Friday May 6, 2011

Mint Julep Tulip off to the races!

When I first started college, after introducing myself to someone, they’d almost inevitably say something like, “Oh! You have the most adorable/hysterical/unusual accent, where are you from?!” Now, as far as Kentucky accents go, a Lexington accent doesn’t even register compared to the dialects found in more eastern parts of the state. But, I shall assure you, the Yankees noticed.

It became such an issue that when the time came for the hallowed tradition of having one’s CIA issue knives engraved at Warren Cutlery, I had to have “Kentucky” put on them rather than “Stella” because a lost knife would never find its way back to me otherwise. I was Kentucky.

mint julep dessert for Derby day

At the time, I fancied myself all kinds of cultured and I took it rather badly that somehow the way I spoke immediately tipped folks people off that I weren’t from around these here parts hailed from somewhere more provincial. I became hyper conscious of the way I spoke and within a few months I’d killed my accent completely, though the moniker stuck.

One night, while my friends Luke and Ryan nearly came to fisticufs debating a hypothetical Iron Chef style situation wherein Carême would challenge Point to cook a meal judged by Escoffier, another friend offered me a drink. I took a sip and nearly spewed it everywhere, bringing conversation in the room to a halt and turning the attention to me.

“What kinda crap is this?”

“Aw, little Kentucky can’t even handle a bourbon and Coke!” Ryan teased.

“Please,” I scoffed. “I’m from Kentucky. I drink my bourbon neat, not with a mixer like some sorority girl.”

I’d actually never even had bourbon before. I just said the most bad-A thing I could think of that would let me save face while simultaneously making the guys look like pansies. It also, unfortunately, lead to bourbon shots.

mint julep panna cotta with candied mint and bourbon pecan macarons

No matter. I had long before learned to eat and drink much worse while keeping my face an emotionless mask (file under: church potlucks). I could nail a few shots to prove a point, no problemo.

The unexpected thing I learned that day (aside from the fact that I could drink a roomful of guys under the table) was that I felt a tinge of pride while talking smack about Kentucky bourbon. People the world around respect the tradition and craftsmanship of good bourbon; as a Kentuckian I could claim that history too.

After that incident, I started embracing my Kentucky roots. From the culinary hallmarks of buttermilk biscuits, burgoo, country ham, bourbon and the Hot Brown, to the more cultural aspects: Bluegrass music, Wendell Berry, and all things Thoroughbred.

These new interests seemed to culminate in the Kentucky Derby. Suddenly newspapers remind us of famous Kentuckians (George Clooney!), bourbon becomes the drink du jour (Mint Julep!), burgoo appears on the menu (squirrel?) and everyone becomes a racing fan, even if only for two minutes.

fresh mint panna cotta with mint syrup and bourbon cream

Ten years later, I still drink my bourbon neat. So if I want to get my Mint Julep on, I do it with dessert instead. Each year, I try to find a new way to incorporate bourbon and mint into a Julep themed dessert.

This year I’ve raided the bar and snatched up all the baby tulip snifters to house fresh mint panna cotta with spearmint syrup, bourbon Chantilly, and bourbon pecan macarons. (I don’t really care for Derby Pie, but it’s existence has put in my mind the idea of pecans on Derby Day as a semi traditional. Their nutty richness works spectacularly with the light, fresh flavor of the panna cotta and the boozy bite of the bourbon.)

Don’t serve this to kids. Bourbon makes up twenty percent of the Chantilly by weight. I’ve likewise loaded the macarons with enough bourbon to make a grown man fail a Breathalyzer. In either case, the creamy, bright taste of the mint panna cotta balances out the sharpness of the bourbon and the flavors all come together in a minty, boozy sort of vibe just right for Derby Day.

We’re serving this all weekend at Table 310, but if you’d rather make your own for Derby Day (or Mother’s Day!), try these recipes:

Mint Julep Panna Cotta
Candied Mint Leaves
Bourbon Pecan Macarons

With or without the panna cotta, the bourbon pecan macarons have become a huge favorite of mine. They taste nothing like a classic French macaron because they don’t contain any almond. Pair with a lightly salted vanilla buttercream instead for another classic Kentucky flavor, Buttered Pecan.

posted byStellaand filed under:  Gluten Free  Local  macarons  Sideshow Photos

18 comments and counting

May 06, 2011 · 10:58 AM

Man your macarons never cease to amaze! Love them!

 · Xiaolu ·

May 06, 2011 · 10:58 AM

I remember when we first moved to Southern Indiana (on the other side of Louisville) from upstate NY. I was definitely not used to all the y’alls and twangs I was hearing… and now, 10 years later – I’ve developed a little bit of that KY accent. It’s something worth embracing, I suppose!

This is perfect for Derby weekend! Wish they could be serving these at the track today and tomorrow!

 · Peggy ·

May 06, 2011 · 11:25 AM

Loved the story. I remember being in Payard’s and someone not only nailing my Ky accent , but coming within 40 miles of exactly where I found it. In any event your Old Pappy is waiting to entertain you this evening.

 · deadly · 

May 06, 2011 ·  6:33 PM

This post is brilliant. Not only are you an incredible baker(/ pastry chef), you’re also a super writer. Damn your awesomeness Stella!

 · isabel ·

May 06, 2011 ·  7:35 PM

@Xiaolu, yours aren’t too shabby either!

@Peggy, Yup, it’s totally contagious. I’m sorry I killed my accent, now that it’s gone I can’t get it back. Weird. Wish I could be at the track tomorrow…

@deadly, I remember that!! That was the craziest. We’re about to pack up and head out, ready for the Pappy Van!

@isabel, wow, you really had me laughing. Thanks!


May 07, 2011 · 12:58 PM

Love your Kentucky engraving!

 · Nelly Rodriguez ·

May 07, 2011 ·  1:48 PM

This is one of the most gorgeous desserts I have ever seen. Wow!

 · Mad Hausfrau ·

May 07, 2011 ·  7:09 PM

Aww, when the boys introduced us I only knew you as Kentucky.

The dessert is beautiful!

 · Mousey · 

May 08, 2011 ·  9:09 AM


Aside from your food comments, which as are always clever (in the Norwegian sense of the word), I especially appreciated your Wendell Berry note. He is the most important role model in America today for how to live one’s life. peace

 · uncle c · 

May 08, 2011 · 12:53 PM

@Nelly, I should upload some photos, I still use those knives and tools every day! Do you still have yours?

@Mad Hausfrau, thank you so much!

@Mousey, it’s one of those memories where I sometimes imagine you were there when I know you weren’t. It’s hard for me to believe in my time at the CIA before I knew you. Before you were my across the street neighbor!

@uncle c, in the Norwegian sense, eh? I’ve been especially into Wendell Berry’s poetry lately…Love!


May 08, 2011 ·  1:32 PM

Re your tweet: When you guys are ready you will know, and I promise to not prod anymore. Let them eat cake.

 · deadly · 

May 08, 2011 ·  9:44 PM

SUPER freaking creative! BUZZED!

 · Tiffany ·

May 09, 2011 · 10:36 PM

Soo cute and so perfect for the Kentucky Derby! Love this!

 · Kelly ·

May 10, 2011 ·  9:40 PM

@deadly, haha. Right.

@Tiffany and @Kelly, thanks so much!


May 05, 2012 · 11:58 AM

Oh, friend. My big city editor kindly called my voice “honeyed”. I’ve not lost my twang, and at times it worries me when speaking publicly.

This dessert is truly inspiring! Did you say 20% in the Chantilly? I die.

 · Heather ·

May 07, 2012 ·  4:21 PM

@Heather, ooh, honeyed just sound so nice! I can’t wait to talk to you sometime soon and hear it for myself!


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 · Augusto de Arruda Botelho ·


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