If you don’t go to polite social occasions in Kentucky, it is possible you’ve never heard of Benedictine. Created by Jennie Benedict to serve at her Louisville tea room early in the 20th century, it is a mix of cream cheese, mayonnaise, chopped green onions, cucumber, and sometimes green food coloring. Rarely found in restaurants, it has survived mostly as home hostess fare, used in dainty crustless sandwiches or, in a heartier configuration, as co-star in a Benedictine and ham (or bacon) sandwich.
It makes sense to find Benedictine on the menu at Star Hill Provisions, which, as part of the Maker’s Mark distillery, is all about celebrating the best ways of the gastronomic past. But here you find no dusty old, looking-backward celebration. The menu at the little cafe, mostly patronized by folks who have taken a tour of the pastoral bourbon-making enterprise, features Kentucky classics in updated form.
Instead of ordinary slices of tomato, the kitchen’s hot brown boasts sun-dried tomatoes, elevating the state’s signature comfort-food into something much more potent. Benedictine is truly garden-fresh and crunchy, served on artisan bread. Bacon in the BLT is candied. For dessert, how about bread pudding? But not ordinary bread pudding. This is chocolate chip bread pudding in a puddle of bourbon caramel sauce. While it is too much of a jumble for my taste buds, house made bourbon balls are simple, easy to eat, and quite literally intoxicating.
Even if you don’t take the official Maker’s Mark tour, eating at Star Hill is a trip. It is accessed by a walk along brick pathways that wind among grassy fields with Kentucky dry-laid rock fences. Once here, you place an order at the desk and find a seat either indoors or on a semi-enclosed patio that looks out on Kentucky grass. Next to the room where food is ordered is a snug bar where, of course, Maker’s Mark bourbon is the featured attraction.