Coal Miner’s Daughter, Elizabethtown, Goldfinger, Secretariat, Rain Man. On the surface, these five movies do not seem related. The stories are vastly different—the exploits of 007 in luxurious settings are hardly a match to the hard-working life led by a young Loretta Lynn. If you look a little closer, however, the common thread comes to light: Each of these acclaimed pictures was filmed, in part, in our beautiful Bluegrass State.
We all know the feeling—the rush of nostalgia and pride that envelops the heart when a scenic shot of Kentucky flashes across the screen. Some scenes are blatant, telling a story belonging only to Kentucky, such as the picturesque and electrifying shots of a horse portraying Secretariat racing around the tracks at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, or Orlando Bloom’s character’s discovery of the beauty of both Elizabethtown and his distant family who call the Hardin County city home.
Some of the state’s on-screen experiences are perhaps unknown, such as the toothpick scene in 1988’s Rain Man, filmed at Pompilios restaurant, a mainstay in Newport since 1933. Other movies speak to the fabric of our state: the stoic and challenging Appalachian life led by Loretta Lynn, and a tale of a world defined by coal and poverty yet rooted in love. Then there are films that allow us the ultimate escape, giving us permission to believe in the fantastical and adventurous life led by James Bond, who saves the world from certain disaster while under siege at our very own Fort Knox.
As we approach this Oscar season, which culminates with the Academy Awards broadcast on Feb. 22, I’ve drawn from the same inspiration that brought these filmmakers to our state and crafted a custom menu fanciful enough for the swankiest soirees but with flavors familiar to anyone with Bluegrass ties. I’m partial to curating meals that tell a story, and Oscar night affords plenty of room for imagination. For this year’s Oscar viewing party, my guests will be encouraged to dress the part, be it in their red-carpet best or in character as their favorite nominee. Food will be bite-sized and casually displayed, allowing guests to serve themselves throughout the night.
Cocktails are a must and, as with any proper celebratory occasion, Champagne is mandatory. This is where I take my first opportunity to add a Kentucky twist to the evening, dusting the rims of Champagne flutes with gold leaf and dressing up the bubbly with sugar, bitters and Campari—the gold a nod to one of the original Bond villains, Goldfinger, from the 1964 Sean Connery flick of the same name.
Edible gold leaf is a decadent accessory—one that adds a special touch in any application, especially dessert. Easy to make ahead and impossible to turn away, chocolate mousse is whipped and folded, the freshly spun egg whites and heavy cream adding air and richness to this grown-up chocolate pudding, which is topped with flecks of gold leaf and ripe raspberries.
The recipe for mini corn fritters topped with yellow pepper salsa is borrowed from Loretta Lynn’s cookbook, You’re Cookin’ It Country: My Favorite Recipes and Memories. In it, she shares stories and recipes from her Appalachian upbringing, which, along with her rise to country music fame, was chronicled on the silver screen in Coal Miner’s Daughter, the 1980 film that was nominated for Best Picture and earned Sissy Spacek the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Lynn.
Also borrowed is Claiborne Farm’s recipe for cheese wafers. Crumbly disks of flour, cayenne and cheddar are topped with pecans and baked until slightly puffed and warm. The wafers are an ideal companion to Champagne and an apropos addition to the evening, as Claiborne Farm is where Secretariat retired after his storied run into the record books—a feat highlighted in the 2010 film starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich.
Many of the scenes from Secretariat were shot at Louisville and Lexington landmarks, and in 2005’s Elizabethtown, scenes that took place in Louisville’s historic The Brown Hotel were perhaps the most prominent, portraying a safe haven where Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst found love. Any stay at The Brown is not complete without a taste of its ubiquitous Hot Brown. I’ve given this decadent dish my own spin, turning it bite-sized and elegant, all of the classic Hot Brown components in play, and with cheddar lending additional sharpness and flavor.
Rounding out my Oscar spread is a colorful and varied cheese and charcuterie presentation, an homage to the antipasto platter so adored by Rain Man’s cast and crew, who spent a week indulging in the various meats and cheeses turned out by Pompilios Bar and Restaurant in Newport. Stay true to the Kentucky theme and buy local items, taking advantage of the array of Kentucky-made cheese, sausage and locally cured ham. I doll up my platter with extras, including a schmear of spicy mustard, red grapes, local honey and bracingly addictive homemade pickled vegetables.
Movies give us the gift of escape—a chance to put ourselves in a time, place or circumstance other than our own. We often become too familiar with our surroundings, forgetting how splendid they are, but all it takes is one scene of the Bluegrass flashing across the big screen to remind us how lucky we are to call Kentucky home.
007 Champagne Cocktail
Bond would order this Goldfinger-inspired cocktail neither shaken nor stirred. Scenes from the 1964 film were shot in Fort Knox, Lexington and Louisville.
Edible gold leaf
1 sugar cube
2-3 dashes bitters
Dry sparkling wine
1⁄8 ounce Campari
- Lightly wet the edge of a Champagne glass and dust with crumbled gold leaf.
- Place one sugar cube in the bottom of the glass. Add 2 to 3 dashes of bitters over the cube. (I recommend using grapefruit bitters, but any bitters you have on your bar will work well.)
- Fill the glass with Champagne or another sparkling wine of your choice, add the Campari and serve.
Recipe by Lindsey McClave, foodie-girl.com
E-Town Hot Brown Crostini
Filmed in large part in Versailles and its namesake town, the 2005 movie Elizabethtown includes scenes shot at the historic Louisville hotel famed for its signature sandwich.
Makes 8 to 10 crostini
3⁄4 cup roasted and diced turkey breast
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces pancetta, diced into small cubes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1⁄2 cup grape tomatoes, cut into eighths
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
11⁄2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
11⁄4 cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 pinch nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Crusty French baguette
- Season turkey breast liberally with salt and pepper and roast in a 425-degree oven for 30-35 minutes until cooked through. Allow to cool and then dice.
- Cook the pancetta over medium heat in olive oil until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set on a paper towel to drain off any excess grease. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine turkey, pancetta, tomatoes, parsley and 1⁄2 teaspoon of the fresh cracked pepper, and set aside.
- To begin the sauce, pour the milk into a small saucepan over low heat. Add the onion, bay leaf and nutmeg. Allow to steep for 15 minutes, stirring often, making sure the milk doesn’t come to a boil.
- While the milk is warming, add unsalted butter to a medium-size saucepan and melt over low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the flour. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat, combining well.
- Remove onion and bay leaf from milk, then slowly add the milk to the flour-butter mixture. Whisk over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens and has a creamy, smooth consistency, making sure no lumps are left. (This is a béchamel sauce.) The sauce is ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon, and running a finger through it leaves a trail. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and the remaining teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper.
- Transform the béchamel sauce into a Mornay sauce by adding the cheddar cheese. Mix the cheese into the milk until it has melted completely and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Remove from heat and taste for seasoning.
- Cut the bread diagonally into 1⁄2-inch slices and place on a large baking sheet. Spoon the turkey-pancetta mixture onto each slice and top with the Mornay sauce.
- Place the crostini under a broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, watching carefully to make sure they brown but do not burn. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Lindsey McClave, foodie-girl.com
Loretta Lynn’s Corn Fritters with Yellow Pepper Salsa
This recipe comes directly from The Coal Miner’s Daughter herself. The 1980 biopic was filmed in part in eastern Kentucky, where the country music singer-songwriter was born and raised.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
2-3 pickled jalapeño peppers, minced
1 10-ounce jar apple jelly
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
For corn fritters:
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup yellow cornmeal
11⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2⁄3 cup milk
1⁄4 cup melted butter
1 16-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
3 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Prepare the salsa the day before serving. In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, yellow pepper and jalapeño peppers. Sauté for one minute. Add the jelly and stir until melted.
- In a small bowl mix the cornstarch with the water. Add to the pepper mixture and cook, stirring until thick.
- Pour the salsa into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 to 10 hours overnight. Prior to serving, whip the salsa with the room temperature cream cheese until well combined.
- Pour the cream cheese-salsa blend into a plastic bag. Cut off the tip of a corner so the bag can act as a piping tool to top the fritters.
- For the corn fritters, in a large bowl mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl whisk the eggs with the milk, butter, corn and green onions. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened.
- In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Drop the fritter batter by tablespoons into the hot oil. Cook for one to two minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more oil as needed. Arrange the fritters on a platter, top with the cream cheese salsa and garnish with the parsley.
Adapted from Loretta Lynn’s You’re Cookin’ It Country.
Chocolate Mousse å la Goldfinger
Another nod to the James Bond film in which Fort Knox was prominently featured, this rich mousse is made even more decadent with the addition of edible gold leaf.
Makes 8 4-ounce servings
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60 percent cacao), chopped
3⁄4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon Cognac or other brandy (or substitute with a liqueur of your choice)
1 cup very cold heavy or whipping cream
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
Edible gold leaf
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a large heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring gently until the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Alternately, you can melt the chocolate and butter in your microwave, stirring thoroughly at 30 seconds and every 15 seconds thereafter until the mixture is smooth.
- In a small bowl beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer until thick enough to form a ribbon that takes a few seconds to dissolve—this will take about 2-4 minutes.
- Whisk yolks into chocolate mixture along with Cognac, then cool to warm.
- In a medium bowl beat the cream with cleaned beaters until it just holds stiff peaks. In another medium bowl beat the egg whites and salt with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks.
- Fold the whipped cream and beaten whites into the chocolate mixture, gently but thoroughly. Transfer to 8 (4-ounce) ramekins or one large serving bowl, or go restaurant-style, serving it in stemmed glasses. Garnish with flakes of gold leaf and fresh raspberries.
Do ahead: Mousse can be chilled, its surface covered with parchment paper, up to 2 days. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe from Smittenkitchen.com
Claiborne Farm’s Cheese Wafers with Pecans
While we can’t say that the racing legend enjoyed these biscuits during his stay at the Bourbon County Thoroughbred farm, we do know that the Disney film, Secretariat, about his Triple Crown win, was shot at locations in Louisville and Lexington.
Makes 5 dozen wafers
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 pound sharp cheddar cheese,
Dash or 2 of cayenne pepper
1 egg, slightly beaten
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter, flour, cheese and cayenne pepper with an electric mixer on slow speed.
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1⁄4-inch thick and cut into rounds with a small biscuit cutter. Place rounds on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush with beaten egg. Place pecan on top for garnish. (If you don’t want the pecan on top, prick the top of wafer three times with a fork.) Bake for about 12 minutes. Sprinkle wafers with salt immediately after removing from oven.
Recipe from Entertaining with Bluegrass Winners Cookbook: New Recipes and Menus from Kentucky’s Legendary Horse Farms.
Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance as Raymond “Rain Man” Babbitt included the toothpick-counting scene filmed at Newport’s Pompilios restaurant, which was lauded by the cast and crew of the 1988 film for its antipasto platter. Add locally made cheeses and meats to these pickled vegetables for an interesting take on the classic Italian appetizer.
1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
1⁄2 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 garlic clove, quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchstick-size pieces
1⁄2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1⁄2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cabbage, chopped
- Warm the apple cider vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour over the vegetables.
- Add the garlic and allow the vegetable-vinegar mixture to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Note: Any thinly sliced vegetables of your choice can be substituted for the carrot, pepper, onion and cabbage.
Tip: Making the pickled veggies ahead of time? No need to heat the liquid. Just stir until the sugar and salt dissolve and then marinate in the refrigerator overnight. These pickled vegetables will last for a week in the fridge.
Recipe by Lindsey McClave, foodie-girl.com
Kentuckywood – Oscars Trivia!
Download our printable Kentuckywood trivia quiz HERE – perfect for keeping your Oscar party guests engaged, entertained and in the Kentucky know.