Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

Posts tagged “Entertaining

On Mint Juleps and Margaritas

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.

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Dinner at Greenwich Hall

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.

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Tailgating Season Arrives

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!)

Enjoy!


Early Spring Dinner: A Day in the Kitchen Part 2

I walked into the kitchen to find Charlotte staring, somewhat apathetically, at a pile of artichokes next to the stove.  “That’s a s***load of artichokes.” she sighed, apparently realizing for the first time that – as it was her recipe – she was the one that was going to have to peel them.  I remained however happy as a clam, or rather three bags full of clams.  Being the last one in the loop on the whole dinner plan had, to my surprise, made for a relatively easy afternoon so far.  Taking a break from my bartending duties, I decided to pop down to the stream with Carlie to pick watercress for the salad.  It was my most strenuous excercise of the day, at least since I carried in the groceries a couple of hours ago.  Since the group of kids tagged along (water + mud = frolicking children every time) I was spared having to actually exert any effort at all, my whole creek side experience being relegated to “Look, there’s some over there!” while gesturing in a vague direction towards a patch of green near where the kiddos were currently splashing.  We picked mint too for the braised artichokes (this time I was the one using the royal “we”, in truth “they” picked the mint as well).  We trudged back up the hill to the house, our bag of freshly picked watercress and mint from a spring fed stream carried in tiny little hands.  The field labor unfastened their boots and washed mud off equally tiny little feet and toes,  Charlotte was turning her attention from the now peeled artichokes to the beets, which would have to be roasted.  Carlie was setting about work on the two salads: Avocado and Watercress Salad with a Green Apple Vinaigrette, along with a Potato and Fennel Salad.  More roasting to be done, I silently mused.  I realized that during my outdoor foray away from my bartending post the ice had melted in my glass.  Having nothing better to do at the moment, I though to myself  Time for a refill.    All in all, I was having a hell of a fun time.

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Early Spring Dinner: A Day In The Kitchen Part 1

There was nothing overly ambitious about the menu except there was a lot of it.  An indefinite number of adults were coming for dinner – always an interesting proposition when you’re trying to figure how much food to prepare.  However we knew one thing was for certain and that was no one had ever left one of our dinner parties hungry.  Normally I love the research and creative process that goes along with designing a dinner party – the road testing of new recipes, the tinkering with old ones, the cocktails (as I seem to always end up in charge of the drinks).  This time Charlotte and Carlie presented the plan to me as a fait accompli, it was done and decided upon before I ever knew we were planning anything.  My sole responsibility (aside from the drinks) was to prepare a Mario Batali recipe for clams in habanero chive broth (in fairness Batali uses cockles but try finding those in Lexington in April).  They had already taken care of putting together the rest of the menu.  To be honest I was a little… hurt isn’t the right word.  Disappointed?  Maybe.  I felt like I missed out on all the fun.  The creativity was gone, the excitement that goes along with that “A-ha!” moment when you stumble upon that special something that will make your dinner memorable. My role was sadly reduced for this outing. Had I done something wrong?  Did I somehow cause my culinary co-horts to lose faith in my skills in the kitchen?  Or had they just been prone to sudden joint outburst of creativity at a time when, coincidently, I wasn’t around?  Whatever the reason, it was done.  Now all that was left was the work of actually preparation of the food.

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Dinner on the fly…

Table

I am blessed to have friends that love food and cooking, while at the same time being reasonably tolerant of me. 

I have said often on these pages that the best dinners are sometimes those involving the least amount of planning. A few ingredients picked fresh that morning, maybe a quick trip to the butcher, and everything else already present and accounted for in the kitchen or pantry – nothing more is required. Saturday was one such dinner, and I should hasten to point out that I had very little to do with making it happen.

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Saturday Night Improv Dinner

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The whole idea that gave birth to the Supper Club was dinner shouldn’t have to be complicated. A quick check of respective kitchen inventories, a few recipes culled from memory or cookbooks at hand, and a trip to the grocery or Farmer’s Market for the rest. Time to table is kept to a minimum, and Saturday night was a perfect example.

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