Archive for the ‘bourbon’Category

Chocolate and bourbon make best of friends

Erika Chavez-Graziano offers bourbon balls at Mesa in New Albany

We were glad to see Andy Embry behind the counter at the cookware store and demonstration kitchen Mesa (216 Pearl Street, 812-725-7691, mesachefs.com) in New Albany. Mesa offers an ambitious schedule of cooking demonstrations led by local chefs. We had signed up for the bourbon and chocolate tasting program that is usually offered once a month, according to Mesa owner Bobby Bass.

Embry had been remarkably engaging and knowledgeable when he guided us through the Evan Williams center in Louisville (see this post). And he had offered some good pointers on tasting bourbon. So we were curious to see how he approached pairing bourbon with chocolate. His partner in the demonstration was Erika Chavez-Graziano, founder of Cellar Door Chocolates (cellardoorchocolates.com), which has three shops in Louisville.

“Chocolate brings out the sweetness of bourbon,” Embry told our group as the tasting began. We each had three small glasses of bourbon and three of Chavez-Graziano’s confections in front of us. “Take a bite of chocolate and let it melt in your mouth,” Embry advised. “Then take a sip of bourbon and let the flavors blend in your mouth.”

Whiskey tastes with chocolate

Bernheim Wheat and milk chocolate


We began with Bernheim Wheat Whiskey. At 90 proof, it was the lightest and the softest of the Heaven Hill whiskies. Embry and Chavez-Graziano had paired it with a 38 percent milk chocolate truffle. Embry prefers milk chocolate with bourbon. “It pairs better because it is smoother,” he said. “It brings out the best in bourbon.” The milk chocolate was light enough that it didn’t step all over the toffee and spice of the wheated whiskey

Elijah Craig and salt caramel


Next was Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon. This is one of our favorite bourbons. The nose has sweet fruit, fresh mint, and vanilla notes. The taste is woody with a hint of nutmeg and smoke. It’s one of those bourbons with a pronounced “Kentucky hug” in the finish—warming all the way down. Pairing it with a bourbon-barrel-smoked sea salt caramel gives the caramel a slight toasted note, while the caramel accentuates the wood and spice in the whiskey.

Henry McKenna and cinnamon truffle


Finally, we tasted Henry McKenna Single Barrel with a cinnamon truffle. The McKenna is bottled in bond with the barrel number on each bottle. The nose shows caramel and vanilla, while the taste is a swirl of oak, toasted spices, and honey. The cinnamon in the truffle plays especially well with the sharp spices in the whiskey.

Make your own bourbon balls


Chavez-Graziano is a self-taught chocolatier who is so serious about her craft that she imports and roasts her own cacao beans. She participated in the tasting with great enthusiasm, but also managed to make a batch of bourbon balls to share with the group while Embry was talking.

Erika Chavez-Graziano makes bourbon balls at Mesa in New AlbanyShe began by melting chocolate and cream in a double boiler behind the counter. For best results, she said, use couverture chocolate rather than compound chocolate. Couverture contains cocoa better, while compound chocolate substitutes another oil.

For every pound of chocolate, Chavez-Graziano adds one-half cup of whipping cream. She also stirred in a little sea salt and a generous splash of bourbon. Then she removed the pot from the heat and set the mixture aside until it was cool enough to roll into small balls. For the final touch, she rolled each one in dark cocoa powder. Do not use Dutch-processed cocoa, she told us, because the processing alters the flavor by removing the natural acids.

Chavez-Graziano passed the tray of truffles to all the guests. “The most selfless way to express love to people,” she said, “is to feed them.”

We were only sorry that we had finished our bourbon.

22

11 2017

Fine distractions at Louisville’s Red Herring

Louisville's Red Herring at night

Located next door to the Silver Dollar (see our biscuit post), Red Herring (1757 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, 502-907-3800, redherringlou.com) opened in April 2017 in the 112-year-old Hilltop Theater. It might be the perfect complement to its next door neighbor. Red Herring is far from retro, despite including PBR on an otherwise stellar list of regional craft beers.

Red Herring interiorIf we lived in the neighborhood, they might have to put our names on two of the barstools. For starters, Red Herring is open from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. every day. You can segue seamlessly from breakfast to lunch to happy hour to dinner to evening entertainment without changing seats. The room is huge, as you might expect from a former theater, with seating downstairs and on a balcony above. The entertainers also set up on the balcony.

Crispy fried chicken skins at Red Herring in LouisvilleThe food at Red Herring exemplifies modern bar fare. On one hand, you can order Texas smoked brisket or a six-ounce burger of Black Hawk Farms beef on a housemade brioche bun. The kitchen also does a knockout charcuterie plate with chicken rillettes made in-house, as well as a vegetarian harissa hummus. The dish that made us smile widest, though, was a bowl of crispy chicken skins. The skins are brined in the house pickle juice, soaked in buttermilk, and battered with a locally milled flour. Once they’re deep-fried, the cooks drizzle them with hot sauce aged in a bourbon barrel.

“Southern calamari,” our server deadpanned.

The bar serves 100 classic cocktails and a slew of the staff’s own creations. We enjoyed the house signature Red Herring, which is yet another variation on sweetened bourbon.

RED HERRING COCKTAIL


2 ounces bourbon
1/4 ounce concentrated Demerara sugar syrup
2 dashes Bittercube Orange bitters
1 dash Fee Brothers’ Black Walnut cocktail flavoring
Orange zest

Add first four ingredients to cocktail shaker. Stir. Pour into rocks glass filled with ice cubes.
Flame the orange zest and drop it into the drink as a garnish.

With a bowl of Southern calamari and a Red Herring in hand, we were ready for the evening music. New Albany, Indiana, banjo picker Steve Cooley and some pals gave us several fun sets of bluegrass. Here’s a little sample:

13

11 2017

Swank cocktails on two sides of the Ohio

Bartender mixes Remember the Maine at Mr. Lee's Lounge in Louisville

When we walked up to the plain, brick-fronted building on a residential stretch of Goss Avenue in Louisville’s Germantown, we were dubious that we’d come to the right spot. But sure enough, a tiny brass plaque announced the structure as “Mr. Lee’s.”

exterior of Mr. Lee's in LouisvilleWe opened the door and stepped through the portal of a time machine. As our vision slowly returned in the all-enveloping darkness, we found ourselves in a film-noir world. We half expected to see Nick and Nora of The Thin Man trading snappy bon mots between sips in the corner booth. The brightest spot in the place was the center of the horseshoe-shaped bar. The brass and glass and steel gleamed. The bartender’s white shirt seemed to glow. Welcome to Mr. Lee’s Lounge (935 Goss Ave., Louisville, 502-450-5368, mrleeslounge.com). The Coen brothers couldn’t have staged it better.

Every bar and every lounge is peddling a fantasy narrative—whether it’s the good-ol’-boy, shot-and-a-beer watering hole or a snazzy lounge with velvet drapes and leather banquettes. But Mr. Lee’s is the only place we know in Louisville that aims for and hits the mark of “sophisticated with just a whiff of danger.” It has a speakeasy vibe that feels like just the place where a guy might loosen his tie, unbutton his collar, roll up his sleeves and contemplate the state of the universe. That would be over a house-smoked Old Fashioned made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, smoked black tea, and bitters. It’s not all retro, though—many drinks use spirits from Copper & Kings. (See previous post.)

Be sure to visit after dark. Otherwise, it hurts your eyes to come out into the sunlight.

The Butcher at The Butcher and Brooklyn in New Albany, Indiana

A cocktail to chew on


Across the Ohio, Brooklyn and the Butcher (148 East Market St., New Albany, IN, 812-590-2646, brooklynandthebutcher.com) emphasizes small plates, big steaks, and a cocktail program that stays in touch with the urban trends. A relative newcomer (it opened in early 2016), the restaurant has become New Albany’s go-to spot for steak and tony spirits. The dining room is bright and breezy, and so is the upstairs lounge by the big windows on Market Street.

The photo here shows that upstairs lounge, where we stopped for drinks because the steakhouse restaurant side had not yet opened for dinner. The basement also contains a hideaway known as the Lantern Bar. It shares some of the speakeasy vibe of Mr. Lee’s, but plays on its cellar location with exposed brick walls, candles on the tables, and jazz on the weekends. Brooklyn and the Butcher maintains a good wine and beer list to complement its spirits, but cocktails are the focus of the beverage program.

Given the name of the place, we had to order a drink called The Butcher. (That’s it above the subhead.) Fat-washed cocktails are all the rage—or have been since the first bartender figured out how to infuse bacon into bourbon. The Butcher is a pretty sophisticated take on the science-experiment approach to cocktails. It combines fat-washed Old Forester bourbon, Malmsey Madeira, Demerara sugar, and Angostura bitters. The bar staff prepares the bourbon by infusing it with beef marrow fat for several days before chilling to separate booze and ooze. It’s a round, smooth drink with a full but not greasy mouth-feel and a sweetness quotient somewhere just north of a Manhattan. Or maybe that should be southeast, where Brooklyn is just over the bridge.

10

11 2017

Breaking bread over bourbon with Michael Veach

Bourbon historian Michael R. Veach

While we were in Louisville, we met historian Michael R. Veach for dinner one night at Decca (812 E. Market St., 502-749-8128, deccarestaurant.com). It was a felicitous convergence of Kentucky food and spirits. Veach, pictured above, is the author of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage (University Press of Kentucky, $24.95). And under chef Annie Pettry, the farm-to-table restaurant is one of the city’s best.

Bourbon history book jacketVeach absorbed bourbon history as archivist for United Distillers and later for the Filson Historical Society. He has also worked closely with the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown, Kentucky. While at United Distillers, he sharpened his palate by joining the quality control sampling of barrels in the warehouse.

“We did ten a day,” he recalled, describing what for many would be a dream job. “I got to learn from the quality control tasters.”

Eat, drink, smile


Decca fried green tomatoesWith his hipster fedora and Colonel Sanders beard, Veach enjoys playing the part of a Kentucky character. As we chatted about bourbon, we all shared a board of fried green tomatoes sprinkled with harissa, cut cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese. Half salad, half crunchies, the plate did what an appetizer should do. It made us want more.

Veach ordered a glass of Michter’s Bourbon neat to accompany his entree of wood-grilled pork chop with pickled peaches, fennel, and a mustard jus. The bourbon’s faint butterscotch and cinnamon nose played nicely with the tart peaches. Veach sipped the drink slowly throughout the meal. “People are starting to drink bourbon with food,” he told us. The spirit has enough unique characteristics to make pairing with food relatively easy. “Bourbon can be spice-forward, wood-forward, or fruity. It’s just a matter of thinking about what you are going to eat.”

Texas redfish at DeccaWith his advice, we paired Old Forester Classic with one of Pettry’s signature dishes (at right). She serves her crispy Texas redfish in a shallow bowl with a light leek broth, some couscous, slices of cucmber, and some crunchy roasted peanuts. The vanilla, orange peel, and slight bit of mint in the bourbon matched the fresh and bright tones of the dish perfectly.

Veach has simple advice for developing a palate. “It is practice, practice, practice,” he says. “You have to pay attention to what you are drinking. Don’t just knock it back. Nose it, then sip it.”

To truly appreciate the nuances of bourbon requires patience. “Let it sit,” Veach advises. “It will aerate. The more it sits, the more it will change.”

03

11 2017

Evan Williams stakes claim to bourbon history

Evan Williams bourbon barrels

When Heaven Hill Distillery opened the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience (528 West Main St., Louisville, 502-272-2611, evanwilliams.com/visit.php) in 2013, it marked the first new bourbon distillery in downtown Louisville since the late 19th century. The brand is named for the man said to be Kentucky’s first licensed commercial distiller, Evan Williams. Some folks dispute that, pointing to Elijah Craig. What is known is that Williams erected a still on a spot across Main Street in 1783 and began making corn whiskey that he shipped downriver in oak barrels. Other distillers soon followed suit and by 1800 the street was known as Whiskey Row. Everyone on the street was making, selling, or shipping bourbon.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is a delightful blend of low-tech history dioramas with a walk-through small-batch distillery and a welcoming barroom for tasting. (There’s also a store, but you kind of expected that, didn’t you?) What animates the tour is the dynamic presentation by the guides. In our case, Andy Embry led us from origins to final tasting.

Evan Williams bourbon history dioramaThe dioramas (complete with “historical” voice-overs) explain the basic Creation story of bourbon. Kentucky farmers discovered that the best way to preserve corn was to ferment corn mash and distill it into whiskey. (That many of those Kentucky farmers hailed from Scotland and Ireland, where malted and distilled barley was a way of life, probably aided the “discovery.”) Louisville enters the picture when it is settled in the late 18th century as a transshipping point for traffic on the Ohio River. (This photo shows the diorama of Evan Williams on the riverbank, where his copper alembic is being unloaded from a riverboat.)

Since distilled spirit was in great demand on the western frontier, making whiskey and shipping it downriver was a natural business for the new community. Lo and behold, by the time the neutral spirit packed into oak barrels reached New Orleans four months later, it had mellowed and picked up color and flavors from the wood. Since much of the whiskey came from Kentucky’s Bourbon County, it became known as Kentucky bourbon.

Distillery at Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Get you a copper kettle…


That’s probably all the history any bourbon drinker needs to know, as the taste of the spirit is what really matters. There’s a real alchemy to distilling, but the magic is more philosophical than physical. This small artisanal distillery (above) produces just two barrels of spirit per day. (Each barrel requires 14 bushels of corn, so you do the math.)

The distillery area has that pleasant smell of warm malt, as the facility brews a fresh batch of distiller’s beer each day from a mash of at least 51 percent corn, barley malt starter, and some rye and wheat. (Mash bills, as the proportions are called, vary with the brand.) The low-alcohol beer is distilled in a 70-foot-high column still, then redistilled in a “doubler” to produce a clear “new make.” To be called bourbon, the new make has to come in at 160 proof or lower. Evan Williams puts its spirit into charred oak barrels at 125 proof. By the time the spirit and caramelized wood have married so the bourbon is ready for bottling, evaporation will have reduced the alcohol level further.

Proof is in the tasting


Andy Embry leads bourbon tastingIn the tasting room, Embry explained the basics. “Always nose it,” he said. “A tulip-shaped glass is good. Put your nose right in the glass, part your lips, and inhale.” We’d never thought about the parted lips, but the extra oxygen supercharges the palate to pick up a broader array of smells. “Then take a small taste to cover your tongue,” Embry added. “Roll it across your tongue to hit every tastebud. Don’t toss it all back. If you’re paying over $75 a bottle, you owe it to yourself to taste it first.”

The spirit goes down with a glowing warmth. “That’s what we call a Kentucky hug,” he said with a smile.

Embry had us taste several styles of Heaven Hill whiskies. First came Evan Williams Single Barrel. The 8-year-old 86.6 proof bourbon starts with strong notes of oak and sweet tobacco on the nose giving way to caramel and butterscotch in the mouth. Our second sip was Larceny, a small batch 92 proof wheated bourbon. Soft and sweet, it delivers all its flavor in the front of the mouth. Properly aerated, it has pleasing notes of sweet spices and black pepper. Our third whiskey was Rittenhouse Rye, a 100 proof straight rye with 15 percent corn in the mash bill. After the Larceny, it tasted especially dry, with cocoa and citrus dominating over nutmeg and maple tones. By contrast, the Henry McKenna bourbon—a 10-year-old 100 proof single barrel bourbon—was sweet and smoky, redolent of toffee and oak.

Once a week, the facility offers a tasting pairing bourbon with the artisanal candies of Cellar Door Chocolates. We previewed the experience at Mesa in New Albany and will be writing more about it soon.

01

11 2017

Bon appétit, y’all! (At the English Grill)

Brown Hotel lobby bar

Louisville certainly has some nice new hotels, but for old-city ambience and sheer Southern comfort it’s hard to beat the Brown Hotel (335 West Broadway, Louisville, 502-583-1234, brownhotel.com). A bastion of hospitality since 1923, it’s a pillar of the New Old South. Its English Renaissance-inspired architecture has a polite reserve that reflects Louisville’s role as the epicenter of bourbon and thoroughbred racing.

If we were true barflies, it would be hard to pry us out of the Brown’s elegant sepia-toned lobby bar. The room opens at 3 p.m. and by late afternoon it begins to fill with Louisville’s business elite. As befits one of the city’s finest and most storied bars, it even has a bourbon steward. On our last stay, it was Troy Ritchie, and he definitely knew his way around the deep bourbon list.

We usually drink spirits neat or on the rocks, but cocktail history runs deep at the Brown and we couldn’t resist. The bartenders make the Brown Manhattan with two parts bourbon to one part Dolin Rouge Vermouth de Chambéry, which is more aromatic and less sugary than most vermouths. They use both orange and Angostura bitters (and a house-cured cherry) to produce a drink with precison and finesse. FYI, the bar also makes a mean Old Fashioned, Louisville’s official drink said to be invented in 1881 at the esteemed Pendennis Club.

English Grill captures art of dining


Dustin Willett with duck dish at English Grill in Brown HotelWe may not have the connections to rub elbows at the Pendennis Club, but the refined elegance of the Brown Hotel’s English Grill suited us just fine for dinner. The dark oak paneling, the equestrian paintings, and the leaded glass windows are all original to the hotel’s opening in 1923. But the kitchen is as contemporary as the room is traditional.

Chef de cuisine Dustin Willett is a graduate of Culinard in Birmingham, Alabama, with stints in New Orleans and in the Washington, D.C. branch of the Four Seasons on his resume. He describes his cooking as modern Southern cuisine with international flavors. “I like to look at things in a modern way,” he says. That’s Willett above on the left, presenting a delicious plate of sliced roasted duck breast accompanied by duck confit in an endive leaf garnished with watermelon radish.

Hot Brown in Brown Hotel's English GrillOf course, you can find a superb all-American steak on the menu. The prime ribeye Delmonico is served with asparagus, roasted garlic aioli, and killer fries sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The most homegrown dish of all—it never leaves the menu—is the Hot Brown, invented here in 1926. To quote the menu, it consists of “roasted turkey breast and toast points with Mornay sauce pecorino Romano cheese, baked golden brown, finished with bacon and tomatoes.” It’s shown here. To read the background story and get the recipe, see this post.

Sweet conclusion


Making Bananas Foster at Brown Hotel's English GrillAs befits a special-occasion dining venue, the English Grill even does dessert with panache. The staff prepares the venerable Bananas Foster tableside. But this isn’t the original Bananas Foster created at Brennan’s in New Orleans in 1951. No-siree-bob. It would be heresy in Louisville to use any brown spirit other than bourbon. The steps are pretty much the same for so-called Bananas Foster Kentucky Style. Caramelize some brown sugar and cinnamon in a generous pool of butter, add banana liqueur, some Four Roses bourbon, and squeezes of lemon and orange. Cook until the alcohol burns off. Add freshly peeled bananas and cook until warm. Then pour on more Four Roses and tilt the pan until the alcohol catches fire with a snazzy blue flame. Once the flame dies, serve with vanilla ice cream.

Tastes from two banks of the mighty Ohio

Riverboat approaches Abraham Lincoln bridge over the Ohio River.

Long-time readers of HungryTravelers already know that we have a soft spot for the state of Kentucky. (David was born there and Pat’s a Kentucky Colonel.) On our recent visit to Louisville, though, we ventured across the Ohio River to explore the newfound hipster cachet of the southern Indiana communities that go by the catchy rubric of SoIN—as in SoIN to food, SoIN to you, SoIN to music, and so on. It was a tasty journey.

Sorry, folks: some history


Louisville entertainment districtGeography is destiny. The Falls of the Ohio made Louisville possible—and necessary. The 26-foot drop in the Ohio River meant river traffic from the east had to unload at Louisville. Goods were then transported overland and reloaded downriver to make the journey to Cairo, Illinois, and south on the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. Founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark, Louisville quickly became a great warehouse city and a manufacturing center for goods to sell downriver. (That’s bourbon, but more about that in other posts in this series.) The photo above right shows Louisville’s neon-lit entertainment district.

Downtown New Albany, IndianaAcross the Ohio from Louisville, the small Indiana towns of Jeffersonville and New Albany were both carved out of a land grant to Louisville founder and Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark. Shipyards and railroads made them prosper. As the first free soil north of the Ohio, they were also powerful magnets on the Underground Railroad while Louisville still held one of the largest slave markets north of New Orleans. (The photo at right is New Albany, Indiana’s more laidback downtown.) For nearly a century, the two banks of the Ohio that had so much in common were divided by the political issues that led to the Civil War. Now they look, sound, and taste more like each other all the time. Together they represent the intersection of the South and the Midwest. They are the land of bourbon and biscuits, of blues and bluegrass, of people south and north steeped in their history but not held hostage by it.

Hands across the water


Big Four Bridge pedestrian crossing of Ohio RiverA bridge is a powerful metaphor, and no fewer than eight of them link Louisville and SoIN. The one at top is the Abraham Lincoln Bridge, carrying I-65 north, but our favorite is the pedestrian Big Four Bridge (at right). It once carried the tracks of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway line, hence the name. From the Louisville side, the ramp to the bridge is part of Louisville Waterfront Park. The landscaping is less dramatic on the Jeffersonville, Indiana, side, but access is easy—even for wheelchair users. The span is a little under a half mile (2,525 feet), and a casual stroll takes about 20 minutes. (Most of that time is spent climbing up and climbing down at the two ends.) It’s been open at both ends since May 2014, and is patrolled 24 hours a day to ensure safe passage for walkers, runners, rollers, and cyclists.

Art on the rise


Dawn Spyker of Jeffersonville with art quilt projectAcross the bridge from the bright lights of Louisville, look for a colorfully painted water tower. Just as the church towers of southern Indiana were beacons to seekers of freedom, the tower is a beacon to artists. It serves as a marker for a new arts and cultural district where galleries, shops, and artists’ studios are springing up. At right, public arts administrator Dawn Spyker shows a quilt made as a high school group art project to celebrate the Ohio, the great stream that unites as well as divides.

In our explorations of SoIN and Louisville, we found another kind of artistry at work. Not only are the chefs plating up beautiful servings of Southern-inspired cuisine, the bartenders are working the local spirits hard to nice effect. And one of the things we enjoy about the bars in these parts—the folks creating drinks usually go by the handle of “bartender.” It’s a reminder that “mixologists” mostly live east of the Allegheny.

27

10 2017

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; blueheronsteakhouse.com). 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


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 (www.keeneland.com) 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.

KEENELAND BREEZE


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.

15

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; coles735main.com).

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.)

BOURBON BALL FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE TORTE


Makes one 9-inch torte

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

13

09 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., www.akandb.com) 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 phildunn1948@gmail.com.

KENTUCKY BEER CHEESE

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.

PHIL DUNN’S BOURBON CAKES


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.

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08 2015