In DC, our team was lucky enough to collaborate with one of the truly great restaurant group’s in the country. Chef José Andrés’s Think Food Group was kind enough to extend an invitation to Molly and Brahm to collaborate with TFG Director of Research & Development Chef Rick Billings and TFG Wine Director Andy Myers on a 6-course dessert tasting menu with wine pairings. I think it’s safe to say that our “Himmel Hit’s the Road” cross-country culinary road trip could not have gotten off to a better start. Now off to Louisville and a trip down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail!
Today was a day for drinking, and lots of it. Waking early to grey skies and the sounds of a downpour, we drove over to Against the Grain Brewery in Louisville to check out their brewpub. Working with a 15-barrel system, brewmaster Amelia Pillow brews fun one-offs for the pub. Afterwards we braved the rains to make it over to the main warehouse where the bulk of production for distribution takes place. Greeted by death metal, hanging phalluses, and a bunch of guys in plaid, we felt in good company. After filling up on brunch and beer back at the pub, we headed to Frankfort to see the Buffalo Trace distillery. Like an 1800s version of Emerald City, huge brick buildings line the streets, all connected with a spider web of steam pipes. Very little has changed since the distillery was built over 200 years ago. They build their own spare parts to keep things working since nothing is made to fit their equipment anymore. Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete tour without tasting a bit of it.
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We got an early start making our way from Louisville to Madisonville to tour and sample country ham and bacon from one of North America’s most highly regarded smokehouses. Boy did we luck out as owner Allan Benton was on site to greet us and guide us through his pride and joy, Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams & Bacon. Allan walked us through the entire process from salting (using a special seasoned rub), to aging, to smoking, and finally followed by yet more aging. Some of their finest country hams are aged for over 26 months and utilize heritage breed pigs such as Berkshire (Allan’s favorite), Red Wattle, Duroc and Tamworth breeds just to name a few. Like kids in a candy store we compiled our wish list of what we’d like to bring with us back on the road to enjoy for ourselves and share with the many lucky guests we’ll be cooking for across the country: thick sliced bacon and handmade sausage for breakfasts in the RV, shaved boneless country ham to sit atop Island Creek Oysters for a dinner in New Orleans, guanciale and a 26-month-aged smoked Berkshire ham leg to hand slice at our “A Table in the Sky” dinner at Alize in Las Vegas.