If you haven’t been to one of Big Jones’ Bourbon Society dinners, you’re missing out on the only other restaurant in town doing such fascinating historical and cultural recreations of a long-ago time and place. For a dinner last week starring bourbons from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, Chef Paul Fehribach set out to recreate the legendary mutton barbecue around Owensboro, Kentucky, which grew out of the presence of a substantial wool industry in the area. Along with mutton smoked out back of the Andersonville restaurant, he dished up classic Kentucky dishes such as beer cheese, fried green tomatoes and buckwheat strawberry shortcake, while Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, only the sixth distiller in the company’s 200-year history, treated us to five tastings of their bourbon (or, in the case of White Dog, the kind of moonshine that could be bourbon if it spent enough time in a barrel). It was a chance to taste things totally out of the Chicago restaurant mainstream, and justified Fehribach’s claim up front that after New Orleans, Kentucky has the most diverse and accomplished cuisine in the South. See our slideshow of the event below.
Chef Paul Fehribach with the brains of the event.
Mutton bones simmering for stock.
Smoked for several hours out back, the mutton continues roasting indoors.
Black sauce— a mix of sorghum, Worcestershire sauce and spices.
Salt bread, made with a potato-based starter.
Pouring house-cultured buttermilk for a palate cleanser.
The night’s lineup of bourbon tastings, from White Dog moonshine to Blanton’s Single Barrel reserve.
The chef with Buffalo Trace sales rep Keith Kerber and master distiller Harlen Wheatley.
White Dog Mash #1, which is Buffalo Trace before it goes into barrels and legally becomes bourbon.
Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley talks the history of the distillery, which was down to 18,000 barrels a year at the low point for brown spirits in the 1980s. With today’s cocktail renaissance, they produce over a million barrels a year.
Salt bread, pickled vegetables and fruit, and Kentucky beer cheese.
Fried green tomatoes with country ham and egg salad.
Corn spoonbread with scrambled brains, chives, and killed lettuce.
Weller Special Reserve is among the tastings.
A shot of house-cultured buttermilk with pickled beets and early summer herbs.
Mint Creek Farm barbecued mutton with black sauce, slaw and creamed new potatoes.
Each year’s release of Blanton’s Single Barrel has a different topper. Lined up, the full 8-year sequence depicts a horse race with the tiny letters spelling “Blanton’s.”