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.
Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first distillery, is hosting “The Ideal Bartender Experience” as part of Louisville’s celebration of African American history. The distillery was founded by Evan Williams in 1783, but the experience takes visitors no further back then to the final days of Prohibition and into a secret speakeasy at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, a multi-million dollar artisanal distillery, immersive tourism destination and retail location on Louisville’s Whiskey Row.
The Ideal Bartender Experience, separate from the other tours available at Evan Williams, introduces guests to Tom Bullock, the first Black American to write and publish a cocktail book. Written in 1917, “The Ideal Bartender” was almost lost to history despite Bullock’s fame at the time.
Greg Boehm, owner of the New York-based company, Cocktail Kingdom, has close to 4000 books about cocktails in what is said to be the largest collection in the world. Consider the collection research as Cocktail Kingdom manufactures professional barware, reprints vintage bar literature, and a full spectrum of professional and custom barware, artisan bitters and syrups.
According to Go to Louisville, several years ago Boehm was contacted by a woman wanting to sell a first edition of The Ideal Bartender. It was the one book Boehm was missing and so he jumped at the chance to own an original copy.
“In the cocktail bar industry, unfortunately, the African American community is not very well represented at all. It is just not a diverse group, so anything that lends diversity to bartending is a good thing,” Boehm explained. “In addition, The Ideal Bartender is a little snapshot of what people were drinking pre-Prohibition, and unlike a lot of cocktail books, none of these recipes were cribbed from anyone else. This is a completely unique cocktail book.”
Bullock, a stately looking man, was known to make some powerful — and according to article in The New York Times — addictive cocktails. He was also reputed to be a great conversationalist and to have a wide range of knowledge on current events–which was expected of a bartender working in rarified places.
Though Bullock was known to the wealthy elite who sipped his cocktails he was relatively unknown until former President Theodore Roosevelt filed a libel suit in 1913 against a newspaper claiming he was not only a liar but also frequently drunk. In his testimony, Roosevelt said that one of the few drinks he’d ever had — and that didn’t happen until he had left the White House — was a mint julep mixed for him by Bullock at the St. Louis Country Club. And, Roosevelt told the court, he took only a sip or two.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called this out as a lie, printing an editorial opining, “Who was ever known to drink just a part of one of Tom’s juleps? Tom, than whom there is no greater mixologist of any race, was taught the art of the julep by no less than Marse Lilburn G. McNair, the father of the julep. Are the Colonel’s powers of restraint altogether transcendent?”
Marse, for those who don’t know their Missouri or mint julep history, was the grandson of Alexander McNair, the first governor of the state.
Whether he drank more than half of the mint julep or not, Roosevelt won his suit, and Bullock became famous for his bartending skills. Patrons who loved his cocktails included George Herbert Walker — you know the last name, as he was the grandfather and great-grandfather of our 41st and 43rd U.S. presidents, and August Busch Sr., CEO of Anheuser-Busch, who each helped get the book published.
“I have known the author for many years, and it is a privilege to be permitted to testify to his qualifications…” In all that time I doubt that he has erred in event one of his concoctions,” wrote Bush in the intro to Bullock’s book.
Bullock was quite creative when it came to drinks, creating a version of an Old Fashioned easily transported in a flask for those attending the matches at the St. Louis Polo Club.
The 45-minute tour at The Ideal Bartender Experience includes a taste of three premium whiskeys as well as a mint julep made from one of Bullock’s recipes, is one of several fascinating immersive experiences taking place in Louisville.
Tom Bullock’s Old Fashioned for the Polo Field
Fill one eight ounce flask with 100 proof bourbon near to the top. Shove four raw sugar cubes or pour four raw sugar packets into the mouth of your flask, dash eight times with Angostura. Shake the flask vigorously. Pour the contents over the largest ice cubes you can find.
Much more than a place to lay your head, 21c Museum Hotel with locations in Louisville, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Chicago, St. Louis, Lexington, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Nashville, Durham, and Bentonville, Arkansas, is a total immersion into art or, maybe better put, it’s a night in the art museum.
In Louisville, it started when I spied a 4-foot penguin at the end of the hall as I headed to my room but 30 minutes later when I opened my door, the rotund red bird was there in front of me. “Don’t worry,” said a man walking by. “They’re always on the move.”
The migratory birds, sculptures first exhibited at the 2005 Venice Biennale and now part of the collection of 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville add a touch of whimsy. But with 9,000 square feet of gallery space and art in all corridors and rooms, three-fourths coming from the owners’ private collection valued at $10 million, 21c is a serious museum.
Carved out of five former 19th-century bourbon and tobacco warehouses, 21c is both part of the revitalization of Louisville’s delightful downtown and a transformation of art from backdrop into upfront and thought-provoking.
The sleek, minimalist interior — uber-urbanism with linear white walls dividing the main lobby and downstairs gallery into cozy conversational and exhibit spaces — is softened with touches of the buildings’ past using exposed red brick walls and original timber and iron support beams as part of the decor. Named by Travel + Leisure as one of the 500 Best Hotels in the World, 21c is also the first North American museum of 21st-century contemporary art.
I find more whimsy on a plate at Proof on Main, the hotel’s restaurant, when the waiter plops down my bill and a fluff of pink cotton candy — no after-dinner mints here. For more about the cotton candy, see the sidebar below. But the food, a delicious melange of contemporary, American South, and locally grown, will please even the most serious foodinista. It’s all creative without being too over the top. Menu items include charred snap peas tossed with red chermoula on a bed of creamy jalapeno whipped feta,
And, of course, the Proof on Main staple since first opening. 8 ounce patty, char grilled to your preferred temp (chef recommended medium rare), served with smoky bacon, extra sharp cheddar and sweet onion jam to compliment the game of the meat nicely. Local Bluegrass bakery makes our delicious brioche buns. The burger comes house hand cut fries. For the ending (but it’s okay if you want to skip everything else and get down to the Butterscotch Pot De Créme, so very luxuriously smooth and rich pot de creme with soft whipped cream and crunchy, salty pecan cookies.
House-cured pancetta seasons the baby Brussels sprouts, grown on the restaurant’s 1,000-acre farm. Local is on the drink menu as well with more than 50 regional and seasonal Kentucky bourbons.
A meal like this demands a walk, so I step outside (more art here) on Main, a street of 19th-century cast-iron facades, the second largest collection in the U.S. Once known as Whiskey Row, it’s refined now as Museum Row on Main. To my left, a 120-foot bat leans on the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, across the street is the Louisville Science Center, and nearby are several more including the Muhammad Ali Center.
Heading east, I take a 15-minute stroll to NuLu, an emerging neighborhood of galleries, restaurants and shops. I’ve come for the Modjeskas, caramel-covered marshmallows created in 1888 in honor of a visiting Polish actress and still made from the original recipe at Muth’s Candies. On the way back to 21c, I detour through Waterfront Park, a vast expanse of greenway on the Ohio River, taking time to bite into a Modjeska and watch boats pass by.
21C MUSEUM HOTEL, 700 W. Main St., Louisville, Ky., 502-217-6300, 21chotel.com
As an aside, the idea for the cotton candy originated with co-founder Steve Wilson. Here’s the story, from the restaurant’s blog, Details Matter. “A memory that sticks with Steve from his younger years is the circus coming to town. Steve grew up in a small town in far Western Kentucky along the Mississippi River called Wickliffe He distinctly remembers the year the one striped tent was erected on the high school baseball field. Certainly not the large three ringed circus many others may remember, but the elephants, the handsome people in beautiful costumes…they were all there. When Steve sat through the show he got a glimpse into a fantasy world he didn’t know existed. A departure from reality. Oftentimes, after his trip to the circus, when he was sad or frustrated, he would daydream about running away to the circus. In fact, he’ll tell you he used to pull the sheets of his bed over his head, prop them up in the middle and pretend to be the ringmaster in his own crazy circus tent! In his eyes, the circus was where everything was beautiful, and no one would cry.
“Fast forward many years later, Steve met Laura Lee Brown at a dinner party in Louisville. He was immediately smitten and wanted to impress her. SO naturally one of his first dates was a trip to the circus at the KY Expo Center. Whether she was impressed or not, it seems to have worked.
“Years later, as Steve and Laura Lee were working on the development of 21c Louisville, they took a trip to Mexico City. At the end of one particularly memorable dinner, the server ended the meal with pink cotton candy served on a green grass plate. It was sticky, messy, and immediately brought back memories from Steve’s childhood. It was a feel good memory he wanted to last.
“Steve often says 21c makes him actually FEEL like the ringmaster in his own circus, so as the restaurant plans were getting finalized, he wanted to incorporate cotton candy as an homage to that feeling. As we opened up each new restaurant, the cotton candy continued, each time with a color and flavor to match the color of the hotel’s resident penguins. Eight operating restaurants later, the hope is that each and every diner ends their meal a little sticky, a little messy, and feeling nostalgic about good childhood memories.”
Recipes courtesy of Proof on Main
2 cups self-rising flour
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
¼ heavy cream
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Crisco
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grate butter on the coarse side of the grater and put butter in the freezer along with the Crisco. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix cream and buttermilk in a separate bowl. Once butter is very cold combine with the dry ingredients with hands until a coarse meal is made. Add the cold dairy to the mixture and fold until just combined. Roll out dough on a floured clean surface and cut biscuits with a ring mold cutter. Layout on sheet trays 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes and rotate set timer for 8 more minutes. Once out of the oven brush with melted butter.
SMOKED CATFISH DIP
This recipe makes a lot, but you can easily divide it—or put the extra in a mason jar and give to a friend as a holiday gift.
YIELD: 1 QUART
1 lb. Smoked catfish 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 cup sour cream 3 Tablespoons small diced celery 3 Tablespoons small diced white onion Juice and Zest of One Lemon 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise Salt and black pepper to taste
Lemon wedges Hot sauce Pretzel crackers Fresh dill for garnish
Flake the fish with your hands until it is fluffy. Combine the mustard, sour cream, celery, onion, parsley, lemon juice and zest and the mayonnaise together. Combine with the catfish and mix until it is well incorporated. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve cold with fresh dill and lemon wedges, your favorite hot sauce and pretzel crackers.
“This is a slightly complex variation of a margarita, adding smoky mezcal, bright cilantro and tangy mango-tamarind syrup. It was created as a play on the Mexican sweet treat, the Mangonada, with mango, a tamarind candy stick, and Tajin seasoning.” – Proof on Main Beverage Director, Jeff Swoboda.
3/4 oz Banhez 3/4 El Jimador Blanco 1/4 oz Cynar 70 1 oz mango-tamarind syrup 3/4 oz lime juice big pinch of cilantro
Shake together with ice, strain over fresh ice and garnish with a Tamarrico candy straw.
Proof on Main’s Mint Julep
1 cup mint leaves, plus a sprig or two for garnish
1 ounce sugar syrup
2 ounces bourbon
Crushed ice to fill glass
In a rocks glass, lightly press on mint with a muddler or back of a spoon. Add the sugar syrup. Pack the glass with crushed ice and pour the bourbon over the ice. Garnish with an extra mint sprig.
Watch candy and history being made at Schimpff’s Confectionery in historic Jeffersonville, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from downtown Louisville. Known for their red hots and red-fished shaped candies are among the originals made by this multi-generational family owned confectionery. Another favorite, dating back to when European opera star Helena Modjeska toured the U.S. several times, performing in front of vast and enthusiastic crowds in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1880s. Sure, she thrilled the elite in New York and San Francisco but did they create and name a candy after her?
No but Kentucky did and Modjeskas are very much a treat around here–marshmallows dipped in caramel and then chocolate.
Schimpff’s Confectionery, one of the oldest, continuously operated, family-owned candy businesses in the United States, began in its present location on April 11, 1891. Started by Gus Schimpff Sr. and Jr., the business survived wars, floods, depressions, and recessions through four generations and continues to flourish.
But really, those Schimpffs have been making candy a whole lot longer, starting in Jeffersonville around 1871 and in Louisville since the 1850’s. That’s a lot of candy.
The 1860 census shows various Schimpffs making candy on Preston Street in Louisville. Magdalene Schimpff, a widow, brought five of her eight children from Bavaria to settle in Louisville, where the eldest son had already settled. The two youngest children joined them after finishing elementary school in Germany. Magdalene and daughter, Augusta, went into the embroidery business while the sons went into the confectionery business.
Fast forward through the decades, no make that more than century total, according to their website
In the 1940s, Catherine, Wig, and his son, Sonny, became the working partners. Wig was the candy maker and Catherine the manager and lunchroom cook.In the 1950s, Sonny developed an area of the store as a hobby business, specializing in model trains and planes. His mother, Vivian, became the bookkeeper.
After Wig’s death in 1952, Sonny took over as the candy maker and for forty years he and Aunt Catherine built a reputation known widely throughout Southern Indiana. Sonny’s death in 1988 and Catherine’s in 1989 forced another change in the ownership of Schimpff’s Confectionery.
Still a family business, it’s now owned and operated by Warren Schimpff, one of Weber’s sons, and his wife, Jill Wagner Schimpff who bought the candy business from his Aunt Catherine’s estate. They wanted to be able to celebrate the centennial anniversary and to maintain the Schimpff family’s candy legacy.
It’s a romp through candy history as well–there’s an old fashioned soda fountain an a large confectionary museum that’s free of charge.