons a tasty-treat abode that won’t melt into a puddle of pudding in the hot sun. Coco’s is a top-notch spot for picking up chocolaty delicacies. Made from the finest ingredients available, specialties such as turtles with Madagascar vanilla bean ($2 each), hazelnut pralines ($2), and butter truffles ($1.50) provide smile-inducing sampling. Beverages like cappuccino ($3.49) and dark hot chocolate ($2.99) offer savory sips, while a small fondue with strawberries, marshmallows, pound cake, or crispy treats gives rogue dippers the chance to indulge ($11.99). Additionally, patrons will be able to kick back and relax in a welcoming atmosphere featuring striking lighting and lustrous wood accents.