A pastrami sandwich, one of the items from the New York-centric menu created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Belmont Stakes. (Courtesy Centerplate)
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Justify is one win away from becoming the second Triple Crown winner in the last four decades when he competes Saturday at the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y. The event is expected to draw a crowd of 90,000.
Vying for concession dollars is Centerplate, which has been Belmont Park’s food and beverage provider since 1995.
Drew Revella, the Triple Crown chef at Belmont Park, was with the venue 2004-11 and returned as Centerplate’s general manager of the F&B operation this year.
He created a new menu for the classic horse racing event using “local flavor from around all the boroughs of New York,” he said. “It’s Belmont Stakes' 150th anniversary and we’ve been thinking about what we wanted to do that would be special. We decided to go with a very New York-centric theme.”
The premium areas will “get a little bit of everything New York has to offer,” Revella said. “Taking a tour of New York and the surrounding boroughs, we tried to capture what New York is all about and bring back nostalgia to anyone who grew up here.”
Picked by Revella to be part of the quintessential New York experience is Brooklyn-themed GMO-free pastrami, hot dogs and sausage, smoked meats, charcuterie boards, bagels and smoked fish from Brooklyn Cured; urban rooftop-grown lettuces and greens from Gotham Greens; and other East Coast favorites like potato knishes from Knish Gnosh; baba ghanoush from Sonny & Joe’s; and cannolis, caramelized nuts and soft pretzels.
Little Italy-inspired spaghetti and meatballs is one of the new menu items available at Belmont Park this week only. (Courtesy Centerplate)
Also on the menu is mulderberry turkey breast from New York's Adirondacks; warm tomato pies from Utica; and shrimp and prosciutto from Little Italy.
Also in the VIP areas will be Long Island Sound oysters. “The oysters will be fresh Saturday morning and they’re going to shuck the oysters on the spot,” said Revella. “For those lucky enough to get them, it’s a cool thing and the best way to eat them.”
Alcohol will be available, with Revella’s specialty drink, The Jewel, which uses sponsor Woodford Reserve’s bourbon, being the main offering.
A wide variety of new ancient grains, including wheatberry, quinoa, red and green lentil, tabbouleh and seven-grain dishes will be available in the Garden Terrace Buffet, as well as a daily array of hummus and locally sourced fruits and vegetables.
“We started planning menus for the differing areas last summer, basically right after last year’s Belmont,” said Centerplate communications director Paul Pettas in an email. That included holding meetings with Revella, Regional Vice President Bobby Dichiaro and other executives on a regular basis.
“All menus are created based on what Belmont can source, using New York purveyors for cheeses, meats and as many local products as possible, allowing the chefs and front-of-house folks (about 25-30 of each) to assist operations from the main kitchen,” Pettas said.
“Food preparation starts weeks before the race,” explained Pettas, “with the final preparations filling the week leading up to Saturday and 'execution' happening Friday and into Saturday.”
No New York-themed menu would be complete without a hot soft pretzel, which will be on the menu at the Belmont Stakes' 150th anniversary Saturday.
Revella has staff of 150 on his Centerplate team producing the concessions. “Right now 80 chefs and cooks are getting ready for Saturday,” he said. “It starts (Thursday) and goes through Saturday. It’s a great experience, and it’s all about food and connecting to horse racing.”