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Kentucky highlights culinary tourism on new website

Beer cheese, a uniquely Kentucky food tradition, has its own trail, featuring eight stops in Clark County. It is included on the new food-centric state tourism website, kentuckytourism.com/food/. One of those stops is now the annual Beer Cheese Festival in downtown Winchester on Saturday.
Beer cheese, a uniquely Kentucky food tradition, has its own trail, featuring eight stops in Clark County. It is included on the new food-centric state tourism website, kentuckytourism.com/food/. One of those stops is now the annual Beer Cheese Festival in downtown Winchester on Saturday. Herald-Leader

The state wants you to eat your way across Kentucky. And officials have launched a Web page to show you where to go.

Mike Mangeot, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism, on Wednesday announced a series of new food-focused initiatives to encourage culinary tourism.

The announcement at the Kentucky Travel Industry Association's annual fall conference in Northern Kentucky followed the department's release in July of Bon Appétit Appalachia, a map of 47 Eastern Kentucky food destinations.

Food tourism is big business, as the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has shown: More than 633,000 visitors last year spent an average of $978 on each trip.

"It is estimated that over a three-year period, 27 million Americans traveled for culinary leisure, spending $12 billion on related activities," Mangeot said. "Kentucky's unique food traditions and culinary scenes present us with the ideal opportunity to attract these travelers through a series of initiatives, including media outreach, social development and of course, the website."

KentuckyCuisine.com, loaded with striking photos, highlights the state's burgeoning foodie scenes in Louisville and Lexington, and "hidden gems in smaller markets," according to a news release by the department

With a series of culinary trails — such as Western Kentucky BBQ, Hot Brown Hop, and some established routes such as the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, the Brewgrass Trail and the Beer Cheese Trail — the site is designed to draw visitors' attention to local restaurants, farms, farmers markets, breweries, wineries, culinary trails, events and recipes specific to Kentucky.

KentuckyCuisine.com also features local chefs, including Ouita Michel, episodes of Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs, and search tools for location, type and cuisine to help patrons find "the good stuff."

Another section of festivals and events could help draw visitors for farmers markets, farm tourism and holiday events.

Tourism and travel spokeswoman Scottie Ellis said the department also was planning tie-ins to pop-up culinary events that showcase local restaurants and food culture.

"This really is where tourism is going next," Ellis said. "We're trying to get in on the front end of this."

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