Joel Ray's Lincoln Jamboree
Scott Berryman, president of Valentine’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Winchester, once savored a bowl of ice cream every night. He’s altered that routine, but not his love of the frozen treat.
Now “it’s one spoon at a time, all day long,” Berryman says, laughing.
Berryman makes 30 to 40 tubs a day of his handmade all-natural super premium ice creams, sorbets, and Italian-style gelatos at a plant in Lexington. For quality control, Berryman has the enviable task of sampling each 3-gallon batch.
Though he offers more than 100 varieties and can make nearly any ice cream flavor by request, his personal passion is for chocolate—especially the Kentucky Bourbon Ball gourmet flavor, which has a creamy base blended with Kentucky bourbon and chocolate imported from Ghana.
The chocolate is distributed to Berryman by Ruth Hunt Candies, which makes 70 kinds of sweets from its Mt. Sterling plant, 550 N. Maysville Rd., Mt. Sterling, KY 40353, (800) 927-0302, or online at www.ruthhuntcandy.com.
To see what confections Ruth Hunt candy makers can create, call to schedule a tour, limited to 15 people per tour, and held 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Berryman and Ruth Hunt Candies have also teamed up to create an ice cream based on the candy company’s popular Blue Monday candy bar.
For ice cream, using the finest, freshest natural ingredients is important to the end product, Berryman says, including Indonesian vanilla extract and Kentucky-grown strawberries. Depending on the variety, ice cream prices range from $33 to $46 for 3-gallon purchases, and between $19.50 and $27.75 for 1.5-gallon containers. Six pints are sold for $27, and additional shipping costs apply to all mail orders, Berryman says.
Originally inspired to make ice cream to supply his ice cream parlor in Winchester, which closed in late 2001, Berryman attended ice cream and gelato-making courses in Charlotte, N.C.; over the past four years he has created his own offbeat recipes like sorbets made with blood oranges or wine, and seasonal ice cream favorites like Dutch apple pie, pumpkin, or eggnog.
The gelatos, available in 10 flavors including tiramisu and roasted almond, have about half the butterfat content and have a more concentrated taste.
“There’s a lot more oomph to a gelato as far as flavor is concerned,” Berryman says.
Now focusing on the wholesale market, Valentine’s Gourmet Ice Cream is available in Lexington, Louisville, and Cincinnati areas at Meijer, Liquor Barn, and Slone’s Signature Markets, among others. It is also sold at high-end restaurants, country clubs, and at certain Winchester-area festivals during the year, and is available for mail order.
Contact Valentine’s Gourmet Ice Cream at (859) 737-0040, go online to the Web at www.valentinesicecream.com, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Orders are packed in dry ice and shipped overnight with certain minimum orders.
Free small group tours, of 20 or less, of the Lexington plant are available by request, and last about 30 to 45 minutes.
Berryman says making ice cream has really awakened his inventiveness.
“Every flavor that we have has been developed by me so it’s satisfying when people really like them.”
For other sweet treats, try these Kentucky companies:
•Bauer’s Candy Company, Modjeska candies, 1103 Dylan Dr., Lawrenceburg, KY 40342, (502) 839-3700 or online at www.bauerscandy.com. Tours daily 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. except holidays.
•The Bourbon Ball, bourbon chocolates made with Old Forester bourbon, P.O. Box 4215, Louisville, KY 40204, (800) 280-0888 or online at www.thebourbonball.com.
•Chocolate by Jamieson, premium chocolate bars made in five flavors of imported chocolate from Africa, also part of the Ruth Hunt Candy Company, 426 W. Main Street, Mt. Sterling, KY 40353, 800-927-0302 or online at www.chocolatebyjamieson.com.
•FDL Chocolates, wholesale custom chocolates and cakes, 8402 Gant Ct., Crestwood, KY 40014, (502) 296-7208. Retail orders available online at www.atasteofky.com.
•The Fudge Farm, candies and sweets, 1447 Townley Dr., Lexington, KY 40511, (502) 643-9036, orders available at www.atasteofky.com.
•Maker’s Mark Bourbon Chocolates, 2306 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, KY 40206, (800) 680-7890 or online at www.makersmarkgourmet.com.
•Mary’s Candies, assorted custom chocolates, 7408-A Hwy. 329, Crestwood, KY 40014, (502) 657-0103 or online at www.applepatch.org.
•Mom Blakeman’s Candy, pulled cream candy, 209 Lexington Street, Lancaster, KY 40444, (800) 542-4607.
•Papa’s Candies, wholesale bourbon chocolate-covered cherries, opera crèmes, and more, 921 Baker St., Covington, KY 41011, (859) 431-0499 or orders available at www.atasteofky.com or www.snacc.com.
•Rebecca-Ruth Candies, variety of liquor chocolates and more, 112 E. Second St., Frankfort, KY 40602, (800) 444-3766 or online at www.rebeccaruth.com. Call for reservations for tours for groups of 10 or more.
•Ruth Hunt Candy Company, cream candy, Blue Monday bars, bourbon balls, and more, 550 North Maysville Road, Mt. Sterling, KY 40353, (800) 927-0302, or online at www.ruthhuntcandy.com.
Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
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Joel Ray's Lincoln Jamboree
When Joel Ray Sprowles introduced his first Lincoln Jamboree show in Hodgenville, Dwight Eisenhower was president, a gallon of gas was 25 cents, and a loaf of bread was 25 cents.
The date was September 11, 1954, and 50 years later Sprowles’ Lincoln Jamboree is still going strong.
“Some said it wouldn’t last,” he says. “Well, I must have done something right all this time.”
Indeed he has.
When visitors walk into the lobby area of the Jamboree, they see a combination restaurant and museum. The dining space is appropriately named Joel Ray’s Restaurant and is open every day except Monday, while the Lincoln Jamboree is a Saturday night tradition.
The walls are jammed with Sprowles’ personal collection. There’s a larger-than-life statue of Elvis, an Elvis outfit, guitars, autographed pictures from country music singers and western movie stars, old posters, and framed letters to Sprowles.
“The most-asked question I get is did I ever meet Elvis?” he grins. “I haven’t yet.”
He is quick to tell you that not all of the pictures and autographs are of those who have performed on his stage. And he’s just as quick to tell you he’s had some performers that later became stars.
Among those who did reach star status were Bill Anderson, Billy Grammer, Grandpa Jones, String Bean, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ernest Tubb, Cowboy Copas, and Lori Morgan.
Then there was the 13-year-old by the name of Patty Ramey who later changed her name to Patty Loveless.
However, there was one talent in particular that Sprowles had a chance to book but didn’t.
“In July of 1960 an agent called me and said he had a female singer that was pretty good that he could get me for $100,” recalls Sprowles. “Female singers were not a good draw and back then $100 was a lot of money to risk. I told the agent I’d pass. Her name was Patsy Cline and that’s the biggest mistake I’ve made.”
Today, Sprowles, at 76 years of age, puts in a full day. His day begins at 10:30 a.m. and doesn’t end until he goes to bed at 3 a.m.
“I do my best work at night,” he says. “I get on the computer and get material for the show. I write my own commercials and ads.”
Sprowles doubles as the show’s MC and comedian, and by doing so has complete control over the types of entertainment his audience sees and hears.
“We are a family show,” he says. “I personally audition every act. We have lots of church groups and families here. Alcohol and vulgarity are strictly prohibited.”
The Jamboree’s fast-paced three-hour show usually features four different acts with a 20-minute intermission.
The house band is five pieces plus two female singers. Two of the members have been with Sprowles for quite a while, drummer Charles Durham for 49 years and keyboard player Ronnie Benningfield for 36 years.
Over the years he’s seen his ticket prices go from 50 cents to its current price of $8.
Sprowles figures that a million and a half people have seen his 2,550 shows.
Lincoln Jamboree and Joel Ray’s Restaurant is located on 31-E at 2579 Lincoln Farm Road, Hodgenville. Show tickets are $8. The restaurant, closed on Mondays, features a lunch buffet daily and Saturday nights from 8-11 p.m. Free RV hookups are available for those attending the show. For more information call (270) 358-3545.
•The Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site sits next to the Lincoln Jamboree at 2995 Lincoln Farm Road, (270) 358-3137, or online at www.nps.gov/abli. The Visitor Center features an 18-minute video. Park rangers are on hand to answer questions but the actual tour is self-guided. Hiking trails and picnic facilities are available. The park is open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day from 8 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. the remainder of the year. Admission is free.
•Down the road a bit on 31-E toward Bardstown is the Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek, (270) 358-3137. The 228-acre park recently became a part of the National Park Service in conjunction with the birthplace. It is open for hiking and viewing during daylight hours only.
•The Lincoln Museum is located on the Lincoln Square. It sits behind the Abraham Lincoln statue downtown, (270) 358-3163. The museum depicts the 16th U.S. president’s life during various stages. Admission is $3 for adults, $2.50 for seniors and military, and $1.50 for children. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. They are closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
•Lincoln Days Festival is held the first weekend of each October. Abe look-alikes, log-splitting competition, food, crafts, and a parade highlight the two-day event. For more information on the festival call (270) 358-8710.
Gary P. West is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
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