By Punch Pulse Correspondent Niki Clark
My mother knows her bourbon.
To be fair, my entire extended family is a bit bourbon-fanatical. We drank so much bourbon at my sisterâ€™s wedding, the wedding coordinator was forced to go to the ABC liquor store mid-celebration just to restock the open bar before a mob ensued. My father, while now â€œoff the sauceâ€ because of a healthier lifestyle, actually named one of his songs (he went through a DJ phase which my mother thoroughly enjoyed, but thatâ€™s another story) Me and JD (Jack Daniels).
But my mother, an unassuming former beauty queen who now spends her days as a successful jewelry artist in Old Town, is the real connoisseur. Back in our Louisiana days, she created what she called humbly her â€œbourbon slush.â€ A little pineapple juice, a little frozen lemonade, some cherries, some other magical ingredients and a LOT of bourbon. Itâ€™s one of those things that once you have a sip, you automatically feel the worldâ€™s a pretty decent place to live. When we moved up to D.C., it got renamed to Miss Nancyâ€™s Paralyzing Punch. It does have a paralyzing effect after all. I get requests from friends of friends of friends for the recipe all the time. One friend, who dated a guy for more than a year that still hadnâ€™t said the â€œLâ€ word, brought said-guy to a Clark family bbq where Paralyzing Punch was being served, hoping it would inspire him to finally admit his feelings. He avoided the drink like the plague. Apparently word gets around.
Anyway, point is, the Clarks love us some bourbon.Â So when I found out about the Lexington Convention and Visitorâ€™s Bureau-sponsored bourbon tasting event at Acadiana, I immediately asked Mom to join me as my date. While I know Dadâ€”the Kentucky Colonel I mentioned in my previous postâ€”was a bit sulkish at first at the idea of missing an event that was obviously designed for him, we convinced him that by participating as our designated driver, heâ€™d still be part of the action.
The purpose of the evening was to celebrate the spirit of Kentucky and honor Jeff Tunks, executive chef and co-owner of Passion Food Hospitality (DC Coast, TenPenh, Ceiba) and his contributions to preserving Southern traditions. Joining him as a guest chef was Jonathan Lundy of Jonathan at Gratz Park in Lexington and Mr. Fred Noe, 7th generation Beam Family Master Distiller. Mr. Noe not only provided great stories and entertainment as my tablemate, but added some bourbon history and etiquette (sniff with your mouth open to really experience the flavor) during the evening during his in-between-courses presentations.
First thing we were greeted by when we walked into the Bayou Room at Acadiana were two different types of Jim Beam punches, a Bourbon Vieux and a Boogalee Crush. I paused. I mean, how would the creator of the PP feel about another bourbon punch? After a hesitant sip, I knew picking this event to cover was pure genius. Both punches were divine, and when my mother started writing down the recipe from the menu, I knew she was going to be the perfect companion. We quickly agreed that weâ€™d have to include Nancyâ€™s versions at upcoming Clark family dinners.
After everyone was seated, the first course arrived. Followed by another. And then another. Five courses in total and each were better the one before it: sea scallop hash browns, rosemary shrimp, smoked quail, lamb rack chop, bourbon chocolate cake. And each came with its own bourbon pairing. All in all we tried six bourbons, from Jim Beam White and Black Labels to Red Stag (Kid Rock is the spokesperson) and their newest introduction, Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve.
Mr. Noe ended his last presentation with a toast, â€œMay there be no hell, and if there is, Iâ€™ll see you there.â€ With a belly full of some of the most magnificent Southern cuisine and Kentucky bourbon Iâ€™ve ever experienced, Mom and I agreed we were much closer to heaven.
For more information on all the great things Kentucky has to offer, visit http://www.visitlex.com/. And make sure to put the Kentucky Bourbon Festival on your calendar for this September. Mom already declared it our family vacation for the year. Dad will be the driver.
***Punch Pulse Correspondent Niki Clark is a professional photographer and the Policy Media Relations Officer for CARE USA.Â Like her sister Lindsey, she loves live music and looking at life through the lens of a camera.***
Punch Pulse Correspondent Niki Clark is a part time photographer; full time Red Crosser and 24/7 big sister to fellow puncher Lindsey. She loves travel, puppy kisses (especially from her own, ichabob) and invites to bourbon-orientated events.