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Wheel flavor: Chef Ouita Michel leading advanced food and bourbon tasting at Woodford

by Steve Coomes

 

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve

Bourbon’s great. That much is clear to Kentuckians.

What’s not always so clear is how well it goes with food.

Not “in” food, but “with” food. And usually by itself, not in a cocktail, not even something as simple as a Manhattan.

Woodford Reserve chef-in-residence, Ouita Michel, seen here at her Midway School Bakery.

Woodford Reserve chef-in-residence, Ouita Michel, seen here at her Midway School Bakery.

Ouita Michel, chef in residence at Woodford Reserve (also chef-co-owner of Holly Hill Inn and a mess of other great restaurants in and around Midway), has been on a mission to raise bourbon’s food-pairing profile for some time.

Sure, that’s in the job description of a chef working for a famed distillery, but her aim extends beyond that to education. She also wants bourbon drinkers to understand which food flavors complement Kentucky nectar.

So Michel is hosting a Flavors of Woodford Reserve tasting from 1 p.m.-to-4 p.m. on Sat., Aug. 10 at the Dryer House, which is on the property of Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles.

The distillery has taught the “flavor wheel” tasting of its bourbons for a long time, but the culinary experience is a newer and evolving endeavor. Michel has done chocolate and bourbon tastings before, but she wanted to go further with a variety of foods.

Michel also said the event marks an effort to narrow the gap between the understanding of the average bourbon drinker and the connoisseur.

“There’s a big divide between what you read about bourbon and what you can discern on the palate,” Michel said. “If you’re relatively inexperienced, a connoisseur’s vocabulary won’t be meaningful to you. If you’re told there’s black currant flavor in Zinfandel wine, you’ll never taste it if you’ve never tasted black currant.”

Michel solves this problem by assembling a tasting of some 30 different food flavors reflected in bourbon.

“This creates palate memories that allow people to assign flavors to foods and bourbon,” she said. The event will include interactive discussion led by Michel, so that means class participation is expected. “So, what happens is you take a sip of the spirit—we’re not adding anything to it—and then you’re going to put different things in your mouth along with the spirit.”

Those things include …

Plated for each person on a flavor wheel plate:

  • Parmesan cheese
  • orange- segment separate from the rind
  • toasted hazelnut
  • dark chocolate
  • dried cherry
  • spoon of sorghum

For the larger tasting, attendees will go to stations:

Syrups:

  • maple syrup
  • pomegranate molasses
  • lemon syrup made with lemon confit
  • orange juice reduction to syrup
  • honey
  • soy caramel (think Kentuckyaki sauce)

Grains:

  • cornbread
  • rye cracker
  • Nat’s Beer Bread

Nuts:

  • toasted pecans
  • toasted walnuts
  • roasted peanuts

Fruits Display:

  • fresh cut apples
  • blackberries
  • fresh fig
  • fresh pineapple
  • fresh cantaloupe or honey dew
  • fresh cherries

Cheeses:

  • White cheddar Woodford Spread
  • fresh goat cheese
  • aged goat cheese
  • Kenny’s Blue Gouda

Meat and Savories:

  • Benton’s Bacon
  • thin sliced county ham
  • olives
  • sun dried tomato pesto
  • basil pesto

Chocolates

  • white chocolate
  • hazelnut chocolate
  • dark chocolate
  • milk chocolate
  • cocoa nibs

Price for the afternoon is $50 (plus tax) and seating is limited to just 50 people, so act now to get your place. Call 859-879-1953 or email catering@ b-f.com to hold your spot.

If you’ve never been to Woodford Reserve Distillery, the address is 7855 McCracken Pike, Versailles, just west of Lexington. Depending on where in Louisville you live, it’s about an hour’s drive.

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