I’ve lived most of my life in Minnesconsin. It’s my name for a region that encompasses a good sized portion of both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Having lived on both sides of the imaginary line that runs down the center of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers, I know from experience that the culture of both is essentially the same. They both celebrate deer hunting in the Fall and fishing pretty much any time of year. They both call a casserole a “hotdish.” They both have a weird fondness for Jello with other foodstuffs inserted into it. And farming, both dairy and corn, is a major industry. I guess the major point of difference is whether the football teams you root for wear green and yellow and red and white or purple and yellow and maroon and gold.
Historically, in both places, the food has been bland and tended to be either white or transparent. I don’t think it was until I started to travel to St. Paul as a teenager that I realized that food should have spices. The fanciest we got was to sprinkle a little garlic salt on the venison when Mom wasn’t looking.
I think this might be why I like to cook so much. I love flavor. I love to see how various ingredients play and meld and sometimes create something new. It’s the reason I love bourbon too. It is seldom that you will describe a bourbon's flavor as delicate.
It was with all this in mind that, while at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, I stopped by the Bourbon Barrel Foods booth. I like bourbon, good things tend to come from barrels, and I like foods. I was curious to see what sort of concoctions came from a combination of the three.
Initially, I grabbed a container of Bourbon Smoked Pepper and the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Smoked Chef’s Spice Blend. Both were wonderfully rich and smokey. I use the black pepper to season eggs for breakfast, and I love the Chef’s Spice Blend on every meat I cook on the grill. Hamburgers, chicken, steak, you name it, it works on all of them. It even tastes good on potatoes. Really some killer stuff.
I liked that Bourbon Smoked Chef’s Spice Blend so much that I soon used it up. Luckily they also sell on their website. So I popped another container of the spice blend in my cart and went looking at the rest of the items they offered.
Woodford Reserve Bourbon Smoked Lemon Pepper
This uses the Bourbon Smoked Pepper, lemon peel, onion, garlic and various other spices. It’s tasty enough. I tried it on chicken and fish, but I suppose it would work on anything you might want lemon pepper flavored.
Bourbon Smoked Sugar
Beautifully smoky on the nose and mouth. Once I purchased this, I had a hard time deciding how I was going to use this. I wouldn’t want that kind of smoke flavor on my morning oatmeal. And though it might taste good in a cookie, I didn’t buy it in a package big enough to use that way. Eventually, I came up with the perfect use for it, though. Simple syrup for an Old Fashioned. It adds just a hint of smoke and complexity to the drink.
Bourbon Smoked Garlic Salt
I can see the salt crystals. I can see the dried garlic. I can certainly smell the garlic, but I don’t get any overt smoke on this one. That said it is still one of the better garlic salts I’ve used. Unfortunately, I use only a bare minimum of salt in my cooking, and I use garlic salt even less. Good thing I only sprung for the .75 ounce container. I have a feeling this one will stick around for a while.
These folks are creating some excellent stuff. I’m enjoying almost all of them and will certainly be looking for more. Thankfully it looks like some of their products are available in Minnesota. Apparently, I’m not the only Minnesconsin resident that has woken up to the fact that it is ok to have flavorful food.
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