It’s not too late to book passage on the Belle of Louisville for one of their Halloween-themed cruises. Built in 1914, the Belle is now the last authentic steamboat from the great American packet boat era, a time when these medium-sized boats designed for domestic mail, passenger, and freight transportation plied the waters of European countries and North American rivers. Both a National Historic Landmark and an icon of the Louisville waterfront, the Belle is the most widely traveled steamboat in American history.
A family event, guests get to explore the 107-year-old boat accompanied by their very own Ghost Guide, stopping along their journey to hear terrible tales inspired by the antique steamboat’s own history and the murky depths of the Ohio River. Beyond the spooks and frights, the cruise also includes Halloween-themed crafts, activities, music, and at the cruise’s end trick or treating.
Costumes are encouraged but not required. This Hull-o-ween Family Cruise takes place on Saturday, October 30 from 1 P.M. to 3 P.M. Tickets are $35.99 for adults (15-64), $34.99 for seniors (65+), $14.99 for kids (5-14) and children 4 and under are free.
Come aboard the historic Belle of Louisville and meet your Ghost Guide who takes visitors on a tour while telling terrible tales inspired by the antique steamboat’s own history and the murky depths of the Ohio River. Continue on to the Captain’s Quarters for a Tarot care reading by a mysterious psychics. Need a drink? Head to the Ballroom Deck for cursed cocktails, costume contest, and music by DJ Jill at the Halloween Dance Party.
This adults-only (ages 21+) cruise departs at 8 P.M. and returns at 10 P.M. Costumes are encouraged for this Halloween cruise, but not required. Tickets are $35.99 for adults (21-64) and $34.99 for seniors (65+).
Why Not Begin or End the Trip with a Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel
While visiting Louisville, either book an overnight at the iconic Brown Hotel or at least stop by long enough to enjoy their famous Hot Brown invented by the hotel’s Chef Fred Schmidt in the 1920s who went way beyond anything a like typical sandwich or bacon and eggs to serve to late night guests. Instead, he whipped up a concoction that would become famous throughout Kentucky and beyond—an open faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon and a delicate but rich Mornay sauce,
2 oz. Whole Butter
2 oz. All Purpose Flour
8 oz. Heavy Cream
8 oz. Whole Milk
½ Cup of Pecorino Romano Cheese Plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish
Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to Taste
14 oz. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast, Slice Thick
4 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
4 Slices of Crispy Bacon
2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
In a two‑quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium‑low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2‑3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast with the crusts cut off in an oven safe dish – one slice is cut in half corner to corner to make two triangles and the other slice is left in a square shape – then cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of the turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place the entire dish in the oven. Suggested bake time is 20 minutes at 350º. When the cheese begins to brown and bubble, remove from oven, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.
When I arrive in the new bourbon tasting room at the historic Beaumont Inn, there are already set-ups of four bottles of bourbon with empty glasses in front of each. Master Blender Dixon Dedman, who with his parents own the inn which has been in their family since 1917, is famed for his bourbon tastings as well as his revival of the bourbon his great great grandfather, Charles Dedman, who in 1880 started up what would become one of the largest distilleries in the state, until before Prohibition shut it down.
In other words, Dedman is a bourbon expert and I am someone who in my college days mixed the spirit with diet cola. But not this evening. Dedman is going to teach me how to taste the “terroir” of bourbon meaning the type of land here—limestone rock and natural springs that give a special flavor to the wheat, corn and rye used to make bourbon. There is, I note, no diet cola anywhere in sight.
“When they char the barrel it releases the sugars and caramelizes it,” Dedman says as he pours Pappy Van Winkle, a 20-year old bourbon named in tribute to Julius Van Winkle by his grandson and great grandson who are carrying on the family tradition.
That’s important because Pappy Van Winkle is a wheated bourbon which means it contains no rye and thus gets its flavor from the interaction with the barrel.
“Focus on where you’re tasting it,” he says. “That’s how you build your palate.”
Because it’s wheated, which means, Dedman tells me, you can taste it in the front of your mouth.
Pappy Van Winkle has almost a cult like following says Dedman.
“When they’re going to release it, people sit in their cars in front of liquor stores for two days to get a bottle,” he says.
At this point, I know I can’t ask for a can of diet cola.
The next taste is a sip of Four Roses Al Young 50th Anniversary. Now I remember Four Roses as a cheap bourbon—the kind you do mix with soda pop particularly at college dorm parties but its roots go back 130 years. The brand was allowed to languish and almost disappeared until Al Young, Senior Brand manager with 50 years of experience in the bourbon biz, was allowed to bring it back to its glory. He has several blends which are based on patented yeast strains he’s developed. The taste of this bourbon comes from the yeast strains and rye and Dixon says to pay attention to its finish on the back on the mouth.
When Dixon was working on developing Kentucky Owl he wanted to emulate the complexity of Four Roses. Later this month, he’ll be releasing his Kentucky Owl Batch # 7, the seventh of his limited release bourbons.
“It’s an 11-year old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey and it’s exactly what a Rye Whiskey should be,” Dixon writes on Kentucky Owl’s Facebook page. “I put this blend together and bottled it at 110.6 proof. It’s a full-flavored rye perfect for the coming fall weather.”
Barrel aging can produce bourbons with a high proof count but then before they’re bottled, they’re watered down to around 80 proof. But Dixon wasn’t about to do that to Kentucky Owl.
“It’s full flavored,” he said about this batch of Kentucky Owl and it sure was. “You can’t hide anything in barrel proofed whiskeys.”
Later, when I’m in the dining room ordering dinner—the Classic Beaumont Inn fried yellow leg chicken, beaten biscuits, country ham—I glance at the bourbon list. I read that Dixon’s Batch #6 costs $40 a glass and am glad I didn’t ask for a diet cola. Not just because I would have looked stupid but also because I had begun to get a sense of how to appreciate a great bourbon.
But the Beaumont Inn is about more than Kentucky Owl. It was built in 1845 as a girl’s school and was bought by Dixon’s great great grandmother in 1917. Two years later she turned it into an inn. Many of the recipes on the menu and in their cookbook have been favorites since they first opened including, fried green tomatoes, house made pimento cheese, traditional Kentucky Hot Brown, corn meal batter cakes with brown sugar syrup and the General E. Lee Orange Lemon Cake.
The latter, my waiter told me, was such a favorite of the general that he carried the recipe in his breast pocket. I guess that was in case anyone asked if they could bake a cake for him. I, of course, had to order that despite being a northern girl, and it was delicious—very light with a distinct sugary citrus taste. The lightness I discovered later was because the cake flour used in the recipe is sifted eight times.
The food at the Beaumont Inn is so good that a few years ago they won the James Beard America’s Classic Award which is given to “restaurants with timeless appeal, each beloved in its region for quality food that reflects the character of its community. Establishments must have been in existence for at least ten years and be locally owned.”
The inn itself is beautiful, all polished wood and thick carpets, antique furniture and the timeless grace of a wonderfully kept three-story historic mansion with an exterior of red brick and tall white columns. Located in Harrodsburg, the oldest city in Kentucky, it sits on a rise on several rolling, beautifully landscaped acres. I mentioned Duncan Hines a few weeks ago when I was writing about Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky well, Duncan was here quite a bit too and I can see why.
“Now write this down for the people in Kentucky,” he told a reporter back in 1949. “[Say] I’ll be happy to get home and eat two-year-old ham, cornbread, beaten biscuits, pound cake, yellow-leg fried chicken, and corn pudding. And you can say what I think is the best eating place in Kentucky: Beaumont Inn at Harrodsburg.”
The food here is real Kentucky fare–Weisenberger meal from a seventh generation mill not far from here, Meacham hams which the Dedmans bring to maturation in their own aging house—a process that takes several years and, of course, Great Great Grandpappy’s Kentucky Owl.
2 cups white whole kernel corn, or fresh corn cut off the cob 4 eggs 8 level tablespoons flour 1 quart milk 4 rounded teaspoons sugar 4 tablespoons butter, melted 1 teaspoon salt
Stir into the corn, the flour, salt, sugar, and butter. Beat the eggs well; put them into the milk, then stir into the corn and put into a pan or Pyrex dish. Bake in oven at 450 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.
Stir vigorously with long prong fork three times, approximately 10 minutes apart while baking, disturbing the top as little as possible.
Country Ham Salad
6 cups chopped aged country ham
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped purple onion
1.5 cups chopped sweet pickle
2 chopped hard boiled eggs
2 tablespoons of whole grain mustard
Hellman’s Mayonnaise to your liking.
Note: This is great on crackers, finger sandwiches with a thin slice of homegrown tomato, toasted open faced sandwiches with tomato and a melted slice of your favorite cheese or as an appetizer – toasted crostini, ham spread, thin slice of homegrown tomato topped with shredded parmesan cheese run under the broiler.
Corn Meal Batter Cakes
1 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons bacon drippings or shortening
Sift meal, soda and salt together. Add beaten eggs, then buttermilk. Beat until smooth. Dip a tablespoon of batter (or a bit more) onto a greased hot griddle. Let brown on bottom, then turn quickly and lightly to brown on other side. Serve with Brown Sugar syrup.
Makes about 10-12 good-sized cakes.
Brown Sugar Syrup
2 pounds light brown sugar
3 cups cold water
Mix sugar and water well. Bring to a hard boil for 10 minutes. Do not stir after placing over heating element as stirring or agitating will cause syrup to go to sugar
General Robert E. Lee Orange-Lemon Cake
9 Eggs, separated
a few grains salt
2 cups cake flour, sifted twice before measuring
2 cups white sugar, sift 6 times
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 lemon, juice
Grated rind (yellow part only)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Beat egg yolks to creamy texture; beat egg whites until stiff. Add baking powder and tartar to flour and sift six times. Mix all ingredients together. Divide batter into four greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn cakes upside down on a rack until cool.
Spread Orange-Lemon Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Store in refrigerator until serving time. Garnish with orange slices and fresh mint leaves if desired.
¼ pound butter, softened
3 egg yolks
2 (16 ounce) packages powdered sugar, sifted
4 oranges, rind of, grated
2 lemons, rind of, grated
4 tablespoons lemon juice
6-8 tablespoons orange juice
Cream butter; add egg yolks and beat well. Add powdered sugar and grated rind alternately with juices, beating well.
Original “Robert E. Lee” Cake
Twelve eggs, their full weight in sugar, a half-weight in flour. Bake it in pans the thickness of jelly cakes. Take two pounds of nice “A” sugar, squeeze into it the juice of five oranges and three lemons together with the pulp; stir it in the sugar until perfectly smooth; then spread it on the cakes, as you would do jelly, putting one above another till the whole of the sugar is used up. spread a layer of it on top and on sides.
638 Beaumont Inn Drive, Harrodsburg, KY. (859) 734-3381; beaumontinn.com
My first stop in Kentucky last week was at Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, a large Southern Colonial style building with a long front porch, tall white columns and a row of rocking chairs. It’s the type of place Scarlet O’Hara would have been comfortable hanging around.
If the last name Sanders sounds familiar, it’s because Claudia was the second wife of Harland, better known to most of us as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame. And before we got any further, the title of Colonel is totally honorific, conferred by the governor of the state. It’s a Kentucky thing.
Claudia and the Colonel met when she was a waitress at the gas station in Corbin, Kentucky where he served his Southern-style cooking including fried chicken, gravy, biscuits, country ham, string beans, okra and other such fare. After word spread about how good the food was Sanders got rid of the gas station part of the business and enlarged the building to seat 142.
In the late 1930s Sanders restaurant was listed in Duncan Hines’ “Adventures in Good Eating” and for those of you who think Duncan Hines is just a brand of cake mixes, here’s an interesting aside. Hines was a traveling salesman who between 1935 and 1955 started compiling a list of restaurants that he recommended to fellow travelers. The list turned into a series of books and Hines also started writing a thrice weekly newspaper column which was syndicated in newspapers throughout the county.
Here’s his listing for the Colonel’s place.
“Corbin, KY. Sanders Court and Café
41 — Jct. with 25, 25 E. ½ Mi. N. of Corbin. Open all year except Xmas.
A very good place to stop en route to Cumberland Falls and the Great Smokies. Continuous 24-hour service. Sizzling steaks, fried chicken, country ham, hot biscuits. L. 50¢ to $1; D., 60¢ to $1”
Of course, eating at a restaurant associated with the Colonel and his lady (when the place originally opened it was called The Colonel’s Lady), I had to order the chicken as well as some true Southern sides—corn pudding, chicken and dumpling soup and mashed potatoes with milk gravy. If you’re shaking your head at the number of calories in this meal, at no time did we say it was lean cuisine.
Anyway, back to the Colonel and Claudia.
“The Colonel was a really good guy,” Charlie Kramer, owner of Kentucky Backroad Tours,
tells me over dinner (yes, I was eating again but more about this place in a future column). Charlie worked at the dinner house staring in the 1970s and so knew both Claudia and Harland.
It seems that the Colonel was a perfectionist when it came to cooking and not only did he come up with the secret recipe of herbs and spices that made the batter so “finger-lickin’ good” but he also realized that a new way was needed to cook fried chicken. The answer was a pressure cooker, a relatively new appliance in 1939. It was better than pan frying which took too long and deep frying which made the chicken greasy and dry. Pressure cooking not only sealed in the chicken’s flavor it also preserved its moisture without being greasy.
“He’d go around to these restaurants around Louisville and showed them a better way to make chicken,” Charlie told me. “He’d take a pressure cooker and the spices and herbs and show them how to do it. He’d ask them to pay him a nickel for every fried chicken they sold and he’d stop by later and collect the money.”
It may seem like an odd business model but it worked.
When I-75 opened, the Sanders Café was off the main road which is why Claudia and Harland moved to Shelbyville and opened the dinner club.
The Colonel eventually sold his business to John Y. Brown, Jr. who would become the governor of Kentucky and then later to PepsiCo and its name changed to KFC. The Sanders kept the restaurant where the original recipe is still being used. Both Claudia and Harland are gone now, but the restaurant remains very popular. It was crowded when I was there at lunch time on a Wednesday and it seemed like a lot of chicken was being served.
As for the recipe for the real Kentucky Fried Chicken, here’s one that is said to be real. I don’t know if that’s true but it supposedly was found in a home belonging to a Sanders’ family member when some remodeling was going on. The claim that it is the secret recipe (which is supposedly kept locked away and known by just a few people all sworn to secrecy) resulted in a long-running lawsuit between KFC and the family that says they discovered it. I do find it interesting that one of the secret ingredients is ground ginger—not an ingredient I’ve ever encountered in a fried chicken recipe before.
The Maybe-Secret-Original-Recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken
2/3 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon basil
1/3 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried mustard
4 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 teaspoons white pepper
2 cups white flour
Mix all ingredients together.
Claudia Sander’s Creamed Spinach
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
2 strips bacon, chopped fine
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped onion
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup half-and-half
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
Thaw and cook spinach 4 minutes in salted boiling water. Drain and set aside. In a skillet brown the bacon and onion. Add salt and pepper. Set aside. In a saucepan bring the half-and-half to a boil.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Mix thoroughly. Combine with the half-and-half. Cook until mixture thickens. Add the spinach and the bacon-and-onion mixture to the half-and-half. Stir thoroughly and heat.
Claudia Sanders Yeast Rolls
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter or corn oil or margarine
1 cake yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water or milk
1 egg, well beaten
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Sift flour and salt together. Work in butter. Set aside. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water or milk. Combine with egg and sugar. Add to flour mixture. Gently stir until blended.
Shape into rolls and let rise in greased baking pan for about 2 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
Claudia Sanders Dinner Club is located at 3202 Shelbyville Road, Shelbyville, KY. For more information: 502-633-5600; claudiasanders.com