Monday, May 6, 2013

A Guys and Girls Weekend

When most people think of Kentucky, perhaps that famous horse race comes to mind or maybe those long wooden bats.  However, the real Kentucky is waiting past the edges of Louisville, her famous honorary-capital.  A country road in any direction will bring you in touch with the most fascinating history, the nicest people and the best eats you will ever encounter. 

Taylorsville, Kentucky sits just one county away from Louisville, a gentle afternoon's ride, and while it will never be as famous as its nearest neighbor, it embodies the best of the Bluegrass state.  Taylorsville Lake and Taylorsville Lake State Park are the biggest draw to the area in the summer, with fishing and boating and outdoor sporting causing the area to swell with tourists.  However, there are other delightful features nearby and a trip in any season would be full of fun.

Things to See and Do for Guys (the Bourbon) and for Girls (the Wine):
  • Bardstown, Kentucky is only a short drive away and whatever you do, take the long winding road.  There is nothing quite like the view--acres of achingly-green grass framed by white picket and ancient stone fences, winding roads through towns that time has surely forgotten, pre-Civil War mansions still keeping families warm.  Idyllic and fantastic!  Bardstown has enough for an entire blog and I'm already featured some of it in other postings but you can't get it in all at one time.  Perhaps, like the bourbon it's known for, it was meant to be sipped slowly over time.  Regardless, every trip should start at Heaven Hill Distillery and the Bourbon Heritage Center.  The center is part museum/part working factor.  After a short walk through a mini-museum, guests are taken into a cinema where the history of Kentucky bourbon is explained.  Then, for those dedicated enough to take the 'Deluxe' tour, a short walk across the grounds lets you wander into those statuesque barns holding most of the world's inventory.  It's a bit breath-taking, not only for the size and quantity but also for the stark beauty (and the fumes!).  After a lengthy and informative tour, everyone gets to end their day at the tasting room, which is inside what has to be the world's largest barrel.  For more information, contact Heaven Hill Distilleries.
  • Each distillery is just a little different, with some unique piece of fame or history to impart on its guest.  Barton's 1792 is a newer distillery, at least as far as bourbons go!  It began operating in 1897 but has only been hosting tours for the last couple of years.  If you want the specifics of EXACTLY how that bourbon concoction is made, this is the tour to take.  While the tour isn't long or cover much ground, I learned more about the process than I was able to keep in my brain.  At the end, there is the complimentary tasting--with a little bonus, a Louisville made bourbon ball.  That was my favorite taste of the day.  And, on exiting, don't forget to stop and have your picture made with the 'World's Largest Bourbon Barrel'.  For more information, visit Barton 1792 Distillery.
  • The wineries in town don't offer quite the historical punch, but the taste is so much sweeter!  Our first stop was at Forest Edge Winery in nearby Shepherdsville.  The winery is so big and beautiful, large enough for a wedding reception.  The tasting bar is expansive as is their wine list.  From sweets to dry, this winery had it all.  For more information, visit Forest Edge Winery.
  • We ended the day at Chuckleberry Farm and Winery, one of the most unique wineries I have ever been to.  I am a sweet wine drinker and do love to dabble in the fruit wines so this place was heaven for me!  Every wine they offer is some sort of fruit wine--from apple and cherry to a flavor I have never tasted in wine before-banana!  The tasting is extensive and we must have tried over 10 wines on the list before calling it a day.  At the end, we were given a slushy wine treat and a free glass.  This isn't a winery for those who like dry wines but it sure was a lot of fun.  For more information, visit Chuckleberry Farm & Winery.
  • One cannot travel by backroads all the time and the interstates do have a few treasures.  One of those is Talon Winery in Shelbyville, Kentucky.  The winery has another location in Lexington as well.  The tasting room and bar is truly remarkable and while we haven't been, I hear the live music on Saturday nights is something worth making that drive for.  Regardless of the live music, the wine is enough for the time and trouble!  The bottle and labels are gorgeous and this winery has mostly drys and semi-drys.  Needless to say, we came back with the car loaded full!  For more information, visit Talon Winery and Vineyards.
Man Cannot Live By Bourbon and Wine Alone.  We also had to eat:

  • If you're looking for ambiance and sophistication, this place ain't it.  If you're looking for some delicious vittles and some Kentucky charm, then look no farther than Lynda's Grill in downtown Taylorsville.  It would be smart to get there for breakfast extra early or extra late to avoid the hunters and get a seat.  There's only around 10 chairs in the whole place and if someone else is looking at the one menu, you'll be plumb out of luck.  There is a drive-up menu outside but it just says 'breakfast' and if you don't know what a Kentucky breakfast entails, you might be thinking of danish and pastries.  Won't find that here.  No, here you get home-grilled country ham, warm biscuits and gravy and sliced tomatoes--all for under $5.00.  The food was amazing and the the people so friendly.  For more information, check out their Facebook page at Lynda's Grill.
  • If you're looking for something a little more frou-frou, try The Tea Cup in downtown Taylorsville.  This cafe specializes in coffee and baked goods.  I had a Pina Colada muffin and it was just as good as you can imagine--so moist and coconutty.  They have a wide variety to take or you can stay and eat, plus they also do cafe-style sandwiches for lunch.  For more information, try their Facebook page at The Tea Cup.
  • When I am traveling (and most other times), I try to avoid chain restaurants like the plague.  But, now I'm going to recommend Hometown Pizza in Taylorsville, even though it is a chain for two reasons: is small chain that actually got its start in LaGrange, Kentucky so it's more like family; and, #2....the pizza is just that good.  I am a pizza-phile.  I love pizza and could literally eat it every night of the week.  As it is, I eat it once per week.  Hometown Pizza is my favorite pizza joint and I eat at one every time I find one nearby.  The atmosphere is so family friendly and it feels more like you're eating in a friend's kitchen than a restaurant.  And, the pizza? Divine.  There's no other words for it.  I'm sure they have other stuff on the menu but why bother when the pizza is this good?  To find a Hometown Pizza near you, visit Hometown Pizza.
  • Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville is another jewel right on the interstate.  And, after eating there, I think I know one of the Colonel's secrets in his chicken--his wife's cooking!  I hate to be sexist but I have to admit I always wondered how the Colonel, a man, could have come up with such a Southern delight ast that chicken recipe.  After eating at his wife's dinner house, I have absolutely no doubt it was his wife's influence that has caused such a global phenomenon.  I don't even know how to describe food this good.  It was one of those moments where my husband and I both took a bite and then just looked at each other and said, "Wow".  When food is that good, you don't need many other words.  Their buffet is astounding and filled with every southern delicacy you can name.  Husband had the fried chicken and it was so good.  The biscuits were amazing; the mashed potatoes and gravy was amazing; the bean soup and ham salad was amazing.  Wow.  I cannot wait to go back.  There's enough on the menu to go back and try things for a lifetime.  For more information, check out Claudia Sanders Dinner House.