A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a Blogger Dinner Party hosted by my friend Marie of Backroad Bluegrass Blog.
Blogging is fantastic — it allows us to connect with like-minded individuals. People that share our same interests, passions, and concerns. People that are equally as quirky, eccentric, and adventurous. While that is great, it’s even better when we get to get together IRL (am I right, y’all?). The Internet is fun, but it never parallels real, face-to-face experiences.
Marie was a gracious host – however, knowing her, I expected no less. She is a true Kentucky Woman!
The theme of the evening was locality in Kentucky — we dined using all local ingredients and dished about life in true blogger fashion! Everyone at the table, in their own way, uses their platform to better local business in Kentucky. It was a very powerful feeling to all come together — the symbiosis was palpable, y’all.
Though this was a March dinner party, it still snowed. If you know anything about Kentucky weather, you know that it is wildly unpredictable. One moment it is 60 degrees and sunny, the next it is sleeting. You get used to it – and a little bit of winter weather wasn’t keeping me from this event (I was the only Louisvillian).
March? Yeah, it’s madness in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The weather? Unpredictable. The desire for spring? Insatiable. Basketball? Pandemonium.
I believe that the combination of the three play into the true definition, as we know it, of March Madness. However, we all know that there is a powerhouse of a contender in the aforementioned trifecta.
We are proud of many things here in Kentucky. Our bourbon is strong, our grass is blue, our horses are fast — and, simply put, our basketball culture is unrivaled.
Allegiances aside, basketball connects us all. We believe in our teams, we support our teams, and we fight for our teams. That’s one of the most beautiful parts of Kentucky — we are fierce: fiercely loyal, fiercely competitive, and fiercely devoted.
When defining cultural factors – whether they be macro or micro in nature – there are very few things that unanimously unite us. In my opinion, we experience three of those during this time of year: food, tradition, and sports.
Ale-8-One is doing us all a favor by combining all three into one package.
Kentucky Proud and family-owned since 1902, Ale-8-One is a regional favorite. After poppin’ the top off, with one sip, you’ll be immersed in the sensation of our Commonwealth. Just as they are aware of the quality of our teams, they take pride in the quality of their recipe. A ginger and citrus-based soft drink, the taste immediately transports me back to the farm that I grew up on in Russell County — the exact location that I tuned into many NCAA tournament games with my late father, JC Phelps. Maybe it takes you back to summer evenings spent in the Highlands, fishing out of your grandpa’s pond in Pikeville, betting on horses in Lexington, or working on the farm in Paducah.
Whether your bracket is pulling for the Wildcats, the Cardinals, or your out-of-state alma mater, know this — Ale-8-One is the drink of basketball country.
As you all know, there are few things that I am more proud of than being a Kentuckian; I wouldn’t trade my heritage for anything. Wherever the Ale-8-One is flowin’, that’s where I’m meant to be, y’all.
As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
FTC: This is a commissioned post; however, as always, all opinions are my own.
If you follow me on Instagram or read my Kentucky travel series, you will know that I am no stranger to Shelbyville, Kentucky.
Some might argue as to what is the best part about this Kentucky town. The food? The kind, generous people? The fact that it’s the Saddlebred Capital of the World? The local shops? All of those are, of course, great – however, I would like to add one to the mix: the location.
Conveniently located between Lexington and Louisville, Shelbyville is a true meeting ground of the state. It serves as a central location for all Kentuckians, let alone the city dwellers wishing to escape for a day or weekend trip.
Over the course of the last year, it has turned into one of my favorite destinations (and one of Jude’s, my grandmother + travel partner, favorites, too!). On our most recent trip, I wanted to dive deeper into the small businesses, restaurants, events, and farms that make Shelbyville special. I went in with high expectations – but, y’all, let me tell you… they were greatly surpassed.
Upon arriving and checking into my hotel (I always stay at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, which is located at 110 Clubhouse Dr. Shelbyville, KY 40065), I joined Chenelle for dinner at the Old Stone Inn.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post to learn more about the Old Stone Inn; but, I’ll say this now: it’s a historic dining experience not to miss. Recently reopened by Chef David Danielson of Churchill Downs, the food and atmosphere is a true highlight for the region.
Also, side note: any restaurant that serves their butter in the shape of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a restaurant that will get my repeat business.
The following morning started bright and early with the first of my Dine & Discover classes, which was held at Citizens Union Bank. Dine & Discover is a fantastic series put on by the ShelbyKY Tourism Commission & Visitors Bureau; both of these classes catered to small businesses and I discussed how one can leverage social media to be a driving factor in their success. It was an honor to be a guest speaker; if you are looking for educational classes in the area, I highly recommend this series!
Between classes, I had to do my due diligence as a food writer and check out a new-to-me local eatery, right? At least that was my justification.
McKinley’s Bread Shop & Deli (615 Main St. Shelbyville, KY 40065)
I stumbled into McKinley’s via Chenelle’s recommendation – and it didn’t let me down. I love casual, local eateries. It was clear that the clientele is predominantly locals — patrons that have dined there for years & will continue to do so. That’s when you know you’re in for a treat, y’all.
The bread is made in-house and is cut via a bread machine that is nearly a century old. If something, or a method, isn’t broken — why fix it? I love that they have maintained their methods; there’s something special about doing so that cannot be ignored.
I chose the Tuscany, which featured Caesar dressing, grated parmesan, black pepper, turkey breast, and romaine lettuce, served on focaccia (my favorite bread). At less than $8, this sandwich is a fantastic value for the budget diner.
Oh, and don’t miss out on their cookies — they are, arguably, the best part. Large, moist, and ringing in at around $1, you can’t go wrong, y’all.
After my second Dine & Discover class, I went and visited my new friends at Lettleiki Icelandics (6105 Eminence Pike, Shelbyville, KY 40065). Now I — and any true Kentuckian — would be amiss to not love the equine industry. However, I must confess: prior to this trip, I was not well-versed in Icelandic horses, a very historic breed.
Lettleiki is the Icelandic word for “lightness”; interestingly enough, each Icelandic horse that is born must have an Icelandic name given to it. Furthermore, in reference to their homeland, Icelandic horses cannot return to Iceland after they leave; this is largely due to the fact that Iceland does not experience vast equine diseases, unlike other countries. As for personal history, the breed’s ancestors are often traced back to Viking-Age Scandinavians that came to the region.
Upon visiting the farm, you will find world-class facilities; seriously, y’all — their barns are the most gorgeous that I have ever seen! Apart from that, they have a gorgeous arena on site, and they offer a wide array of services (breeding, training, clinics, etc).
One of our tour guides was the farm dog — what a sweetie!
I left a big, big fan of Lettleiki Icelandics — be sure to check them out!
While I was in the spirit of the horse industry, I hopped over to Shelby Horse Supply (7022 Shelbyville Rd, Simpsonville, KY 40067) to learn more about their business. The man behind the shop, Vance Riester, very well might be the nicest guy around. He welcomed Jude and I into his shop, walked us through some of his processes, and even made a custom gift for Jude to take home!
A full-service tack shop, Shelby Horse Supply is – and should be – your one-stop shop for all of your equine leather good needs. But, their offerings do not stop there! You can find many personal leather goods in the store, whether it be wallets, key fobs, or a plethora of other items. They custom-made a piece for me a couple of months ago – and y’all, it is truly one of my prized possessions.
The best part? The leather goods are customizable! Many of the belts, fobs, and equine goods can have engraved plates attached to them. A true southerner, I love a good personalization service! If it walks, talks, or moves — monogram it. Am I right?
The quality of their goods is unmatched; be sure to keep them in mind!
After spending the afternoon on the farm and shopping, we decided that we needed a sweet treat. For that, I wanted to try out Serendipity Kandy Kitchen (519 Main St, Shelbyville, KY 40065), a newcomer to Downtown Shelbyville. A mainstay in La Grange for several years, the new shop in Shelby County is a very welcomed addition to the community.
Their best-selling item? Bourbon-infused, chocolate dipped Twinkies. Yes, you read that correctly. That is, simply put, my Kentucky dream. I knew that I had to try one when I visited; however, I was pleasantly surprised that the owner wanted to let me make some of my own!
While the process is self-explanatory, I’ll omit some of the strict details for proprietary purposes. However, believe me when I say that you MUST try one of these. You’ll keep going back for more — thank me later.
Post-refreshing at the hotel, I knew that no trip to Shelby County is complete without a stop at Jeptha Creed Distillery (500 Gordon Ln, Shelbyville, KY 40065). Jeptha Creed’s property is stunning & it is a kick ass, woman-owned business — one of my favorite’s in the Commonwealth.
Luckily for Jude and I, we were there for one of their Farm To Table dinners, which features four courses from Chef Josh Moore of Volare Italian Restaurant in Louisville, KY. What’s even better is that fact that each course is paired with a cocktail! Now that’s the Kentucky way of dining, y’all.
The first course was a stunning salad, which featured Aqua Fresh Farms red oak leaf lettuce, roasted Italian sausage, pepperoncini peppers, Capriole Farms goat cheese, and crispy potatoes, finished with a balsamic & Jeptha Creed blueberry vodka vinaigrette. It was paired with a cranberry-spiced Negroni, which was my favorite cocktail of the evening.
The pasta course was next, which boasted house-made Garganelli pasta in a rich mushroom ragout of Sheltowee Farm mushrooms, Jeptha Creed original moonshine, cream, sage, and ricotta salata cheese. It was simply divine! The pairing was a bay leaf limoncello.
Our main course was a Stone Cross Farm pork loin scallopini (fra diavolo style) in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce with onion, rosemary and Jeptha Creed Hot Pepper Vodka. It was accompanied by Tuscan white beans (two thumbs up from me!) and braised, bitter greens. The cocktail? A honey raspberry sgroppino, which was fabulous!
Last, but certainly not least (trust!), was the dessert course: zeppole. Plated were three house-made Italian doughnuts tossed in cinnamon and sugar, joined by cherry preserves & Jeptha Creed apple pie moonshine apple butter. This was a standout, y’all. To wash it down, we were given a coffee & lavender affogato. The lavender was a fantastic touch!
To say the least, it was a night to remember – fabulous food and even more fabulous company. Better yet, as per usual, it was a trip to write home about (or, in my case, to blog about!).
A special thank you to ShelbyKY Tourism for two fabulous days; it is truly a privilege that y’all share your slice of Kentucky heaven with all of us!
As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
FTC: This is a sponsored post; all opinions, however, are my own.
Long time, no chat. If you’ve been following along with my Instagram posts + stories, you know that I just purchased my first home in Louisville, Kentucky. So much of my January has been focused on furnishing my home, decorating it with love, and preparing for my move (which was this weekend). I feel immensely grateful that my job has flexibility and that y’all allowed me this grace period to get everything together. Your words of love, encouragement, and the well wishes have meant so much to me!
With that said, many new things are coming to y’all with the acquisition of my home. More recipes, more photos, a dedicated filming space, and so much more! Stay tuned — there’s so much to come!
Now, back to the regularly scheduled culinary programming!
Those that have been with me on the blog from the get-go are aware of the fact that I love Corto Lima, which is located in Downtown Lexington, KY. The name is derived from the location of the restaurant in Spanish; it is on the corner of Short (Corto) and North Limestone (Lima).
What I love most about Corto Lima is that I get to enjoy a lot of inspired dishes from my travels right here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Their inspiration is well-curated and executed with utmost precision; many meals have been shared within their restaurant walls and many more are to come.
This month, Corto Lima invited ten bloggers to a Winter White Brunch to sample a plethora of brunch favorites. I’ve had both lunch and dinner with them before; however, this was my first time sampling the brunch offerings. I left with mixed feelings — the food was impeccable, yet I was sad that I don’t have this as a regular brunch option in Louisville. It was fantastic, y’all.
We started with guacamole, queso, and the salsa trio — need I say more?
Next was the Mango Con Chili, a sentimental dish for me. It’s a classic treat in México and took me back to living in downtown Mérida with my host mamá, Ligia. I enjoyed many bowls of this with her in the morning, cherishing new family, and enjoying the beautiful sunshine. Special, special memories — and I thank Corto Lima for transporting me back to that time.
Next? One of my favorites — the Huitlacoche Egg Quesadilla. An edible corn fungus, this is one of my favorite delicacies! It’s a must-try on your next visit.
I’ve never met a burrito that I didn’t spiritually bond with; this one was no exception. The portion that you are seeing is one-third of the typical serving size (yes, you read that correctly). Thus, come hungry, y’all!
Arepas were the feature of the next course, which happened to be one of my favorites. Most commonly made from ground maize dough, arepas are a staple in both Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine (with other prominent features in el mundo hispanohablante). Having just traveled to Colombia, this teleported me right back to the streets of Cartagena!
Okay, y’all. It’s time to get serious. This is the Roasted Banana Dulce de Leche French Toast. Dulce de leche stems from heating sweetened milk, inducing a Maillard reaction. The result? Culinary gold for a sweets aficionado! The addition of the banana French toast made this a two thumbs up dish for me.
Why have one dessert when you can have two? Welcome to the stage — hibiscus ice cream + a delectable churro. It’s as good as it looks, which is all I need to say.
Scratch that. Why have just one or two desserts? Pffft! Three desserts it is! Tres Leches is one of my favorite menu offerings from Corto Lima. El Pastel de Tres Leches is a Latin American classic, featuring sponge cake soaked in three variations of milk. If a recipe involves heavy cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk — I’m here for it… with bells on, as I grew up saying.
My most recent tourism trip was to Cynthiana, Kentucky; you can read more about that experience here.
The highlight of the trip, hands down, was my stay at Ashford Acres Inn.
Ashford Acres Inn is a magical countryside destination; located in Harrison County, it is both a bed & breakfast + a wedding/event venue. After staying there and seeing photos of events held on the property, I’m ready to start planning a wedding for someone!
In true Antebellum Greek Revival style, the property is stunningly grandiose. Large pillars, plentiful windows, and an expansive + shaded porch welcome you to the property.
Upon arrival, you will feel as if you are on set for Gone With the Wind – which, in my book, is a southern dream.
To quote, “(Ashford Acres Inn) was built in 1858 by local resident John Williams. Williams built the house for his son as a wedding present; when the wedding was abruptly called off, the house went to his daughter, Caroline, who was married to Cynthiana sheriff, R.T. Lindsay.
A story has been passed down that the house, during the Civil War, was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. It is said that during that time, while Caroline was standing in the east bedroom on the second floor, a cannonball shot in through the front wall and out the side wall.
Between 1865 and 1941, a number of different families resided in the house as originally built. In 1941, the Owen Family purchased the property and fully renovated the house. They added the columns, a dining room, the veranda, and painted the house white. Much of the beauty of the house that you see today is due to their renovation work.”
The history of the property only increased the appeal of our trip. It was quite the destination!
We stayed in the Oak Suite – other options include the Magnolia, Maple, Ash, and Garden Suites. The room was huge! Features included the most comfortable bed, a full table, a wonderful desk for me to work at, a reading room, a fireplace, and a stunning bathroom.
I always want to be welcomed into a room with a cupcake, y’all. Is that being too over the top?
Guests have 24/7 access to snacks and refreshments; however, the highlight was definitely the breakfast!
Upon waking up on the first morning, Jude and I were welcomed by glorious aromas drifting upstairs. What we found in the dining room was everything that I wanted and more.
A small touch that I loved was that the tables were marked via your suite name — so charming!
We started with fresh-squeezed orange juice and scones; afterwards, we had their take on a southern classic: chicken and waffles. Prepared via a three-day process, the chicken was – as I said in my original post – smack your MeeMaw good. In accordance to this country boy’s scale, that’s about as good as it gets. Not to be outshined by the protein, the waffles were herb-infused and beautifully dense. It was a filling, refined breakfast – one that I’m dying to recreate for myself!
The second breakfast was, without question, one of the best of my life – and that’s something that I do not say lightly.
It started with an open-face omelette, topped with foie gras and truffles. Rich and high on the hog, as we say in the south – it was a dish to write home about!
Next came the King Crab Eggs Benedict. Why use bacon or ham when you can use king crab meat? It didn’t stop there though, y’all. Creamy, delicious hollandaise sauce, crisp spinach, and a brioche base. Need I say more?
There were many things that I loved about staying at Ashford Acres Inn, my first true bed and breakfast stay. The multiple fireplaces, the decor (immaculately executed for Christmas, might I add), the rocking chairs, the front porch, the beautiful surrounding farmland, and the historical character that is unrivaled in historic properties — to name a few.
It was also so nice to be able to relax with a cup of coffee and forget all that is going on in my crazy, hectic life.
On top of that, the service was superb and the individualized attention one can receive in an intimate setting of this nature is truly something special.
Many chances exist to visit my friends at Ashford Acres; they offer a couple of meals per month (this month: a dinner on January 24th and a breakfast buffet on January 26th), which I very much recommend checking out. Even more so, plan your next Kentucky getaway to Harrison County and stay on the property! You won’t regret it. The best part? If you are looking for a getaway this month (January 2019), rooms are 50% off!
Ashford Acres Inn is located at 1801 Hwy 36 East, Cynthiana, KY 41031; they can be reached at 859-298-2989.
Each day, I am thankful for my job – however, some days prove to be better than others. As I am sure all of you know, this season of BRAVO’s Top Chef was filmed in Kentucky – my home.
I was honored to be in attendance (both in and behind the scenes) for TWO episodes of Top Chef Kentucky. As a huge fan of the show, it was an honor to see the production of it. Y’all, let me tell you – after working a show for 16 seasons, it is a well-oiled machine. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement.
While we do very different things in the food industry, I couldn’t help but to have immense pride towards each and every contestant. To have made it, as some did, from a lower level chef, to the higher ranks of the restaurant ladder, to a nationally-broadcasted phenomenon — I can’t imagine how much excitement they must feel.
After tasting their food on two occasions, I can also attest to the fact that the pride they have in their craft is well-deserved. These are some seriously talented chefs!
Photo Credit: Michael Hickey/Bravo Media
On set of Episode 2, which was filmed at Maker’s Mark in Loretto, Kentucky, I had the chance to interview two integral parts of the Top Chef Team. I’ll include some excerpts here for y’all!
First was Matt Reichman, Vice President, Current Production, Bravo Media. I couldn’t wait to pick his brain about both Top Chef and his Kentucky experience!
Q: Since y’all have done a lot of filming in the south, what’s your favorite southern dish? Also, what dishes are you looking forward to here in Kentucky?
A: My favorite southern dish is fried chicken and biscuits — my favorite things on the planet.
A Kentucky dish that excites me — mutton and frog legs!
Q: Have you ever been frog giggin’?
A: (laughs) I have never been myself.
Q: In choosing the locations for Top Chef Kentucky, what all went into the process? While I am a Louisvillian now, I am a born and raised Southern Kentuckian; thus, I was tickled to see Lake Cumberland as one of the features!
A: Cities are often the destination of Top Chef – like Charleston or New Orleans. Kentucky, I think, gives us the flexibility to explore the entire state. We are going all over the place – we could easily see 100 challenge ideas around the Commonwealth, which is exciting. As for Lake Cumberland, it highlights a different type of food — fish — and brings the spotlight to different subcultures of Kentucky.
My second interview of the day was with Sandee Birdsong, Supervising Culinary Producer, Top Chef.
Q: Let’s talk about Kentucky food. Have you ever heard of wilted lettuce?
JCP: (Shocked!) It’s a type of lettuce that you harvest from your garden (once or twice/year) that’s served covered in bacon grease — that’s why it wilts. It’s heaven on a plate!
Q: We’ve been chatting about country ham, may I give you a recommendation?
A: Of course!
JCP: As a signature meat of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, people will argue that the some of the best varieties in rural Kentucky are found in gas stations. I implore that you explore these; gas station eatin’ is a big part of our culture. Be sure to get your country ham fix while you’re here!
Q: Where do y’all get the ingredients to stock the kitchen for the chefs?
A: Whole Foods! We source a lot there, because that is our sponsor. However, we also pick from the individual areas that we are in — it provides an authentic flavor profile and culinary experience.
Photo Credit: Michael Hickey/Bravo Media
I cannot thank the team at NBC Universal & Bravo enough for having me on set. From dining to being in the kitchen, this was truly an experience of a lifetime. But, more than anything else, I’m so thankful that Top Chef was based in Kentucky this year.
Photo Credit: Michael Hickey/Bravo Media
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — we are a deeply underrated state. Our culture is deep, our food is rich, and our people are unrivaled. It’s exciting to see us in the national spotlight.
Keep watching Top Chef Kentucky on Bravo — and tell me what y’all think!
As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!
FTC: NBC Universal and Bravo hosted me on two occasions to attend filming; however, this post is not commissioned and is authentic to my experience.
I am SO proud to say that, alongside forty friends and family members, I celebrated my one year anniversary here on www.jcpeats.com. To say that it has been a journey, a rollercoaster, and an interesting ride would be a hyperbolic understatement.
However, I’m not afraid of a walk on the wild side.
JCP Eats, as many of you know, started out of eating disorder recovery. It was a private Instagram account that I used to post photos of my food; this, in effect, was changing the way in which I looked at food.
Food photography became just that — photography. A form of art. It no longer represented a struggle on a plate; it was a subject — one that I eventually found to be both beautiful and therapeutic.
That Instagram page became this online community. Fast forward one year and SO much has happened. My passion became my job – and for that, I will always be grateful. I owe that to each of you. Those of you that read, like, comment, and share my posts — it’s all because of you. Thank you, for the bottom of my heart, for making one of my dreams come true.
In true JCP fashion, I couldn’t let the momentous event pass without a proper party. For that, I have several people to thank.
To my friends at Kroger: thank you for being the corporate sponsor of the event.
To my friends at Taziki’s: thank you for catering the fabulous food. It was a hit!
Side note: Lisa and Jeff at Taziki’s make catering an event SO easy. I simply emailed my order and Lisa arrived (early, might I add!) with a smile and all of the goodies. She set everything up beautifully and ensured that food/setup would not be something that I had to worry about. I can’t recommend them enough!
To my friends at Yes Louisville/Yes Working: thank you for the event space and for helping me orchestrate it all.
To Mr. Lemaster, my bestie’s Dad: thank you for being the DJ and for keeping the party going!
To Becky: thank you for being a fabulous bartender!
To Jude: thank you for all you did the day of!
And to each of my friends and family members that showed up to shower me with love: thank you. I owe so much of this to y’all.
In the coming year, I hope to take y’all around the world with me, around the US, and most importantly, around more of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I want to explore new regions, new cuisines, and new restaurants with you. I want to continue chasing this dream – and I hope y’all will stay along for the ride.
As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
FTC: This is a sponsored post; however, all opinions are my own.