Cup Caterings: Behind the Scenes with EPICURE's Rachel Dolan

By Freya Ensbey.

As November trots around, so does Australia’s biggest horse race, the race in fact, that stops our nation. Melbourne Cup. As the warmer weather arrives, the frocks come out, the fascinators are fixed, the champagne is poured and the bets are secured.

As many punters make the annual pilgrimage to Melbourne’s famous Flemington Racecourse to get up close and personal to the beating hooves on the track and to brush shoulders with celebrities, some may decide instead to take a more relaxed approached and enjoy all of the action from their own home, inviting friends over and putting on a show stopping spread of cup caterings, free from large bar queues, toilet lines, crowds and turf sinking shoes.

Put the TV front and centre of the lounge room, place your bets online and serve up a first-place winning spread, with the guidance from those in the know.

Cup Caterings: Behind the Scenes with EPICURE's Rachel Dolan

Specialising in location catering, EPICURE offers creative menu options for over 16 inspired venues across Australia and New Zealand. From Brisbane Town Hall, Melbourne Cricket Ground and The Centre Ivanhoe to New Zealand’s Parliament House, EPICURE know crowd pleasing gourmet fare and they know it well. 

The acclaimed company is one of the preferred caterers to service The Birdcage Private Marquees at Flemington. Offered by the Victoria Racing Club as the pinnacle of entertainment and celebration, The Birdcage sets the benchmark for illustrious track side dining with glamour and sophistication. With tickets costing upward of $1500, it is an exclusive experience for punters to see and be seen.  

We sat down with EPICURE’s Marketing Manager, Rachel Dolan, to talk all things cocktail party and cup caterings to inspire you this Melbourne Cup to back yourself a winning day.

As one of the chosen caterers for The Birdcage Private Marquees at the Melbourne Cup, explain what the atmosphere is like trackside?

It’s pretty electric! The Birdcage itself is a bit of a sensory overload, with all the marquees, the people and race day fashion it’s a lot to take in. From a catering perspective it is hectic but still exciting, we’ve been working on these events for months so it’s rewarding to see it all come together and the guests in the marquees enjoying the service we’re delivering. You’ve definitely got to stay on your toes though!

What are the most popular and requested crowd-pleasers from the punters at Flemington?

Champagne, oysters (or lobster) and fish and chips to finish the day.

What would be your advice for the first step of planning a Melbourne Cup cocktail party at home?

There has got to be a show stopping element, you’re aiming to surprise and delight! It could be your décor, a themed cocktail list or an incredible food moment. A few subtle gimmicks never go astray either, something which adds to the Spring racing spirit.

What are your top canapé recipe tips?

For the home you want something quick and easy of that you can prepare in advance so you’re able to enjoy the party. As above, oysters are a winner. Dead easy, especially if like me, you prefer them natural with lemon, but you can get as creative as you like with dressings. Just make sure they’re well chilled when serving, or even better – on ice. Croutes canapés are nice and easy for entertaining at home too, with endless possibilities of toppings, think texture, colour and cheese and you can’t go wrong.

What do party planners need to keep in mind when matching beverages with their menu?

Its champagne all the way on race days, we serve very little in the way of wines, however it’s always good to have some delicious low and non-alcoholic options for your guests, and it’s a long day so something light and refreshing can be needed in between all the bubbles. When picking beers, keep in mind it should be a nice middle of the road style, we are so lucky to have so many excellent local craft beers available these days. Steer away from too heavy or hoppy, but you don’t want anything too bland and watery either.

So, as you put your chosen bubbles on ice, and your guests arrive, why not open the starting gate by serving up oysters with a show stopping twist and try EPICURE’s Oysters with Grapefruit and Maraschino Dressing.

Photos thanks to EPICURE and depict Spring Racing 2015 and may or may not represent current offerings.