Better in the Bluegrass: Kentucky Launches Culinary Trail at 9 State Parks

The Kentucky Department of Tourism, recently launched a new culinary trail linking Kentucky State Parks, called “Better in the Bluegrass.”

The Kentucky Tourism Cabinet says the Kentucky State Parks Culinary Trail includes nine parks offering different authentic meals that represent their region.

Restaurants at nine Kentucky State Parks are offering a special regional meal celebrating the traditional dishes and culinary heritage of the state. (Source: Kentucky Department of Travel)

Restaurants at nine Kentucky State Parks are offering a special regional meal celebrating the traditional dishes and culinary heritage of the state. (Source: Kentucky Department of Travel)

To highlight what is special about different regions of the state, a group of chefs, farmers, food producers, historians, and tourism professionals created nine signature meals that represent the tastes and ingredients of each region.

The food trail features popular regional dishes such as burgoo, a hearty stew; soup beans; fried potatoes; beer cheese; spoon bread, hot browns, and bourbon cake.

When it comes to unique Kentucky tastes, you don’t get much more Bluegrass than beer cheese, invented in the small town of Winchester in Clark County. Is there beer in it? Yep, a little. That, combined with garlic and spices give this addictive cheese spread its unique tang. It’s so beloved that there’s a festival in its honor and a Clark County “Beer Cheese Trail” offering samples throughout the area.

Invented at Frankfort’s Rebecca Ruth Candy in 1938, bourbon balls are a beloved Bluegrass treat. This simple combination of chocolate, butter and cream gets a kick from Kentucky bourbon to put a rich and silky spin on a classic confection. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Invented at Frankfort’s Rebecca Ruth Candy in 1938, bourbon balls are a beloved Bluegrass treat. This simple combination of chocolate, butter and cream gets a kick from Kentucky bourbon to put a rich and silky spin on a classic confection. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the western lakes region, the entree is local surf and turf. In eastern Kentucky’s Appalachia, visitors can dine on soup beans and cornbread followed by salmon patties.

In central Kentucky, visitors can enjoy a hot brown—an open-faced sandwich with turkey, bacon, tomato, and Mornay sauce—and succotash.

Beverages also feature Kentucky fare including Ale-8-One and bourbon. One park offers a choice of milk or moonshine.

“The Better in the Bluegrass culinary tourism initiative is a fun and interactive way to highlight the state’s signature dishes and encourage locals and visitors alike to explore every corner of our great state,” said Kentucky Tourism Commissioner Kristen Branscum.

Invented at Frankfort’s Rebecca Ruth Candy in 1938, bourbon balls are a beloved Bluegrass treat. This simple combination of chocolate, butter and cream gets a kick from Kentucky bourbon to put a rich and silky spin on a classic confection. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Invented at Frankfort’s Rebecca Ruth Candy in 1938, bourbon balls are a beloved Bluegrass treat. This simple combination of chocolate, butter and cream gets a kick from Kentucky bourbon to put a rich and silky spin on a classic confection. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

She said the trail is beginning with state parks because they are so well known, but officials are also recruiting restaurants to join the trail.

Branscum said tourism officials spent last year talking to foodies, chefs, and local tourism officials across the state to come up with the right dish to represent each region, and to tell the story of why it’s popular. Salmon patties might seem an odd food for Appalachia, but she said they’re cheap to make and easy to pick up and eat so coal miners would snack on them while they washed up for dinner.

Branscum said the state has a long agricultural background and some great stories surrounding popular foods in each region.

Better in the Bluegrass passports and details are available at Kentucky Welcome Centers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Better in the Bluegrass passports and details are available at Kentucky Welcome Centers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We want to use these culinary assets to attract new visitors, and to educate and inspire Kentuckians to travel across the state and taste these different flavors,” she said.

For the Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade, the theme is Bluegrass, Horses, Bourbon, and Boone. The signature meal consists of an appetizer of beer cheese, followed by an entree of Kentucky beef with sides of grits, spoonbread, and limestone Bibb salad with sorghum vinaigrette. For dessert, there’s a bourbon/chocolate dessert. And to drink? Ale-8-One or Ale-8-One and bourbon.

Visit the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea for Kentucky crafts including this recognition of the importance of bourbon to the state's economy and tourism. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea for Kentucky crafts including this recognition of the importance of bourbon to the state’s economy and tourism. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park at Dawson Springs it’s Bluegrass, Blues, and Barbecue.

The signal meal offers burgoo for appetizer, followed by and entrée of BBQ mutton accompanied with sides of baked beans, slaw, and potato salad. Enjoy peach cobbler for desert and for a beverage, strawberry lemonade with locally grown berries.

Each of the signature meals will be available at state parks from May 14 through October 31.

Stop by the front desk at any Kentucky State Park to pick up your Culinary Passport and learn more about this exciting culinary adventure.

A Woodford Reserve Distillery tour culminates with bourbon tasting and a bourbon ball. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Woodford Reserve Distillery tour culminates with bourbon tasting and a bourbon ball. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take your Culinary Passport to any of the participating nine state parks. Savor the regional meal offered there, then get your passport stamped.

When you’ve collected stamps from all nine participating parks, mail your passport back to the Kentucky Department of Tourism for a free gift!

The other parks include Rough River Dam State Resort Park in Falls of Rough, Barren River Lake State Resort Park in Lucas, Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg, Pine Mountain State Resort Park in Pineville, Blue Licks Battlefield State Park in Carlisle, Lake Cumberland State Resort Park in Jamestown, and Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park in Gilbertsville.

Wild Turkey Distillery bourbon tour and tastings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild Turkey Distillery bourbon tour and tastings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Heaven must be a Kentucky kind of place.
―Daniel Boone

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