When visiting Kentucky, there is no doubt that you’ll get your fill of thoroughbred horses and bourbon. However, make sure you carve out some time to seek out the unique foods of Kentucky that can be conveniently found in Louisville. From obvious and delicious to odd and not so nutritious, there’s no doubt you’ll find a new favorite food or two as a result of your visit to the Bluegrass State.
Let’s Get Eating!
No trip to Louisville is complete without a stop at the regal Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville for one of the most popular Kentucky foods. It is here where you’ll find the original Kentucky Hot Brown. Created in 1926, it was a sandwich made especially to appease the late night partiers at the glorious hot spot that the Brown Hotel was during the roaring 20s. The Hot Brown has easily become one of my favorite foods to eat while in town for the Kentucky Derby.
Commonly served as a breakfast or brunch dish, a Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich made with sliced turkey breast, bacon, and tomatoes on a top of a thick slice of bread. It is topped with Mornay sauce and parmesan cheese, and then baked or broiled to brown the top.
It’s a rich and filling dish and is especially great for nurturing a bourbon hangover. You can enjoy your Hot Brown at the J. Graham Cafe, an upscale restaurant at the hotel, or at the hotel bar. If you prefer not to overindulge on this decadent dish, the Brown Hotel will happily split your sandwich on two plates so you can share with a friend (and ave room for some Derby Pie).
This is one dish that I opted not to try while I was in Kentucky. However, wherever I went, as long as I was talking to an “out-of-towner”, Burgoo stew managed to come up in conversation. Original burgoo stew was a stew made with whatever meat was available, and for the most part, that meant squirrel, opossum, raccoon and venison. Today, however, most restaurants make their Burgoo with less gamey options such as pork, chicken, and mutton.
The popular Rolled Oyster can be found in seafood and fish fry restaurants throughout Louisville. It consists of two to three large raw oysters dipped in an egg-milk cornmeal batter, then rolled in cracker crumbs, and deep fried. An oyster that is battered and fried? Sounds good to me regardless of what you call it. If you like oyster fritters, you’ll enjoy this snack food.
BOURBON BALLS (Bourbon BonBons)
You will not have too much of a problem finding a Bourbon Ball (or similar confection) while spending time in Kentucky. Whether you are visiting a distillery or going on a horse farm tour, it seems you are always being offered a Bourbon Ball. A Bourbon Ball is bite size candy, similar to a truffle or bonbon that incorporates bourbon with a chocolate exterior. It is often topped with a pecan. Traditionally Bourbon Ball was made with ingredients similar to that of pecan pie but with bourbon added to it. However, today, it is more common to find Bourbon Balls made like chocolate truffles that are simply infused with bourbon.
I had a quite a few Bourbon Balls while visiting Kentucky, but I thought the best were to be found at the Woodford Reserve Distillery. You are offered one with your bourbon tasting, but they also sell them in their gift shop. The Bourbon Balls from Woodford Reserve are made locally for the distillery with Woodford Reserve bourbon.
If it’s bourbon truffles that you are looking for, then head over to Cellar Door Chocolates. It’s a small chocolate shop located within the Butchertown Market complex. Here, you’ll find a large selection of bourbon truffles made with your favorite bourbon like Maker’s Mark or Basil Hayden.
Derby Pie is a chocolate and walnut tart with a pastry dough crust. It is often made with pecans, chocolate chips and Kentucky bourbon. It is a very sweet pie with a filling that is similar to pecan pie. It is a traditional dessert of the Kentucky Derby and is widely available at restaurants throughout Louisville any time of year.
Derby Pie was created by the Kern family in the 1950s. Only a pie made by Kerns Kitchens can be called a Derby Pie (otherwise, it’s called Kentucky pie) thanks to their 1968 trademark. If you are planning to go to Kerns to get your Derby Pie, you’ll be disappointed because they do not have a storefront. Instead, they only distribute their Derby Pie commercially. So if you want the original Derby Pie, you’ll have to seek out restaurants who buy it directly from Kerns, and the Brown Hotel happens to be one of them! So while you are there for your Hot Brown, save some room for a slice of original Derby Pie. Kerns also distributes Derby Pie to some retail stores throughout the region.
MINT JULEPSAlmost everyone has heard of mint juleps, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they are mostly associated with the Kentucky Derby. After all, over the course of two days of racing for the Kentucky Oaks and the Derby, more than 120,000 mint juleps are served up.
It is a drink made with muddled spearmint leaves, bourbon, and simple syrup served over crushed ice in a silver or pewter julep cup. Although it looks like an easy enough drink to make, you can really screw this one up. A good mint julep made with top quality bourbon will have the perfect balance of mintiness and sweetness, while a bad one will just be a diluted bitter mess (over-muddling the mint is not good!).
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be attending the races to try this drink. Most bars around Louisville will mix one up for you and serve it in the traditional pewter julep cup. If you see a huge selection of bourbon at the bar, chances are the bartender will be able to make a pretty good mint julep. Consider stopping by the Maker’s Mark Bourbon House for one.
Have you been to Kentucky? What are some of your favorite foods and restaurants? Share in the comments below.
All photos are the property of the Tripping Blonde unless otherwise indicated. All Rights Reserved.
© 2014, Tripping Blonde.
You might also like …