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.
Okay, to hell with trips to China, Alaska, Italy. I’m focusing my attention on following your footsteps and taking this trip! What a fabulous vacation and post! I do hope you’ll try to re-create some of the foods and share the recipes here.
ha, thanks Kerry. I would take China, Alaska, Italy in a heartbeat. I find so many blogs with folks traveling to exotic locales and the wildest I seem to get is Kentucky. So I make the culinary best of it 🙂 Appreciate your kind words much. I’ll be working with bourbon for a long long time. Even if only because we bought so much of it!
Yum! Sounds like you guys had quite a week in Bardstown! First bourbon drink at 10am? Bourbon soaked cake? Bourbon covered Twinkie? Bourbon smoked salt? Can’t wait to see what you do with that, but it sounds delicious. It is 8:30 in the morning and you already have me craving bourbony sweets!
yep, bourbon cocktail before breakfast was even had. Calories were definitely overconsumed this past week.
Love that you’re enthusiastic as I about the different foods we had and brought home. For sure, that is the coolest thing about blogging–finding like-minded souls with whom to share passions 🙂
We bought a 6-pack of mini containers from Bourbon Barrel Foods. The company smokes sugar and spices in bourbon barrels, so we have paprika, sugar, pepper, salt, and two others that I’m forgetting. Planning to use the sugar to rim cocktail glasses. How do you think it would work with a Soft Landing?
Sounds like a fantastic idea! 😉 I’m so curious about the flavour. I have a feeling I’d want to try it sprinkled over bread pudding.
I have never liked bourbon as much as I do when I read your posts! They inspire me and intrigue me – and you’ve yet to steer me wrong – even when the recipes have nothing to do with bourbon!! But I have to say, the bourbon brittle made me salivate.. 😉
Aw shucks, Mimi. Thanks! The bourbon brittle is going down well, thanks, and I wish I’d bought a case.
It sounds like so much fun! I want the ice cream. And the balls. And the cake. And the sunrise. The brittle ingredients show it may contain “oak ash.” Do Kentuckians sprinkle ash in their brittle? I bet that’s the only time that question has been asked. Maybe you need to start putting just a pinch (or “peench,” as my husband inaccurately says) of various tree ash into your dishes.
Oh it was all some crazy good, Kerbey. You’ve humbled me greatly as I hadn’t yet to thought to look at the ingredient statement to see how it’s made. So thanks! The tree ash will not be a problem as that last part (which you can’t see clearly from the photo, even with an eagle eye such as yours) lists ingredients that “may have traces of” such as allergens, etc. Assuming the ash comes from the barrel where the bourbon was stored. Or else they are making it in front of an open window outside of which is a bonfire burning trees. ?? My guess is that Kentuckians do not deliberately sprinkle ash in their brittle, no. Not even a peench.
You made me laugh out loud there at the end. And you also got me to thinking that anything in California right now would have traces of wildfire conifers wafting in through the window. Vineyard wines will now taste even more oakey. Oaky? Okie from Muskogee? Sorry.
MMmmm..oh my. Liz! You had me at bourbon, and bourbon and bourbon! Wow – what a a crazy fantastic trip and I must go sometime. Everything looked good, even that darn twinkie and well, that’s saying a lot! I can’t wait to see if you can recreate the brittle because that just sounds amazing!! Awesome post Liz!
Thanks, Bonnie! You would do well in Kentucky, I think. That bourbon Manhattan had your name all over it 🙂
Looks like tons of fun! We had a family reunion in Frankfort in 2010 and enjoyed a few distilleries. I was pregnant at the time so enjoyed a wonderful bourbon ball and that was it. Bourbon isn’t my favorite, but I discovered I don’t mind Woodford Reserve. I still have all that bourbon honey to use too….
Ah, Frankfort–home of Rebecca Ruth candy 🙂 Woodford Reserve was the swankiest of the distilleries we visited–you have good taste! And hey, I bought bourbon honey at a local artisan booth at the Rebecca Ruth store 🙂
Enjoy the bourbon honey!! I still need to make a simple syrup with mine.
Everything looks great. I’m quite intrigued by the Bourbon smoked sugar. I’ll try and get it online. 🙂
am sure you can order the Bourbon Barrel Foods products online. My husband is inspired to smoke spices, etc now, so I’m looking forward to what he comes up with.
Thanks for coming over, Tasty 🙂
this all looks amazing, and i love the word ‘bourboncentric”. a lot.
Totally cool word, I agree. Thanks for being here 🙂
OMG a woman after my own heart. We have festivals like that upstate here in NY, but theyre garlic or onion, not Bourbon! Wayyyy mroe fun. That cake has me drooling. I’m a big fan. Seems like you had a pretty awesome summer of travels. Too fleeting!
We are bourbon soul sisters, then? Food festivals are fantastic, yes. How cool to be surrounded by people as nuts about a certain kind of food as you are? Appreciate your kind words. Let’s just say I made the most of the traveling I did. Always have travel envy when I read other folks’ blogs. Wish I traveled more and further away from where I am.
Liz, I love all of this so much.
Thanks, Princess 🙂 Yours is still my favorite mint julep.
Wow, brown liquor abound! While I can’t imagine trying those cocktails, the sweet treats look amazing, especially that cake. I’d like to live in there. And the brittle – yum! Please, please create a recipe for that. I will raid my husband’s bourbon for that! Glad you had such a great time — can’t wait to hear more about Chicago too. Been wanting to go there forever!
love it, J–thanks! Bourbon has a strong personality for sure, but it can be tamed with soda water for drinking and sugar and butter for eating 🙂 Holler when you hit Chicago–maybe I could catch a train and join you for a drink!
I’m drunk with pleasure from sharing your grand vacation, Liz. Well spent, I’d say. All of it seems bourbonized to 100 percent maximization. And that was the point!
I do have a question regarding the most beautiful small town in America — and if Rand McNally says so, well, it’s so (with USA Today riding coattails). Whom might the bard be for which the town’s name refers? Sorry. Stuff like that pops into my brain all the time.
Great post from Kentucky. I’m looking forward to the Chicago installment of the getaway.
bourbonized is another lovely turn of phrase 🙂 While I do not have your journalism training, I have a fair amount of skill with google: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bardstown,_Kentucky
You’re welcome 😉
Glad if I can feed you with virtual food and you can give me the virtual concert experience.
I know I could have googled it myself, but felt it better left to you, Liz. 🙂 Thank you. The Bard Brothers. There ought to be a buegrass band that takes on that name, I think. 🙂
Do not google in my stead, Mark. I am rather proud of my Internet search abilities.
Glad you enjoyed Kentucky! (Says one of the few bourbon-hating Kentuckians.) Bardstown is a nice little town.
Thanks, Michelle. Was hoping you’d find this 🙂 The less bourbon you drink, the more there is for me! Curious, what kind of drinks do you like?
Oh this all looks so good! We used to go to Kentucky to see our cousins, but now they live in Florida. I did think Kentucky was fun though…
Thanks, Kloe 🙂 I love Kentucky–would be fun to have family there for visiting. Florida is not so bad either, though.
So close to me Liz, in Northern Ky outside of Cincinnati, although I know stopping in Cincinnati would have added 2 more hours to your trip. But if you ever do come through would love to me up for some coffee 🙂 Looks like you guys have a Fantastic time!! 🙂
Didn’t know I was so close, Amy! Next time for sure 🙂 And should you find yourself in Minnesota, be sure to holler. Couldn’t help by think about your bourbon barrel while we were at the Makers Mark exhibit in the park!
I still need to get down there and get my Bottle 😉
OOOh Liz, it sounds that you had lots of fun eating & drinking. 😃😃😃
Hi, Sophie 🙂 Yep, we ate and ate and drank and drank. Definitely need to burn some calories now that we’re home again.
What a blast! I did the bourbon tour in Lexington not too long ago. I really enjoyed touring the Buffalo Trace distillery, but somehow missed the bourbon brittle. Oh well. I guess I have to go back!
Thanks, Anne. Buffalo Trace is my favorite distillery of all that we visited (and I think we saw all except for Jim Beam and Town Branch). I talked about BT over at Blog of Funny Names, too–not sure if you saw. If no, http://wp.me/p21IMO-2lT
Appreciate you coming over 🙂
Oooh that Kentucky Derby Pie….it looks so good!
I’m glad you enjoyed your travels, and can’t wait to hear the rest.
Oh, the pie was crazy, Jenny. Dare you to make it healthier 😉 Thanks for coming over!
Never visited Kentucky before, remind me to definitely head down there when I save up for a plane ticket 😀
And save up for some bourboncentric times (love the word :P)
Choc Chip Uru
Bourboncentric times–sounds dangerous 😉 Thanks for coming over. Let me know when you’re heading to Kentucky and I’ll meet you there!
If this is what your vacation slide carrousel looks like, sign me up! I could almost taste, smell, drink it up from here!
Looking forward to next weeks installment. 🙂
Thank ya’ ma’am 🙂 You’re off the hook for “next week” as I’ll simply be re-hashing Mr. Wheatley. We’ll have a fine foodie vacay whenever you get yourself over to SPAM-ville. Speaking of vacays, how was your trip?
Bourbon love it.. Guess u had a great trip dear.. Yum yum.
Thanks 🙂 Yes, great trip had by all for sure.
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Looks like you had a great time eating and drinking, Liz! Four Roses is our house brand for bourbon. We are never without a bottle of it in the cabinet (which reminds me I need to get another soon). Bourbon soaked cake, ice cream, sugar, even that dang twinkie looks so tempting! Looking forward to reading about your experience meeting your blog friend!
Very cool, Ngan, that you have a “house brand” for bourbon 🙂 And Four Roses is one of the more spendy, which–in this biz–means it’s one of the better. Excellent taste! We did tour that distillery and it was fun to learn how it all started way back when. Appreciate you being here very much. Hope things go well on your end.
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The mint julep and bourbon smoked sugar will remain on my mind.
On second thought, bourbon smoked salt mint julep? 🙂
Stop tempting me, Shanna 😉
Well if we were neighbors I can only imagine the cake we’d eat and things we’d guzzle 😊