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  • Benedictine

    Benedictine…. Mention it to most people outside the Louisville area and chances are they’ll have no clue what you’re talking about. Here, though? We’re familiar with the rich, somewhat salty, somewhat sweet spread that makes even something as simple as a water cracker or a slice of pumpernickel seem elevated.

    Generally associated with the Kentucky Derby, and showing up on menus everywhere here locally as soon as Winter weather breaks, we’ve been known to keep Tupperware tubs full of it in the kitchen anytime the weather sits above 60. I’m not a fan of the green food coloring or green tobasco that some choose to use in order to achieve a more green sheen, rather, I let the simple ingredients to the talking, and play the flavor adjusting by ear.

    Peel and seed 1 or 2 English Cucumbers, then grate on a box grater.  Peel a small to medum sweet onion (depending on how much you love onions), and grate as well.  Add both to a strainer and squeeze out as much moisture as possible, blotting with paper towels if needed.  

    Combine the shredded veggies with up to 8 ounces of full fat cream cheese, and add a tiny bit of sour cream to make spreadable, if needed.  Add salt to taste.  

    Spread on your favorite food delivery method.  I prefer Carr's Water Wafers, while the man likes the mini Pumperickel loafs.  Top with a sprinking of freshly cracked black or white pepper, if you choose, and if possible, serve on your favorite Kentucky Derby- themed plates to make the simplest of spreads seem a little fancier.  

    ** photos by Kyle Leuken **

  • My Mint Julep

    As I type, it's 1am, and I'm propped up in bed in my NYC hotel, stuffed full of greasy, New York-style pizza and cheesecake.  Not my typical Oaks night!!  Still, I can't help but think that tomorrow (or today, if you're an early-Derby-eve-party-pooper-outer) is the Kentucky Derby!  My favorite day of the year, every year, and because I'm missing the live races for the first time since I was a teenager, I can't help that my heart is at home, dreaming of new hats, fast horses, and strong beverages.

    Still, as I mentioned Monday, a real mint julep is not my cup of tea.  I prefer not to have crushed mint floating around in Bourbon-flavored sugar water... Instead, I think I've perfected the julep game by branching off of the Carpetbagger Julep from the now closed Louisville eatery, the St. Charles Exchange.  

    In a julep cup (glass just will not do), rub a stem of mint around the interior, bruising the leaves so that the oil makes an appearance, and the cup smells like fresh mint when you take a whiff of the inside.  

    Prop up a fresh mint stem or two in the cup, along with a sturdy straw (I love these from Crate and Barrel, or these fun striped options), and pack full of nugget ice.

    In a shaker, combine an ounce of Apple Brandy (I just love the version from Huber's Orchard in Indiana), an ounce of good rye (I use Rittenhouse), and a half ounce of simple syrup.  Shake until cold, and pour into your julep cup, piling more nugget ice on top for good measure and good looks, and enjoy!

    Happy Derby, friends! My money is on Thunder Snow and J. Boys Echo.  When the track is sloppy, I always bet the long shots...  Go, baby, go!

    ** photos by Kyle Leuken **

  • Derby Essentials

    Once upon a time, the Kentucky Derby was a one-day event.  Those who owned horses, who trained them and who loved them flocked to Churchill for the first Saturday in May, then dispersed.  Over the years, as the Derby grew in popularity, it was the Kentucky Oaks, the day before, that began attracting the locals... Even now, so many that call Louisville home will only go to the track on Friday, opting instead for their living room or a friends deck on Derby Day, and leading to a city-wide closing of schools and local businesses.

    Soon, though, the tourists and the crowds figured out the draw of the Oaks as well, and the track began to flood on Friday, too...  so Thurby became a thing.  On Thursday, we locals would decide to take off work, head to the track, and get our fill of racing before the droves took over.  Great seats cost a fraction of what they would on Derby day, and the payoffs could be just as spectacular.

    Throughout the week, we enjoy Steamboat Races, Mattress Races, parades and parties.  It's almost impossible to accomplish anything work-related (that being said, I have sold a home on Derby day.  In a hat), so we resort to partying, instead. 

    Because it's just short of impossible to go from Fillies Ball to the steamboat race three days at the track (and three nights worth of red carpet events) without feeling at least a little overwhelmed, I've found that there are certain things that keep me going, comfort me, and make this season a little easier.

    ** Derby essentials ** 

    First and foremost- Bourbon.  I'm a purist here.  The only julep I like is a mimic of the now-defunct St. Charles Exhange's Carpetbagger Julep, made with applejack and Rittenhouse Rye.  As for my actual, night-time wind down, I prefer a good-sized pour of Old Forrester over an ice ball in a fancy glass.  It's pure, it's simple, and Old Fo is one bourbon whose flavor really opens up with ice.

    Along my same purist front, it's this week each year that I start making Benedictine spread, the lighter cousin of pimento cheese.  I keep it simple- grated sweet onion, grated English cucumber, and just enough cream cheese and sour cream to keep it held together.  We keep it in a tupperware container in the fridge and have plain Carr's water wafers on hand.  

    ** bourbon balls **

    I'm a fan, too, during Derby season, of Bourbon Balls.  This is where the extravagence happens- Most bourbon balls are a flimsy mass of bourbon mixed with butter and powdered sugar, encased in a hardened chocolate shell.  Not mine.  I grind shortbread cookies, melt chocolate, stir in Bourbon, chill it, form into balls, and roll them into granulated sugar, making a chocolate-y, sparkly treat.

    Seersucker pops up everywhere in this city around April and May...  While the man looks wonderful in it, I've tried a couple dresses and suits in the light, pucker-y material, and it just doesn't do well on my body.  However, I find that little touches of it throughout the house get me excited for the times to come.  My favorite is the green and white seersucker stripe, and the color options on seersucker napkins available from CHOWwithme on etsy are incredible (as are the prices!).

    Finally, friends, a huge suggestion for the ladies in the crowd to survive Derby week: flip flops.  Hear me out...  I hate flip flops, and how beat up they can become as well as how beat up they can make your feet, but after two, three days at the track, walking to and from the car, and to the betting windows in your killer Jimmy Choos, your tootsies are going to need a break.  Invest in a pair of relatively good-looking flip flops- I like the ones from The Gap- and keep them in a sandwich bag in your purse.  At the end of the day, you'll thank me for your lack of blisters!

    Friends, if you're headed to the Kentucky Derby this weekend, have fun, stay safe, and enjoy!  Bet on the long shot, have the extra dessert, celebrate a couple of hours longer, and Go, Baby, Go! 

    ** 1st photo by Kyle Leuken **

  • It's That Time of Year

    This time of year, like every typical Louisville female, my mind is on my wardrobe. From girly dresses to bright and feathered hats, I wake up daily feeling like I want to be Mag Wildwood entering a room.

    ** Holly D-D-Darling! **

    Louisvlle- and Lexington, too, truly- offer so many events in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby.  From the Great Steamboat Races to Oaks Day, the Derby itself to the breakfasts and brunches associated with Original Makers Club and Garden & Gun magazine, parties and dinners, and the Sunday morning "hangover brunch," it seems that the idea of just one outfit won't cut it.

    It goes without saying that I've been collecting Derby hats and outfit ideas for years.   I haven't missed a Derby since I was a teenager, and make it to the Chow Wagon (the local carnival food extravaganza on the waterfront) at least once a year to feed my lemon shake-up addiction.  Its truly my favorite time of year, my Christmas, and inevitably, I find a few hours to pull some of my toppers out of the basement and play dress up.

    ** hat from Dee's, Banana Republic dress, J. Crew heels, earrings found on Etsy **

    ** hat from Dee's, David Yurman earrings, Rachel Pally dress **

    ** hat from Dee's, dress from BCBG **

    ** hat from The Hat Girls, David Yurman earrings, dress from Rachel Pally **

    ** hat from Dee's, Banana Republic dress, David Yurman earrings **

    ** photos by Kyle Leuken **

  • Dinner at Gemini Chicago

    If you've been following along on my Instagram or Facebook, you'll know that while the man and I were in Chicago last week, we managed to eat our way silly!  From brunch at Hashbrowns and Siena Tavern, afternoon tea at The Allis at Soho House, to family dinner Friday night at Carmine's, we're stuffed!  We did manage to try a few new spots and dishes, but none stood out quite as well as dinner at the newly reopened Gemini in Lincoln Park.

    Nestled on the corner of Lincoln Drive and Dickens Avenue, the Gemini has a beautiful, triangular shape, as evedenced by the photo above.  Black and white awnings top windows on both sides, and the script of the entry sign is as beautiful as one could want.

    And the food!!

    We started with oxtail aglonotti and their parker house style rolls, which were salty, buttery, and perfect. The pasta was so beefy, covered in simple tomatoes and topped with shaved parmesean.  Each piece was hand-rolled.  I had a Kensington- their take on a French 75, including an elderflower vodka, while B enjoyed their Velvet Old Fashioned.

    For his main, he chose his go-to: Steak Frites, which was topped with a bone marrow butter, and I had their special of the evening, a swordfish steak with burre blanc, and we split their more popular side of peas and bacon...  which doesnt sound like much, but imagine still-fresh peas smothered in a leek cream sauce, with both tender cipolini onions and topped in crunchy onion tanglers.  I could have had it as a meal alone!

    For dessert, we split The Chocolate- a pot du creme severd alongside two homemade Oreos.  I'm not usually one for chocolate desserts, but holy hell... This one was delicious (though I'll admit, I didn't get quite as much of it as I wanted...

    We both mused how the feel of this place- the atmosphere, the music, the dishes themselves- reminded us of our favorite hometown spot, Rye on Market.  I know we'll definitely be going back, and next time, we've got our eye on the Duck Confit Nachos.

    Friends, if you're in the Chicagoland area, go check Gemini out.  At least belly up to the bar and grab that aglonotti and a cocktail. You won't be disappointed.

    ** all photos via Gemini's Instagram, and website **

  • Chicago Eats

    Each Chicago trip, we make a point to branch out a bit, try a few places we've never been before.  We test fun cocktails, visit the buzzed-about new hot spot.  We do, however, have our standard, go-to resturants and bars that just lend the feeling of being at home.  We hit the road tonight for a week in our second city, and I can guarantee a few places you can find me...

    ** That time we randomly ran into our clients in Chicago who insisted on taking our photo because it was my 30th Birthday, and we were waiting on pizza at Giordano's **

    In Chicago, you have your pizza spot.  You don't cross borders.  You find the pizza you love the best and you stick with it and fight for it.  Some vote for Lou's, others Pizano's, some Gino's.  For us, it's Giordano's.  There's something about the strings of cheese on the first slice, the crunch of the double crust along the edge.  We may have driven all night, but if we make it before close, we stop.  Have we ordered delivery to the hotel?  Maybe.

    ** Mama's Meatball Salad at Carmine's **

    Part of the Rosebud family of resturants, Carmine's is as old school Italian as it gets.  The man's go-to is a small caprese and Mama's Meatball Salad- two of their house made veal and beef meatballs along side a traditional salad.  Danny, our favorite server, reccomends mixing the two together.  It's hefty, and its a solid meal, despite being a "salad," especially when paired with a generous pour of Oban 18-year Scotch.  The vibe here is incredible- the patio opens during warmer months, offering either heat lamps or an awning, depending on what's needed, and inside, you can catch live music at the bar.  You'll definitely hear a lot of Goodfellas-esque accents, and it's those men that are the most polite.  

    ** Pump Room **

    Pump Room...  What can I say? A legend in it's own right, the Pump Room has been around since 1938, and has maintained a reputation of style, good food, and star watching ever since- Elizabeth Taylor, Mel Brooks, and Bill Murray have graced their plush banquettes.  Originally part of the Ambassador East hotel (the one in Hitchcock's North by Northwest), and now part of Public Chicago (our home away from home), renowned chef Jean-George Vongerichten has taken control of the kitchen, and his dishes are AMAZING...  The fried chicken is incredible, and the sweet pea guacamole is a staple even in our own home.  This is where romantic dates and friendly catch-ups happen.  

    ** Hashbrowns **

    We almost always leave town on Sunday midday.  It allows us time to roll out of bed, pack, and restraighten the room, while our cousin makes his way down to Old Town from Wrigleyville.  And, almost always, we meet up at Hashbrowns on Wells.  A local diner, with great coffee, and an easy menu, it's the perfect place to grab brunch before hitting the road back home.  Their servers are kind, their customers are local, and their sweet potato hashbrowns....  Oh my goodness...

    I'm making myself hungry!

    On the list to visit this trip are The Allis at Soho House as well as Cindy's Rooftop.  The Allis is supposed to have incredible tea time and brunch while the views at Cindy's look amazing!  Farewell, friends.  I'll see you when I wobble myself home.

    ** The Allis at SoHo House **

    ** Cindy's Rooftop **

  • Chocolate and Pistachio Tart

    Easter seems to be one of those holidays where there's a bit of pressure put on the host.  Its the first big gathering day of Spring, the first reminder of the tulips we planted last year, and the first opportunity to host a sweet dinner, to be thankful for your friends, to swoop out of the kitchen with a beautiful dessert...

    The Chocolate and Pistachio Tart from Martha Stewart is, in my opinion, a showstopper! Thin, nutty, sweet, and salty.  It can be a little dressy, on a beautiful glass stand, or a little more relaxed and rustic, as I've done here.  

    While I'm usually an avid Martha follower, I suggest pressing the dough into the tart pan instead of trying to roll and transport it, and I double the recipe for use in my 11' pan.  If you don't have safflower oil (or don't want to buy a bottle for a few teaspoons use), canola or vegetable works just as well.  Last Christmas, I sprinkled a little pink sea salt on top as well, but this week, I chose to stay true to the original, and dressed it up with waxflowers and pink dogwood blossoms.

    Find Martha's original recipe here, and look for the wood slice platter at Target.

  • In the Navy

    Inevitably, the grass is always greener.  Those with wavy hair wish it were straight, while those with straight would love a week without their curling iron.  Those living in a cooler climate wish for warm weather, while those with humidity crave a dry heat...  Its never ending.  We want what we don't have.

    Our kitchen is perfect.  Its beautiful.  Its clean, and a little funky.  Its white....

    Lately, I can't get the idea of a moody blue kitchen out of my head, and mostly, I blame it on this photo; a butler's pantry from designer Theresa Rowe.

    ** Theresa Rowe **

    Navy cabinets, that marble slab counter top, a black subway tile backsplash, and that gold hardware!  Gorgeous!

    The idea of navy as a neutral is a wonderful one- from a kitchen with a little bit of funk, like the one above, to a more traditional, I feel like navy cabinetry can work in really any home. Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles magazine has featured the two below, each a little more reserved than the one above, but both with deep, beautiful navy cabinetry.

    ** via Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles **

    I'd be torn on how I would design a navy kitchen in my own home...  I just love that first photo, so I feel like I'd lean that way...  Perhaps a mercury glass backsplash, matte black accessories, and a huge, branching chandelier.

    ** via The Home Depot **

    ** Crate and Barrel **

    ** via France and Son **

  • Between the Sheets

    I've never been one to spend a ridiculous amount of money on bedding.  Even now, my linen closet holds only three sets of sheets, all of them clocking in at under $100 (for a King set!!).  However, I've slowly been coming around to the idea of "building" your bedding collection; items like linen sheets for summer, sateen finishes for a smooth, cool feeling.  Embroidery, monograms, duvets, quilts, and throws can round out a medley of options so that you don't end up rushing to get everything out of the dryer on laundry day before collapsing on the mattress with only a bathrobe to cover you.  We've all been there.

    It's hard for me to break away from the idea of what a "perfect" bed looks like.  Being a Cancer, and very much a nester and a homebody, not to mention a Realtor, each morning, I fight the desire to make the bed, corner the edges, drape the fur throw just so, and head out.  That means that each day I walk in and see the bed in a different way (perhaps Bryan took a midday nap and left the pillows all mussed) I freak out a bit.  

    However, aside from my go-to's- the Performance Sheet Set from Threshold at Target and the Supima Hotel Sheet Set, also from Target- I've found myself drawn to the Lino 11 Linen Sheets from Crate and Barrel, as well as the Italian Hotel Satin Stitch from Restoration Hardware.  Both sets hit the ol' wallet at the $200 mark.

    ** Lino 11 **

    ** Italian Hotel Satin Stitch **

    I'd love to add in a fluffy duvet for summer, since our current quilt is just too heavy and not breathable enough for the warmer months, but wouldn't mind a very lightweight king-size throw, either.

    Friends, what's your bedding behavior like?  Do you switch out sheets with the seasons and have a collection of toppers depending on your mood, or are you the type who settles on your go-to and calls it a day?

    For beautiful advice on laundering your bedding, while remaining environmentally conscious, check out the bedding care guide from The Laundress here. This post is not sponsored.

    ** 1st photo by Kyle Leuken **

     

  • The Quirk Hotel

    ** The Quirk Hotel, via their website **

    ** Boxwoods, pink velvet, and striped awnings **

    This week, I had the opportunity to travel to Richmond, Virginia with a group of almost 40 fine Realtors from my office.  We went with the intention of attending an incredible event (which we did), and through bus break-downs, carsickness, and skipping DVD's, we made it late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Wednesday, I decided to take myself down to the new and fabulous Quirk Hotel and treat myself to lunch at the Maple & Pine Restaurant.

    ** Quirk Hotel Lobby, via their website **

    ** Maple & Pine Bar **

    On the walk down, I happened to find myself a lunch date in a gentleman attending the same conference from North Carolina by way of Czechoslovakia.  We split a basket of Parmesean and Gruyere cheese puffs (incredible!), and I had a baby lettuce salad with oranges, beets, candied pecans and a tarragon vinaigrette, while Peter had their roast salmon with bacon lardons, cipollini onions, and a sweet potato puree.  

    ** cheese puffs **

    ** the dining room **

    According to our sweet server, the Quirk just opened in 2015, after serving as a department store for many years. They've grown pretty popular due in part to raves in Garden and Gun and online- and with good reason!!  Aside from the food being delicious, the service prompt, and genuinely friendly, the decor is killer- hot pink dining chairs, that bar, a wrought-iron staircase (that I'm hoping was original to the building), and a fun, contemporary art collection.  The rooms look equally as beautiful, and I hear that the rooftop bar is one of Richmond's warmer weather hot spots, as well as a popular wedding venue.

    ** guest room, via the hotel's website **

    ** rooftop bar, via the hotel's website **

    With suggestions for the city's Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the incredible street art, as well as some pretty swoon-inducing architecure, I'm feeling a quick weekend away with the man soon.  You can bet that we'll be hiding in one of these blushing guest suites...  especially since the room service menu includes everything found at Maple & Ash.  Nothing beats breakfast in bed, friends.

    ** pink lampshades and potted kumquats **

    ** Unless noted other wise, photography by me. **