Friday, April 30, 2010

Kentucky Derby Day: Cocktails, Sandwiches & Secretariat

Secretariat at Belmont 1973 (true confession, this picture is my screen-saver)

I am a sucker for horses and have been since childhood. Aside from the pure unfettered joy of riding these perfect creatures full out (giving you the addictive sensation of gliding on air while vitally connected to a powerful life-force), watching them run is the next best thing. A great racehorse loves to run.
There are racehorses and then there is Secretariat. “It’s like God said, “You just think you’ve seen horses, I’m gonna show you a horse.” Then he built Secretariat.”, said renowned equine sculptor Jim Reno inThe Horse God Built: The Untold Story of Secretariat, the World's Greatest Racehorse
Secretariat had a heart twice the size of a normal horse (nearly 18 pounds) and a stride angle of 110º that is the largest of any known racehorse (a cheetah, the fastest land animal, has a 125º stride angle, most thoroughbreds are in the 80- 90’s).

I will never forget the day I saw Secretariat run ‘The Race’ at the 1973 Belmont Stakes WATCH HERE , the 2nd jewel in the Triple Crown.

I was not alone with the rest of the audience who thought our hearts were going to burst from the overwhelming emotion (tears were running down my cheeks) from watching the greatest performance in the history of the sport that day as Secretariat (who was only running for himself) went 31 lengths ahead of his competitors...I still feel that way every time I watch it.

Mike Hindman said “Secretariat's…World Record at a mile and a half, set in the 1973 Belmont Stakes has never been broken.

"Secretariat would be like a hitter who routinely smashed 600 foot homers; a long jumper who popped a 35 footer; a sprinter who ran 100 meters in 8 seconds; a golfer who shot four rounds of 60.... In all four majors.... In one year."

“As Secretariat rounded the sweeping Belmont far turn (the turns at Belmont are the longest of any track in North America) he seemed to be on cruise control, with jockey Ron Turcotte just steering. Not asking. Secretariat's lead widened from seven lengths to 20 lengths on that turn. On to the wire, Turcotte did not ease the horse, but let him run on. On any other day, the rider would have been pulling the horse up through the lane, letting him take a bow under wraps. Saving something for another day. But THIS was the day, and the savvy rider knew the horse was running well within himself. Turcotte knew the time had come to let the horse show the world what he could do.
All that power. All that balance. All that heart. All that speed. Secretariat was ready to roll. And the margin kept widening, and widening, and widening.

By mid-stretch the Big Red Horse was ahead by 28 lengths, with the margin finally to reach 31 lengths by the finish. As he flew down the stretch he stretched out in stride past thousands of wildly cheering fans…

And then it was over.

The moment froze. What we are left with are those fleeting glimpses - a blazing pace, a huge running machine, a visual roar of acceleration, an ever-widening margin, the coat darkening, a white vapor of feet, a jockey sitting chilly, a horse alone - and one long-lasting moment frozen in memory. ”

Secretariat at 1973 Belmont Race

Although my first love had always been Man O’ War, the original ‘Big Red’ (of whom his trainer said “he was hell to break, a headache to handle and a catapult to ride”) that day Secretariat took first place in my pantheon of equine gods.
So to honor the sport of kings and the magnificent animals that run their great hearts out with staggering strength and courage, here’s to the first leg of the Triple Crown, The Kentucky Derby, that I nearly never miss and love to watch, Champagne glass in hand with cucumber Benedictine Sandwiches at my side, my breath coming faster as the horses prance to the post, “My Old Kentucky Home” sounds and… They’rrrre OFFFFFF.

Kentucky Derby

The Benedictine Sandwich was invented by Miss Jennie C. Benedict in the 1890s and can be found in her amazing book of Southern cuisine and hospitality, The Blue Ribbon Cook Book . These little sandwiches have become a Kentucky classic for the Derby.

Benedictine Sandwiches (adapted from Saveur Magazine)

6 oz. cream cheese

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and grated

2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce


Green food coloring (I used 2 T watercress)
1 cucumber sliced paper thin
Watercress for garnish and color

1. Place cream cheese in a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Wrap cucumber in cheesecloth, then squeeze out and discard juice. Put in the blender with the with some of the watercress and pulse a few times. Add cucumber mixture to cream cheese and mix thoroughly.

2. Wrap onions in cheesecloth and squeeze juice into cream cheese mixture, then discard onions.

3. Mix mayonnaise and Tabasco sauce and add to cream cheese mixture. Season to taste with salt, then add 1 drop green food coloring if you would like more color than the watercress supplies and mix well. Serve on thinly sliced white sandwich bread. Garnish with cucumber slices and watercress

*Jennie Benedict's Mayonnaise

Yolk of 1 hard-boiled egg
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 small bottle of olive oil (1/2 cup?)
1 t. mustard
yolk of raw egg well beaten
vinegar to taste
white of one egg beaten stiffly

Rub yolk through a sieve. Add mustard, salt and pepper, and raw yolk. Add the oil and the vinegar slowly and lastly the egg white

And now for the libations, did you think I’d forgotten? Champagne is a traditional drink for the Derby as is the Mint Julep. I thought that I would make 2 champagne cocktails for this special occasion.

Early 19th Century Champagne Flutes

The first uses a fabulous product from my friends at Craft Distillers who made the delectable Absinthe I got to play with in February (read that post HERE This time it is a smooth, artisanal whiskey (aged in 3 kinds of oak and made of hardwood-toasted barley) to swirl in in blissful congress with my sweet mint syrup and sparkling wine.

Sparkling Mint Julep Cocktail

Mint Syrup

1 c water
1 c sugar ( I use organic because it has just a hint of warm molasses in it... sugar in the raw could work too)
Pinch of allspice and pinch of cinnamon or a few crushed cassia buds (if you have them around-they are the best)
6 sprigs mint, crushed
Make sugar syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water. While it is still warm, add the crushed mint and spices and allow it to cool. Strain the mint from the syrup.
6 sprigs mint for garnish
Bottle champagne or other sparkling wine
6 – 12 T ST. GEORGE Single Malt Whiskey
Add one tablespoon of syrup and 1-2 T of whiskey to a champagne glass. Top with sparkling wine and 
garnish with a mint sprig

My Old Kentucky Sparkling Peach Cocktail for 4

1 ripe peach (peeled, stoned and roughly chopped)
1/3 c. BRIOTTET Crème de Pêche liqueur from Craft Distillers
2 T. mint syrup (less if your peach is sweet)
1-2 t lemon juice
1 drop of vanilla extract
1 drop nutmeg absolute from Aftelier or 1/8 t nutmeg
1 small drop black pepper essential oil from Aftelier or ½ t pepper
1 tiny pinch cardamom
1 bottle champagne or sparkling wine
*you can add a T of MAISON SURRENNE Cognac if you want to amp up the alcohol!
4 sprigs of mint for garnish
Blend the peach in the liqueur, lemon juice, vanilla, mint syrup, nutmeg, pepper and cardamom. Spoon a portion in each glass and add sparkling wine to taste. Garnish with mint.
Now, sit back, sip your drink and enjoy the race!


pam said...

What a wonderful post. I too grew up loving horses, and reading all the horse books, and dreaming of having one. Alas, not to happen in my St. Louis suburban home!

Martha said...

Love Benedictine sandwiches and champagne -- that's my kind of derby instead of hot browns and mint juleps! We've been invited to a Derby party -- should be fun!

From the Kitchen said...

I'll be right there with you on Saturday! Will you be wearing a hat? Thanks for such a nice post today. I remember the great Secretariat very well and where I watched him win the Kentucky Derby (The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.). Thanks for the recipes as well.


Stella said...

Hey Deana, Gosh! You inspire so much photo envy in me (healthful envy, not psycho or anything).
Anyway, this post is wonderful. I've never experienced the thrill of a race, but I've been to the running of the bulls which I would imagine is quite similar in terms of emotion. My aunts also have horse farms, so I love horses too-magnificent they are! I can imagine the races, I think!?
By the way, my Mom's from the South as am I, and we make those little tea sandwiches all the time. Didn't know they were called Benedictine...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a reminder about Kentucky Derby, we will tune in to watch! The sandwich is gorgeous and great cocktails!

Cathy said...

What a wonderful post! I had my own horse when I was a child and still love horses to this day. Lovely cocktails and tea sandwiches.

Diane said...

I love racing and with sandwiches and cocktails like that I may even make the trip over the water to join you. Diane

Deana Sidney said...

Pam> Like I said, I've been horse crazy most of my life... that Secretariat photo really is my screensaver... glad you liked it!
Martha> They are less filling and stultifying, aren't they? These are a great combination and the julep cocktail is subtle and delicious.
From the Kitchen> No hat indoors for me... honestly, I often watch by myself.. it is truly a guilty pleasure.
Stella> Thanks so much Stella... late light! I never knew they could be called that either... they are a little different than the English cucumber and butter sandwiches we are all familiar with!
5 Star> Oh don't miss it... the best 2 minutes around!!!

Tasty Trix said...

Omg, little sandwiches. You DO know how much I love these, right? And the cocktails ... you are speaking to my heart here, girl. Horses are truly amazing creatures, they just fill me with awe. I love this post!!

Deana Sidney said...

Cathy> Me too, just looking at them move makes me happy!
Food Fun> wouldn't that be great to jump across the pond for events!
Trix> Yeah, those little sandwiches make me feel all good and proper and well-mannered... ho ho... so much for self-delusion! Horses... yup, so much better than people so much of the time... although mine bit the heck out of my shoulder... it was quite a world-class bruise... big stinker! Glad you liked the post... I loved doing it...this time food was just an excuse!

Barbara said...

I too grew up with horses and riding. My FIL raised pacers so I am an old racetrack fan.

And yes, I remember Secretariat well and every thrilling second!
The delicate cuke sandwiches are timeless, Deana. I love them! And your lovely history of them.

As far as a drink is concerned, I would much prefer your lighter version of a Mint Julep! And the sparkling peach cocktail recipe is divine!
Both have been copied already!

Fabulous post filled with fun, history and marvelous photos!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Both my sister and I had horses when we were growing up so I love them too. I wasn't even mad at my first horse when I broke both my wrists falling off when I was eleven! Secretariat was such a beautiful animal.

I haven't had a cucumber tea sandwich in ages - they look wonderful and I think I'd opt for the sparkling peach cocktail on the side! Great recipes - I'm saving them all.


June said...

Absolutely LOVED this post. My big guy teaches Racing Regulation and Law at the U of A's Race Track Industry Program here in Tucson. To say we get excited over horse racing is a bit of an understatement. This is what it is all about ...the horses, the people that work in the industry and the fans. Thank you!

funkiefoodie said...

This post has reminded me I too had a horse given to me on my 15th birthday named Amigo, a golden palomino and I grew up with my sisters, (not the brother's) being horse crazy ...

The shear elegance of these cocktail drinks and sweet dainty cocktail sandwiches are achingly beautiful and make me feel like I've been treated to fine art.

Erika Beth, the Messy Chef said...

What a great blogg! I'm glad you stumbled upon mine so I could discover yours. And now I'm completely amped for the Derby party I'm going to tomorrow.

Sarah said...

What a trip down memory lane. I remember Secretariat but didn't remember all the details. Love your open faced sandwich and both champagne cocktails. I love champagne cocktails.

tasteofbeirut said...

I am not that fond of horses but i enjoy the excitement of the race and seeing women dressed in their finery is very exciting; the mint julep reminded me of Vicksburg, Mississipi and the photo is beautiful against that carved chest. Your sandwiches are so dainty and how fabulous to recreate the same recipe from that old cookbook.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

They're such beautiful animals aren't and that photo of Secretariat mid flight is amazing! And you've taken us along on such a beautiful, exciting memory Deana! Thankyou! :D

Deanna said...

I've never been to the races, but my sister dated a jockey's son. These sandwiches sound perfect for a tea I am hosting later this month though.

Deana Sidney said...

Barbara>I could never drink much of my julep.. a little too strong for me...this is the best of both worlds for me, and the peach cocktail uses one of our favorite flavored liqueurs... I am getting quite a collection!
Savoring> I hadn't had those sandwiches in ages either.. but they are really addictive on crustless white bread (which I never eat anymore!). Glad you liked it!
June> What an interesting field your big guy is in.. it is a complicated business that few of the fans realize... we just show up and cheer!
Powderate>I knew we had a lot in common. The sandwiches and cocktails are sort of old world aren't they? So pleased you enjoyed it!
Erika> How fun to go to a Derby party... haven't done that in years!

Deana Sidney said...

Allourfingers>I love champagne cocktails too! Not being a vodka/gin person but loving to play with mixing things.. they are my favorite and I probably have dozens of mixes!
Taste of Beirut> I love the old cookbooks and found hers while researching this... I looked at some of the recipes and about her and bought the book... can't wait for it to arrive! Glad you liked the snaps... the carved wood is an Indonesian panel and the only thing I could find with an animal in it!
Lorraine> I know, can you believe that horse... he is really flying!
Deanna> you will love the sandwiches for your tea... I can't wait to get Jenny's book to see what other sandwiches are in there!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is very interesting to read and look at.

The hand carved wood in background of the drinks is beautiful.

Love that you use essential oils in your recipes!


citronetvanille said...

Great post! and what a gorgeous drink, defintely much better than the one I had last night! I love that pear shaped glass!

pierre said...

your sandwich are so class !! bravo Pierre

Deana Sidney said...

emmahoward> I'm so glad you likes my carving... I have always been fond of it! Using Aftelier's chef's essences and absolutes is so much fun. They are just brilliant!
Citronetvanille> I love those glasses.. they are 150 odd years old and the drink is just spectacular!
Pierre> Merci! The sandwiches are elegant!

Linda said...

Wonderful post!
My son and I were just watching some of the races....
Your food looks so elegant and delicious!

Amanda Curtis said...

Oh my god. You had me with your absinthe post, and now you've done it again. Perfect! This is my favorite blog ever. The images you choose are genuinely beautiful, the way you present the food is amazing, and your recipes are always perfectly authentic. I LOVE YOU.

...oh my.

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

What a beautiful combination superb horses, nice place with glorious food and shining cocktails! :)

Have a great weekend,


Jessy said...

Great post. I could see myself there! The recipes look and sound beautiful.

Deana Sidney said...

Linda> Watching those mini-docs about the horses is a lot of fun and so interesting, I love it!
Amanda> Thank you so much.. that is quite a compliment. I can only say... oh my! I can't stress enough these are really fun to put together and it's a great pleasure to know that people enjoy them.
Gera> It was great to find your blog which does celebrate so many different elements from food to life style... great to have found you!
Jessy> that is so cool that you could feel the event... see the video after reading it... even better!

Barbara said...

Hope you won some money last night, Deana. I did...makes up for last year!

My daughter had a Whole Foods open in TriBeCa recently and is in heaven! (Do you ever go on the NYC art walks? There is one next week in Chelsea; check out my daughter's gallery at 521 W. 23rd: Tracy Williams. Introduce yourself! You'll love her. This is a new location for her. She moved her gallery from W. 4th.)

Susan said...

Thank you for visiting my blog-it prompted me to return the visit and read this lovely post--I remember that '75 Derby day too, and you captured the moment well. And your the sandwiches are beautiful, and the next time I make benedictine, I will use it this way, it is an elegant spread.

Becky said...

My dad lives near Louisville, and I heart Churchill Downs. Though I've never been into horse racing, they have a great racing museum appurtenant to the racetrack.

This sounds delish, as usual. ;)

Faith said...

Horses are such beautiful animals, aren't they? I hope you enjoyed the race!

These little tea sandwiches are adorable and sound the Mint Julep too!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a lovely post and remembrance of things past. I love the cocktail and tea sandwiches you prepared for the occasion. I've never had the tea sandwich and intend to give it a try for lunch this coming week. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

SnacksGiving said...

I have never been to such an event, but love how women dress up in their best dresses and makeup..and of course hats! How posh!
Love the post, and love that pear shaped glass!

Emily said...

I love your writing and the stories you tell. I'm afraid I don't know much about horses or racing but now I feel like going along to a Derby, wearing my best hat and enjoying the excitement. Beautiful recipes too! I've been dying for sandwiches with cucumber and mint juleps. Now all we need is some warm weather!

Nadji said...

Je suis impressionnée. Bravo pour tout ce reportage.
j'aime beaucoup les sandwichs.
See soon.

Ken Albala said...

Got to love juleps! I was drinking them all weekend in honor of the Derby. YUM!

Keri said...

It's a beautiful thing, this post. Thank you. I think I love you.

Deana Sidney said...

Barbara> Yes, know that whole Foods too! Look forward to stopping by if I can on Sat... thanks for the notice! ANd no, didn't bet a dime!
Susan> great minds think alike about sandwiches!
Becky> I've driven by but never gone inside... all of my viewing is armchair style!
Faith> did indeed!
Mary> these sandwiches are a breeze and pretty much everything you need for them is in your fridge... ( well maybe not watercress).
Snacksgiving>glad you liked the glass... I used to wear hats often... not indoors in front of the tellie though!
Vanessa> from your lips! Oh the weather has been cold and nasty.
Nadji>Glad you liked the little sandwich.
Ken> Yeah... I did waaay too much tasting. They were like dessert in a glass for grownups!!
Sam> you are sweet... bet you are a sucker for the ponies too!

Julie said...

I love the horses, but those sandwiches are totally calling my name!

grace said...

what dainty little sandwiches, and who doesn't love a mint julep? my favorite thing of all about the kentucky derby is the hats. gotta love the hats. :)

2 Stews said...

The Kentucky Derby will always mean Secretariot to me. Wonderful tribute here. Those little sandwiches are so dainty and light...I think I'll choose the Peach cocktail to go with them, please. Oh, and I LOVE those glasses!

Thanks, Deana.

Zurin said...

that was an interesting story about Secretariat. Im surprised that having a larger than normal heart made him strong. i always thoughtit was bad for humans at least. but wow now i know that hores strides are measured to see how fast they can run...although it would be so obvious wouldnt it. You certainly are a lover of horses aren't you. I can imagine the excitement.

the sandwich look so good...and yum!

Deana Sidney said...

Julie> they called my name too!
Grace> those hats are something... but its all about the race for me!
2 stews> me too...Secretariat at the races is it... I love those glasses as well... they were a wonderful find. .. you will love that peach liqueur!
Zurin> A larger than normal heart gave him stamina ( that and spleen which oxygenates the blood). As for the stride... he had the muscles to support it.. sort of a miracle in a horse... poor Barbaro was close but couldn't hold it together, poor lamb. And yes.. love the horses!

fimere said...

je n'ai jamais été aux courses merci pour ce petit reportage
par contre j'aime beaucoup tes sandwiches, très savoureux
bonne journée

Unknown said...

There's always so much to learn by reading your posts. I'd love to go to the Kentucky derby one day... with a little pack of those sanwiches of course.
*kisses* HH

Lazaro Cooks said...

I nominated your fantastic blog for an award. Please have a look. No pressure to do anything, just wanted to let you know that I dig your blog. Cheers!

Deana Sidney said...

Fimere> Merci, so glad you like my stories!
HH> It is a little like your Ascot, isn't it! I am making more of those sandwiches today... so good!
Lazaro> We have had a whirlwind courtship... thanks so much for the award. Digging is mutual.

Fresh Local and Best said...

This post just reminded me of all the festivities that took place over the weekend for the Kentucky Derby. I like all of the drink recipes.

Julian said...

Lovely recipes. Also really love the elephant-head stirs. Wish I could find a set as I also collect elephants.

Anonymous said...

I love derby day! Lovely sandwiches and cocktails! Bliss!

Deana Sidney said...

Fresh Local>You will love the drinks, Christine!
David> I got them for very little on EBAY!!! I thought they were adorable too!
Ellie> Me too, I don't even know.. do you guys have one in Australia?

Sue said...

Wonderful Deana! We are a horse mad family and are often at the races (we all ride too). Great cocktails (I could do with one right now!)

Sook said...

Oh the sandwich looks refreshing and delicious!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dear cuisinière, it is so marvelous to visit with such a diverse group of talents....chez toi, I can find the most sumptuous looking meals and beautifully detailed descriptions that make me want to go out right now and get all the ingredients necessary. Thank you for coming to show your appreciation for my style of blogging; we all learn so much from each other!

Have a wonderful weekend! Anita

Bette said...

Ah, girls and our love of horses. All I can say is "Me, too, me too!!" I watched that Belmont on TV and I, too, had tears streaming down my cheeks. Watched the races and commentary on YouTube this morning -- still brings tears -- and realized that Oct. 4 was the anniversary of the day Secretariat was euthanized (in 1989).... Personally, I can't see myself going to the new movie, since no horse could play Secretariat and have it look authentic. What a beauty he was, and how lucky we are to have witnessed his magic. Thanks for this lovely tribute.

Anonymous said...

Saw the movie yesterday-loved it!
Googled "Secretiat photo" and found your blog-loved it too.
-a fellow Virginian

Unknown said...

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