By CHRIS ALDRIDGE, Kentucky Agricultural News
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Hollywood elite will get a taste of Kentucky Proud bourbon chocolate candy in their swag bags at this year's Oscars.
Every guest attending the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, which will be televised on ABC, will receive a box of truffles hand made by Art Eatables, a Kentucky Proud business in Louisville.
Art Eatables will ship 500 custom boxes of its chocolate truffles infused with Kentucky bourbon to the Oscars on Feb. 24. Husband-and-wife owners Forest and Kelly Ramsey commissioned an artist to create artwork especially for the box.
"We are giving them a truly unique box of candies from Kentucky," Kelly said. "It will be something for them to remember. I'm hoping we can be a part of it [Oscars] every year."
Kelly said Art Eatables truffles are not promoting just the candy in Hollywood but also Kentucky's bourbon industry. The truffles are made using bourbon from well-known brands such as Marker's Mark in Loretto, Ky., as well as small-craft distilleries such as MB Roland in Christian County.
"We're not just making bourbon candy; we're representing Kentucky's bourbon industry," Kelly said. "I'm a bourbon lover who makes bourbon candy for bourbon lovers. The truffle is just the way we get it to them."
Art Eatables wouldn't be part of this year's Oscars if it were not for a chance meeting about a year ago. A businessman from Los Angeles stopped by its retail store at 631 S. Fourth St., three blocks south of Louisville's Fourth Street Live! entertainment district, and bought some boxes of bourbon truffles to give as gifts.
"Several weeks later, I got an email from him," Kelly said. "He told me he helped produce an event called the Grand Gala at [the Kentucky] Derby and asked if I wanted to make my truffles part of the event. I didn't realize then what the Grand Gala was, but it was hosted by [singer/actress] Jennifer Hudson.
"Afterwards, I got another email from him. He said, 'Hey, your truffles were a hit. My company also does swag bags for big events. Do you want to be part of the Oscars in 2014?'
"I said, 'Are you serious?'
"He said our product is unique, and bourbon is becoming very popular. He said, 'It would be great exposure for your company, but you're going to give up a lot of product, and that's a lot of money out of your pocket, so think it over.'"
Husband and business partner Forest needed some convincing but reluctantly agreed.
"You never know who you will meet, who will come in your store," Kelly added. "But our product is what sold it."
The business began as an extension of Kelly's candy-making hobby.
"I made little chocolate favors for my son's birthday parties," Kelly said. "I have a friend that works at Jim Beam who gave me a bottle for Christmas, and that sparked it."
Kelly wasn't a bourbon drinker then, but that bottle of Jim Beam changed that.
"It just sort of happened," she said. "I was trying to start a candy company and get rid of my corporate job. Then I started drinking bourbon and developed this passion for it."
Kelly combined her chocolate-making skills with her newfound love of bourbon to develop the unique treat. She quit her job in October 2012 and opened the store a month later.
Art Eatables has been featured in Garden & Gun magazine as one of six artisan Southern chocolate makers.
"With more than 30 different bourbon-and-chocolate pairings, these small-batch bourbon truffles aren't your mama's bourbon balls," the magazine wrote. "Each rich Belgium-style chocolate is selected to complement a specific bourbon's character."
The current issue of Taste of the South Magazine mentions Art Eatables truffles as one of its favorite Southern sweets. The truffles will be mentioned in the March issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine.
New this month is a non-alcoholic truffle made using Kentucky-grown strawberries and raspberries, and sold at the Berea College Farm Store, 311 S. Main St. in Berea, Ky.
"It's a partnership where we take some of their fresh fruit, turn it into purees and make candy for them," Kelly explained, noting this first batch was made from fruit that was flash frozen last summer.
The Berea College Farm is a member of Kentucky Proud.
"Students grow fruit and vegetables," Kelly said, "and the farm store also sells other local producers' products."
Art Eatables burst onto the culinary scene in March 2012 on the Kentucky Proud food aisle at Kentucky Crafted: The Market in Louisville.
"That's when I met Alisha [Morris]," Kelly said, referring to the domestic trade show specialist for Kentucky Proud. "That was our big coming-out party. We told people, 'Hey, we're doing something new and different with bourbon.' People tried it and loved it."
One of those new admirers of the new bourbon truffles happened to be a representative from Maker's Mark, the brand of bourbon Kelly had used in her truffles.
"He said, 'Oh my gosh, that's Maker's Mark!'" Kelly remembered. "That day, he told us, 'I want you to start making these for us.'
"A month later, I began making truffles nights and weekends, in addition to my job. Ever since then, it [business] has been great, growing and growing."
Kelly said Art Eatables became the first official sponsor of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2012.
"It promotes bourbon, and we're doing that, too," she said. "We just do it with truffles."
Art Eatables truffles are sold at Joseph-Beth book stores in Lexington, Crestview Hills, Ky., and Cincinnati; Kentucky State Parks; and 10 other businesses in the state, as well as two locations in southern Indiana and even an antique store in Norfolk, Va.
For more information, go to www.arteatables.com.
The image above, with the Art Eatables logo on the woman's necklace, will appear on the boxes of Art Eatables truffles that will be given out at the Academy Awards in March. (Image courtesy Art Eatables)