While some Derby Eve parties are noted for celebrity-watching, the Derby Eve Gala at the Seelbach should be noted for the fun, food and entertainment, as well as for its historic venue in the heart of the post-Oaks, pre-Derby party universe.
Sponsored by Kindred Healthcare and PharMerica, the Gala serves as a benefit for the American Lung Association and supports medical research, education and public policy advocacy efforts for the prevention of lung disease.
We arrived late after enduring an hour and a half trip from historic Churchill Downs to my home and a quick change. The dance floor was already alive when we entered the Medallion Ballroom just behind the gorgeous gilded and marbled lobby of the hotel, which was built by Louis and Otto Seelbach in 1904 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Burning Las Vegas from Nashville, TN had the crowd tapping toes and bopping to great hits from the 70's onward. The horn section simply rocked, and the vocalists set the mood for a great party.
Then, there was the food. One word described the menu: Amazing!
The salad consisted of Bibb wedge with Blue Point Reyes. The carmelized red onions and Britton's bacon crumbles simply melted in the mouth and paired perfectly with the Green Goddess dressing.
The second course of filet with Bloody-Mary sauce and egg-dipped chicken with buerre blanc and fried capers was prepared with the attention to detail that one expects from a hotel with the only AAA "Five Diamond" restaurant in the Commonwealth.
To my amusement, I saw a bottle of A1 sauce being returned from a table by the very capable wait staff. While not opposed to the use of A1, the filet with perfectly seared and the Bloody-Mary sauce served as most delicious compliment.
The egg-dipped chicken was adequate, but a bit underwhelming having shared the plate with the remarkable beef. Finerling potato hash, asparagus, and baby carrots completed the course.
Toasted almond bavarian cream served in a dark chocolate die with raspberry perserves was an elegant and delicious way to finish the culinery experience and was a unique tie-in to the Gala's theme of "A Touch of Vegas."
After dessert, he dance floor was really starting to heat up, as your correspondant started to wear down following a 7am start at Churchill Downs for the Oaks.
Recognizing that the Derby Day start would be equally early, we retired from the Ballroom and started toward the exit. However, a quick visit to the Old Seelbach Bar could not be resisted.
Taking a few minutes to listen to Dick Sisto's very talented jazz quartet was a wonderful way to unwind and provided a brief respite before the dizzying pace of Derby Day at the Track.
So you can keep your B and C-list celebrities, I'll take the legendary Seelbach and the elegance of the Derby Eve Gala any day!