Friday, May 5, 2017

The Bucket List: Derby Style

The first Saturday in May- aka- Derby Day- is one of the most romantic traditions in the sporting world. 

Here, at Bounty Hunter, we were lucky enough to get the full scoop on the best things to do in Kentucky leading up to the fun weekend from our Wine Scout Ilse Chun, who has deep Southern roots from growing up in Charleston S.C. and attending high school and college in Louisville, KY

When it came down to writing a blog post, it was a no-brainer to invite Ilse to be a guest and write about the love she has for the Kentucky Derby. 

The very first Derby race was run in 1875, and in later years was nicknamed “The Run for the Roses”- referring to the Churchill Downs race track founder’s proclivity for decorating his parties with copious quantities of rose garlands and bouquets. For locals, Derby is a weeklong celebration that begins on the Saturday prior to the race, and really hits its stride on Oaks Day- the Friday before Derby. Attending Derby and the events leading up to it, is one of the great pleasures of life, and after logging many hours of Derby revelry over the years, here is an insider’s list to maximizing your Derby experience.

For ladies and gents, procuring the perfect hat, will maximize your Derby experience, so a one of a kind, handmade chapeau from Olivia Griffin of Louisville’s The Mysterious Rack, is the savvy place to start. (558 S 4th Street, Louisville, KY.)

Oaks Day is all about the ladies- featuring 3 year old phillies racing around the Churchill Downs track. Junior Leaguers and equine enthusiasts alike, deck out in head-to-toe pink attire, to raise money and awareness for breast and ovarian cancer survivors.  Some locals, hoping to avoid the mayhem and hoopla of Derby, will opt to attend the Oaks, in lieu of the Derby.

Working in fine dining in Louisville for many years, I giddily looked forward to seeing the trainers and jockeys in my restaurant for dinner on Oaks and Derby Day. Beloved trainer Bob Baffert materialized like clockwork each year, sipping his Diet Coke and charming everyone- including the staff. Guests imbibed Single Barrel Bourbon flights like the one below and Manhattans, and service was always smooth and filled with colorful fashion and Southern gentility.

If you are planning to make the Derby pilgrimage you’ll want to book your hotel and restaurant reservations at least a year in advance. Everybody who is anybody already has a standing table, so it’s on you to plan ahead. The pinnacle of all that is right and good in food, wine, and service is at Jack Fry’s Restaurant on Bardstown Road. Founded by a bootlegger and his wife in the 1930’s, and known mainly to locals, Jack Fry’s is famous for their herb-encrusted pork chops and their expertly-curated bar. Bartender Nick Owens has a few favorites for this festive time of year, including Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey Caribbean Rum Cask Finish served with an ice cube, and The Bluegrass Mule- an invigorating update on the more touristy Mint Julip: with mint-tea-infused ginger syrup, shaken with Makers Mark Whiskey (try our exclusive BH Maker’s Mark bottling), orchard peach liquor, a kiss of lemon, and a fresh mint garnish. After sipping one of Nick’s classic cocktails, humidity and high heels will no longer be a factor.

After a busy day of selecting your horses and screaming your head off, you will crave the 4 Diamond luxury of Louisville’s finest and most historic hotel, The Seelbach.

Boasting a virtual who’s who of guests, from Gatsby’s F. Scott Fitzerald himself, to John F Kennedy, I make a point to stay here for at least one night, every time I return to Louisville. The hotel’s historic Old Seelbach Bar is renowned for its monumental Bourbon list and for its signature classic:

The Seelbach Cocktail:
1 oz Bourbon (We love the Old Forester BH Selection #3 Single Barrel)
4 dashes of Angostura bitters 
Pour in cold Champagne 
Finish with a long orange twist

Before you fly home, it is customary to ingest Louisville’s most legendary recipe: The Kentucky Hot Brown. Chef Fred Schmidt, (interestingly, the father of my first restaurant boss, Fred Schmidt Jr.), conceived of this decadent dish, sensing that diners craved more than a simple omelet. With layers of thickly sliced turkey breast, nestled between Roma tomatoes, bacon, Texas toast, and Pecorino Romano cheese, this is the key to your Derby recovery.

With the right ingredients and a few simple instructions, you will create classic cocktails from the comforts of your kitchen. Here's our recipe for The Manhattan, featuring some famous bartender 'secrets' along with all the ingredients you'll need to become a Manhattan master. You’ll receive one bottle of each ingredient listed below along with the recipe and instructions.

After much lauded success with the Angel's Envy Bourbon, the Hendersons have put their hat into the rye whiskey game for a few years now. Following the same principles as with their bourbon, this is finished in Caribbean Rum casks. A spicy rye that is bolstered with unctuous notes of blackstrap molasses, cocoa and mouthfuls of honey. A rye unlike anything else, this is not to be missed. Limited availability.

Perhaps the most unique of all barrel selection experiences, we were enthralled to come up with this "stave finished" whiskey. It's a whiskey that envelops your senses with robust aromas of barrel spice, caramel, toffee and vanilla, and a lingering trace of campfire in the background. The palate has a Cognac-like elegance, and the cask-strength bottling packs just the right punch to leave you wanting more. Our first trip to Loretto is one you’ll want to savor!

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