Stay, Play and Eat at the Derby

You know you’re in Kentucky for the Derby when you step off the plane in the Louisville airport and get handed Bourbon Balls!

While the Derby itself is only about two minutes in length, the activities that surround this great American horse race begin about two weeks before it’s even run. Making reservations to stay, play and eat is probably a good idea if you’re planning to go as many venues are booked up months before.

The Pure Leaf team put us up in style at the historic The Brown Hotel.

While I’m sure there’s always a plethora of people watching to be done here, over Derby weekend taking a seat in the opulent lobby and absorbing the architecture of the hotel, as well as the fashion and hats of the patrons, is a fun way to spend some time.

Built in 1923, it has seen many celebrities and prominent people come through its doors over the years.

The Brown Hotel is situated at the corner of 4th and Broadway in downtown Louisville, and as our room wasn’t quite ready for us when we arrived, we took a little stroll down 4th.

We noticed signs in many of the shop windows informing customers that they would be closing early due to the Pegasus Parade. Now that intrigued me as I love a parade!

Unlike the Taste of Derby which is an exclusive event, the Pegasus Parade is, I gather, a family affair that is quite looked forward to in Louisville. It would seem that way by the crowds of people reserving places on Broadway for hours prior to the official start time. The street was completely blocked off to traffic and on this hot afternoon, kids were enjoying bubbles and cotton candy waiting for the parade to start.

Fortunately for us, the windows in our hotel room faced Broadway and we were able to see the beginning of the Pegasus Parade, while we were getting ready for Taste of Derby. We didn’t get to see a lot of it, and missed Cindy Lauper who was the grand marshal, but I did manage to snap a few pictures.

Eating and drinking is a BIG part of the Derby, and Kentucky is known for its bourbon and Mint Juleps. But there are a couple of other dishes that are famous in this city as well.

One of the them is Derby Pie. Kern’s Kitchen holds the trademark for the actual name Derby-Pie but this chocolate nut pie is replicated by others. This is quite an incredible dessert.

And then there’s the “Hot Brown”. In the 1920’s, The Brown Hotel was known for its dinner dance. Early in the morning hours, those attending would be tired of the dancing and visit the hotel restaurant for something to eat, usually meaning breakfast type fare was served. Eggs and ham were getting old to the returning guests, so Chef Fred Schmidt created The Hot Brown; an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon covered in a Mornay sauce.

In a funny story to go with that; Gail Simmons had mentioned when we had breakfast with her, that the bell boy that escorted her and her husband to their room told them that they had to “have a Hot Brown, and then nap”. When asked if she had ever had one, she related that she had only once, but she cheated, as it was the one Bobby Flay made for a “Throwdown Showdown”, in which Flay was the ‘loser’ to Joe Castro, the Chef at The Brown Hotel.

That being said, we went to Dish on Market to eat after the Derby, and this family restaurant did not disappoint on the food. A couple of us had a Hot Brown (and since it wasn’t at The Brown Hotel, I guess it was a ‘fake’ Hot Brown), and it was delicious, but yep, I definitely needed a nap when I was done!

Dish on Market is also known for it’s burgers, and came out on top as the Best Burger of 2011 by the Leo Reader’s Choice awards in the Louisville area, maybe this is why….

So if you’re ever in Louisville, I suggest you try some of these tasty foods and check out The Brown Hotel even if you don’t stay there!

I was invited to participate in a taste immersion experience with Pure Leaf, for which they provided full travel expenses, meals and accommodations and other premiums, however my opinions are completely my own and I have not been compensated to publish positive or negative reviews of the event or products associated with my experience.