Thick Belgium Waffles, Bourbon Sweet Potatoes, Corn Pudding, Shaker Lemon Pie, Hot Browns, and Lemon Soufflé Pancakes, these are the flavours Kentucky proudly wears.
Taste of Belgium: A great place to eat is this trendy eatery on Vine Street in the Over-the-Rhine historic district in downtown Cincinnati. Owner Jean-Francois Flechet is a transplanted Belgium who did the only thing he knew how to do – he made waffles. He started in the back of a produce store. That was a short time ago and now he owns a few Taste of Belgium restaurants with a really funky cuisine that blends American culinary expectations with Belgium delicacies. I’ve never seen escargot and corn dogs on the same menu of any diner before. The Belgium waffles are super thick and have a sweetish invisible coating that makes them crunchy, dense and delicious. The McWaffle is a stacked waffle with egg, bacon, Gruyere cheese and maple syrup. On the sweeter side, you may want to sink your teeth into a Belgian Chocolate and Cream waffle. Jean-Francois was even featured in Diners, Dine-In’s and Dives. Order Belgium waffles on-line, they ship all over.
Wild Thyme Cooking: It’s a cooking school, catering business and culinary retail store. I went to a cooking demonstration all about Bourbon and Beer. Chef and owner Allison Davis has a loose hand when it comes to bourbon. She begins a class by spilling a little in the Bloody Mary’s and more into a beer cheese dip, there was bourbon soaked pork, bourbon sour cream, bourbon soaked coffee beans and bourbon bread pudding but my favourite by far was the bourbon sweet potatoes. Mashed sweet potatoes caressed with lots of butter and plastered with a few gulps of bourbon. The caramel, butterscotch and vanilla flavours of the bourbon really built on the buttery, sweet potatoes – yum! The entire team at Wild Thyme is crazy about local foods of the region and their cooking classes are an education on culinary culture, foods found locally and Kentucky proud products. If you’re in Lexington, Kentucky check them out for an afternoon or evening full of delicious fun. Here’s a great recipe for Bourbon Sweet Potatoes.
Pleasant Hill Shaker Village: It’s not so much a step into yesterday as it is an awakening to a culture that was ahead of its time. Visit and be charmed by the generous, gently, open minded people who lived on 3,000 acres that is now a beautiful National Historic Landmark and peaceful sanctuary. Dine at The Trustee’s Table for the best Kentucky Fried Chicken and other dishes of yesterday like corn pudding and Shaker lemon pie. The corn pudding is a casserole of fresh corn kernels topped with a mixture of flour, butter, eggs and milk. It’s baked slowly and is so delicious that everyone at our table requested seconds – yum! Have to mention the Shaker Lemon Pie with its thin slices of marinated lemon on the bottom of a lemony custard middle. The double-crusted pie has an eclectic texture from the creamy custard and soft slices of lemon still in their rind. Sweet and tangy, bright and buttery, it’s just simply delicious. Here’s a recipe for corn pudding and Shaker Lemon Pie for you to try.
Kurtz Restaurant and the Brown Hotel: You just can’t go to Louisville, Kentucky without trying a Hot Brown. An open-faced sandwich with chunks of succulent turkey, bacon, ripe tomato, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and a whole lot of the most delicious cheese sauce ever to touch your lips. Kurtz is a four-generation restaurant that prides itself in producing the same cuisine as the day the Restaurant opened. Here you can find 1960’s food like Congealed Salad (remember the Jell-o your mom put vegetables into? No? Pity.) The Hot Brown was invented by the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville and they also pride themselves in making it the same way as it always has been. There’s a Hot Brown Hop in Louisville so you can try how other chefs make their Hot Browns. Here’s a really great recipe for a Hot Brown if you want to make it yourself, just remember, be generous with the sauce.
Toast on Market: Owner George Morris admits if he ever took the Lemon Soufflé Pancakes off the menu there would be a riot. Wow, airy like the wings of an angel, lemony light with just a kiss of sweetness from the dusting of icing sugar, they almost melt in your mouth. Mom never made pancakes like these before. The recipe was hard to pry from Morris. I guess everyone asks but he never gives. This is what I got, he says they started with a modified lemon ricotta pancake, then separated the eggs and whipped the whites into fluffy peaks. Then he zests and juices 9 lemons. He tops it with a vanilla sauce that elevates the flavours on the palate to nothing short of pure bliss. Other dishes to try are the BLT Scramble and the Breakfast Burger. Whatever you do, wash it all down with the Kentucky Mimosa loaded with bourbon. Here’s a recipe to try.
In the state that perfected fried chicken, the best Kentucky Fried Chicken I sunk my teeth into was at Harrison-Smith House in Bardstown, Kentucky. Get there on Wednesday, it’s the special. Their comforting, buttermilk crunchy crust gives way to juicy, tender chicken underneath. A word of caution however, your portion includes one leg, one thigh and one huge breast – enough to feed two! It’s served on a bed of sautéed mustard greens and mashed potatoes – yum, yum, yum…..
I want to thank the great folks at Kentucky Tourism and Access Travel for helping me discover the flavours of Kentucky.