We got to experience the magic of Churchill Downs ahead of the 2024 Kentucky Derby

Bring the magic of Churchill Downs home as you enjoy the 2024 Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby Previews
Kentucky Derby Previews / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The 150th running of the Kentucky Derby is set for May 4 and while this event at Churchill Downs is always a next level experience, this year is even more special. Not only did the facilities get a makeover, but we are celebrating 150 years of the run for the roses. That's an impressive feat for an event that has such a long and storied history.

I had the opportunity to visit Churchill Downs ahead of this year's running of the Kentucky Derby, with a tour of the facilities that included a behind the scenes look at the new spaces, and even a chance to try this year's menu. It was such an inspiring experience and one that has me rethinking the way I look at the Derby.

This is an event that requires so much work and precision to make sure that it goes off without a hitch, while still giving attendees a next level experience. If you have never been to a horse race, and especially the Kentucky Derby, then it can be hard to explain. But this is more than just a sporting event, it is an experience and a party in one. From the atmosphere itself to the food, Churchill Downs thinks of everything.

During my tour of the facilities, I got the chance to see things that the general public will never see. While it was still under construction at the time of my visit in April, it was clear even then that what Churchill Downs was doing was very special. They were creating spaces that will elevate the experience for everyone who attends the Kentucky Derby and beyond.

After getting to see the race track from the stands, the Paddock Club area, a hidden speakeasy, areas where attendees can place bets, dining areas and more, it was time for a menu tasting. And right away, it became clear that Chef Robert Lopez and his team thought out every detail of this menu from start to finish.

While there was no way to try every single menu item that will be available at the Kentucky Derby, I did get to sample the following dishes:

  • My Old Kentucky Bibb Salad
  • The Spring Pasta Salad
  • A Spring Panzanella Salad
  • Roasted Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts
  • Bourbon Cherry Brisket Burnt Ends
  • 'Nduja Shrimp Pasta
  • Herbed Gournay Wiesenberger Grits

This menu is both elevated dining and southern comfort. It is jam-packed with flavor and it delivers on everything it promises. Each dish was satisfying and left you wanting more, even as you couldn't eat another bite.

Bring the Kentucky Derby magic home by making Churchill Downs' Herbed Gournay Wiesenberger Grits at home

The menu alone would have me eager for a trip to Churchill Downs. But as an added bonus, they shared some of their recipes with us so that we could share them with you. This way you can bring the magic of the Kentucky Derby home.

Personally, I fell in love with the grits. These were next level grits that had me wishing I had a take out container in my bag so that I could bring them home with me. And if you want to make them for yourself to celebrate the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby, here is what you need to know:

Derby Menu Feb 13 202410240
Kentucky Derby Announces Menu for 150th Race at Churchill Downs /

Ingredients list:

  • 1 cup chicken stock, or broth
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 4 ounces roasted corn (off cob)
  • To taste kosher salt
  • To taste, freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup Wiesenberger grits
  • 4 ounces of Boursin cheese
  • One each green onion, sliced
  • 2 ounces Kenny’s cheddar cheese, shredded

What you need to do:

"Place grits into saucepan and add chicken stock, 3 tablespoons of butter and bring to a boil. Stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper.
Slowly stir in grits until fully incorporated, then add corn, stir and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes, or a liquid is absorbed and grits are creamy.
Taste, adjust seasonings if needed and transfer to serving bowl. Top with thin slices of remaining butter, green onion, and cheddar cheese, serve immediately."

Chef Lopez

This is actually a relatively easy recipe to make at home and the fact that it serves four means that you can do this any time you want to elevate your grits, your brunch, or even a watch party. The grits was my favorite dish and that is saying something because I loved the burnt ends and the bibb salad so much.

The Kentucky Derby is an experience that we can enjoy at home or at Churchill Downs, and while the race track is where the magic starts, it doesn't have to end there.

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