Monday, May 4, 2015

Kentucky Derby 2015

For some people there's the Super Bowl.  That's the closest way I can describe to you how I feel about Kentucky Derby Saturday.  The weather (usually) is fantastic, there are horses on TV pretty much all day long, and it's a great excuse to have people over to the house and talk about horses.  In my life, this is probably the only day that horse talk is happening on my couch.  We've been throwing Derby get-togethers since 2006 when a disastrous attempt at mint julep making decided things once and for all -- we're gonna celebrate, but we're not gonna try to pretend we're there.  Derby 2015 looked a like this:

The Horses
American Pharoah came home victorious despite being the favorite (which hasn't been as much of a back luck charm the last few years). Notice his shorter than average tail -- his stablemate (and my Derby pick) Dortmund bit it off.  Give me an oversized chestnut with an attitude problem and I'm all in.  Read too many Thoroughbred books as a child I guess. via

American Pharoah as an adorable foal. Who doesn't love baby animal pictures?  via

The Insanity
There's a combination about horse racing that I can't decide if I really like.  The hats and just kind of try-hard atmosphere around Derby Day feel like a distraction for me, but there also kind of a mesmerizing train wreck.  If you've ever been to a horse race you know what I'm talking about -- it's like the ultimate frat party with lots of people in fancy clothes and seersucker stumbling around and reeking of alcohol.  I've never been to the Derby, but I imagine there's a lot of what I saw at Keeneland there too.

Take this gem from Instagram -- a part of me wants to think this is cute and harmless, but really this is what killed Scarlett O'Hara's father, right?  Kind of a downer, Southern Living. via 
I know I'm not supposed to take this seriously, but Tara and Johnny were NBC's fashion correspondents again this year for the broadcast, and it's just a great example of how Derby fashion has totally embraced looking miserable. via
Overwhelmingly I tend to find Derby fashion tacky, but Vanessa and Nick Lachey looked really classy.  Unfortunately celebrity rags like tagged this picture with "It isn't a funeral, guys!" I guess they didn't look ridiculous enough to sell magazines with their attire this year, sorry. via
The Spread At My House:
My recipe for Derby success is to keep it low key.  I'm never going to be the person who makes a lot of themed cards or successfully recreates high brow cuisine.  So I turn my event into your basic barbecue.  Easy side dishes that you can throw together and utilizing the crockpot means that you don't have to spend all day prepping for your friends to drop by the house, and I've found if having people over feels easy I want to do it more.  And who doesn't want to have the kind of house where you feel great about inviting your friends on short notice!

Ideas for a Low-Fret Spread:

-Fresh veggies with humus dip

Easy Pasta Salad -- just toss in grape tomatoes, green olives, thinly sliced red onions, and a sprinkle of shredded cheese and toss with basalmic vinagrette dressing. Done. I went with whole wheat pasta this time, but honestly I do like regular pasta better.  I might have to give up this whole wheat thing and embrace the bad when I eat carbs.

Barbecue -- I like to spring for potato buns at the store because it really does make a difference, and then I just use super simple Pinterest recipes.  For a vinegar-based NC friendly slaw try this, and for a crowd pleasing barbecue whose ingredient list gets no more complicated than a can of soda and a bottle of barbecue sauce you can't beat this one.

Dessert: Do you ever get complaints or have left overs when you make brownies?  Fool proof.  I'm partial to the Ghiradelli turtle brownie boxed mix.  But when using a boxed mix, if you want to crank up the flavor always substitute milk for water and use butter instead of oil.  Sure it's not healthier, but you've already allowed yourself brownies, so why not go all in.

Since my spread is so simple, I tried to do a minimal upgrade on the presentation this year.  Use a tray to organize your bar area, and consider skipping plastic dinnerware to use real glasses, plates and utensils.  It's honestly not that hard to clean up in the dishwasher, and I like to think that using real plates and silver ware made my no-fuss food offerings feel more adult.  Also, matching is over-rated.

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