Oaks behind me, I needed Oats. On Derby morning, I was tasked with breakfast, both personally and professionally. The Historic Homes Foundation was nice enough to invite my wife and I, along with media sponsor Garden & Gun magazine, to the 34th Annual Historic Homes Foundation Derby Breakfast at Farmington Historical Plantation. The Plantation is nestled next to Sullivan University, and when I say ‘nestled’, I am speaking of the one-lane tree-lined road along the student dorms. This secluded road leads to what used to house a 50-acre hemp plantation built for John and Lucy Speed during 1815 and is now a national historic treasure.
As guests arrived, they were greeted by professional photographer, Chris Joyce Photography, who presented everyone with a souvenir photo in front of the beautiful steps leading to the main house. Inside the foyer, tour guides provided intricate descriptions of the families lives, down to the wallpaper which was iconic of the period and was also used in the U.S. Capital Building.
On the back porch, friendly hosts offered Rooibee Red Mint Julep Iced Tea and Korbel Mimosas. Through the hedges, guests could see several Sullivan University students busy carving ice sculptures. We later discovered these pieces of frozen art were part of their course curriculum. Steps from the porch of the main building, a barn stood decorated with a beautiful chandelier from Bittners and flooring from Longwood Antique Woods. Farmington Historic Plantation has stunning gardens that were accented for the event with landscaping by Frank Otte Nursery, such as espalier trees which were trellised to the entrance of the wooded barn for effect.
The buffet was filled with local foods that seemed to be specially made for the Derby guests. Julep’s Catering at Sullivan University prepared a sumptuous upscale breakfast feast featuring country ham, roasted chicken, beef tenderloin, Kentucky smoked bacon and sausage patties, stone ground Wiesenberger Mills grits with shrimp, chive biscuits and gravy, fresh spring asparagus, roasted herb red skin potatoes, fresh seasonal fruit and berries, a lavish bakery display including muffins, croissants, coffee cakes, bread sticks and French bread and an array of tempting desserts to include bourbon banana pudding, raspberry and lemon bars and mint julep and Oaks Lilly cupcakes. A personal highlight was a 138th Kentucky Derby horse sculpture crafted from butter and an intricate cake sculpture that featured derby icons: mint julep cup, ladies hats, jockey helmets and roses.
With the music provided by the very talented Porch Possums playing in the background and while attacking the buffet line, we paused at the grits station, where we met Chef Tony of Juleps Catering. My wife, being a fan, complemented Chef on the grits and he was kind enough to hand-write the recipe for their famous Cheese Grits, which includes:
- 1 qt Wiesenberger Mills grits
- 1 qt heavy cream
- 1 gallon milk
- 1 stick of butter
- 1 lb smoked gouda
- Salt & Pepper to taste
In the early morning heat, I assumed my glasses had fogged up upon seeing the hand-written recipe. When asked, Chef Tony replied with a laugh, “Those sizes are correct. That is the only way I know how to make it!”
Savoring breakfast, my wife and I were struck by the charming southern fashions that surrounded us. The gents donned their festive pastels and derby-themed ties, while the ladies preened in their summer dresses and lavishly flowered hats. Colorful galoshes were a favorite accessory for those who had attended the event in the past.
This wonderful event featuring southern foods and local merchants is the perfect precursor to the Kentucky Derby. Southern hospitality was on full display from the lush gardens to the historic buildings to the gracious guides and chefs.
The annual Derby Breakfast at Farmington Historic Plantation should be a fantastic prologue to next year’s Derby story.
(Photo: Hope Helton)
The Historic Homes Foundation was honored to have Brown-Forman, Hilliard Lyons, Kentucky Select Properties and Wilkinson Builders as premier corporate sponsors of this year’s event. Other sponsors include Bittners, Elements Therapeutic Massage, Frank Otte Landscape & Design Group, Gumer & Co., Heine Brothers/Vint, Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens, Juleps Catering, Longwood Antique Woods, Publishers Printing Company, Reliable Rentals, Republic Bank, and Rooibee Red Tea.
Proceeds from this event benefit the ongoing operation of Farmington Historic Plantation, Thomas Edison House and Whitehall House & Gardens. These three significant properties are owned and operated by the not-for-profit Historic Homes Foundation. The Foundation was chartered in 1957 for the purpose of purchasing, preserving and displaying historic buildings and their collections, as well as for furthering the advancement of education, culture and the arts in Kentucky. For more information on Farmington and its three properties, visit on-line at www.HistoricHomes.org.