When it comes to experiencing the unique flavors and food traditions of Kentucky, your itinerary is set. Just follow these five culinary touring trails across the state to meet farmers and distillers, savor locally grown food and sample irresistible, only-in-Kentucky snacks.
As the center of the world’s bourbon production, Kentucky distilleries welcome tours and tastings. Three touring trails in the state will guide you to them: The Kentucky Bourbon Trail leads to some of the biggest names in bourbon; the Urban Bourbon Trail explores downtown Louisville; and a Craft Tour introduces visitors to Kentucky’s small-batch makers. The sampling is world-class and the settings are equally intoxicating — many of the sites are designated as historic landmarks; some are tucked away near farms of Kentucky Horse Country. Others invite explorations of charming towns filled with cultural attractions and original restaurants and boutiques.
Bon Appétit Appalachia
Eastern Kentucky, with its mystic Appalachian Mountains, caves and waterfalls, is a playground for you and your senses. Add on visits to heritage sites such as the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead or Mountain HomePlace, a living history village in Paintsville, and there’s your (almost) ready-made Appalachian adventure — just add food! An initiative called Bon Appétit Appalachia has created an online interactive map as well as a paper map to guide travelers to farmers’ markets, farm-to-fork restaurants, farm tours, distilleries, wineries, breweries and food festivals throughout the region. The stops share an authentic taste of Appalachia, whether you’re picking apples on Haney’s family farm in Nancy or celebrating spoonbread, a deliciously soft variation on cornbread, at its namesake festival in Berea (mid-September).
Beer Cheese Trail
Authentic Kentucky Beer Cheese starts with sharp cheddar. Ingredients from garlic, horseradish, cayenne pepper and dry mustard may be added, and beer is a must. (Depending on the add-ins, flavors range from mild to zesty.) The result is a spread perfect for dipping crackers, bread and raw vegetables. Though the recipe appears on menus throughout Kentucky, the town of Winchester, located on the scenic Kentucky River, is said to be its origin. Today, eight Winchester restaurants, including some riverside spots, proudly serve variations on the original recipe — some relying on decades-old family traditions; others making delicious deviations by incorporating exotic peppers and other ingredients. Together, the restaurants form Kentucky’s Beer Cheese Trail. Visit in June to mix with locals and taste their prized recipes at the Annual Beer Cheese Festival.