A true Kentucky Mint Julep, from The Bluegrass Tavern in Lexington, KY
In social settings, regardless of what city I’m in, one question comes up repeatedly as soon as I reveal that I hail from the Bluegrass State.
“Do you drink mint juleps?”
It could be the third Thursday in November, and for some reason all anyone wants to talk about from that moment forward is the Kentucky Derby and its ubiquitous cocktail. Inevitably someone in the crowd either makes “the best mint julep” or knows someone else that does. Sidebar conversations tend to break out at that point over whether the julep should be “strong” or “sweet”, whether the mint is incorperated as an essential element or used more as garnish. It’s no wonder there is confusion among outsiders over how to make a proper mint julep. Kentuckians can’t agree on the correct preparation either. Books have been written on the subject. It would not surprise me to discover a thesis at the University of Kentucky has been written on “The Psychological and Social Aspects of the Proper Preparation of the Mint Julep Cocktail”, such is the level of diverse opinion on the subject.
The dining room at Greenwich Hall.
The advantage of having a group of friends who love to cook is that if one isn’t planning a dinner party anytime soon, you can bet another one will. For the past two months I’ve been distracted by my imminent (and now thankfully completed) move back to Lexington from Georgetown. As a result my kitchen has been less than hospitable since shortly after New Year’s. Fortunately, I have friends more than willing to take on the hosting duties. And after all, an occasional change of venue does us all good.
So it was on two separate occasions over the last six weeks that I found myself – not in the increasingly uncozy confines of the Shenandoah Supper Club homebase – but several miles away among the scenic backdrop of northern Fayette County. The house at Greenwich Hall Farm dates back to the 1880’s, and has all the charm one would expect of the small horse farms that still dot the countryside in and around Lexington. Amid the budding trees and brightly blooming flowers of an early spring, touched with the ever shortening shadows of a March sunset, a group of us gathered in the kitchen to welcome in the change of season and shake off the last vestiges of our fortunately mild winter.
The day started out cold and overcast with a brief mid morning drizzle, which contributed to holding the crowd down to around 20,000 people. But by the lunch break shortly after noon the weather for the 2012 Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event had turned gloriously sunny. There was nearly a 30 degree temperature swing in just a matter of hours, however the crowd gathered around the Head of the Lake fences – where we picnicked – enjoyed the shelter and shade provided by the trees as the competition got back under way. Some of us had been there since early morning and had already covered great distances across the entire swath of the Kentucky Horse Park’s 1200 acres. We were already tired, hungry and ready for a break.
Our tailgating reputation got a little national notice this week in the March issue of Chronicle Connections, from the publisher of The Chronicle of the Horse Magazine. Be sure to check out the magazine and the article by clicking here. And don’t forget about the full coverage of our events on the Tailgating Steeplechase Style tab above. Plans for this years event are well underway. We hope to see you at the Kentucky Horse Park in May for another fantastic race (and no rain this year!)
- The view from the bar at 54 Mint
Some places you just never plan to see. No matter how much you’ve heard about them, they just never seem to make it onto you “must go there someday” list. Too many other destinations beckon more loudly, more forcibly, for your attention. For me San Francisco was one of those places, and it was definitely somewhere that I would have never made a conscious effort to see. So it was only by chance and through a business trip that I ever made it to the city at all. Now, the problem with business trips is you never have enough time to do and see everything you want to. Your schedule is rarely your own, so the best you can hope to do is cram in as much as possible before, after or in the free moments between your “official” reasons for being there. That was how I came to San Francisco and those were the circumstances under which I would have to operate. I was determined to make the best of it I could.
Truthfully, I had mixed feelings going in. If ever a city invoked strong emotions among warring factions, it was San Francisco. Whether my biases came from the East Coast or the right-wing, I came to town – fully prepared by my own prejudices – to hate the place. Despite that, everyone I talked to was confident my experience would be the opposite of what I expected. So it was with some guilty sense of prejudging a destination that I set about making the best of what I was sure would be a mediocre trip.
With limited time to do and see an entire city, I had to make some decisions on what I would intentionally leave off my “to-do” list. First thing to go: The Golden Gate Bridge. My focus was, not surprisingly, going to be on San Francisco’s culinary and whiskey scene (the latter warrants its own treatment in a separate blog post). The downside, I had a very busy schedule while in town and thus would be held – somewhat hostage – to the area immediately around the Moscone Center. In short, if I couldnt’ walk to it during my breaks and brief free time in the evening, I wasn’t going to see it.
I can’t say that visiting San Francisco next week is one of those “bucket list” items for me that everyone seems to talk about so much these days. However, the chance to enjoy some of the best the city has to offer is hardly an opportunity one passes on. What I now about San Fran could easily be summarized on the back of one those vintage postcards. (more…)
Few activities are so overtly American during the summertime than the backyard barbecue. Granted, what 90% of Americans are actually doing is more properly called grilling – not barbecue – but whichever activity you enjoy, there’s a pretty good chance you spend a good portion of your summer evenings cooking outdoors.
A recent poll on Epicurious.com asked what famous person or persons – living, dead or fictional – would you invite to your backyard barbecue (click here to see the original article). The poll is similar to one that prompted a summer blog post last year, that one involving who would you invite to your next dinner party (see “Look Who’s Coming to Dinner“). As school starts back and the summer barbecue session winds down, I thought it worthwhile to contemplate who would make the cut on my idea barbecue list. The rules, as I saw them, were that I could invite no one I included on my previous Dinner Party list, which left off some obvious fan favorites like Anthony Bourdain. However, I thought it only fair to spread the culinary love and develop a completely new list of invitees.