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Exploring Kentucky | Shaker Village-by-the-Sea!

A seafood festival is part of the upcoming Fresh Food Adventure series

By Katherine Tandy Brown

The Fresh Food Adventure Series at Shaker Village features special menus served at locations throughout the village.

Named a top hidden travel destination by BBC News and awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, 3,000-acre Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is not only Kentucky’s largest National Historic Landmark, but also boasts the country’s largest collection of 19th-century buildings. The Shakers themselves were that era’s largest and best-known American communal society and were recognized for their strong work ethic, creativity and ingenuity; a desire for simplicity and perfection; belief in community and in equality of race and the sexes; impressive architecture and furniture-making; and kinship with the land and with each other, i.e. living in harmony.

To celebrate the continuity of the concept of sustainability, the attraction’s popular Fresh Food Adventure (FFA) series is back again, with celebrated guest chefs, talented mixologists and area musicians. Each event throughout 2020 has an all-inclusive fixed-dinner and spirits menu served at communal tables, not in the property’s restaurant, but at locations throughout the village.

“It’s a little more fun for the guests to take a look at our historic buildings,” says Shelby Jones, director of communications. “We hold a lot of these dinners outside when the weather is nice. It’s lovely in the garden.”

The two-acre Shaker Village garden is certified organic and is located steps from the Trustees’ Table restaurant, known for its splendid food, including Shaker lemon pie. (As an aside, it turns out that divine dessert is the only original Shaker recipe the restaurant serves, despite popular thought to the contrary.)

“Shaker food is quite bland,” Jones chuckles. Except for that luscious pie.

Restaurant diners can actually see the garden while seated. More than 73 varieties of veggies will pop up this year. Crops making their debut include culinary mushrooms, salsify, potatoes, rhubarb, artichokes, peanuts and new varieties of tomatoes, squash and Asian greens. The eatery also taps its orchard, apiary and herb garden for produce, honey and seasonings.

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“I get inspired by all of the wonderful ingredients I have right outside my kitchen door,” says Shaker Village Chef Amber Hokams, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, Texas. “When I create a menu, I always think locally first: What do we have from the Shaker Village garden that I can utilize? What can I source from local meat and producers?”

One of this year’s FFA offerings features a culinary delight foreign to the village’s original inhabitants: seafood. The next event, on Saturday, March 21st, will be a seafood feast in the West Family Dwelling. Take a whiff of the marvelous aromas in the air upon your arrival and you’ll swear you must be near the ocean. The dinner will feature a number of courses, including snow crab salad, bay scallop crudo, San Francisco cioppino, Lobster Newburg, and white chocolate Key lime mousse.

You can peruse the entire menu online and if you’re a fan of fruits de la mer, you’ll definitely be salivating.

“Even for events like our seafood feast, we obviously have to bring in fresh ocean fish, and I’m sourcing that from top providers,” Hokams says. “But we’re using local ingredients to elevate the dish, like bourbon, micro greens and fire-roasted peppers that we’ve preserved ourselves. Our in-house bakery is making things like brioche and baguettes.”

Three more FFA events will follow. July 18 brings a local farm fest in the garden, where guests will be surrounded by ripening tomatoes, colorful zinnias and butterflies. Revel in the summer harvest as well as the bounty from other local farmers, cheesemakers, meat producers, winemakers and distillers.

On Sept. 12 a Hard Cider Bash will fill the Meadowview Barn. Enjoy the tastes of fall, especially hard cider fresh from the orchard, to keep you warm on the inside when it’s chilly outside. Diners can serve themselves from stations of appetizers, salads, main courses, side dishes, mixed drinks and desserts while tappin’ their toes to live music.

And on Nov. 7, prep your tummy for the holidays at a quail dinner. Chow down on Kentucky quail and the delicious fall garden harvest while learning how Shaker Village manages its Northern Bobwhite Quail Preserve.

“These special food-focused events allow my team and (me) to stretch our culinary muscles,” Hokams explains. “We get to explore different cultural cuisines and utilize cooking techniques that we aren’t implementing on a daily basis in the restaurant. It’s not only enjoyable for us, but it allows our guests to try new things and have a fun night out.”

 If you’ve ever wondered what makes the food at the Trustees’ Table so yummy, a lot has to do with the fact that Shaker Village Farm Manager Michael Moore works closely with Chef Hokams to create the seed-to-table experience. That partnership seems to work darn well!

“Mike has really upped our game with the garden,” says Jones. “He’s constantly adding new crops. We source as much of that as possible for our dining room. Anything we can’t get on-site, we resource locally. So we’re Kentucky Proud.”

Attend an FFA dinner and you can score an overnight discount at one of the village’s comfy, historic rooms.

Just a couple of caveats: Parties wishing to sit together at an FFA dinner or anyone with dietary restrictions should email [email protected] at least a week prior to the event in order to be accommodated.

Find more info and make reservations early at shakervillageky.org or at (859) 734-5411.

Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]