Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Great Balls of Bourbon!
I spent this past weekend in Kentucky, on my first visit to the state most famous for horses, bluegrass and Jack Daniels.
(Interesting fact #1: Kentucky's state bird is the cardinal, but you already knew that if you're a basketball fan. The U of L mascot is a very angry looking red bird!)
I didn't know what to expect of Louisville, and to be honest I was a bit surprised. The architecture in the old part of town looked so Northeastern to me... like something out of Boston in the late 1800s. Then, of course, there were the shotgun shacks, many of which had been added on to through the years but which still showed their original, narrow bones. There were a number of really cool looking Arts & Crafts style bungalows in the west end of town that I also really loved. They'd make a great rehab project, I'm sure.
(Interesting fact #2: The state gemstone is a freshwater pearl.)
We had gone there eager to taste a Kentucky Hot Brown and eat some good, down-home barbecue. On the first count we had middling success. We didn't get a chance to eat a Hot Brown in the hotel that originated the sandwich, but instead we tried the version of it at Lynn's Paradise Cafe. I'll be honest when I say I thought I was going to love this place... It's kitschy, colorful and has a personality all its own.
I ordered a fried green tomato BLT and my hubby had the hot brown so we could share them both. My BLT was pretty darn good. The peppered bacon was perfectly crisped, but was overpowered by the overly-garlicky aioli. The fried green tomatos were a nice touch, although a bit heavy on the cornmeal. And as for that hot brown, it came in a soup bowl brimming with cheese sauce. At first we thought we had ordered the wrong thing, since we expected something that at least resembled a sandwich. The flavors were all right, but overall the dish just failed to impress. The bread was impossible to find, the cheese sauce was bland and heart-stopping and the turkey just sort of sat there.
As for barbecue, we read about some places that sounded amazing but we didn't get to try them. We even drove past a guy with a makeshift stand on Broadway that looked fantastic, but unfortunately we were too full to stop. If anyone has some suggestions, we'd be happy to hear them, in case we find ourselves back in the River City someday.
(Interesting fact #3: Kentucky's state drink is NOT, bourbon, funnily enough. It's MILK!)
I did find one foodstuff to love, however: bourbon balls. I had two versions of this sweet treat, both of which were excellent. I even came home with a box of my very own! Here's a recipe:
1 small package vanilla wafers, crushed (1 ½ to 2 cups)
1 cup minced walnuts
2 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons white corn syrup
½ cup bourbon
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1. Mix all ingredients except the cinnamon and one-half cup sugar, and drop scant teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Chill well.
2. Form into marble-sized balls; roll each in mixture of cinnamon and the remaining sugar and chill well.
3. Roll again in cinnamon-sugar. Serve with ice cream.
Yield: About 50 balls.