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Courses for horses.

So November has rolled around again and it seems that all anyone who’s anyone can talk about in Melbourne is the Spring Racing Carnival. To be quite frank, I can take or leave the actual horse racing aspect – though I do enjoy a minor gamble from time to time. I’m just in it for the party and the very Gatsbyness of it all.  The big race days straddle the range of humanity from joy and decadence to vapidity and carelessness. I think these photos, borrowed from The Age website, encapsulate that nicely:
Happy Derby

Happy Derby: joy and decadence

Sad Derby2

Sad Derby: vast carelessness

For the many, many international guests that we have at this site,* some small things may need to be explained. There are a few different ways that you can indulge on race days. Some like to sit on the public lawns where there is many a sequined Elvis to be found. I also saw several men clutching VB cans and dressed as jockeys with the satin stretched taut over their hairy beer bellies. Others prefer the slightly more restrained members’ grandstands where occasionally one can still spot an ageing gentleman dressed in full morning suit with requisite lapel flower and top hat. There is also a special area called the ‘Birdcage’ where there are usually B-list reality tv celebrities, international imports (this year Tommy Lee and Ronan Keating) and gossip columnists. The Birdcage marquees are usually pretty snazzy and strictly invitation only. I’m still waiting for my invitations!

I prefer the ‘car park’ areas. At Flemington race track, these have evocative names such as ‘the Nursery’, ‘the Rails’, and ‘the Domain’. This is where the youngish and youngish-at-heart flock. They are, but also are not, actual car parks. A more apt description is of a big lawn with about 900 car sized spaces and bitumen ‘roads’ in between with a few totes and big screens dotted around. You can reserve a car park, set up some market umbrellas and picnic tables, and then invite your friends along to indulge.

It’s all self-catered and self-alcoholed. Some people like to organise a caterer to prepare all the food. Others prefer to have their guests all bring along a plate or two. This is what we were required to do on Tuesday at the Melbourne Cup (and this is where the beloved cheesecake pops came to the fore). This I enjoy because I enjoy cooking.

My all time favourite race track food is mini smoked salmon bagels and so that’s what I decided to make. I know they are pretty boring, but to me, nothing beats them. Particularly when you have been imbibing champagne all day, all you want is something tasty and substantial that will not spill onto your pretty dress.

My only issue with them is that they must be made on the morning of the day, and it can be a challenge to make oneself look beautiful and have the time to make beautiful bagels.

I did not have time to do anything too fancy. So i just went down the street and bought some mini bagels from Glicks.


Many mini bagels for all

I grabbed a whole lot of roquette, smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill from the supermarket. Supermarket shopping pains me a little, especially for a ‘fancy’ event such as this. But the quality market and grocers aren’t usually open on public holidays. I was dreaming of George Biron’s wild roquette which we had tasted from straight out of the ground at Sunnybrae on Monday. (More about that adventure later in the week…)

At home, I mixed the cream cheese with the dill and some preserved lemon and pepper and shoved all the ingredients into the bagels as quickly as possible. I tried to be super generous with the fillings as bagels can be a little dry and doughy and they need plenty of filling to balance that.


Cream cheese, preserved lemon and dill: delightful!


So good.

I packed them in the esky with a bottle of prosecco and skipped off to the track.

The bagels were a complete success. I had three in quick succession and all 25 were gone before midday. I think the preserved lemons were the key. If I did it again, I might put in some capers too.


* I’m wishfully hoping that not all of our visitors are family members and work colleagues!

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