Haute Brown - courtesy of the Brown Hotel

How to celebrate the Hot Brown’s 90th birthday

It’s been 90 years since chef Fred Schmidt scratched his head to come up with an easy but tasty dish for late-night party-goers at the Brown Hotel. His concoction, the open-faced turkey sandwich on toast topped with tomatoes, bacon and Mornay sauce known as the Hot Brown, has become, for better or worse, an icon of Louisville dining. The Brown Hotel has celebrated various anniversaries of the sandwich before, but for this Big One, executive chef Josh Bettis has concocted the Haute Brown, which he will serve to anyone willing to pay $90 for the treat.

Bettis’s “gourmet upgrade,” according to a hotel press release, “honors the traditional offering but adds a bit of modern elegance.”

The Haute Brown begins with a turkey roulade wrapped in foie gras and thick-cut Kentucky bacon. A slice of that is topped with tomato confit and roasted tomato gelee, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and house-made brioche croutons wrapped with edible gold. The Mornay sauce is, of course, infused with white truffles.

Diners who want to pop for this indulgent sandwich can also book a stay in the Brown’s Muhammad Ali Suite or add a flight of rare 23, 20 and 15-year Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. You will have only a small window of opportunity. The special dish will be served only from April 15 to May 15.

Back in1926, the Brown hosted dinner dances that went on into the early hours. Chef Schmidt saw the revelers were tired of late-night ham and eggs, so he riffed on the tradition of Welsh rarebit (melted cheese on toast) by adding a few good ol’ American ingredients, and voila! Since then, says the press release, the Brown Hotel itself has served more than 1.7 million Hot Browns. “Each year, the hotel frequently serves more than 200 per day and nearly 1000 Hot Browns the weekend of the Kentucky Derby alone. The dish, which has been featured in numerous national publications and fine cookbooks, is often imitated and served around the world,” in the elegant words of the press release.

We did mention that the cost of this thing will be $90, didn’t we?