The Kentucky Bourbon Trail
A visit to Kentucky promises a few obvious culinary highlights. Just as it would be hard to visit this state without listening to bluegrass music, it would also be tough to avoid barbecue, beer cheese and derby pie.
But – lets be honest! Bourbon is what comes to mind when considering Kentucky’s food and drink culture. Traveling the famous Bourbon Trail is a fun way to see the state and check out the world-famous distilleries along the way. Four days is usually a perfect amount of time to visit cities such as Louisville, Lexington and Bardstown to experience the storied tradition that is both the state’s culture and it’s pride.
With 37 distilleries to choose from, you will have lots of options: tastings, tours, classes and workshops – the list is long. Speak with your travel adviser to customize your itinerary so you can take in rolling hills, bluegrass fields and the heart of horse country as you journey between distilleries. You might also consider allowing someone else to do the driving so you and your friends can enjoy responsibly.
Whether you are a bourbon lover or just curious – it’s time to visit where 95% of the world’s supply is produced. At this very moment, there could be 9.1 million bourbon barrels aging in Kentucky – what are you waiting for?
Meals in the Music City
Heading west out of Charlotte, another road trip lies just on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our destination is Tennessee’s famous capitol city, Nashville, where the food scene has exploded in recent years. As Conde Nast Traveler says, “The music may be food for the soul, but food for the body is just as good!”
You can always find the typical fried chicken, barbecue and biscuits, but as Nashville matures, it boasts modern, chef-inspired innovations and new restaurants opening at a record pace. Many of the new spots are popping up in East Nashville, the creative, quirky, diverse community located across the Cumberland River. Notable restaurants in that area include Two Ten Jack, an authentic Japanese izakaya experience; Butcher and Bee with a modern Mediterranean menu; and Once Upon A Time In France, featuring classic bistro fare.
If you are looking for a more authentic experience, consider eating at the signature restaurant in Nashville’s iconic hotel The Hermitage. Serving luxury travelers since 1910, the hotel is a cherished landmark and impeccably preserved.
Finally, we have to tell you about Dolly Parton’s brand new vintage rooftop bar and restaurant. The glitzy White Limozeen has pink walls, velvet lounges and a whimsical wrap around bar atop the Graduate Hotel. The high style cocktail party vibe with a down home feel seems like a fun way to finish off your time in Nashville.
Sweet Home Alabama
There are a lot of things to anticipate when you plan a Cotton State visit: gorgeous golf courses, college football, white sand beaches and civil rights history, among many. But the food scene should also get you excited. It is as diverse as the landscape and steeped in tradition.
There is almost nothing they won’t fry in Alabama – so, fittingly some of their most beloved foods are fried tomatoes, fried okra, fried pickles, fried chicken and fried catfish.
The Gulf is a huge seafood producer and the state is also known for shrimp (served with grits of course), crawfish and oysters. Sauteed, broiled, baked, fried, in salads, tacos and swimming in grits…riches from the Gulf play a large role on the typical Alabama menu.
And let’s not forget dessert. ‘Bama’s banana pudding is a point of pride (don’t ever consider using a mix) in its most authentic form. Add some pecan pie or chocolate covered biscuits and you will be right at home.
Even though many Alabama restaurants are considered casual, there are also unique experiences we wanted to share. Just west of Huntsville is the Rattlesnake Saloon, operating seasonally at the opening of an actual cave. In Florence, the 360 Grille is located atop a tower with gorgeous views of the Tennessee River. In Madison, the Main Street Café is a converted jail where diners can eat from an actual cell with iron bars. Finally, Lamberts Café in Foley is famous for its “throwed” rolls tradition. Servers apparently toss rolls to patrons who hold their hands up in the air. That alone might be worth the road trip!
Roni Fishkin is the Marketing Director of Mann Travels, which, with local ownership in Charlotte, has been serving travelers with personalized service for 40 years.
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