Local Flavor on a Horse FarmBy: The Local Palate
The landscape of central Kentucky is dotted with barns—it is, after all, horse country. And while some sag under the weight of years unused or with roofs flapped open to the elements, the twenty or so barns on the Hermitage Farm in Goshen, a quick hop north of Louisville, are all in good working order. Especially barn number eight. With stalls still intact, this particular barn has become the heart of what is now a restaurant and event space set on a working thoroughbred horse farm—Barn8.
Conjured by Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, founders of the 21c Museum Hotels, Hermitage Farm houses the restaurant Barn8, as well as a state-of-the-art greenhouse and garden, a significant bourbon program, and an interactive art exhibit.
In operation since 1936, Hermitage has housed a number of Kentucky Derby and other stakes race winners over the years and still boards them. You can take a tour, or simply watch the horses graze in the wide-open fields surrounding the restaurant. Since taking over the farm and placing it in a conservational easement a few years back, Brown and Wilson have also added artwork to the property, including large-scale sculptures from their personal collection.
The produce grown a few feet from the kitchen is just one brushstroke executive chef Alison Settle is using to paint a locally focused menu. Bison, chicken, pork, and beef are all raised on farms nearby, including Woodland Farm, the 1,000-acre property where Brown and Wilson reside and have several breeds of heritage livestock. With those two resources, Settle can source about 75 percent of her menu from within just a few miles.
Brown and Wilson tapped the budding chef when she was working at Red Hog, an artisan butcher shop and restaurant in Louisville. Prior to that, the Kentucky native learned to cook as an au pair in Germany before coming back home to work for beloved chef Ouita Michel. After eating just one meal at Red Hog, Wilson called Settle to offer her a job at Barn8.
The broad, black-and-red-trimmed barn might be dressed up with curtains to separate some of the stalls. Otherwise, it’s unceremonious. The rustic traits of its original use still in play and red picnic tables out back.