Woodford Reserve tour teaches, entertains our staff

Tasting Wheel

Flavor wheel tastes

Once a year, the top management of Eddie Merlot’s gathers for a retreat. Our executives from our headquarters in Fort Wayne, Ind., plus our general managers and executive chefs from all of our locations spend several days together discussing future plans for the restaurants. It’s also a nice time of camaraderie among a large staff that’s spread out across three states.

A few weeks ago, our staff gathered in Southern Indiana at the Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, Ind., with frequent trips into Louisville, and a most notable excursion to the Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles, Ky. The Woodford Reserve Distillery is a National Historic Landmark and is an incredibly well-run operation. A peek behind the scenes is well worth it for anyone who enjoys food, as we do, and wants to know more about bourbon.

Barrel

Woodford Reserve Barrel

For Eddie Merlot’s, the most valuable part of the tour was the flavor wheel. This part of the tour paired samples of bourbon with different foods to see how various foods paired with bourbon. The flavor wheel includes sorghum syrup, an orange wedge, hazelnuts, 60 percent dark cocoa, dried cherries and aged Parmesan. Bruce Kraus, Director of Operations for Eddie Merlot’s, said the tasting showed how incredibly complex bourbon is. “Each different food brought out different nuances of the bourbon,” Bruce tells us. “Some foods eliminated the bourbon burn entirely, and some showed the opposite effect, increasing the fire of the bourbon. Other foods brought out various notes of the bourbon, including more vanilla or caramel flavors or nutty notes. It was a fascinating tour and we think it will be particularly helpful for our chefs as they create new dishes and pairings.”

Woodford Reserved graciously hosted us for a meal that included many bourbon-prepared foods and showed the full range of how bourbon enhances food.

Not only was it educational, but it was a great reward for a hard-working crew, Bruce says. “This was the culmination of three days of planning for 2012,” Bruce says.

making bourbon

Making bourbon

Bruce notes that Eddie Merlot’s is looking into doing its own barrel of bourbon at Eddie Merlot’s, which would give us our own Private Selection of bourbon to serve. It’s fitting for us, as Woodford Reserve is a premium bourbon with a storied history. In fact, Woodford Reserve celebrates its 200th birthday in 2012.

We’d encourage you to visit Woodford Reserve. The distillery is nestled in one of the most bucolic settings in Kentucky. As the leaves are turning this fall, it will be one of the best places to go to see just how beautiful the bluegrass can be. You can find out more about tours on the Woodford Reserve web site under Our Distillery: www.woodfordreserve.com. Tours are available seven days each week through December, and six days from January through March.

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About editor

An upscale restaurant group with locations in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.
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