The Run for the Roses Food Edition

We’re off to the races and the horses aren’t the only things exciting us about the annual event. The Kentucky Derby is known for it’s delicious foods and luxurious libations. Let’s take a look at what to expect.

1. Hot Brown: Pretty much unchanged since its invention by the chef of the Brown Hotel in the 1920s, this open-faced, spare-no-calories sandwich has gained worldwide popularity while increasing belt sizes all over Louisville.

In the wee hours of the morning, the guests would grow tired of dancing and retire to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Diners were growing rapidly bored with the traditional ham and eggs, so Chef Fred Schmidt set out to create something new to tempt his guests’ palates. His unique creation was an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce on buttered toast.

2.Mint Julep: Ahh, the most famous drink of the Derby! Every year, the Kentucky Derby brings horses, celebrities, monumental hats and, yes, a mad call for mint juleps. All over Louisville there will be all sorts of boozy minted concoctions passing themselves off as juleps, but don’t be fooled. Anything less than perfection renders this cocktail unpalatable. Pewter julep cups are de rigueur; the mint needs to be spearmint; the bourbon should have at least 10 years of age at barrel proof. Bruising the mint with a muddler is too violent, a gentle coaxing is enough. The ice must be ground so fine it almost floats, and use just enough simple syrup to give it the intent of sweetness.

3. Kentucky Burgoo: Some people maintain that Burgoo could be from a mispronunciation of the word barbecue, or a mispronunciation of bird stew.  More likely, as the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press , Volume 1 A-B and supplement, 1978) suggests, burgoo was originally a thin gruel or porridge made by sailors in the 17th century.Like all worthy stews of the region, this one has unconfirmed origins, countless recipes and territorial guardians who proclaim that theirs is the “right way” to make it. A favorite on Derby day, no proper celebration should be without it. Since there are many variations, there is no distinct recipe but if you want to make your own burgoo start with as much meat as you can: a combination of mutton, beef, pork and chicken will do fine. Chop up an assortment of corn, potatoes, lima beans, tomatoes, and okra until your arms give out and a feeling of abandon creeps over you. Add spices, Worcestershire, cornmeal … add whatever you want, really, because it’ll all magically come together in the end.Boil low and slow while stirring. When you can no longer discern a strand of any ingredient in its original form, you are ready to eat.

4. Pappy Van Winkle: Bourbon is made from at least 51 percent corn and aged in charred oak barrels that give it that distinctive sweet bite and alluring smokiness.A fine bourbon is best sipped with a cube of ice, maybe a few droplets of water added. That’s all. And there is none finer than Pappy Van Winkle on Derby day, still carefully crafted by the patriarch of bourbon himself, Julian Van Winkle. These are coveted bottles, meant only for the closest of friends and dearest of family.

5. Derby Pie Invented nearly half a century ago at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky, this festive pie has become so popular (and profitable) that the name has been trademarked and annual sales easily exceed 100,000 pies a year.Inside the delicate crust is a filling of chocolate and nuts so unbearably sweet, your teeth will quiver. Whipped cream does nothing to soften the blow. This is one intense dessert. You can try making one yourself or, if you are like me and crave the sugar overdose of the real thing, you can simply order one online. Best eaten with a dinner fork and a mug of strong coffee, it is a fitting exclamation point for your Derby festivities.

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

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