Prospect's food columnist runs through the joys of bourbon at brunch and day long sugar highsby Wendell Steavenson / June 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
“Kentucky Derby weekend is about never slowing down.” © Velo Steve
There is no finer place to find yourself on the first weekend in May than Kentucky. I landed in a throng of giant hat boxes bumping through the arrivals hall at Louisville airport. Spring was green all over and the dogwood was in bloom. My taxi drove through stone gateposts and up a long curving drive to a grand and columned mansion and deposited me in the middle of a cocktail party. A banjo trio were playing in one corner; the assembled guests murmured a soft and tinkling sound, like pearls clicking gently against champagne flutes. A waiter appeared with a silver tray of frosted silver goblets. “Mint julep ma’am?”
This was my introduction to the Kentucky Derby. It was a most marvellous and swellegant weekend. My host was an old friend of mine, Molly, the daughter of a newspaper proprietor and a member of the Louisville great and good—or, as she put it wryly, “the same six families who have been going to each other’s parties for generations.” For two days I was swept up in a happy swirl of ice cream colours and candy-striped seersucker.
I have always been skeptical of the mint julep. Bourbon, ice, mint, a ton of sugar. Too sweet, too sickly. The first evening I surreptitiously put a slice of lemon in mine. “Don’t let anyone see you do that!” said Molly laughing. Her sister Emily stirred her spearmint into the crushed ice slushie and took a sip. “The secret is to steep the mint in the sugar syrup overnight.” I lost money backing a horse called Sugar Shock that day and stuck to mimosas.
On the grand day of the big race we went to Emily’s for breakfast. A waiter swooped in with a welcoming silver salver of something he described, in deep southern gravel tones, as brown sugar bacon. Candied bacon, sticky-toffee porky; it made my teeth ache as much as fudge. I reached for another piece.
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