Well, it’s still not quite as good as being in Louisville for the festivities, but it sure is fun bringing a little bit of Churchill Downs to Saint Paul for a few hours. We hosted another Derby Party last weekend, and made a few modifications that I think went well: I spent more of the party outside of the kitchen, and didn’t have too many leftovers of sweets. I still collapsed in a heap after the last guest left, but that may be more due to the fact that I’m in the middle of marathon training and did a 9-mile hilly run, the morning of the party. And no, I didn’t keep count of the juleps I’d enjoyed over several hours… but at least the cups were small, and the whiskey not as strong.
Changes we made this year, that I hope to remember for the future. I wholly confess to heavy use of Pinterest to find some (all) of these recipes:
- Hot browns! This is apparently a tradition for the event, though we didn’t experience them at all, in Louisville. After reading one recipe for these (in a “slider “version… baked all in one pan) and knowing full well how fond a certain individual (who wore seersucker) is of sandwiches, turkey and cheese… I added it to the menu. And it was amazing, even with the parmesan accidentally omitted.
- Benedictine spread: another one we never saw in Kentucky, but it’s a keeper that has just a tad more vegetables than the pimiento cheese spread/sandwiches we did last year. We made up a few white-bread sandwiches (I didn’t have the nerve nor time to cut off the crusts) and left the rest out for dipping with hearty crackers.
- Kentucky Butter Cake: So few of the bourbon balls I made last year got eaten that I decided to try a dessert without nuts or chocolate. Also: making a bundt cake is a bit less time-intensive than chocolate-dipped candies. This was a great pound cake-like recipe that I’ll do again, though only a few of us enjoyed it at the party. We’ve been happily chipping away at it at breakfast, in the days since. I suppose people got enough sugar for the day from their juleps?
- A bag of crushed ice. I am so glad I was able to buy this, the night before the party from Shamrock Group! Last year I was making crushed ice on a nearly per-julep basis with the VitaMix, which was terribly noisy. I spent a good part of the afternoon alone in the kitchen making juleps. This year, we converted most of the food table to a beverage station, complete with julep recipe, the appropriate supplies and tools, the world’s best muddler (the souvenir bat you get at the Slugger Museum), and a bowl of ice that we just had to replenish from the cooler on the back porch, from time to time.
- There’s a hat store at the Mall of America now: Chapel Hats! I found a great fascinator there just a week before the party, for just $20. To be fair, it wasn’t … big enough if I were trying to impress (or win our own hat contest), but it was fun to wear, and saved me a ton of time.
- I’d love to say I planned this, but alas: it simply happened. It was a gorgeous day out and people were able to sit out in our backyard and on the front porch, sipping and conversating. I gave a few tours of our garden. It has yet to reach its full potential (of course: it’s only May) but still had a few blooms to offer up: a ton of scilla, and a few bright tulips.
Some great things we didn’t intentionally change and yet they happened:
- One most excellent hand-crocheted Derby hat (see photo at right)
- Everybody looked great! It was fun to see friends dressed up a bit, sometimes with ties, a waistcoat, a great hat or fascinator here and there, and some festive spring dresses.
- A tie: three of our most excellent and non-underdog-picking friends decided to bet on American Pharoah. And yet no one placed actual bets, likely because we were too busy socializing to lay down the rules: the money jar was empty. So… we had to battlefield-promote most of the best-hat/tie prizes to race winnings. I’m not sure anyone noticed?
- We shared a treasured treat with friends who appreciated it: some of our Angel’s Envy Rye.
It was so enjoyable to spend some relaxing time with good friends, and to share some specially-made food and drinks with them! Some of them traveled from pretty distant burbs/busy lives, and that was a super special treat.
I was really happy that I wasn’t frantically trying to make a fascinator, 30 minutes before the party, like I was last year. However, I was frantically trying to prepare the list of horses and the julep recipe, and facing frustrations with my computer. And a plate of veggies never made it out to our guests. For the most part, I think paring back our food plans made it easier for me to squeeze in the “necessary” 9-miler the morning of the party – but when we do this party again, I’ll make sure to keep the morning more open for party prep.
Onward! To the garden. And maybe the Angel’s Envy Rye.