First Vineyard marks origin of American winemaking

Tom Beall on porch of tasting room at First Vineyard The first libations that come to mind in north-central Kentucky are likely to be bourbon, and, if you’re a craft brew fan, beer. But the first commercial winery licensed in the Midwest and adjacent South was actually in Jessamine County, Kentucky in 1799. (Franciscans, of course, were making wine in the missions along the Rio Grande and in California a century and a half earlier.) The current owner of the land, Tom Beall, has rescued that tidbit of history by resuming production at First Vineyard (5800 Sugar Creek Pike, Nicholasville, Kentucky; 859-885-9359;

John James Dufour hailed from a wine-making family in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. In the 1790s, he purchased a piece on land on the Great Bend in the Kentucky River that had been first surveyed by Daniel Boone in 1783. Dufour published his business plan for a vineyard in the Kentucky Gazette in 1798. A year later, he was licensed as a winery and planted his terraces above the river.

Dufour managed to produce a few small vintages, but a killing freeze in 1809 put his Kentucky property out of business. He and some relatives launched Second Vineyard in Vevray, Indiana, which became America’s first successful commercial winery. Dufour’s book, The American Vine-Dressers Guide, Being a Treatise on the Cultivation of the Vine, and the Process of Wine-Making, Adapted to the Soil and Climate of the United States, published in 1826, was the bible for aspiring wine-makers throughout the middle of the country.

Alexander grapes at First Vineyard There are a slew of details to the story, and some very handsome, if steeply terraced land to look at if you visit First Vineyard, where Tom Beall (above, on the tasting room porch) is again producing wine on Dufour’s site, mostly from French-American hybrid grapes and native fruits. The wines are actually crafted on contract by another Kentucky winery using First Vineyard’s fruit.

In researching the history, Beall discovered that Dufour’s main grape was probably the Alexander, not the Cape of Good Hope that he thought he was planting. The Alexander was named for James Alexander, who discovered it growing in William Penn’s vineyard as an accidental hybrid between a North American native labrusca and a European vinifera wine grape. Alexander became popular in 19th century vineyards but most scholars had thought the variety lost. Beall, however, tracked some vines down to a USDA depository in the Finger Lakes. Starting from 40 cuttings in 2008, he has planted it extensively. It is a very vigorous grower and producer of fruit, but the vines are just beginning to mature so the taste test is still a few years away.

tasting glasses at First Vineyard Meantime, Beall offers tastes of three wines for $3 in the picturesque log cabin tasting room. The most striking of the whites, made from American Diamond, has a brisk fruitiness,. The best of his reds is Chambourcin, a 19th century French hybrid of uncertain parentage. The nose has a distinct note of wild cherry and the aftertaste is lightly but pleasantly bitter with a bit of smokiness. It’s a pretty good wine with barbecue.

The tasting room is generally open 1-7 p.m., Friday-Sunday, but call first to make sure. The winery is less than 30 miles south of Lexington, but the rural road can be tricky in bad weather.


10 2015

Franciacorta: effervescent joy from Italy

Franciacorta rose with lemon risotto and insalata caprese Contrary to common usage, there’s nothing like real Champagne, the sparkling wine made in a delimited area in France. We’d suggest that there is also nothing like Franciacorta, the elegant and more affordable sparkling wine made in the Lombardy countryside an hour east of Milan. In fact, that city’s fashionistas have been drinking a lot of Franciacorta for the last several days during Milan Fashion Week.

The district has been growing grapes at least since the 16th century under the aegis of the region’s monasteries. (The name of the region indicates a region of monasteries not subject to ducal taxes.) Serious spumante production is much more recent, dating from the years after World War II, and the big players are industrialists, not monks.

That said, Franciacorta did almost everything right from the start, and won DOCG status (Italy’s top quality designation) before any other sparkling wine in Italy, including Prosecco DOCG. The grapes are a familiar bunch to Champagne lovers: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot blanc. Secondary fermentation is carried out in the bottle in what the Italians call metodo classico and the rest of the world calls méthode champenoise. The chief advantage is that the wine develops on the lees, gaining a yeasty complexity that bulk carbonation cannot impart.

The DOCG regulations recognize two styles and three aging designations, each of which can be made with varying residual sugar ranging from brut to demi-sec. The Non-Vintage must be made of chardonnay and/or pinot noir (with up to half pinot blanc) and be aged at least 18 months. Sàten is a blanc-de-blancs style made with only white grapes, of which chandonnay must constitute more than half; it’s aged a minimum of 24 months. Rosé is made with chardonnay and pinot blanc with a minimum of 25 percent pinot noir to give it the desired color. Millesimato is a vintage Franciacorta in either style and indicates that at least 85 percent of the wine came from a specified quality vintage and has been aged a minimum of 30 months. A riserva is a vintage-dated Sàten or Rosé aged at least 60 months.

The Sàten style is something of a misnomer, since silkiness is characteristic of all good Franciacortas, which typically sell at retail for $20-$40, except for a few rare riservas. Personally, we like the Rosé style, since the pinot noir gives it a little fruitiness and extra structure. We popped a 2010 Millesimato Fratelli Berlucchi Rosé ( for the meal shown above: lemon risotto (Franciacorta is splendid paired with the acidity of the risotto) and a plate of our final garden tomatoes in an insalata caprese.

We expect to be drinking even more Franciacorta as the holiday season approaches.



09 2015

Bourbon cocktails: mysterious … and easy

Seth Kinder prepares a Blue Heron 46Among the bourbon craft cocktails we tasted in Lexington, one of the most intriguing was the Blue Heron 46, a house specialty at the Blue Heron Steakhouse (185 Jefferson St, Lexington, Kentucky; 859-254-2491; The menu describes the drink as Maker’s 46 (a smoother, woodier version of Maker’s Mark with more pronounced caramel notes) with handmade apricot ginger syrup served on the rocks. How do you make that syrup? Bartender Seth Kinder—the “Hell on Wheels” character mixing a drink here—was downright coy.

He did suggest that the syrup was made by cooking down a pound of apricots with sugar and water, and an equal amount of fresh ginger also boiled in syrup. We’d make it like this. Combine 1 pound of dried apricots and two cups of coarsely chopped fresh ginger and process in a food processor. In a large saucepan, combine two cups of sugar and one cup of water. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the apricot-ginger mixture and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and strain, reserving the liquid.

Here’s the recipe as we observed Kinder making it. Experiment a little. It’s basically an especially sweet apricot whiskey sour.


Blue Heron 46 1 1/2 oz. Maker’s Mark 46
1 1/2 oz. sour mix (equal parts lemon and lime juice with simple syrup)
juice of a half lemon
1 1/2 oz. apricot ginger syrup
raw ginger
dried apricot

Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until well blended and chilled. Strain into a rocks glass half filled with ice cubes. Garnish with thin slice of raw ginger and rehydrated dried apricot.

With the Breeder’s Cup coming up at Keeneland ( in Lexington, Kentucky, at the end of October, we bet a lot of folks will be drinking the racetrack’s signature bourbon cocktail. The Keeneland Breeze drinks sweet, citrusy, and deceptively light. (A few of these could have you staggering down the back stretch of the evening.) It’s a genuine breeze to make. Since Maker’s Mark is one of the sponsors of Keeneland, that’s the bourbon that track bartenders use. To make it light, prepare in a highball glass. For a stronger breeze, use a rocks glass.


1 1/2 oz. Maker’s Mark
1 oz. Triple Sec
splash orange juice
ginger ale
orange round

Fill glass about two-thirds full with ice and add bourbon and Triple Sec. Pour in a splash of orange juice and fill glass with ginger ale. Attach orange round as a garnish.


09 2015

Coles keeps faith by reinventing the classics

Bourbon ball cake at Coles in Lexington Lexingtonians have been heading to the brick building at the corner of East Main Street and South Ashland to dine for decades. The spot opened in 1938 as The Stirrup Cup, adding the iconic murals of English hunt scenes—complete with a blessing of the hounds—in 1949. A succession of restaurants have occupied the space, but none more felicitously than current occupant, Coles 735 Main (735 East Main St., Lexington; 859-266-9000;

More than six decades after they were painted, those murals still lend a sense of occasion to the pretty dining room. And, as you might expect, executive chef Cole Arimes concocts a sophisticated mix of local and global tastes just right for a big night out. He might add truffle-infused lobster cream to a bowl of shrimp and grits (made, of course, with grits from Weisenberger Mill) or coat Scottish salmon with a bourbon-maple glaze and slowly smoke it to perfection.

Bourbon also features in the dessert that’s perfect for a candle in the middle and a round of “Happy Birthday.” In a witty play on the local popular bourbon ball candies, Arimes elevates the now-familiar flourless chocolate torte with bourbon-soaked pecans and then serves each slice with Woodford Reserve gelato and housemade caramel. Here is his recipe for the torte—as he reeled it off the top of his head. (We tested and tweaked it a little.)


Makes one 9-inch torte


1 cup bourbon
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
12 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 eggs


Pour bourbon over pecans and let soak at least 1 hour. Place in a small saucepan, and cook off bourbon from pecans until dry. Transfer to mixing bowl.

Chop chocolate in 10-cup or larger food processor.

In a second saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, count to 90 and then drizzle into chocolate as food processor is running. Add butter, small portions at a time, until fully incorporated. Add all 6 eggs at once. Once incorporated, scrape sides and run for another 20 seconds.

Combine chocolate mixture with pecans in mixing bowl. Scrape into a 9-inch buttered springform baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes or so. (Cake should spring back when touched in the center and not stick to a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle.)

Let cake cool to room temperature before releasing from pan. Then chill before serving.


09 2015

Boone Creek Creamery makes real KY cheese

Ed Puterbaugh of Boone Creek Creamery in Lexington KY
Ed Puterbaugh, the master cheesemaker and jack-of-all-trades at Boone Creek Creamery (2416 Palumbo Drive, Lexington; 859-402-2364;, is a regular at the Saturday farmers market on West Main Street in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. But if you miss him on the weekend, you can stop by his tidy headquarters in an industrial complex just off Route 4 south of town during the week to make your purchases. Puterbaugh will be glad to give you a quick tour of the cheesemaking operation and the “cave” where he ages between 1,500 and 2,000 cheeses at a time for anywhere from three to six months—sometimes longer.

Puterbaugh only began making cheese six years ago and admits to “getting carried away.” He makes 39 varieties by hand following traditional European techniques. And he uses only antibiotic- and hormone-free milk from grass-fed cows at five local farms. With a background in clinical microbiology, Puterbaugh believes that attention to detail and extra effort make better cheese.

His European-style cheeses include Gruyere, the most popular with area restaurants; Wensleydale, a traditional English cheddar; Caerphilly, a Welch farmhouse cheese; and Scandinavian Bread Cheese, which Puterbaugh says makes a great appetizer if you put small pieces on crackers and then quickly heat in a microwave. “It’s a fun cheese,” he says.

Boone Creek Creamery's Ginger Rhapsody blue cheese He also likes to experiment with flavored cheeses such as Abbey Road, a mix of English Cheddar and sun-dried tomatoes, or Ginger Rhapsody, a Blue cheese with a kick of ginger. He also smokes both Gruyere and Gouda with mesquite for a subtle, smoky flavor.

One of his most felicitous flavorings hits closer to home. For his exclusive Kentucky Derby, Puterbaugh makes a traditional English Derby-style cheese, known for its creamy taste and smooth texture when melted. After aging, the cheese is marinated for about two weeks in a bourbon brine. The slightly sweet cheese with an oaky finish is delicious melted on a hamburger.


09 2015

Dudley’s on Short is long on bonhomie

Dudley's on Short in Lexington, downstairs
Located in the Gothic Revival National Bank Building of 1889, Dudley’s on Short (259 W Short St., Lexington; 859-252-1010; just might be the crossroads of Lexington, Kentucky. The last time we had dinner there, mayor Jim Gray—resplendent in a seersucker suit—stopped by the table to greet some of our local tablemates. And after dinner, we were nearly waylaid from our next whiskey bar by garden designer Jon Carloftis and his partner Dale Fisher, two of the city’s legendary bon vivants and owners of the historic estate Botherum profiled in Garden and Gun.

Dudley's fried chicken sticks The menu is calculated to encourage conviviality. The list of dishes “for the table” is nearly as long as the entrées and some of the “snacks and bites” (house fries with green goddess and smoky aioli, for example) as well as some of the “short plates” (steamed mussels) can also be shared while everyone enjoys a cocktail or two. Who’s in a rush? The rest of the menu includes big plates of meat and fish as well as au courant dishes such as kale and parmesan salad or crispy cauliflower with cracked pink peppercorns and chèvre.

Dudley’s moved to its current location five years ago and has been a hit ever since. The ground level bar is the liveliest scene, but the most coveted seats are on the second level outdoor deck, which is a perfect blend of al fresco dining and restaurant buzz. The peekaboo plantings that alternately hide and reveal other tables were cleverly designed by Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens.

Of all the dishes to share, we were especially taken with the Black-eyed Pea Hummus, which is a little exotic yet very much of Kentucky. Dudley’s serves it with garlic flat bread (somewhere between pizza crust and focaccia) and grilled vegetables. We found that a squeeze of lemon on top really brought out the mellow garlic and nutty peanut flavors. Owner Debbie Long was kind enough to share the recipe.


2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
5 cloves of roasted garlic
3 chives, chopped
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter or sesame tahini
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup grassy extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor and purée. With motor running, add oil in a steady drizzle until incorporated. Continue processing to desired texture. (We like it a little lumpy.)


09 2015

At Smithtown Seafood, ‘local’ is measured in feet

Dried whole tilapia at Smithtown Seafood in Lexington, KY
Chef Ouita Michel, who calls Holly Hill Inn ( in Midway, Kentucky, her home base, is completely on board with the vision of FoodChain (see previous post). She’s so on board that she opened the little takeout seafood restaurant inside the Bread Box called Smithtown Seafood ( and installed the immensely talented Jonathan Sanning as her chef de cuisine. (That’s Jonathan below holding the fried fish.)

Jonathan Fanning, chef de cuisiine at Smithtown Seafood in Lexington, KY Ouita (as everyone in Lexington seems to call her because everyone in Lexington who cares about food knows her) studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, and took as her primary lesson the observation that the best French and Italian chefs create meals out of what they find around them. She’s inculcated that same respect for local products in Sanning, who is Kentucky trained but has the chops to cook anywhere and at any level. For the moment, he’s getting a kick out of working hard at Smithtown, and Lexingtonians are lucky that he does.

Smithtown Seafood is easily the chief customer for the tilapia being raised on the other side of the wall at FoodChain, and is also a big user of FoodChain’s herbs and lettuces. You order at the counter, and when your food is ready, you walk about 20 feet to the taproom of West Sixth Brewing, where, if you’re smart, you order a Lemongrass American Wheat to go with the fish dishes or an amber with the meat.

The fish excite us the most. Smithtown offers three variations of tilapia baskets using the FoodChain fish. The one shown above is Tilapia Singapore, a fried whole fish with sweet and spicy pickled vegetables and FoodChain microgreens. Another version pairs the fish with a tomatillo-serrano salsa verde and corn tortillas. And finally, there’s a basket of fried pieces battered in Weisenberger cornmeal, served with fries and hushpuppies (of course).

Smithtown Seafood fish tacos in crispy rice paper Sanning’s own palate skews Mexican, Southeast Asian, and West African—and he’s not afraid to mix them up. The Rockin’ Rice Paper Catfish Taco pictured here is a smart twist on the Baja fish taco with pieces of fried wild-caught saltwater catfish and Thai-style pickled vegetables and microgreens on puffy pieces of fried rice paper. The rice crisps are far better than a taco shell for holding everything together in your hand.

Another good way to enjoy Sanning’s signature acid-spice style is by ordering a side of one of his salads. The Nebbe Black-Eyed Pea Salad could be a vegetarian meal all by itself. Here’s the recipe:


This adaptation of a spicy Senegalese bean salad is typical of Jonathan Sanning’s propensity for using an ingredient that’s traditional in Southern cuisine as the base for something light, bright, and completely contemporary.

Makes about 16 cups

1 lb. dry black-eyed peas
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup minced parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 habañero pepper, seeded and finely minced
1 cup light salad oil (olive, sunflower, canola, blended….)
10 green onions, thinly sliced (both white and green parts)
2 roasted red bell peppers, peeled and diced small
1 English cucumber, peeled and diced small
2 cups cherry tomatoes (quartered) or grape tomatoes (halved)

Cover black-eyed peas with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until tender (about 1 hour, less if pre-soaked). Leave the peas in the water and salt heavily—a real brine. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, then drain.

Combine lime juice, parsley, salt, pepper, and habañero in a food processor. Add oil and blend until smooth.

Combine black-eyed peas, green onions, red bell peppers, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes. Toss with lime and herb mixture. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.

Lexington’s FoodChain redefines ‘local’

microgreens growing at FoodChain in Lexington
A Saturday afternoon tour at FoodChain ( in Lexington’s Bread Box complex might change the way you look at “local” food. At the very least, it can give you a peek into a somewhat promising food future where excess building space is converted into a living factory to produce vegetables and protein—or, more specifically, salad and microgreens and big plump tilapia.

The brainchild of Rebecca Self, native Lexingtonian, MIT graduate, and spouse of Ben Self (see last post on West Sixth Brewing), FoodChain is a demonstration project of an “aquaponics” farm. The growing techniques are a hybrid of aquaculture and hydroponics, which have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Aquaculture is generally used to grow fish or crustaceans in closed tanks or ponds. Most cheap frozen tiger shrimp, for example, are farmed this way in Southeast Asia. So is a lot of cheap tilapia from China. Hydroponics is most widely used in cold climates to grow vegetables indoors under lights on a soilless medium. A lot of microgreens, baby lettuces and spinach are produced this way.

Snipping cilantro at FoodChain in Lexington KY Both practices have significant shortcomings. Aquaculture produces a lot of waste that has to be cleaned from the water before it makes the fish or shrimp sick. Hydroponics requires a lot of nutrients to be added to the water that the plants grow in. To grossly simplify, aquaponics uses the plants to scrub the waste from the fish tanks, and the “waste” provides the nutrients to grow the plants. The details, of course, require considerable ingenuity and fine tuning.

The system at FoodChain circulates about 7,000 gallons of water through the growing trays and the fish tanks. Weekly harvest is about 35 pounds of lettuce and herbs as well as seven large trays of microgreens. About 15 pounds of full-grown tilapia—10-20 fish—are harvested from the tanks each Friday as well.

tilapia swim in TV aquarium at FoodChain in Lexington KY The plants are grown under lights (FoodChain uses Inda-Gro induction lighting, which draws less electricity than conventional grow lamps) and some minerals are added to the water for proper plant and fish nutrition. FoodChain is experimenting with feeding spent grain from West Sixth Brewing to the fish.

Becca Self is a bit of a visionary, as the aquaponics project is just Phase I of an envisioned three phases for FoodChain. Phase II is projected to grow mushrooms in the basement using the brewery’s spent grain as a substrate while simultaneously expanding to raised beds and hoop houses to grow food on the 20,000 square feet of flat roof over Bread Box. Phase III will be a kitchen incubator, with cooking stations to do small-batch processing. Tours are offered on Saturdays at 1 p.m. at a charge of $10 for adults, $5 for children. See the web site for details.

In the meantime, Lexington restaurants are gobbling up the greens and the tilapia are stars of the plate at adjacent Smithtown Seafood. (The future is now!)


08 2015

Bread Box: From white bread to wheat beer

taproom at West Sixth Brewing in Lexington Nothing says more about Lexington, Kentucky as a locus of good ideas, good food, and good drink than the Bread Box. The 90,000-square-foot building at the corner of West Sixth and Main streets spent about a century turning out classic American white bread before ending its active baking life as the Rainbo Bread Factory in 1995.

There’s nothing white bread about it now. A group of friends bought the building in 2011 to create West Sixth Brewing (501 West Sixth St., 859-951-6006, with some of the space and to develop the rest of it for some nifty businesses to make life better in Lexington. Those of most interest on the food scene are the aquaponics demonstration project called FoodChain ( and the farm-to-table seafood restaurant called Smithtown Seafood ( More on both of them in later posts.

Ben Self of West Sixth Brewing in Lexington KY Lexington native and Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad Ben Self (at left) was a co-founder of Blue State Digital, the digital consulting company often credited with delivering the youth vote for presidential candidate Barack Obama, but these days he’s busier with malts and barrels than with bits and bytes. Lexington already had a great bourbon culture. Self and his partners set out to build a great local beer culture with West Sixth Brewing at the center. It’s the only brewery we know with its own running club (every Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m., with a free pretzel afterward at the taproom) and free yoga class (every Wednesday at 6 p.m.), as well as a summertime Monday night cycling club.

West Sixth has been growing quickly. In 2014, the brewery produced 11,000 barrels and is on track to make about 17,000 in 2015. Using 15-barrel and 30-barrel fermenters, the company makes four year-round beers and several seasonal ones as well. The beers are barrel aged in a variety of former wine and whiskey barrels. The flagship brew, as with many craft breweries, is an IPA—distinctly bitter but with citrus and piney notes and a 7% ABV kick. The other West Sixth brews tend to go a little easier on the alcohol—most at 5.5% ABV—but offer a nice range of flavors from the easy-drinking amber to the caramel notes of the nut brown to the wonderfully refreshing shandy-like flavor of the lemongrass American wheat beer (think Corona with lemon and a more pronounced malt). The Pay-It-Forward porter is a hefty brew (7% ABV) with strong chocolate notes delivered by the organic cocoas nibs inside the aging barrel.

You can take a seat in the taproom to sample the range of beers for a relative pittance. A flight of the “Flagship Five” in 4 oz. glasses is only $8, and there are always some unusual beers from other breweries available as well. (A pick-your-own flight also costs $8 but includes just four glasses.) Adventurous beer drinkers should plan on visiting on Wednesday nights, when West Sixth taps a different experimental beer each week.

cans of Lemonsgrass American Wheat from West Sixth Brewing If you’re looking for beer to take home, West Sixth puts its beer in cans with a special recyclable plastic holder for six-packs. Self explains that cans are better than bottles for beer because they don’t let in light or air. They’re also better for the environment, since 60 percent of aluminum gets recycled versus only 20 percent of glass. Besides, Self says, cans are better at the pool, the golf course, and anywhere outdoors where broken glass would be a hazard. The six-packs sell for $9.95, of which 50 cents goes back to a nonprofit in the Lexington community.


08 2015

Exploring KY cooking with top Lex chef Phil Dunn

Phil Dunn offers min Hot Brown in cooking class When England’s horse-loving Queen Elizabeth first visited Lexington, her personal chef was Phil Dunn. We don’t know what dishes he served to the Queen, but we do know that Dunn favors gourmet meals and enjoys exploring international flavors. He’s particularly fond of making European pastries—and anything with pasta.

A gorgeous display kitchen at Architectural Kitchens & Baths (345 Lafayette Ave., is the perfect setting for Dunn’s popular half-day cooking classes. We attended a recent session and learned that Dunn is equally comfortable with down-home Kentucky cooking. He makes familiar dishes his own through refined technique and a penchant for turning larger plates into finger food—perfect for parties in this most social of cities.

Dunn makes a spicy version of Kentucky Beer Cheese (a cracker spread) that has a thick, rich texture. “You must use flat beer,” he told us. “It’s too fluffy if you use carbonated beer.” He also cautions against over-pulsing in the food processer. “It should be a little chunky.”

He also showed us how to make mini versions of Kentucky’s iconic Hot Brown open-face sandwich by layering Mornay sauce, slices of turkey, bacon, and tomato on slices of baguette. That’s Phil above handing one over to a hungry onlooker.

But we were most taken with his bite-size Bourbon Cakes, a clever use of Kentucky’s signature spirit to round out a meal. He soon had us dipping one-inch squares of firm vanilla cake into a warm bourbon mixture and then rolling them in ground vanilla wafers and chopped walnuts. It took a couple of tries to get the rhythm of wet hand for the bourbon and dry hand for the crumbs, but we were soon on a roll. The little bites are addictive, but if you have any left over, Dunn claims that they will keep for three to four months in the freezer. For information about classes, send an email to


Phil Dunn makes Kentucky Beer Cheese
1 cup beer
1 lb. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Pour beer into a mixing bowl and whisk until it loses its carbonation. Place in food processor, add remaining ingredients, and process until well-mixed but still slightly chunky. Adjust seasoning to taste and refrigerate before serving.


Makes 200 squares bourbon cakes by Phil Dunn

For the cake
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine butter and sugar in mixer and blend well. Add egg yolks and blend well. Sift dry ingredients together and add mixture alternately with milk and vanilla extract. Beat until batter is very smooth. It will be thick. Spray a half sheet pan (18×13 inches) with cooking oil and spread batter evenly with a metal spatula.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes until cake is golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into one-inch squares.

For the soaking liquid and coating
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups bourbon (Dunn used Very Old Barton)
2 lb. confectioners sugar
12 oz. vanilla wafers, ground
2 cups walnuts, finely chopped

Combine melted butter with bourbon and confectioners sugar. Combine vanilla wafers with walnuts.

Dip cake squares in warm bourbon mixture. (Do not let it cool.) Quickly drain cake squares, then roll them in vanilla wafer-walnut mixture.


08 2015