Passport to Paducah

Passport to Paducah

A Night of Culinary Adventure

Words by Zoe Dannenmueller

Renowned as a UNESCO Creative City, Paducah, Kentucky is a captivating destination that combines a storied past, a vibrant downtown arts district, and genuine southern hospitality. From exploring the fascinating historical sites to immersing oneself in the thriving creative scene, Paducah invites visitors to embark on a sensory journey that will leave them craving for more. 

6:30pm: Cocktail Hour

Nestled along the banks of the scenic Ohio River, guests are slowing making their way into the ornate lobby of the Carson Center for the Performing Arts to partake in the highly anticipated culinary fundraiser event Vine & Dine, an immersive experience that celebrates the harmonious relationship between southern cuisine and curated wines.

The sumptuous air is filled to the brim with tantalizing aromas of freshly prepared appetizers as party goers mingle and peruse, savoring each flavorful bite. Intertwined are vivacious sounds of clinking cocktail glasses, as friends new and old sip the spotlight apéritif of the evening, Making Paper, along with a variety of wines from local shop, Wagner Wine & Spirits.

Making Paper:
Wathen’s Bourbon
Amaro Nonino
Lemon Juice
Top with Pike Road Sparkler Rose NV

7:00pm: Let the tasting begin!

As the golden sun sets over hand painted river floodwall murals less than 100 yards away, inside cocktail hour is leisurely transforming into a magical night of culinary indulgence led by Paducah native Chef Sara Bradley—Chef and Proprietor of freight house, a farm-to-table southern inspired restaurant and bourbon bar. Recent winner of The Food Network’s “Chopped: All American Showdown” and runner-up on season 16 of Top Chef and season 20 of Top Chef World Allstars, Chef Bradley’s innovative flavors and exceptionally spirited personality are a force to be reckoned with. She takes time to make you feel at home, to make sure you have the best experience,says Ryan Wagner of Wagner Wine and Spirits.

The energy remains high with a sense of excitement and anticipation as guests are guided to the Carson Center’s main production stage. Set flawlessly with five distinct tasting stations created by Chef Bradley and team, each dish is perfectly executed and paired alongside a specific wine featured from Elk Cove Vineyard, one of Oregon's original wineries known for estate grown pinot noir reds and cool climate whites.

“I decided I didn’t want to do just a four-course meal where you get one pour of wine and one plate of food, says Chef Bradley. “I wanted you all to have a cornucopia!”

Stations highlight various proteins such as pickled shrimp, filet of beef, duck confit, and Dungeness crab, accompanied with eccentric flavor combinations of coffee and celery root, followed up with corn bisque and blueberries.

“This meal was not prepared to be progressive. We really put a lot of effort into pairing each dish with the wine, says Chef Bradley.”

Quick to gain popularity throughout the night is the buttery puff pastry filled to the brim with brown butter ricotta, topped with tomato jam, pesto, and toasted pine nuts with a 2019 Elk Cove Goodrich Chardonnay. “We really wanted to give it that unctuous toasty, buttery flavor, which could be my dancing name if I had to pick one,” jokes Chef Bradley.

Table by table, patron’s eyes and pallets continue to widen as the hours and courses pass, relishing each edible masterpiece adorned on their dinner plates. The evening's adventure reaches its delectable conclusion with a dessert selection for the Vine & Dine attendees. With wide grins and sighs of content, participants take pleasure in each bite of the sweet and savory edible farewell, indulging in selections of goat cheese and pecan, pot de crème with cherry, and the beloved crowd favorite—almond cake adorned with spiced pear.

As guests depart, they carry with them the memories of an utterly captivating and joyous night, capitalizing on artful culinary, friendship, charity, and most importantly, community. Vine & Dine is more than just a food-filled event, as it’s a celebration of life in the heart and soul of Paducah. Until paths cross again, may your palate be delighted, your senses be awakened, and your love for all things cuisine continue to flourish. Cheers!