It’s Kentucky Derby Time

These days everyone seems to be sporting their preppiest spring fashions accompanied with oversized sun hats galore. Why? Because it is horse racing season! While there is the obvious reason to attend these events (you know, to watch horses race), there are many added elements that makes these races especially fun. The Kentucky Derby is the place to be with tons of tradition, fashion, and horses.

To start there are official, friendly, and well not so friendly wagers happening all over. Whether you are at the race or at a viewing party, if you lose you’re going to have to pony up (there had to be a cheesy horse pun somewhere right?) But betting in on horses is different than a simple “win” or “lose” bet you may place on other sports. There are three basic types of bets and while I could go into each and try to explain it all, just go ahead and check out what the Kentucky Derby has to say about it.

There is also an element lost at most sporting events, fashion. Somehow the derby became the place to sport the latest fashion. There is even an event at the Kentucky Derby, called Kentucky Oak, to showing off the “Southern Bell” look. The hats are extravagant, the outfits are perfectly pastel, and the debate of whether to pick a dress or a hat first is almost as hard as what came first the chicken or the egg. All the guidelines and information about derby fashion can be found here.

Even if you aren’t at the actual race, you can still participate in the fun with a derby party! And who doesn’t need an excuse to throw a party, right? But either way, you have to eat and it is all about southern. From bourbon pickled peaches to shrimp and grits, there is nothing you can’t include. Here are some of my favorite ideas for the perfect derby party:

Hot Brown Bites

Hot browns have a rich history in Kentucky. They were created in the Brown Hotel in Louisville in 1926. The “original unique creation was an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce, a parmesan cheese, that’s served hot. Mornay is a Béchamel, or white, sauce typically made with two types of shredded, or grated cheese” according to the Go to Louisville website. These hot brown bites are an interpretation from Bluegrass Bites.

Serves: 15 bites
For Mornay sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons freshly shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to tastehotbrownbites4_Edit-684x1024
For the Hot Brown Bites:
  • 15 mini phyllo tart shells
  • ½ cup roasted turkey breast, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup diced tomatoes* (see note)
  • ¼ cup white cheddar, shredded
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon paprika (smoked or regular)
  • 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
For the Mornay sauce:
  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Slowly whisk in flour until well combined to form a roux. Cook the roux for 2 minutes stirring frequently.
  2. Increase heat to medium. Whisk in heavy cream and cook until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in cheese 1 tablespoon at a time until sauce is smooth. Taste sauce and adjust salt and pepper levels as desired.
  4. Transfer sauce to a bowl. Allow sauce to come to room temperature. Once sauce reaches room temperature, cover bowl and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (Can be made a day in advance)
For the Hot Brown Bites:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place mini phyllo tart shells on parchment-lined baking sheet, about ½ inch apart.
  2. Fill the bottom of tart shells with a sprinkling of shredded white cheddar cheese.
  3. Combine the cold Mornay sauce, turkey breast, and tomatoes in a medium-sized mixing bowl and gently mix to combine. Transfer mixture to a quart-sized Ziploc bag to use for piping.
  4. Snip the tip of the Ziploc bag. Pipe mixture into each tart shell.
  5. Top Hot Brown Bites with bacon and a sprinkling of paprika and Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until heated through. Allow to cool for a minute or two, then serve!


Baked Vidalia Onion Cheese Dip


  • 1 cup Gordo’s Cheese Dip, Original
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Onion dip2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 2 cups chopped Vidalia sweet onions, chopped


Melt Gordo’s cheese dip and mix with mayonnaise, cheddar cheese and pepper jack cheese. Stir in onions. Pour in a greased 4 cup baking dish. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with bread or crackers.

Mint Julep

  • 2 oz. Woodford Reserve®
  • 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 3 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • Crushed Ice

Express the essential oils in the mint and rub them inside the glass.  To the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon and crushed ice.  Stir. Garnish with more ice and fresh mint.

Kentucky Derby Piekentucky-derby-pie-6

Serves: 8 slices
  • 1 deep dish pie crust
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 1 cups pecan
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and flour.
  3. Add melted butter and stir until combined. Add eggs and bourbon and stir until fully incorporated.
  4. Fold in pecans and chocolate chips.
  5. Pour mixture into a deep dish pie pan.
  6. Place pie pan in the middle of a large rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, until the pie is set and the crust is light brown.
  7. Check on the pie as it it cooking. If the edges of the crust are browning too quickly, cover them with foil and continue baking.
  8. Remove from oven, allow to cool, cut and serve.
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