My Old Kentucky Home: A Derby Weekend Brunch at Historic Woodland Farm

05/05/2015 02:09 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2016


For the past several years, on the Sunday following the Kentucky Derby my wife and I welcome a group of friends and family to our home at Woodland Farm for a brunch to conclude the weekend. The menu is simple. The Bloody Marys are strong. And the morning is always one of my favorites of the year.

Even the most epic hangover is no match for some fresh country air. Bringing friends to our home, located in the rural farm lands just outside of Louisville, makes for a quintessentially "Kentucky" ending to the glamorous weekend of parties and events at the track. For me, Woodland Farm represents a connection to the land which, spanning 1,000 acres, produces a variety of fruits and vegetables, is home to a bison operation, as well many breeds of Heritage livestock, all sustainably raised. This food provides not only nourishment for our home, but also supplies various restaurants in the city with locally sourced ingredients, including our own Proof on Main located at 21c Museum Hotel Louisville and Garage Bar in NuLu.

Coming out to the farm certainly feels like a departure from the bacchanalia that overtakes the city on the Friday and Saturday night of Derby. A scenery of chasmic blue sky and lush pastures remains uninterrupted except for various dwellings and the long ribbons of fencing that separate the country highway from animals grazing idly on the famous Kentucky bluegrass. Since my roots are in the country, it's nice to have this refuge away from the city and to be surrounded by nature and the animals (although we do like to keep a few surprises folded into the landscape).

When first driving onto the farm, visitors are greeted by a family of oversized bright Pink Snails. I like to think that these sculptures, made by the Cracking Art Group, make for a playful entry onto the farm. It's also common for guests to encounter a family of bison on the road that leads to the main house as we purposefully allow them to roam freely during events like this. As people drive toward the main house, they typically have to stop their cars entirely to allow for a few stragglers to clear the road. This time of year it's also common for some of the younger calves to be found along the road to the farmhouse, which always seems to amuse people.

Part of what I love most about bringing people to our home is sharing pieces we've collected for ourselves and for 21c Museum Hotels. You really can't turn around without finding yourself facing a photograph or painting by some contemporary artist or another - works by Shonibare, David Bromley and Virgil Marti are just a few of the pieces that have recently taken up residence in various rooms. Laura Lee and I renovated the farmhouse in the late nineties, and we were actually married there prior to reviving the building, which dates back to the early 19th Century. Portions of the first and second floor are covered in a tropical-print wallpaper that once hung at Indochine, the famous New York City restaurant which, during its heyday in the 1980s, was frequented by prominent artists the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. Among some of the prominent attendees to this year's brunch was Barbara Corcoran whose vibrant personality folks recognize from television's Shark Tank.

During the brunch, 21c Museum Director Alice Gray Stites treated guests to personal tours of the collection. Since Laura Lee has a fondness for rabbits, you will find several hare-inspired sculptures tucked away throughout the house including some emotionally charged pieces by Beth Cavener Stitcher. In some ways, our home has a personality all its own between the characters depicted on our walls, and the animal sculptures scattered in unexpected places. After a weekend of heavy indulgence, returning to the farm and treating our friends to artistic discoveries has proven a restorative ritual for concluding the Kentucky Derby festivities.