And They’re Off

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May is the time for flowers and celebrating Mom, but horse racing enthusiasts know the first Saturday in May as the Kentucky Derby. Nicknamed the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” this much-celebrated equestrian event is steeped in tradition, grandeur and lots of fun. Few people know the ins and outs of planning a stellar Kentucky Derby party like Shelley Steger, event planner for Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

Remington Park hosts a tea party on Derby Day, complete with a hat contest. However, if you want to host a Derby party at home, Steger offers a few suggestions.

Since roses are the official flower of the Derby, Steger suggests incorporating them in the décor, possibly as a centerpiece.

When it comes to food and drink, there are a few essentials. Mint juleps are a must, along with Derby pie, laden with chocolate chips and whiskey. Hot Brown sandwiches – an open-faced sandwich of turkey and bacon covered in Mornay sauce and broiled until the bread crisps and the sauce browns – is also traditional Derby fare.

In keeping with a more formal theme, the food could include passed hors d’oeuvres like rumaki (pieces of water chestnut and duck or chicken liver wrapped in bacon) or even slices of Hot Brown or Derby pie cut into small pieces and arranged on small doilies on a silver tray.

Seems like such a grand event would be bound to old school etiquette and myriad dos and don’ts, but Steger says this is not the case. The only rule is to have a good time and cheer on your favorite horse.

Traditional Mint Julep

6 to 8 mint leaves
1 tbsp. sugar
Crushed ice
2 1/2 ounces bourbon
Splash simple syrup
Sprig mint, for garnish

Put the mint leaves and the sugar in the bottom of a tall glass. With the handle of a wooden spoon, crush and mash the leaves to extract the flavor. Fill the glass with crushed (not cubed) ice. Pour in the bourbon. Top with a splash of simple syrup. With a long-handled spoon, jiggle (not stir) to chill and mix. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Recipe courtesy Foodnetwork.com.

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