For this month's Foodbuzz 24x24 sponsored dinner, I chose to prepare a Kentucky Bourbon inspired dinner paired with several varieties of Bourbon. About two years ago, my husband was treated to a Bourbon tasting, and since then has been collecting it. While there are many brands and varieties of Bourbon, to be considered Kentucky Straight Bourbon, it must comply with several standards. First, it must be made in Kentucky in a region where the water flows from sandstone and limestone. Great water makes great Bourbon, and this water especially aids yeast in the fermentation process. Other requirements are that the alcohol be made from a grain recipe of at least 51% corn, distilled at less than 160 proof, mature in new, Charred White Oak barrels for a minimum of two years, and be bottled at 80 proof or higher.
It was in this research and tasting that my husband and I developed a passion for purveying great Bourbon. Each has it's own distinct characteristics and a story that can date back over 100 years. The average bottle of Bourbon is $30, but extremely small, rare, and old batches can range several hundred. For this dinner, my husband tasted each Bourbon under my watch, and described the characteristics. From this, I worked on a vegetarian, Kentucky inspired menu featuring a different Bourbon in each course as well as a Bourbon paired to taste.
Before each course, my husband poured a tasting for each of our 4 guests and himself (being 5 months pregnant resulted in a dry evening for me). The guests tasted the Bourbon, then tasted their food paired with it. Of my husband's 11 Bourbons, he chose his four favorites for the tasting portion.
For the decor, I chose to simply feature the star of the evening, Bourbon, paired with springy tulips and candles.
Our first course was Old Granddad 114 Peach Chutney with Brie on Crostini paired with Maker's Mark. We chose to start the meal with one of the most common and recognizable Bourbons, Maker's Mark. It's known for the hand-dipped red wax seal that drips down the bottle. Maker's Mark is a very clean tasting Bourbon with a light finish. It's a bit sweet on the tongue, which pairs well with the fresh bread and sweet peaches.
In the peach chutney, jalapeños are accented with Old Granddad 114, a spicy and bright Bourbon. The chutney's boldness is toned down with a slice of creamy, rich Brie.
For our next course, I chose to prepare a Southern Salad with Maple-Pecan-Bourbon Vinaigrette. During a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC last summer, I had a salad very similar to this, featuring fried okra as a crouton, hard boiled eggs and fresh, bright tomatoes. That salad was the inspiration for this salad, which was accented by an Evan Williams Bourbon Vinaigrette. Evan Williams has a heavier body, tasting of maple and brown sugar. To make the dressing, I reduced the Bourbon in a saucepan with shallots, then whisked in maple, dijon and olive oil.
The Bourbon paired with this course was Jefferson's. This Bourbon has a light body with a subtle finish, and did not overpower the light salad and dressing.
For the third course and entrée, I made my version of Fine-Dining Southern Vegetarian BBQ. The base of the dish is Bourbon Whipped Potatoes featuring Ridgewood Reserve 1792. This Bourbon has caramel notes, and is a bit spicy. Stacked on top of the potatoes were Bourbon-Barbecue Glazed Tempeh and Fried Green Tomato Stacks. I made a Barbecue Sauce with Wild Turkey 101, a Bourbon known for it's sharp, spicy heat. It's smooth when sipped, but leaves a deep burn, perfect for barbecue. The Fried Green Tomatoes added an acidic punch with Southern Flare, and the dish was finished with fresh parsley and crumbled blue cheese.
Paired with the entrée was Woodford Reserve. This Bourbon has similar characteristics to 1792, a medium body with caramel and cinnamon notes.
For our final course of the evening, I prepared a Bourbon Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake with Bourbon Caramel Sauce. The cheesecake has a layer of sauteed apples, which were caramelized with brown sugar and Bourbon. The actual cheesecake batter also was infused with Bourbon. Buffalo Trace has notes of vanilla and anise, which paired with the spices in the cheesecake. For the Bourbon Caramel Sauce, I chose Elijah Craig, another vanilla and brown sugar tasting Bourbon.
Russell's Reserve Bourbon was paired with this cheesecake, a stronger, spicy, heavier bodied Bourbon to stand up to the creamy cheesecake.
As the meal concluded, each of our guests gave their preference of the Bourbon tasted through the evening. They were all very impressed with the variety and history of Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and were interested in beginning a collection of their own.
To aid them in this quest, I sent them home with a favor of Bourbon Zucchini Bread with a nip of Bourbon, either Wild Turkey or Jim Beam.
Please come back each day this week to view the recipes for each dish!
Thank you so much to Foodbuzz for sponsoring this dinner, and I encourage everyone to try Kentucky Straight Bourbon, if you're not already a fan! This summer, my husband and I will be participating in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail program, which I will definitely be posting about!