If you are visiting Kentucky the first Saturday in May for the Kentucky Derby, prepare yourself for a day to remember at historic Churchill Downs. No sporting event on the planet is more exciting than the Kentucky Derby. Of course, as a historical nut, I’m enamored with the history of the race. You can imagine how Louisville was abuzz with the upcoming event that was sure to make history. Each time I enter Churchill Downs I envision the women in their long bustled dresses and beautiful hats alongside men wearing frockcoats and top hats, cheering the chestnut thoroughbred, Aristides, across the finish line in 1875. On that day, 10,000 spectators filled the grandstand to witness the beginning of a tradition which garners more excitement year after year.
The thrill of watching world-class athletes thunder around the dirt track vying for the grand prize in horse racing will certainly be the highlight of the day. But be assured you will be in for a day of people watching along with the races. The eye-popping fashion is a close second to the beautiful horses, and for those millinery lovers like me, you will not be disappointed. Peering down over the crowd from Millionaires Row you will see an assortment of hats as colorful as a field of poppies. Some chapeaus are simply outrageous, while many are so beautifully designed that their creators should receive their own garland of roses.
While you are in Kentucky you should treat yourself to one local fare specialty. Hot Browns are not served at the Derby, but you simply must indulge before you leave the Bluegrass State. The original Hot Brown was created by the chef at the Brown Hotel in Louisville in the 1920’s, and has become a tasty Kentucky tradition. My favorite Hot Browns are served at The Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville and Cast Iron Steakhouse in Prospect, KY.
If you are unable to make it to Louisville for the Derby, host your own party. Have a contest for best hat, serve Hot Browns and enjoy the race. Mint juleps optional!
Hot Brown Recipe
4 thick white bread slices (Texas toast is a nice option)
3/4 pound sliced roasted turkey
1 cup Parmesan cheese
6 – 8 bacon slices, cooked
For Mornay sauce see recipe below
Preheat broiler with oven rack 6 inches from heat. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and broil 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until toasted.
Arrange bread slices in 4 lightly greased broiler-safe individual baking dishes. Top bread with turkey slices. Pour hot Mornay Sauce over turkey. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Broil 6 inches from heat 3 to 4 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned; remove from oven. Top sandwiches with tomatoes and bacon. Serve immediately. Serves 4
½ cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 ½ cups milk
½ cup parmesan cheese
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Dash of nutmeg
Melt butter in saucepan over med-high heat. Whisk in flour and continue to whisk until smooth, whisk in milk, continue whisking, bring to boil, then lower temp, keep whisking, cook 1 to 2 minutes, add parmesan, salt and pepper.
**This photo has a little bit of cheddar cheese added on top – not necessary, but looks great in a photo! In the summertime, I sometimes substitute peaches for the tomatoes. (It’s a southern thing!)
For British heiress Mary Ann Hardwicke, the Wild West is the perfect place to make her own life and escape the stifling privilege of an arranged marriage. Hard at work proving her independence, it’s little wonder she has no time for handsome cowboy Luke McBride. No matter that he somehow understands the freedom she so badly needs–how could she trust such a wild spirit, much less find a way to love him?
Like the broncs he busts, Luke doesn’t see himself settling down in one place, let alone with one woman. So at first, Mary Ann is just an intriguing challenge. But her determination and bravery are sparking a longing to prove he can be the truly good man she deserves. Now as their enemies work to separate them, they will take a dangerous gamble on faith to claim an enduring love . . .
Scarlett Dunn lives in Kentucky surrounded by all manner of wildlife, and enjoys long “God walks” where most inspiration strikes. Possessing an adventurous spirit, and a love of history, particularly the pioneers of the West, she has a special place in her heart for all cowboys, past and present. Readers can visit her website: www.scarlettdunn.com.