The Pimento Cheese Social at Stitzel-Weller.

The fourth annual Pimento Cheese Social was held last night at the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville.  The Pimento Cheese Social is quickly becoming a Derby Week tradition, with tickets selling out and a festive crowd clearly ready for Bourbon and the Derby, even getting into the spirit of hats, a longstanding Derby Week tradition.
The crowd was entertained by live jazz from the incomparable Billy Goat Strut Revue performing outdoors in the perfect spring weather.
The Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience was also open, with Tom Bulleit spinning tales in his office, Doug Kragel introducing crowds to the two new I.W. Harper editions, and Bulleit punch and Old Fashioneds at every turn.
But the focus of the party was pimento cheese, a quintessential Southern food, thus fitting right in with Bourbon and the Kentucky Derby.  While pimento cheese is a Southern institution, it has not necessarily spread to the rest of the nation like other Southern foods (think of the ubiquitous biscuits and gravy, corn bread, or even shrimp and grits).  Pimento cheese typically starts by blending grated cheddar cheese with diced pimentos and mayonnaise, but then it can launch in many different directions, depending on the spices and secret family ingredients passed through the generations.
Chefs from six of Louisville’s more imaginative restaurants vied for the honor of best pimento cheese creation.  Showing that pimento cheese isn’t limited to sandwiches and crackers, they paired it everything from bacon to pickled celery to ice cream and caviar.  The lineup was outstanding:
Wiltshire on Market:
Pimento cheese Taco on a black peppercorn tortilla, with double-smoked country ham and pickled celery
Grind Burger Kitchen:
Pimento cheese gratin with country ham, lacto-dilly bean and bread & butter pickled celery
Feast BBQ:
Pimento cheese ice cream with paddlefish caviar, green apple chow chow in a pretzel cone
Please & Thank You:
Pimento cheese and jalapeño biscuit
Garage Bar:
Smoked cheddar pimento cheese with Broadbent bacon and arugula
Proof on Main:
Fried pimento cheese ball

It was a night of Southern hospitality at its finest, and a perfect kickoff for more Derby festivities.


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