Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bourbon, Horses and Chocolate

Sorry for the holiday hiatus! I was visiting my great friend Heidi Rafferty in Kentucky. She not only prepared an amazing holiday spread - she also planned a really special trip for me. The first event was a tour of a chocolate factory - is the woman fabulous, or what?

The factory was that of Old Kentucky Chocolates http://www.oldkycandy.com/. When we walked in the door, we walked right into their retail shop. Yoohoo! That, of course, is exactly what I said, which caused a male shopper to say, "You are way too happy to buy chocolate." I said - "You are NEVER too happy to buy chocolate!" I am spreading my delirium nationwide.

This was a great retail shop - with tons of chocolate and candy and hundreds of chocolate molds and chocolate molded items for sale. I saw chocolate guns, chocolate dentures, a chocolate drill, chocolate handcuffs (in a chocolate police set, those of you with minds in the gutter - it's not THAT kind of candy factory!), giant chocolate Santas, and chocolate horses!



It's Kentucky - the land of horses, remember? These guys are life size. They are not solid chocolate, but are chocolate coated. They are not messing around at Old Kentucky Chocolates!

Victoria gave us our tour - which was great - just me and Heidi! How cool is that? It was like our own private factory!! Now the specialty of the house is Bourbon (100 proof Jim Beam) and they make Bourbon Pecan Cake, Bourbon Fruit Cake, Bourbon Truffles, Bourbon Cherries, and Bourbon Chocolates. And these don't just kind of taste like bourbon. This is Kentucky, dammit! You KNOW you've had some Jim Beam when you take a bite of these!

Victoria was terrific - she showed us the giant slabs of Guittard Chocolate they start with and melt down for their chocolate. (Most smaller chocolate companies buy their chocolate elsewhere - it's too expensive to manufacture. Wolfgang chocolates in PA did the same thing, but they didn't disclose their supplier.) She showed us where they make the molded chocolates - all done by hand - and we met the lovely lady who makes them. She showed us a gorgeous solid thoroughbred horse and let us feel how incredibly heavy it was.



We got to meet the owner, Don Hurt, who was so nice to take some time to talk with us.



Everything is handmade here - there is no Mama Hen pumping out millions of Peeps. They were making some almond caramel treats in one room and the Bourbon Cherries in another. The cherries are soaked in the Jim Beam for a YEAR!!! Then they are put in a smaller version of the mixer like the Hot Tamales go in at Just Born and are coated with some confectioner's sugar and other ingredients. They they go through the enrober to be coated with chocolate. When I said "There's the enrober!" Victoria couldn't believe I knew what it was. I got some candy cred right away.



After the enrober, the chocolate covered cherries get cooled, then wrapped up. Victoria does some of the wrapping. She also let us have a cherry right off the line! (Am I living the life or what?) Now I must preface this by telling you that I'm not a drinker. I popped one in my mouth - and yeeoww! It was like taking a shot of bourbon! Forget subtle! Then the cherry and chocolate kicks in - and I have to say - it's pretty darn impressive.

Here are some shots of their assorted box of chocolates:






Looks pretty good, eh? I've tried several of the ones with nuts - and they were great. Not nut chips, great big, high quality cashews, peanuts, almonds. Now we're not talking fancy-schmancy ginger, bacon, wasabi, lavender, squid ink stuff here. These are basic good old American chocolates. And if you like Bourbon, order some of their stuff immediately!!



I've now been to several chocolate factories and the people at Old Kentucky were fantastic! Victoria gave a fun tour and introduced us to everyone - it was like meeting the family. When I was shopping after the tour, the wonderful women behind the candy counter kept getting me to try samples. Like THAT was hard. (The maple cream was to die for!) I haven't been anywhere where everyone was this nice. Old Kentucky had great people, 100 Proof Bourbon and chocolate handcuffs! What else could you want?



Thanks to Heidi for a great Thanksgiving and thanks to the wonderful team at Old Kentucky for helping make my visit special. If you ever get to Kentucky, stop in - it's worth it!!

3 comments:

Heidi said...

I must say, although I am NOT a Bourbon fan on the whole and I'm also not a person who loves cherries, the chocolate-covered Bourbon-infused cherries are the absolute most favorite thing I have eaten in a loooong time. For those of you who aren't from Kentucky, it's worth an online trip to order these babies for grown-up stocking stuffers.
Our little guy wanted to try one, but when I told him that they tasted like cough medicine, he quickly backed away. However, let me say to all of the adults: They do NOT resemble cough medicine in the least. :-)
Thanks to Victoria for the great tour and to my buddy Denise for introducing me to her fantastic love of all things chocolate!
By the way, if you ever are graced with Denise's presence in a chocolate factory, you will have a new appreciation for the Willy Wonka story. No kid could ever be as excited as Denise!

Heidi said...

I must say, although I am NOT a Bourbon fan on the whole and I'm also not a person who loves cherries, the chocolate-covered Bourbon-infused cherries are the absolute most favorite thing I have eaten in a loooong time. For those of you who aren't from Kentucky, it's worth an online trip to order these babies for grown-up stocking stuffers.
Our little guy wanted to try one, but when I told him that they tasted like cough medicine, he quickly backed away. However, let me say to all of the adults: They do NOT resemble cough medicine in the least. :-)
Thanks to Victoria for the great tour and to my buddy Denise for introducing me to her fantastic love of all things chocolate!
By the way, if you ever are graced with Denise's presence in a chocolate factory, you will have a new appreciation for the Willy Wonka story. No kid could ever be as excited as Denise!

Carl Weaver said...

Mmm... Chocolate! Mmm... Bourbon! I can't wait to try these!