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April 24, 2013

Industry Standard: Insider info for those who dine out

First Saturday in May

Derby again already? I feel like I’m still recovering from last year.

Since my column is usually published the last Wednesday of each month, I’ve written a few Derby week columns over the last five-plus years. I started out aiming to reread them this morning, thinking, “Well, I don’t want to repeat myself.”

First impressions: Googling yourself is a real rabbit hole. This “Marshawn Lynch” guy (Seattle Seahawks running back) has got to stop biting my style. Also: Did I actually say “sharp white cheddar plays off the mellow, yellow cheddar” on television during a pimento cheese segment broadcast Derby week last year? Apparently so. (However: Discovering that phrase was worth it just to be able to add “Pimento Cheese Segment” to my lifelong list of possible band names.)

As for repeating myself, I sort of changed my mind. The chances someone reads my column so religiously they would roll their eyes and say, “She wrote about that in 2011, I remember!” is slim to none. So there are a couple of points I will repeat, because they are important.

Derby Foodie Tip No. 1: If you don’t currently have restaurant reservations for Oaks night, it’s over. Just go ahead and plan to roast a chicken that night. Or, you can have a party and ask your friends to bring dishes — and if you’re crafty, no one will notice you didn’t make anything yourself. Buy lots of ice and cut a pomegranate in half and leave it on the cutting board. Say “healthful” a lot. Leave a carrot or two lying around. Everyone will worship you.

Derby Foodie Tip No. 2: If you’re going to the Infield for Oaks or Derby, have fun, but load up on oatmeal before you go, because you will be eating nothing except $10 hot dogs and $8 soft pretzels all day (along with a mint sprig from your $11 mint julep). My advice is to prep up a delicious pasta dish, complete with everything already chopped/sliced/blanched the night before — so when you get home, you can throw it together quickly and just blow everyone away with how awesome you are. For extra points, have an Ace bandage in the freezer, because you know one of your friends is gonna turn an ankle in the driveway on the way in. Don’t forget the garlic bread. People love garlic bread more than life itself.

Derby Foodie Tip No. 3: You can go pretty much anywhere you like for dinner Saturday night. Oh, you think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding. People make reservations weeks in advance for multiple restaurants and then don’t use them. Derby night is often a bust for some servers. Almost never as good as Oaks night. Naturally, the super-popular places will fill up Saturday — but not with the folks who reserved tables. The folks who reserved tables are a little tipsy and at home with an ice pack on their forehead. And unfortunately they rarely call to cancel their multiple reservations. They are tired from Oaks night, dammit! So go getcha some at the second tier of trendy places. This is a great night to people-watch. Please avail yourself of a nap after the race, have a shower, and then sit back and watch the magic happen at a place you never thought you could be dining at on Derby night.

Derby Foodie Tip No. 4: If you put more than two drops of green food coloring in your Benedictine, Sally Benedict and I will be visiting you later. It’s not necessary. Cucumber and parsley alone impart enough of a green hue to the spread. It doesn’t need to be neon green. I have found you only need a single drop of food coloring. It seems without it, folks can’t figure out what they’re enjoying. PS: Does anyone besides me remember Fresher Cooker, the fast-food restaurant owned by John Y. Brown Jr. back in the ’80s? That Benedictine/bacon sandwich was aces.

A totally random guy stopped me in the bank last week to tell me he likes my column and the photo of me with the egg in particular. I hope that guy (Hi, Aaron!) has an awesome Derby. I was sweaty and discombobulated (wow, how cool is it that the first two syllables of “discombobulated” are “disco”?), and it made me feel like a thousand bucks. So stay tuned, constant readers. Enjoy Derby 2013. Get that pasta dish ready. I recommend asparagus and feta.

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro and Café Lou Lou. She now works for her alma mater, Sullivan University, as sous chef of Juleps Catering.