A new link from Princeton to Louisville was forged a couple of weeks ago when the smokehouse meats of Col. Bill Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Hams were featured on a special menu for a five-course “Ham and Bourbon” dinner at The Brown Hotel.
The event was held Jan. 11 in The English Grill at The Brown and featured ham curer Nancy Newsom Mahaffey’s products and the culinary creations of Chef Laurent Geroli.
A week before the dinner, Geroli, The Brown chef de cuisine James Wilfong, publicist Jamie Estes and Rachel Goldenberg of Estes Public Relations and food writer Steve Coomes made a visit to see the Princeton business and its owner firsthand.
The products sold locally and nationally by Newsom Mahaffey were paired with bourbons from Heaven Hill Distilleries.
Newsom Mahaffey, owner of Col. Bill Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Hams and Newsom’s Old Mill Store, is the third generation owner of the Princeton business that started as the H.C. Newsom Store, a general store down by the old mill on Main Street.
Her grandfather opened the door to his store on Jan. 1, 1917. The formalization of the commercial ham business came when her father Col. Bill bowed to regulations of sales of hams from the family farm, requiring construction of a federally inspected facility in the 1960s.
She took on the family business in 1987 when the grocery store location, which remains vacant, was gutted by an overnight fire. Newsom Mahaffey had been working with her parents in the family business, but became the driving force behind the Old Mill Store and Col. Bill Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Hams when her father, already in his 70s, looked at the burned out store and at his daughter, who wanted to go on, and said, “All right then, you do it.”
And, do it she did.
Newsom Mahaffey proceeded to delve into the retail business and to steep herself in the nuances of the aged ham business, which used a curing process that had been in her family since the 1700s. Through this venture, she has made the discovery, “That it is not people who make history, but history that makes people who they are.”
In those years since 1987, Newsom Mahaffey has continued the mercantile tradition begun by her grandfather, Hosea, and the ham curing tradition begun by her father, Bill. Newsom’s hams had attracted the attention of such celebrated chefs as James Beard and Julia Child.
The hams that Nancy crafts have earned her the name “The Ham Lady,” continued to be a staple of James Beard award winners and nominees across the country, gained her a place in Peter Kaminsky’s “Pig Perfect,” have been featured in numerous newspapers, magazines and books, and in 2009 earned her an invitation as the first American ham maker to attend the World Congress of Dry-Cured Ham in Aracena, Spain, where a Newsom’s ham was placed in the Jamon Musuem.
The business has come now, under her guidance, to another fork in the road with a small expansion planned to hold on to the parameters of the 300-year-old process, while adding the capacity to produce just a few more of the hams that chefs like Geroli want to give a try — just a few more to give those looking for that old ham flavor an opportunity to try the Newsom’s version.
Newsom Mahaffey said that many of those who seek out the ham have read about it in magazines, newspapers, blogs and webzines across the country.
“We often find out about who has written about us from our customers and friends, who will tell us where they have seen an article or share a clipping.”
“Events like those at The Brown are a wonderful tribute for us,” said Newsom Mahaffey. “It is a real validation that we are holding on to those traditions, not just how we craft our hams, but service to the public as well, that have meant so much to each of us — my father and my grandfather before him.”
In the hotel promotions of the event, Estes wrote, “The world’s finest dry-cured hams will be the main attraction at the Brown Hotel on Friday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. when Col. Bill Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Ham and the English Grill present a one-of-a-kind 5-course dinner.
“Executive chef Laurent Geroli will highlight smokehouse aged country ham, bacon, sausage and prosciutto in a gourmet meal infused with Kentucky bourbon.
“Nancy Newsom Mahaffey, “the Ham Lady” and current owner-operator of Col. Bill Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Ham, will share the story of her grandfather’s 95-year-old, family-operated ham business at the event. The company gained notoriety as a favorite of the late James Beard. Mahaffey will talk about the ‘lost art’ of artisanal ham curing and explain how she uses a 300-year-old process to hand-craft country delicacies.”
The day for The Brown event started with two morning television programs. Newsom Mahaffey and Chef Geroli were featured — she talking about her historic business and store in Princeton and he cooking up a sample of the evening’s menu and discussing the dinner ahead at The English Grill.
Newsom Mahaffey and Geroli appeared live at 8:15 a.m on WDRB in the Morning and live at 9:15 a.m. on WHAS11’s Great Day Live.
“I really wasn’t looking forward to the television part of the day, but I did feel honored that they had chosen Newsom’s to highlight for this event.
“Everyone that we dealt with was so professional that they made the day go smoothly,” she said.
“Chef Geroli, chef Wiilfong, all the staff at The Brown, Jamie and Rachel were wonderful to work with.”
At The English Grill
The dinner at the English Grill started at 7 p.m.
The menu included:
•Savory Bourbon Waffle with Newsom’s Smoked Cured Bacon Jam paired with Bourbon Eggnog, Evan Williams Bourbon and Eggnog
•Newsom’s Smoked Sausage Po’ Boy with Pumpkin-Bourbon Mustard paired with Berhheim Sparkle, Bernheim Wheat and Sparkling Wine
•Seared Grouper with Newsom’s Aged Country Ham Brown Butter, Whipped Parsnips, Honey-Bourbon Carrots paired with Cold Toddy, Larceny Bourbon, Honey and Lemon
•Seared Filet Mignon with Truffled Cauliflower Puree, Fig Jam and Newsom’s Dry Aged Prosciutto paired with Old Fashion Fig, Evan William Single Barrel, Fig Jam and Club Soda
•Dessert: Newsom’s Smoked Cured Bacon-Chocolate Soufflé with Bourbon Anglaise paired with Elijah’s Coffee, Elijah Craig 12 year, Kahlua, Coffee and Bourbon Whipped Cream
With each course on the menu, Newsom Mahaffey spoke to the diners offering a course on Newsom’s and the ham curing business.
About the Brown Hotel
The Brown Hotel, located at Fourth and Broadway, has been a Louisville tradition since 1923. It is home to the AAA Four-Diamond English Grill and the casual venue J. Graham’s Café, where guests can try the legendary sandwich called the “Hot Brown.”
The Brown Hotel holds a AAA Four-Diamond rating, is a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts and Historic Hotels of America and was recently named one of the world’s top 500 hotels by Travel + Leisure Magazine.
For more information on this luxury hotel, visit www.brownhotel.com or call (502) 583-1234. Follow the Brown Hotel on Facebook and Twitter.
About the Chef Geroli
Laurent Geroli was born and raised in Montreal, but his culinary career has taken him all over the U.S. and the Caribbean. He received his first taste of professional cooking when he was courted to work in his uncle’s catering business while still in high school. Geroli later accepted a job at the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel in Montreal.
With the appreciation for his talent growing in the restaurant world, his career allowed him to travel and work on sandy shores at various Club Med locations in the Caribbean and Mexico. Then the Ritz-Carlton took notice of the young chef. He worked in Ritz-Carlton hotels from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, to Phoenix, Arizona to Montreal. Now with over 20 years of culinary experience, Geroli thrives by celebrating the cuisine he showcases at the award-winning Brown Hotel in Louisville, having thoroughly earned an esteemed position among Louisville chefs.
About the Bourbon
Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., is a private family-owned and operated distillery company headquartered in Bardstown that produces and markets the Heaven Hill brand of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and a variety of other distilled spirits.
Its current distillery facility, called the Heaven Hill Bernheim distillery, is in Louisville.
It is the seventh-largest alcohol supplier in the United States, the second-largest holder of bourbon whiskey in the world, the only remaining family-owned distillery in Kentucky (not counting the Brown-Forman Corporation, which is publicly traded but more than two-thirds family-controlled), and the largest independent family-owned and operated producer and marketer of distilled spirits in the United States.
Weblinks for the television appearances are:
WDRB in the Morning:
Great Day Live at WHAS11:
(This story appeared in the Princeton Times-Leader, Jan. 2013)