Taste of Bourbon Country

January 19, 2009 9:52:21 AM PST
If you're looking to add a little spirit to you dinner table, you might consider bourbon as an ingredient. You can learn how at a special Master Distillers Bourbon Dinner at TRU on January 20.

A number of fine Kentucky bourbons from Buffalo Trace Distillery and Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery will be featured as ingredients in dishes as well as in drink pairings with each course. Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley and Old Rip Van Winkle President Julian Van Winkle III will be featured guests at the event and available to discuss their fine bourbons. They collaborated with chef/partner Rick Tramonto, executive chef Tim Graham and pastry chef Meg Galus, as well as wine director Chad Ellegood, to create the Master Distillers Dinner menu.

"We wanted to bring the mystique of Bourbon Country to Chicago," said Ellegood. "What better time to host a bourbon dinner than in winter. Bourbon pairs well with the richer, heartier foods of the season and warms up a crisp winter evening. The dinner also offers a great opportunity for bourbon aficionados to learn more about the spirit from two master distillers."

Chefs Tramonto and Graham selected foods that complement the richness and boldness of bourbon, such as specially cured and tobacco-smoked ingredients, as well as rich, hearty foods like squash, potato, lobster and venison. For dessert, pastry chef Galus created a rich, smooth date cake with butterscotch and apple that pairs with the bourbon highlight of the evening, a rare 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle.

Other bourbons featured during the evening include: 12-, 15- and 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve bourbons from Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. Buffalo Trace Distillery will be represented by Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare Single-Barrel, Blanton's Single Barrel and Sazerac Rye 6-year-old. Two bourbon tastes will be served with each course, and a selection of bourbon-based cocktails also will be offered.

Dinner will be served at 6:30 pm. The five-course menu, including bourbon pairings, is $135 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. For reservations, call Ruthann Gagnon at 312/202-0615 ext. 230. True is located at 676 North Saint Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

If you'd like to try a taste of bourbon at home, Chef Graham has shared these recipes:

Master Distillers Bourbon Dinner Menu at Tru

    First Course
    Bourbon Cured Salmon, Smoked Emulsion, Dashi, Cinnamon Spaghetti Squash

    Second Course
    Tobacco Smoked Lobster, Charred Endive, Potato Puree, Salted Caramel Gel

    Third Course
    Cocoa-Spiced Venison, Vanilla-Scented Farro Verde, Caramelized Parsnip

    Fourth Course
    Date Cake, Smoked Butterscotch, Apple

    Fifth Course

Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, which is based in Louisville, Ky., has a four-generation history. The Van Winkle family's involvement in the bourbon industry began in the late 1800s with Julian P. "Pappy" Van Winkle, Sr. All of the Van Winkle bourbons are made with corn, wheat, and, barley instead of corn, rye and, barley. This "wheated" recipe gives the bourbon a much softer, smoother taste, and it also allows the whiskey to age more gracefully. For more information, visit www.oldripvanwinkle.com.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a family-owned company based in Franklin County, Ky. The distillery's rich distilling tradition dates back to 1787 and has included such legends as E.H. Taylor, Jr., George T. Stagg, Albert B. Blanton, Orville Schupp, and Elmer T. Lee. Buffalo Trace is a fully operational distillery producing bourbon, rye and vodka on-site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Buffalo Trace has won seven distillery titles since 2000 from such notable publications as Whisky Magazine, Malt Advocate Magazine and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Buffalo Trace has also garnered more than 170 awards for its wide range of premium whiskies. The distillery is part of the Sazerac family of companies, which has operations in New Orleans, Louisiana; Franklin County, Kentucky; Fredericksburg, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland. For more information, visit www.buffalotrace.com.


Opened in 1999, TRU is a AAA Five-Diamond and Mobil Four-Star restaurant owned by chef/partner Rick Tramonto, executive pastry chef/partner Gale Gand and Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You! Located just off the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago, TRU is synonymous with luxury and elegance. The restaurant is renowned for its French Progressive cuisine and award-winning service. TRU is open for dinner nightly, except for Sundays and major holidays, and is available for private events. For more information, call (312) 202-0001 or visit www.trurestaurant.com.