Remember that Bourbon Festival mentioned last post? It’s in the rearview mirror and I now have only memories. More accurately, I have only memories, lots of photos, and oodles of bourboncentric souvenirs. Though I won’t be pulling out the slide projector as did my grandparents after their vacations, I do have photos and stories to share. Should you be up for it, I offer you a bourbon cocktail (mojito? mint julep? Maybe you like it straight-up neat or on the rocks?) and a bourbon ball and invite you to sit back and read on.
First stop on the bourbon tour was ironically not bourbon-related at all. My husband and I swung through Chicago to see a few sites and, more excitedly, give me my first opportunity to make the real-life acquaintance of another blogger met here on WordPress. The Chicago experiences merit their own post, so will save those for another time.
Which brings us back to bourbon: As Bourbon Capital of the World, Bardstown, Kentucky has hosted the Bourbon Festival for 23 years. Recently named Most Beautiful Small Town in America by Rand McNally and USA TODAY, Bardstown deserves its honor and boasted cute shops, lovely houses, friendly folk, down-home restaurants with amazing Southern food. It welcomed festival-goers in style. Special events, music, vendors, a whiskey museum, art exhibits, stores overflowing with bourbon-themed merchandise, and restaurants putting bourbon to traditional and not-so-traditional uses–Bardstown had it all.
Our week consisted of tasty food and drink, distillery tours, lovely Kentucky landscapes, and shopping for all things bourbon. Besides coming home with bottles of favorite Kentucky whiskeys, we found…
There really are no words to describe this trademarked Kentucky Woods Bourbon Barrel Cake, but I’ll try: Boozy, moist, sweet, dense, rich. Whole cakes are sold in packaging made from barrels, but I was only willing to part with $3 for this enormous slice of heaven.
My expectations were low and I bought this novelty Twinkie out of curiosity alone. Turned out to be tasty!
At only $2 a package, this bourbon brittle was a steal. Better yet, it exceeded my expectations and I regret buying only one. Stay tuned as I’m already thinking through how to recreate it in my own kitchen.
With the tagline “Eat Your Bourbon,” Bourbon Barrel Foods can only be awesome.
From an earlier visit to Kentucky, I knew the Rebecca Ruth candy store in Frankfort was a must. What fun, then, to find this ice cream at a festival event held in a Bardstown park.
Desserts were never optional. A must-order was Kentucky Derby Pie, a doozy of a bourbon-chocolate pecan pie.
Lest you think we only ate our bourbon, let me offer the following:
We sidled up to the Kentucky Mint Julep Bar at the Chapeze House and met a lovely couple who invited us to join them. After visiting for hours, we left with an invitation to stop by their house for a drink the next day. Kentucky hospitality at its finest!
We were welcomed to this brunch, held on the distillery’s grounds, with a cocktail and an explanation that in Kentucky, folks start drinking their bourbon at 10 a.m. Well then. Cheers!
The Mixed Drink Challenge had six restaurants and five distilleries duking it out for best original bourbon punch. Judging these cocktails was a mixologist and cookbook author as well as Master Distillers from local distilleries.
What’s a meal in Bardstown without the post-dinner cocktail? We found a classic at Talboltt Tavern, a restaurant with serious history. Reputed to be the nation’s first stagecoach stop, it hosted historical greats such as a young Abraham Lincoln.
Jason Stark, mixologist at Louisville’s Martini Italian Bistro, took top honor in the Mixed Drink Challenge with his Rutledge Revenge, named for the Master Distiller at Four Roses. This win was one of many and his Final Gallop, also a prizewinner, was served after our distillery tour.
We came home sated, rested, inspired. Reentry has gone well enough, though “real life” is a bit more challenging than our week of leisure in America’s Most Beautiful Small Town. These memories–and the edible souvenirs–will serve me well and I’m honored to have shared them with you. Food for fun will most likely be talking bourbon for a while now, so I hope to see you back for more.