Kentucky has a flavor profile all its own.
From the inimitable hot brown to foods made with the state’s signature spirits, groups gathering in the Bluegrass State can look forward to a wide variety of culinary delights. Meeting planners wanting to incorporate Kentucky flavors and drinks into their events should consider these five locations.
Historic Boone Tavern
Historic Boone Tavern opened in 1909 at the request of Nellie Frost, the wife of William Frost, who was then president of Berea College. As the university’s reputation grew, Nellie was tasked with hosting as many as 300 guests at her home one summer. The tavern, which was named after Daniel Boone, has hosted visitors ever since, including luminaries such as the Dalai Lama, Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou and Robert Frost.
Boone Tavern began with 25 guestrooms but has grown over the years to 63. To this day, students at Berea College have an active part in running the tavern.
The property can handle groups of up to 150 people. Boone Tavern Event Center has 8,552 square feet of space across seven separate rooms, and offers full-service catering and dining with locally grown and Kentucky Proud ingredients in its meals, many of which come from the Berea College Farm. Its group catering menu includes Kentucky favorites such as the hot brown, which comprises shaved ham and turkey on sourdough with Mornay sauce and browned to perfection. Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest is shredded white and dark chicken in cream sauce served in a nest of potatoes with country-style green beans, cranberry-orange relish and a side salad.
Every diner receives complimentary spoonbread, a regional traditional Appalachian dessert that is a pudding-like white cornmeal souffle. Groups can also add a bourbon flight.
Farmer and Frenchman Winery
The Farmer and Frenchman Winery in Robards opened in 2016 on a plot of land owned by Katy Mussat’s family. She and her husband, Hubert, who is the Frenchman in the vineyard’s name, began planting grapes on the property a couple of years before they launched. Now the business sells estate wines, from grapes grown on the property, as well as wine made at their winery using grapes from other major grape-growing regions, including California and Michigan.
There is a farm-to-table restaurant in the same building as the tasting room that offers an extensive wine list, including European varieties. The menu includes Kentucky favorites as well as foods inspired by French and Italian cuisines.
There are a few meeting spaces on the property. The private wine cellar seats 14 people. The dining room can host groups of up to 10 people, and no reservations are necessary if groups want to participate in a wine tasting.
The refurbished tobacco barn features glass doors, heating and air conditioning. It can host groups of up to 250 when paired with the Promenade. The whole property, including the café and entertainment venue, overlooks the vineyard, which is set up on a hill. Behind that is rolling countryside.
There is a garden on site, so the products served at the restaurant come from there or from local farms. The restaurant is known for its daily specials that include not only fresh meat and produce but also fish and duck.
Beaumont Inn is in Harrodsburg, the oldest English-speaking settlement west of the Allegheny mountains. It is made up of three historic structures that used to be a college for young women from 1845 to 1916. In 1919, the property was converted from a college into the Beaumont Inn, and it has been operated by the same family for 104 years. The inn has 33 rooms and three dining rooms. Greystone House is a large old home that can be rented out for small group meetings. The Harrod Room in the main inn is perfect for small, casual meetings and has breakout spaces for up to 20 people.
The John Augustus Williams Meeting Room in the main inn features flexible table configurations, wireless internet access, a dedicated lobby, audio-visual equipment, and beverage and food service for up to 30 guests.
The inn is known for its homemade food, including yellow-legged fried chicken, which it has been serving for more than 100 years. Aged country hams are hung out back in the property’s ham house and cured for two years. The restaurant menu also includes cheese and grits, hot browns, the inn’s famous corn pudding, and mashed potatoes and gravy.
The current owner of the inn purchased it from her cousins a little over a year ago. She and her children run it, giving it the distinction of being the oldest family-run bed-and-breakfast in Kentucky and one of the oldest in the country.
The inn’s popular Southern breakfast features corn cakes, biscuits and gravy, brown sugar syrup, eggs, bacon and sausage.
Talbott Tavern was built in 1779 and has been called the oldest Western stagecoach stop in America. Constructed with thick Flemish bond stone walls, deep window casings, heavy ceiling timbers and built-in cupboards, the building reminds visitors of an old English inn. The tavern was an attractive spot for stagecoach travelers to stop for a drink, meal and lodging before setting off again on their journey.
Several big names in American history passed through the tavern’s doors, including Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Daniel Boone, General George Rogers Clark and a 5-year-old Abraham Lincoln. King Louis Phillippe of France and his brothers spent time there during his exile in 1797.
The tavern was associated with many big names in Kentucky’s bourbon industry, including T.D. Beam, brother of Jim Beam, and William Samuels and Leslie Samuels, who were master distillers of Maker’s Mark.
Meeting groups can host events of 30 to 75 people. The Talbott Inn has a well-equipped kitchenette, personal bar, private bathrooms and a projector to facilitate events and presentations.
Group rates on food are available and include an array of hors d’oeuvres, lunch and dinner with some Kentucky favorites, such as bourbon walnut chicken and Kentucky hot brown.
Groups of 25 or more that host events at the tavern can add a private bartender and elegant tablecloths.
Elk Creek Vineyards
Elk Creek Vineyards is about one hour away from Cincinnati, Louisville and Lexington but only a half hour away from Kentucky’s famous Ark Encounter. The vineyard opened in 2006, specializing in everything from dry reds to sweet and fruity wines. There is a café that serves gourmet sandwiches and charcuterie boards.
The winery has about 15 wines made on site. The grapes are brought in from California and New York. The tasting room features a three-story stone fireplace and a deck overlooking the valley that used to grow the company’s grapes. The wine cellar can host a group of 30 for a wine tasting, a formal cocktail hour or a dining event. The mezzanine is a semi-private area above the main floor of the winery that can accommodate 50 guests. The amphitheater is an outdoor stone structure that overlooks the property and is situated between two lakes. Most groups put up tents to hedge against Kentucky’s fickle weather. The venue can accommodate up to 250 people.
The main area of the building can fit 75, and the patio, with its picturesque setting and bird’s eye view of the property, can fit 50. The space also features an outdoor fireplace. If meeting groups want to take a private tour of the wine-making operations, it can be included in the rental package.