Here’s my big confession about the Kentucky Derby: I’ve never been, and until a few years ago, I honestly never even paid attention to it. But a dear friend had written to me about his incredible experience of attending the Derby for a buddy’s bachelor party, and I was mesmerized (and forever changed) by his retelling of that event. By sheer luck, he ended up with some kind of VIP passes, and wristbands marked “Millionaire’s Row”—which is, of course, the place to be if you want to hobnob at Churchill Downs. Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote:
“So much buzz in the air, the fashion was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Beautiful women with giant, crazy hats and bright dresses, and guys with perfectly tailored suits, fedoras and shiny leather shoes. It felt like a Great Gatsby party…”
Okay, he had me at “hello.” Like most women I know, I love any excuse for getting dressed up and I frequently lament that we rarely have a chance to do so in our modern culture. My friend continued, describing the glorious atmosphere inside the ballroom:
“There were people sitting at fancy tables everywhere…champagne on ice…the mint juleps and bourbon were free and so was the food. They had a gorgeous buffet with chefs at the carving station, and the betting window was just steps away…”
And that, right there, did me in. I could literally hear the glasses clinking, and the people talking and laughing. Such excitement! And WOW, what a race!
That was 2015, the year that American Pharaoh went on to win the first Triple Crown since 1978, and from that time forward, I’ve been a fan of the Kentucky Derby. Not only for the race itself, which is only about two minutes anyway. But for absolutely everything else—the fashion, the food, the cocktails—it’s all just so darn fancy!
This year, the Derby is postponed for only the second time in its history (the first was in 1945, when World War II prompted a temporary ban on horse racing, and the race was delayed by a couple of months), but just last weekend, organizers announced that this year, a “virtual” race will be televised to appease everyone who has eagerly anticipated this first-Saturday-in-May event. It’s a computer-simulated version of the race, tied to a COVID-19 fundraiser (you can read more about that here) and though I can’t quite imagine how it will unfold, I’m thrilled to have a reason to get a little glamorous—now, and again on the rescheduled date, Sept 5.
My preview party is designed to celebrate all the Kentucky Derby pomp in three key categories: the Sips (cocktails), the Nibbles (food) and the Sweet Photo Finishes (desserts). Go ahead—have a sneak peek if you’d like. I’ve even created a simple tutorial to help you dress up a hat so you can get your fancy on. And get ready. Tomorrow, I’ll be flooding your inbox with all these recipes!
Friends, this kind of stuff is exactly what Comfort du Jour is all about.