By Janice Carter Levitch
I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”
– Julia Child
Let me tell you about a flavorful evening I recently experienced, thanks to my dear friend Kathy Oyler, who introduced me to the Cookbook Club she’s been a part of with eight other women for a few years. The idea for the club started about six years ago when Elizabeth Ragsdale wanted to get together with friends who are gastronomically like-minded and willing to try new recipes. The women experimented with mouthwatering menus, all inspired by their own palates, that definitely required a complex modus operandi (a fancy Latin phrase for “mode of operation” or for us simple folks, “a game plan”).
Jodi Nobel hosted the most recent dinner at her French-inspired home, a perfect choice seeing as the menu was from none other than Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
Armed with bottles of champagne and a few other ingredients, I immediately got to my station at the bar to prepare mint julep champagne cocktails for the group as a nod to the Kentucky Derby. I had to contribute something, and my effervescent thoughts always direct me to tiny bubbles.
The star of the evening was a French classic, duck a l’orange. Following one of Child’s cardinal rules, “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize,” we laughed off the fact that the reduction sauce had splattered all over the stove and cabinets when the duck fat was combined with the red wine. Every dish was a gourmand’s treasure and devoured by the group as we discussed which cookbook to choose for our next gathering. I will be there with a spatula in hand to assist and partake in more culinary escapades.
Speaking of escapades, I made my way over to Castle & Key Distillery for the exclusive preview of the restored Taylorton Station tasting room, which is now a walk-up window bar called Counter 17. Always first class, this place continues to amaze me with its expertise and careful renovation of the Old Taylor Distillery. The Curated Cocktail Experience in Taylorton Station offers guests two cocktails of their choice prepared by expert mixologists with the main ingredient being the Restoration Release Gin. The fun is in choosing which unique herb or botanical to add to the gin. I sampled the angelica root cocktail with lavender and butterfly pea flower. As could be expected, it was fragrant, floral and delicious.
The Taylorton Station train depot, built in 1910 by Colonel E. H. Taylor, was used to greet and entertain his guests as they arrived at the distillery. While sitting at the bar, you can’t help but feel nostalgic and imagine what it must have been like to arrive by train to such a beautiful destination all those years ago.
After our tasting and a few delectable appetizers, I meandered through the Botanical Trail to get a feel for the immeasurable effort that is put into making the Restoration Release Gin so delicious (and I’m not usually a gin fan, but this one knocks my socks off each time I try it). If you get a chance to experience this European-inspired setting, take it. You will be glad you did.
Now, it must be five o’clock somewhere. Time to hear the ice cubes make that tinkling noise as they are dropped into a glass somewhere – hopefully near. Cheers! V