Sunday, May 6, 2012

Derby Day 2012!

Yesterday marked the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby.  A nice gathering of people assembled at Bourbon Steak for the big race and it filled up even more as we got closer to post time.  Everyone dressed their Derby best and there were some really impressive hats worn by the ladies, keeping with tradition that dates back to the 1800s.  I think I can safely say that everyone had a great time.

The Mint Julep in all it's glory

The mint juleps prepared by the bar staff were cool and refreshing and they tasted great!  This year they even stepped up their game and got some legit julep cups, courtesy of Woodford Reserve.  At $5 it was an easy decision to enjoy one if you hadn't tried them before.  It also made it an easy decision to enjoy 10 if you had tried them before.  Fried green tomatoes and buffalo oysters were passed around and those were good as well.

The Derby Day trophy and prize for best hat

Earlier in the day, I had gotten my arts n crafts on and created some prizes for the person with the winning horse and for best hat (the trophy box wrapped in tinfoil contained a stainless steel Churchill Downs julep cup) The numbers 1 through 20 were distributed to the first 20 people who showed and that was their corresponding horse in the race.  The horses went to post and a few minutes later it was all over.  In the end, it was the #19 horse, I'll Have Another (10:1 odds), that crossed the finish line first and won the Kentucky Derby.  It was the first time in Derby history that a horse starting from the #19 post won the race.

Winner of the race prize with #19 I'll Have Another

Winner for Best Hat
My horse was the #5 Dullahann who finished 3rd.  I also had an exacta and trifecta bet going but the winner busted both of those since I didn't have him on either ticket.  It's kind of inexcusable not to have a horse named "I'll Have Another" on my ticket.  The payout on a $2 trifecta was $3065.60.  That woulda been nice!

A big thanks to GM John Riccardo and all of the staff at Bourbon Steak for being the host bar for the Kentucky Derby for the past two years.  I'm looking forward to doing it again next year...if I'm not at the Derby in person!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Derby Day Drink - The Mint Julep

When it comes to drinks for Derby Day, there's the Mint Julep and then there's nothing else.  The mint julep and the Kentucky Derby have been kissin' cousins for a long, long time.  Spring is here and it's hot in South Florida.  This drink is sure to keep you cool and refreshed while you watch and wish for your horse to come in!

I've been busy at the Blind Tastes Speakeasy mixing up mint juleps all night and we've finally nailed down a solid recipe to pass along so I'll share it with you below.  Don't forget that Bourbon Steak will be mixing up juleps like crazy for $5.00 tomorrow so be sure to come to the party dressed in your Derby Day best and ready to have fun and stay refreshed.

Bourbon, simple syrup, mint, & a stainless steel Julep Cup is all you need...
There are two schools of thought on the mint julep.  One says that the julep is a drink to savor and the other says that the julep is to be consumed rapidly.  Members of the savory club will use a higher proof bourbon to combat the melting of the ice over time that will water down the drink slightly.  Those who drink quickly will not pay attention to proof and instead focus on their favorite bourbon to add flavor.  Both sides will agree to stay away from the more premium bourbons whose flavors need not to be ruined in a cocktail.

Here's what you'll need...

8-10 mint leaves
1oz simple syrup
3oz bourbon
crushed ice
additional mint sprig for garnish/aromatics
1 stainless steel julep cup or other drinking vessel of your choice

I tend to fall in the middle but slightly to the rapid consumption side.  I've always found that Woodford Reserve makes for a great mint julep, especially if you're using a stainless steel julep cup.  Stirring will frost the cup and the cocktail will stay ice cold with minimal melting goin' on.  Woodford is a 90.4 proof (45.2% alcohol) bourbon with nice notes of wood and very floral on the finish.  I like the way the floral notes blend with the mint.  It's also not very sweet which is key because we'll be adding simple syrup.

To begin, take your mint leaves and gently muddle them in your julep cup.  You really don't need to go nuts here.  Just a light muddle will release the oils of the mint to get them rockin'.  Next, add your simple syrup.  I like to give a little stir here too to marry the mint and sugar water together.

Now you'll need your crushed ice.  You can crush it easily in a blender but the heat from the blender will produce some water so be sure to strain the ice out before adding to the cup.  The alternative is to take a towel and put your wrap your cubes in it and then beat the crap out of it with a rolling pin or a wooden muddler like I do.  You'll want to fill it to the rim or above the rim.

The next ingredient is the star of the show - the bourbon!  pour it over the ice and then grab a bar spoon and stir until the outside of the julep cup begins to frost.  If you're using a glass this may be tough to achieve so you can just move on to the next step. 

Ok, you've got your bourbon in there, it's icy cold and you're ready to go bottoms up!  But wait!  Add a little spring of mint to the drink.  When you sip the drink, the aroma of the mint will tickle your nose and make your julep taste even more awesome.  Pro tip: that mint is still good!  Pluck the leaves and use it for your next julep!

The Mint Julep
So, there you have it.  I hope this improves your Derby Day experience and that you'll enjoy a couple juleps while cashing in on your winning ticket!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Derby Day Grub - the Hot Brown

Everyone knows the official drink of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep.  We'll talk more about that later in the week.  But what about some Derby Day grub to provide a nice base for that bourbon you'll be drinking?  One solution, and a pretty awesome one at that, is the Kentucky Hot Brown.

I was visiting a customer on the outskirts of Louisville when they recommended I try this sandwich.  It was created at the Brown Hotel in the 1920's and has been a favorite of many ever since.  Picture a couple pieces of Texas toast piled high with roasted turkey, tomatoes, and bacon, covered in a creamy cheese sauce known as "Mornay sauce". 

Pair all that with an ice cold mint julep and you've got a sweet and savory Derby Day for sure.  Interested in making one for the Derby?  Here is the original recipe, courtesy of the Brown Hotel.

2 oz. whole butter
2 oz. all-purpose flour
1 quart heavy cream
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
Salt & pepper
14 oz. sliced roasted turkey breast
2 slices Texas toast (or any thick-sliced toast), crust trimmed
4 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp
2 tomatoes, sliced or halved
Paprika and chopped parsley, for garnish

  1. In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk whipping cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. For each hot brown, place one slice of toast in an oven safe dish and cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.
Serves 2.