The Menu For The 150th Kentucky Derby Has Been Released

150th Kentucky Derby food menu
150th Kentucky Derby food menu - Churchill Downs Racetrack

The Kentucky Derby is not just the biggest event of the year in horse racing, but a celebration of southern culture and cuisine. And with the storied race turning 150 this year, you know they are going to be pulling out all the stops when it comes to food. The first of the Triple Crown races has long been associated with famous Southern dishes and drinks, with the classic Kentucky Derby cocktail being a Mint Julep, and the race even giving the name to the popular Kentucky dessert, a derby pie. If you are lucky enough to attend the derby, the good eating doesn't stop there.

Once again, The Derby and Churchill Downs have partnered with Levy (a restaurant group specializing in sports and entertainment) for the 23rd year, with an exclusive menu from Senior Executive Chef Robert Lopez. Speaking with Tasting Table, Chef Lopez told us, "I found inspiration in the rich tradition of Southern cuisine." He added that he "aimed to infuse traditional dishes with modern twists, paying homage to the event's storied history." Lopez said, "I selected flavors like Bourbon, smoked meats, and hearty sides to echo the festive atmosphere of the Derby."

Brisket has been chosen as the centerpiece meat of this year's Derby menu, with Lopez wanting to highlight comforting flavors that "unite people around the table." He also noted that "the deep, smoky notes of a slowly cooked brisket complement the sweet, warm undertones of bourbon, creating a harmonious blend that enhances the dining experience."

Read more: Styles Of Regional BBQ In The US

The Kentucky Derby Menu Features Local Ingredients And Classic Kentucky Cocktails

150th Kentucky Derby cocktail menu
150th Kentucky Derby cocktail menu - Churchill Downs Racetrack

The on-track menu at the 150th Kentucky Derby will be served throughout Churchill Downs Racetrack's dining areas during the weekend, showcasing the best of local and seasonal flavors. Lopez told us, "As spring unfolds in 2024, I'm particularly excited to showcase fresh peas and asparagus, which epitomize the vibrant, crisp flavors of the season." Those ingredients are particularly highlighted in the event's three salads. There is a spring pea pasta salad, a spring panzanella salad featuring snap peas, English cucumber, and asparagus, and a bibb salad with bosc pears, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, and herbed buttermilk dressing.

The two entrees are a 'nduja shrimp pasta with crushed tomatoes and bourbon cherry brisket burnt ends, which use a veal demi-glace, cherry juice and cherry preserves, Woodford Reserve bourbon, fried onions, and Levy's BBQ sauce. There will also be herbed grits, roasted cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts to round out the feast.

And of course, no Kentucky Derby party would be complete without a choice or some great cocktails. There are four on this year's menu, starting with the requisite mint julep made with Old Forester. There is also the Woodford Reserve Spire, which Lopez says goes great with the brisket and mixes the Kentucky bourbon with lemonade, cranberry juice, lemon twist, and ice. For those who aren't bourbon fans, there is a Finlandia vodka "Oaks Lily" with sweet and sour, Triple Sec, cranberry juice, blackberries, and a lemon wedge, and a Herradura Horseshoe Margarita. Finally, there is Kendall-Jackson chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.

Churchill Downs Will Be Serving Thousand Of Pounds Of Food For The Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs - Traveler1116/Getty Images

It's not only the menu itself that looks impressive but the sheer scale of the service, which really highlights what a big event the Kentucky Derby has become. Lopez told us that the logistical planning of such a large event is crucial for its success. He says that putting together such a high-quality, seasonal menu "involves coordinating with local farmers and suppliers well in advance to secure the freshest ingredients in the tremendous quantities needed." And of course, ingredients are only the beginning. Staffing is essential, and Lopez told us, "We focus on assembling and training a highly skilled team capable of executing a variety of complex dishes at scale."

The numbers shows how staggering the challenge is for Lopez and his team. According to Churchill Downs, they will serve 10,000 lbs of smoked brisket, 9,000 lbs of shrimp, and 20,000 desserts. Even more unbelievably, the course expects to go through 20,000 bottles of Woodford Reserve Kentucky bourbon and sell 24,000 bottles of mint julep cocktails, with over 1,000 lbs of mint alone. Forget St. Patrick's Day, it sounds like the Kentucky Derby is the true king of drinking holidays. More importantly, it sounds like one heck of a party — at least they'll have plenty of brisket to sop it up.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.