Saturday, May 2, 2009

Your Daily Dose Of Derby - Celebrating Somewhere Else!

We have made it through yet another work-from-hell week and the ongoing Derby festivities and arrived at Derby Day. Last evening we had dinner with friends and dodged limos on the way home which was just perfect. Today we are honoring a tradition most of you who don't live here won't know about--we're heading out of town, far far away from the madding crowd. If you don't go all in with this Derby thing, by the end of two weeks all you want is a change of scenery.

I am packing up Travis McGee and we are heading to Northern Kentucky to the Newport Aquarium:

Where we will observe the big and little fishies:
Then on to Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati, the most bizarre acreage of grocery on the planet with the best international food section outside of a real ethnic grocery:

And then we will worship at that altar of Swedish design, IKEA,

where I will buy something for $2.00 and Travis McGee will get his box of dark chocolate lace cookies which will be half gone before we reach the Jefferson County line. Somewhere in the middle of this highflying travel we will find a bar or restaurant with a tv and watch the race, then head home, have a late supper and hit the bed. No more Derby until next year!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Your Daily Dose Of Derby - Hospitality!

The Kentucky Derby Festival kicks off with Thunder Over Louisville (see above), the largest pyrotechnic display in North America. Over 700,000 people converged on the riverfront this year to watch the fireworks display and air show throughout the day and evening. Besides those that attend the event, there are numerous parties both corporate and private hosted by anyone with a view and a balcony.

This is an auspicious start to two weeks of non-stop revelry. I just got home from a lovely cocktail party hosted by a dear friend for 75 or so of his closest friends. I am now ensconced in my bed with four creatures and my laptop as I have you all to attend to and an alarm that will go off at 5:30 am. Most of the people there tonight, though, had either dinner plans or other parties to attend.

Likewise, tomorrow morning many of the same people will go to Dawn At The Downs, yet another chance to eat and look at horses. They will don hats and summer suits (not the same ones that will make a showing at the Oaks or Derby) and wander about with bloody marys and country ham biscuits. On Saturday many of them will attend the Governor's breakfast in Frankfort before heading to the track.
Throughout the rest of the weekend there are tons of opportunities to party. The parks will be full of families and friends barbecuing. Backyards will be filled with friends and neighbors eating and drinking and betting amongst themselves. People will cruise the streets. Restaurants and bars will be overflowing.
And then there are the official parties and galas. For sums ranging from $25 to $40,000 you can attend any number of parties including the Mint Jubilee to benefit the Brown Cancer Center, the Derby Eve Gala to benefit the American Lung Association, the 100 Black Men of Louisville Gala, and the Hillbilly Outfield Derby Party to benefit Make a Wish Foundation. The grandaddy of them all is the Barnstable-Brown Party (home of the $40,000 table) to benefit the Barnstable-Brown Diabetes Research Laboratories. Last year this party made a donation of $1 million to the foundation. There are always tons of celebrities sprinkled throughout the parties and part of the fun is spotting them around town. Even the Derby City Rollergirls, Louisville's female rollerderby team gets into the action hosting the Down and Derby Party for HIVAIDS.
The biggest hooha takes place on Derby Eve but you can even find a party on Sunday including the Yew Dell Gardens Hangover Party and the Funkmaster Flex Custom Car and Bike Show. Like I said, there's something for everyone!
As you can see, during Derby Louisville opens its' hearts, homes and wallets to anyone and everyone. In a only a short time you could see how much a sense of place Louisville imprints on those that experience it. If you come here, we will feed you, entertain you and make you wish, if for only a moment, that you could bask in the glow of our Southern hospitality forever.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Derby -- Food!

While running around from pillar to post during Derby, there is a common theme---the food! Everyone has their favorite party foods but it's hard to escape the Festival without having had at least one of the following tried and true Southern items:


Beaten biscuits are leavened with air by beating the dough repeatedly. They are not the same as regular flaky southern biscuits or even "whack" biscuits (from a can you whack to open on the edge of the counter). They are hard and white and very much a labor and time suck. They do stand up beautifully to country ham, though, which as we all know is the prize product of that most loved of all animals, the hog. There are a few companies that make them and most Southern cooks just buy them now but if you think you need to make a bread item that has to be beaten 100 times here's a recipe or go here for an interesting treastise on the breads of rural Kentuckians in the 20th century. (Actually quite fascinating).

This is what we call food that might just as well be given its' place of honor on the body from the get-go. It's going to reside on the thighs or gut no matter what. Hot Browns are toast with white bechamel or mornay sauce, cheese, turkey, bacon and tomatoes all grilled up and hot. They are a revelation to anyone who's never had one. Originally they were served at the Brown Hotel in the 1920's in the wee hours to partiers that had been up all night and still continue to be served there to this day. Here is the original recipe for them:

The Legendary Hot Brown Recipe
Ingredients:4 oz. ButterFlour to make a Roux (about 6 tablespoons)
3 - 3 1/2 cups Milk
1 Beaten Egg
6 tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 oz. Whipped Cream (optional)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Slices of Roast Turkey
8-12 Slices of Toast (may be trimmed)
Extra Parmesan for Topping
8-12 Strips of Fried Bacon
Melt butter and add enough flour to make a reasonably thick roux (enough to absorb all of the butter). Add milk and Parmesan cheese. Add egg to thicken sauce, but do not allow to boil. Remove from heat. Fold in whipped cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast on a metal (or flameproof) dish. Cover the toast with a liberal amount of turkey. Pour a generous amount of sauce over the turkey and toast. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until the sauce is speckled brown and bubbly. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of bacon on top, and serve immediately.

If you've never had a benedictine sandwich it is hard to imagine what all the fuss is about. This is, after all, a food that uses green food dye. Benedectine is a sandwich spread made with cream cheese, cucumber and onion and the previously noted dye. It is often served on crustless bread and vies with pimiento cheese for the yummiest thing that looks like you shouldn't be eating it. Most people add a bit of Tabasco for a kick and add bacon to the sandwiches because once again, the hog makes everything better.
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
3 tablespoons grated cucumber, drained well with paper towel
1 teaspoon finely chopped green onions with tops
1 drop green food coloring
Blend all ingredients together and mix well.
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Note: Serve as dip or use as spread for finger sandwiches.


Derby pies have spawned lawsuits and court battles over their origins and makeup but the truth is, Derby Pie is really just a pecan pie with some bourbon and chocolate chips thrown in. Derby Pies that are not the official Derby Pie are often called Thoroughbred Pies to keep the Derby Pie Police from getting their knickers in a twist. No matter. It is an easy dessert to make and worth the effort. Serve with bourbon laced whipped cream or ice cream.

· 1 cup all purpose flour·
6 tablespoons butter, cut into at least· 8 pieces·
1/2 teaspoon salt·
1 egg·
1 tablespoon cold water

Chocolate nut filling:
· 2 eggs·
1 cup sugar·
1/2 cup melted butter
· 1/4 cup bourbon·
1/4 cup cornstarch·
1 cup chopped pecans·
1 cup chocolate chips (6 ounces of morsels)

To make crust: Combine flour, butter and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Use a pastry cutter or 2 knives to cut the butter into flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat egg and water together. Stir into flour mixture until well combined, then press the mixture together with your hands to form a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc 1 inch thick, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use. Roll the crust to fit a 9-inch pie pan.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
To make filling: Beat eggs and sugar in a medium bowl until blended. Stir in butter, bourbon, then cornstarch. Sprinkle pecans in the bottom of the pie crust, then top with chocolate chips. Pour egg mixture over the top and bake 45 minutes. Serve slightly warm with whipped cream if desired.
Serves 8.


This picture is of the $1,000 Julep. It is served in a 24 ct. gold julep cup with Master Distiller's Rserve bourbon from Woodford Reserve,mint from Ireland and superfine sugar from Australia. It doesn't make it taste any better. I consider myself a commonsewer of fine bourbons, our house bourbon of Old Crow included. It's actually quite good for the money. I also grew up smelling the mash on the Kentucky River from the Wild Turkey distillery. Bourbon is in my blood and the mint julep is a travesty. The only people who buy the 120,000 juleps sold at the Derby are non-natives. The rest of us are drinking proper manhattans and old-fashioneds or just a little bourbon and branch (tap water) like the good Lord intended.

These foods just graze the surface of the yummy that is the Derby Festival. Maybe next year we'll talk about cheese grits, red eye gravy and Henry Bain sauce. Remember, sign up to follow or comment to win!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Your Daily Dase Of Derby -- Racing

Often people wonder what's the big deal about the Derby? It's a two minute race! What the rest of the world doesn't realize sometimes is those two minutes come after two solid weeks of racing of all sorts. During the Derby Festival we race everything including:

RATS in the Spalding University Run For The RodentsBEDS in the Great Bed Race

CARS in the Soap Box Derby:

SERVERS in the Run For The Rose

BALLOONS in the Great Balloon Race

PEOPLE in the MiniMarathon:
BOATS in the Great Steamboat Race
And occasionally a horse or two:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Your Daily Dose Of Derby - Hats

Your second daily dose of Derby speaks for itself---hats! Derby hats are de rigeur for Oaks and Derby day. You must buy, borrow or fabricate the biggest and most expressive and individual hat you can find and hope there's not another one like it in the teeming sea of 200,000 people. Here are just a few of the ways people express themselves at the derby:


With a nod to the Red Hat Society:

With a redneck flair:

To accentuate one's tattoos:

And as a way to use up all that construction paper, glue and fake flowers you've been meaning to get rid of:

Enjoy and remember--leave a comment and become a follower to be entered in the Target gift card and Barbara Kingsolver book giveaway!

Your Daily Dose Of The Best Of Derby - Flowers

Derby kicks off the gardening season in Kentucky. We waffle back and forth through March and April nursing a few pansies and putting tents over our early tomato plants but somehow, a week or so before Derby, it is time to fill the windowboxes. The weather goes from 37 to 78, the skies clear and every other street corner is filled with flats of annuals just waiting to go in the ground. We are all required to clean up our yards and houses, hang out a Kentucky flag, and once more admire that most gorgeous of all flower concoctions---The Blanket of Roses. This is draped over the winning horse and has a life all its' own this time of year. Sightseers can watch the 554 red roses being hand-sewn to a green satin backing with the twin spires at one end and the seal of the Commonwealth (we are not a state) on the other. The blanket is draped over the winning horse:

And then the girls get their day. The winning filly at the Kentucky Oaks (day before Derby) is presented with a garland of lilies: And then of course there are the grounds of Churchill Downs in all its' finery: And the rest of the neighborhoods all shined up for the event (even though this is a postcard from way back this still looks pretty much the same): So as you can see, Derby is the time we put our best foot forward. We have all been busy cleaning up debris from the ice storms and the hurricanes we experienced in the last year. Since we've lost so much in the way of plants and trees this season it seems particularly important to show that we weren't defeated by the weather and the whims of nature.

Remember, become a follower to be in the drawing to win a $25 Target gift card or leave a comment for a chance at a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's latest book about living a locavore life for a year. Tomorrow----Derby Hats

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Giveaways, Derby, And A Better Week Coming Up

I have just come off of one of those crappy weeks that can't seem to get better, no matter how hard you try and how many positive thoughts I kept forcing into my head. Part of the reason this has been so frustrating is that I returned from vacation refreshed and ready to go. You know, sometimes you come back and feel immediately that you never left. This was one of those rare vacations where I came home well-rested and full of happy thoughts. So much for that. Work was a never-ending craphole with everyone on their worst behavior and much spewing of venom and vitriole. We also learned that we will be extending our Saturday hours and not receiving any comp time for them. Between the ones of us that this affects we have theatre tickets, t-ball games, family and other business obligations and just the general need to have time off that will be compromised. I guess I'll keep my mouth shut and give thanks that I still have a job. Anyway, in the spirit of forcing this coming week to be better, here are a couple more vacation pictures that make me feel a little more mellow. This is the view from a friend of a friend's dock where we went fishing one night on the Intercoastal:
And here are the holey coquina rocks that form the wall along the intercoastal in this area:

And Travis McGee reeling in some kelp. He caught some very large kelp and other plant life but alas, no fish.
Now I'm feeling better and ready to tackle tomorrow. Stay tuned this week! I am going to give away a $25 Target gift card to a new follower and a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to a commenter, both chosen randomly. Also this week I'm making my second round of laundry detergent and also making homemade yogurt. Sign up to follow and leave a comment. I'm in a generous mood!