Derby Dishes and Delights: Traditions Worth Tasting
By Anastasia Austen, Senior Writer
Posted: 8/26/2015

“When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do.”
This quaint quote is a reminder that in even ancient times, people knew to embrace local culture and traditions when traveling to new places…the same is true for a trip to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby!
The Kentucky Derby is full of rich tradition, including delicious dishes that locals love to enjoy during Derby-time. Here are some down-home Kentucky delicacies you will want to try as a visitor to the Bluegrass State.
Benedictine- A lovely dip or spread, Benedictine was invented near the beginning of the 20th century by Jennie Carter Benedict, a restaurateur and cookbook author from Louisville. This creamy and flavorful bright green sandwich spread is made of cucumbers, onions, cream cheese, spices and a dash of hot sauce. Typically served on crustless or thinly sliced bread as finger sandwiches, Benedictine is a light, cool snack on a warm Spring day and is found being served to guests at almost all Derby parties and many regional restaurants.
Kentucky Hot Brown – In the 1920’s, the Brown Hotel was a hot spot for dancing into the wee hours and hungry partygoers would clamor to the restaurant for late night food. Fred Schmidt, the hotel chef created the Hot Brown to satisfy late-night cravings and it became a huge sensation. The original Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich, with sliced turkey served on white toast covered in Mornay sauce, then a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, completed by being oven-broiled until golden and bubbly. Pimento and bacon strips are added to the top and then served. You can still try this Kentucky specialty at the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville.
Kentucky Burgoo- This stew-like dish dates back as far as the 1700s, but there is not one “true” recipe. Original Burgoo was made from whatever meat was available, such as Rabbit, Possum, Chicken, Pork and Squirrel, paired with Corn, Potatoes, Okra and other vegetables on hand in a rich and thick tomato-based soup. Today, more mainstream ingredients are used to create a hearty and filling meal, commonly served with cornbread.
Derby Pie- The ingredients in this traditional Derby dessert are a highly guarded secret, but the basic elements are walnuts, chocolate chips and Bourbon on a flaky pie crust. Originally made in Prospect, Kentucky this dessert has been produced by the Kern family in Louisville for generations.
Bourbon Balls- Rich and delicious, Bourbon Balls were invented in 1938 by Ruth Booe of Rebecca Ruth Candy in Frankfort, Kentucky. Similar to a truffle, they are a small chocolate candy confection with a cream-filled center mixed with sugar and a hearty helping of real Bourbon. The recipe calls for the Bourbon not to be cooked out of the flavor, so the punch of the booze remains and is a part of the experience. Yes, you can get tipsy on overindulging in these rich and intense candies, so beware!
While visiting Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, be adventurous and definitely try some authentic regional fare as a part of your experience in the Bluegrass State.