Amongst all of the wonderful elements that Kentucky is known for – horse riding, stunning countryside and outdoor adventures – the attribute that I was looking forward to exploring more of was the food and the bourbon.
I was intrigued by how much the delicious golden brown spirit has influenced the cooking, culture and even the sweets in Kentucky.
Bourbon at Buffalo Trace Distillery
Naturally, a good place to begin my journey in the study of bourbon was at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. The award-winning distillery has been in the business of making bourbon for more than 200 years, and they certainly know what they’re doing. The one-hour, family-friendly tour is well worth it: The knowledge of the guides is phenomenal, and the story behind the making of the bourbon fascinating. The grounds that surround the distillery are beautiful and I wished that I’d packed a lunch to enjoy the lush grass and perfect temperature. For an added bonus, I did get to sample three of the bourbons they offered, and all I can say is, “Can I have another please?”
Taking the Buffalo Trace Distillery tour in Frankfort
My next stop was Rebecca Ruth Candies, also in Frankfort, where they make and sell chocolate onsite. Again, I took the tour and found out more about the history of Rebecca Ruth – a wonderfully delightful story – and saw the making of the candy from start to finish. As I mentioned, bourbon influences many things in Kentucky and the chocolate here is one of them. They are most famous for their bourbon balls, boasting a creamy center with a bourbon flavor, coated in chocolate and topped with a pecan. In fact, for a truly unique flavor combo, try the bourbon cream from Buffalo Trace followed by a bourbon ball from Rebecca Ruth – pure heaven!
Another local and visitor favorite for incredible chocolate is Muth’s Candies in Louisville. Everything in there is delicious and you won’t want to leave, but I especially recommend the Modjeskas, a to-die-for combination of a soft deluxe marshmallow topped with butter and cream caramel.
Outside the Rebecca Ruth candy store in Frankfort
Also in Louisville, you will find the "urban bourbon trail." The restaurants on this tour are superb and offer a high caliber of food and drinks. One of my favorite places was Harvest. The owner was very courteous, and his version of an Old Fashioned was one of the best. The restaurant only uses ingredients that are available within an 130-kilometer radius, and the selection of entrees was great. I had the buttermilk fried chicken, which I highly recommend.
Two of the other fantastic foodie stops on the trail that were highlights for me were Proof on Main and The Brown Hotel Lobby Bar. Proof on Main is super hip with a truly unique menu. My samples included a Woodland Farm hog chop, a country ham falafel and some smoked Kentucky catfish dip. At The Brown Hotel, you will find an opulent bar and fine dining experience. Here, we tried out the Dover sole and an escargot appetizer – both exquisite.
In contrast to the fine dining, two other local Kentucky favorites that soon became favorites of mine were Wallace Station in Versailles and her sister restaurant Windy Corner in Lexington. Both offer real Kentucky home cooking with menus that will delight your taste buds and fill up your belly.
Clearly, Kentucky is the place to be for true foodies and those wanting a unique twist on old recipes. Bourbon, chocolate and great food – I love it!
Checking the menu at Wallace Station in Versailles