Ever heard of Kentucky Fried Chicken? Me too. It used to be my favorite fast food. And now, I’m in the colonel’s home state! I was pleased to discover that the original KFC was only an hour and a half away from Lexington KY. And once we were there, we discovered that Knoxville TN was only another hour and a half south, so we just kept going. Today was a lovely reminder of my days on the road across the country. The unstructured nature of travel plans makes surprises so much sweeter.
Table of Contents
- Lunch #1 — Pasture at Marksbury Farm — Lexington KY
- Lunch #2 — Sander’s Cafe — Corbin KY
- Knoxville, TN
- Bourbon #4-7, A Whisky Flight
Lunch #1 — Farm to Table Burgers
We were hungry, and if we only did one thing this entire trip, it was eat. My mom and dad lived in Virginia for a year when my dad followed his work out there. Check out my blog post on Roanoke, Virginia and Fredericksburg, Virginia! And they both had fond memories of Cracker Barrel. Although they admitted that their taste has probably changed since then, we considered going there, but the photos of the food looked pretty mediocre, so we opted for this burger place called “The Pasture at Marksbury Farm”!
This is almost as “farm to table” as it gets since Marksbury farm is a collection of local Kentucky farms that hold all of it’s producers to strict guidelines about cattle raising. More info about their process can be found on their website. I got their “Butcher Burger,” which has a beef patty, pulled pork, beer cheese, and onions on a toasted brioche bun. Delicious.
Lunch #2 — Sander’s Cafe
Now just a few hours later we left for Corbin KY, the home of the original Kentucky Fried Chicken. In addition to the restaurant, the facility includes a “mini-museum,” which seems to be just about the right size if you ask me. They have some memorabilia from the good old days as well as set-like productions of the kitchen and dining spaces. It’s a really cool stop for those who like KFC.
It’s probably just psychological, but I thought that the KFC here was more tasty than the ones in California!
While in line, we struck up a conversation with a lady who happened to be a local. She grew up just down the street from this location. She said she grew up passing it every single day. She ate there and occasionally saw Colonel Sanders! She said that just like those illustrations of him, he always wore a white suit. It must have been cool for her to see the original restaurant turn into a world-wide chain and then a museum remembering a man whom she occasionally saw around town!
She also mentioned that his house was right around the corner, so armed with a loose description of it, we searched it out and found what would appear to be his old house!
After our second lunch in Corbin KY, I realized that we were less than 20 miles away from the border of Tennessee. And since my last trip to Nashville, TN left me hungry for more, I thought it would be cool to drive just a little bit further down to Knoxville, TN since I haven’t been before!
Boy am I glad we went! It was an awesome little quintessential southern town with great food and fun shops. My Instagram story was even featured by their Instagram account 😃. We walked the main promenade sections of Knoxville TN, pretty much reading the menu of every single restaurant in the city. Ultimately, we picked a taco and tapas place, the restaurant we originally parked right in front of!
Babalu is known for their table-side guac! You may have seen my IG story. If not, go find @aaron_yih on IG right now! They bring the raw ingredients directly to your table and they make it right in front of you. The guac was fantastic, and the waitress who helped us with it was super friendly! It turns out that she was from NorCal too, and just working in Knoxville while at University of Tennessee! Small world. I seem to find Californians everywhere!
Even though we only got a few hours in Knoxville, I feel like we got a lot out of the time there. I’m sure we didn’t see everything, but that’s just another reason to come back!
Bourbon #4-7, A Whisky Flight
How could we not taste bourbon on our last night in Lexington KY? We did, and we went out with a bang. By 12:30 am, my dad and one other group were the only ones left in the 21c lockbox bar, so we had some time to chat with the whisky sommelier. We learned so much from him!
- In a whisky flight, the spirits are typically served in order of ascending proof, or alcohol content. That is, you want to taste the whisky with the least amount of alcohol first and the whisky with the most amount of alcohol last. This ensures that you’re able to pick out the nuances of the lower proof drinks before you get annihilated by the higher proof stuff.
- The older the bourbon, the more oak you get, which makes sense since the longer the it sits ages in the barrel, the more the oak has a chance to incorporate into the drink. However this also means that the original ingredient flavors like corn and rye are less distinct.
- Understanding balance separates you from a novice bourbon drinker. For bourbons, balance refers to the amount of aging as described above. Having an appreciation for and understanding of the different ages of bourbon as well as the different flavor profiles will bring a bourbon drinker to the next level.
- Because of Prohibition, most of the world’s best bar tenders are in Europe and Japan. Since bartenders here in the US couldn’t get pour-related jobs, they moved to places where they could. This meant that the US no longer had top bartending talent. He said that this is why Japan and Europe have the best drinking experiences. Apparently in Japan, bartenders will not only serve you drinks with attention to several different types of ice, but they will also recommend and escort you to the next bar you should patronize. He said that he wishes that Americans would be receptive to such an experience so that bars today could be elevated to that level.
- You sip older bourbons and you toss back younger ones. Typically older bourbons are more expensive and complex, so you want to really taste them to try to catch the nuances. Younger bourbons are less complex and generally cheaper, so you typically just take it one big swig.
Compliments of the house, he gave us a pour of bonded bourbon, which is something you learn about in bourbon 101. Before the bottled-in-bond act the bourbon industry was straught with fake bourbon. They created a system called bonded boubon, which was a highly regulated production process that ensured what was being sold as bourbon was actually bourbon. It had to be created by 1 distiller in 1 season, and it had to be aged in a bonded warehouse supervised by the US government for at least 4 years and bottled at 100 proof. Crazy right?
Now this process is pretty archaic, so most producers do not still follow it. Bourbons that are produced with these parameters are often cheap, so bartenders often drink it. Also because it’s so young, you can really taste and smell the corn and malt. This is one that you shoot rather than sip.