Greetings from Louisville and Chicago! It’s my first time in Kentucky ever and my first time in Chicago other than for an interview for Quaker circa 1993. Mark and I flew into Louisville and drove to Chicago through Indiana. The plan was ambitious but worth it to see America outside of the five boroughs of New York City. There has been much to eat and drink along the way, so I am going to get started reporting even before I return.

Our extreme anticipation for vacation was ironically dampened as our flight was cancelled because of thunderstorms. We got out the next morning on what seemed like a plane that was a little bigger than a puddle-jumper. Nerves slightly shot, we crawled into the rental car and headed off to meet some family in the suburbs.

Mark’s sister Lenore and niece Qiana welcomed us to Louisville with our first meal at Napa River Grill (@NapaRiverGrill, 1211 Herr Lane, 502-423-5822, www.napariverlouisville.com). After our delayed, long travels, all I wanted was a bowl of soup and a bed, but I am so happy to have eaten here.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at first about Napa River Grill. It was in an upscale strip mall, and once inside, it was pretty empty. However, the menu and ultimately the food told a different story! I love a simple, straight-forward menu that focuses on doing it well. Chef Brian Curry and their attentive staff took me to school!

As we perused the menu, our Southern, charming server revealed their bread service of sweet crispy cornbread, cooked and served in a skillet, topped with jalapeno butter. This was the first sign that Louisville doesn’t play when it comes to their food.

As I must when I get off a plane, I started with some hot soup. It would be their tangy homemade tomato soup. I opted to omit the decadent puffed pastry that is baked to golden brown on top. A true error, as I am told dipping it into the soup is an experience. Nonetheless, the soup was bright and fruity with great balance.

For our main courses, Lenore had grilled salmon and vegetables over jasmine rice with lemon pesto aioli and Qiana the house ground burger with bacon marmalade, Red Dragon cheddar, local vegetable fixings on a brioche bun. The fish was cooked perfectly and the burger rivaled the best I’ve seen and was served with bacon-dusted fries. More about those on my plate.

There was only one dish that called Mark’s name—Bourbon cider barbecue ribs! “Bourbon” because we are in Kentucky and “BBQ ribs” because he is a man. Served with a individual ramekin of spicy Red Dragon cheddar mac and cheese and some stewed local kale greens, bay-beeee, it made us want to slap chef Curry! Those ribs were tender and glistening for the heavens! (Check out the gratuitous food videos on my Instagram feed!)

I decided on the ruby shrimp po’ boy not only because it is ruby shrimp but also because it is served on a house-made Klaus pretzel roll with kimchi slaw and remoulade. When it got to the table, I thought it was a little small, but it didn’t miss a beat. It was hot where it needed to be, cold everywhere else and crunchy good all around. Those fries were dusted with house-made bacon powder. That should be a condiment on GP (general principal)!

As if there were room in our bellies, we could not escape without having croissant bread pudding with banana creme anglaise and dark chocolate. The strong cups of coffee helped to fortify and prepare us for the surprise of molten dark chocolate inside the pudding. Stick a fork in me!

Then it was time to head to the hotel and pass out until the morning. Napa River Grill was the perfect first meal in Louisville. I will return on my next visit for dinner and to get up in that wine list. See you next time, chef!

There is plenty more Louisville and Chicago where that came from. Check out next week’s “Talking SCHOP!” for dinners at Nulu, bourbon tasting at Woodford Reserve and a peanut butter cocktail to boot!

Don’t miss a bite of the new Amsterdam News food section, “#AmNewsFOOD,” by following us on Twitter and Instagram @NYAmNewsFOOD for all things food in and around Harlem and greater New York City, too.

Happy eating and thanks for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl or on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.