Louisville’s historic Brown Hotel will become home to many tourists visiting our city this week for the famous Kentucky Derby. Revered as the finest hotel in the city its opulent two-story lobby is truly breathtaking.
To celebrate Derby Week I thought I might dedicate my posts to my new hometown and state. So why not kick off with a photo tour of Louisville’s most loved hotel.
When I walk past The Brown, I feel like I am once again walking in Dublin. It’s Georgian-Renaissance facade reminds me of some of Dublin’s old hotels like the Gresham or the Shelbourne. The elegant red awning offers shade from the sun and shelter from the rain, hearkening back to days long gone. Somehow, this beautiful hotel makes me feel connected to Louisville and its illustrious past.
The hotel is probably most famous as the birthplace of The Hot Brown, a sandwich Louisville proudly claims as a true original. In the 1920’s Chef Fred Schmidt created this delicious open-face turkey sandwich, smothered in a creamy mornay sauce and decorated with bacon, tomatoes and Pecorino Romano cheese.
Later this week I’ll try my hand at this classic Kentucky dish. I picked up a copy of the recipe when I visited the Brown last week. I may have to tweak it a little bit. A full quart of cream is used for just two servings. My arteries are screaming just thinking about it. So stay tuned this week for my version of a Kentucky Hot Brown.
The welcoming hotel lobby is filled with decorative couches, chaise longues, grand pianos, decorative vases, wooden carvings and beautiful paintings. Every corner seems to whisper:
“Sit down, relax and stay a while.”
Once seated my eyes were drawn upwards towards the ornate, hand-painted, coffered ceiling. The plasterwork detail reminded me of some of the old castles and demesnes of Ireland, which were built in a bygone era when no expense was spared.
In the 1920’s over 1200 guests visited The Brown Hotel each night for dinner dances. When midnight munchies struck hungry dancers invaded the restaurant, but grew tired of traditional ham and eggs. The Hot Brown was born to satisfy these energetic dancers.
At every corner in the hotel my subconscious expected to bump into a dancer from yesteryear, all decked out with hair freshly cut in a bouncing bob and a flapper dress with dancing fringes.
Or perhaps I might find a monocled gentleman reading in a quiet corner.
Louisville and The Brown Hotel are an integral part of Kentucky’s racing heritage. Beautiful horse carvings stand proudly on marbled-topped tables, with decorative jockeys inspecting the “turf”. The beautiful Bottocino marble flooring might be a little hard on those hooves.
Galloping horses remind me this town is dedicated to its favorite sport, a pastime my Irish compatriots also truly appreciate.
And so let the races begin. Join me this week as we celebrate Kentucky, Louisville, and horse racing throughout the coming days.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)