When Ms. Jeannie spent a couple of years in a rented house on a horse farm in pastoral Pennsylvania, she fell under the spell of Derby fever. She lived in PA at the exciting time of Smarty Jones’ run for the trifecta, when friends would host ‘Smarty Partys” and the pride of a local hometwown horse victory could be felt miles around.
Smarty won the Kentucky Derby. Everybody cheered! Smarty won the Preakness by 11 1/2 lengths. Everybody was enraptured! Smarty rounded the last quarter mile at Belmont in the lead. Everybody was anxious. He neared the finish line. Hearts were hopeful! Birdstone made a run from behind. Smarty and Birdstone were neck and neck. Birdstone crept ahead. Birdstone wins the Belmont. You could have cut the devastation in half that day. It seems everybody was rooting for Smarty – even Birdstone’s jockey apologized!
And that, dear ones, is what makes horse racing so exciting! You just never know what may happen until the very last second. Sports enthusiast or not, everyone can appreciate a good suspense story and that’s just what the Derby delivers, year after year.
With just a week and a half left until Derby day, Ms. Jeannie has party preparations on her mind. Every year, she sticks to a few traditions and then adds new elements on top to keep her guests surprised.
Ms. Jeannie always starts the party planning process by watching her two favorite horse movies…
Next, Ms. Jeannie visits kentuckyderby.com and reads up on all the entrants. Ms. Jeannie is a sucker for any horse that is white or has a great name. This year she has her eye on a few…
Hansen (aka the white one!)
And these creative namers:
And, because she loves all things Irish, Ms. Jeannie is throwing an extra bet on the Donegal Racing Stables entrant…
The favorite of the race right now is Union Rags, who has had an impressive race history and comes from a long line of champions. Ms. Jeannie always like the underdogs the best though. So she’s going to stick with her top picks above. Although that Union Rags is one pretty cute horse!
Now that she has her favorites picked out, she can start her party planning.
Traditionally red roses would be the flower of choice for table decorations at any Derby party, but Ms. Jeannie likes to mix things up, so she’ll be using red clover flowers instead. They are blooming en masse in her side yard, and look so lovely and farmy that she can’t resist picking a few bucketfuls.
The Corduroy Road was an Athens, GA based bluegrass/folk/Americana band that Ms. Jeannie first heard at an outdoor market a few years ago. She loved their twangy sound and old-fashioned lyrics, so much that she had them come play at her friends surprise birthday party. Sadly, one of the two singers left the band to go to medical school, so they don’t play together anymore, but luckily they gave Ms. Jeannie some music before they said their goodbyes. So she treasures each song dearly and plays them often. It is perfect party music, since it is subtle but upbeat. See for yourself… here’s one of their you tube videos…
When there is a horse running in the Derby with the name, I’ll Have Another, you just have to make them the star of the cocktail hour! Ms. Jeannie always serves Mint Juleps (tradition of course!) but this year she will also serve a new drink to match the bay color of I’ll Have Another. This drink is a Southerner’s delight, containing Jack Daniels whiskey (appropriate!), pecans, sherry and an intriguing smoked element that can either be done on the grill or the stove.
Smoke Signals – Makes 4
Line heavy large pot with heavy-duty foil. Sprinkle wood chips over bottom of pot; cover. Turn exhaust fan on high. Heat pot over high heat until smoke begins to form inside pot. Fill 9 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch metal loaf pan with ice. Place in pot; cover tightly. Smoke ice until just melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Cover loaf pan tightly with plastic wrap; freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Using ice pick, cut ice block crosswise into *large* smoked ice chunks allowing 1 per glass. Wrap tightly in plastic and keep frozen.
Bring 1 cup water and sugar to boil in medium saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pecans; reduce heat to medium and simmer until syrup tastes like pecans, about 12 minutes. Strain; discard pecans. Cover and chill pecan syrup until cold, about 2 hours.
- Place 5 tablespoons whiskey, 3 tablespoons Sherry, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons pecan syrup in cocktail shaker. Fill with plain ice cubes; cover and shake until cold. Divide mixture between 2 old-fashioned glasses. Repeat with remaining 5 tablespoons whiskey, 3 tablespoons Sherry, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons pecan syrup, and ice. Place 1 smoked ice chunk in each glass and serve.
For a side dish, Ms. Jeannie will make homemade, oven baked bistro french fries, which for the occassion, she will rename, Daddy Long Legs, after one of her favorite Derby contenders in the creative names category.
For the recipe click here Bistro French Fries with Parsley and Garlic
For a second side dish, Ms. Jeannie will make a wilted spinach salad with goat cheese, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts, along with a homemade white wine dressing.
She’ll throw a few loaves of crusty french bread on the table as well and call dinner done!
For dessert, she will carry the Went The Day Well theme and offer her guests a bountiful array of locally grown strawberries (now in season!), crumbled dark chocolate pieces, smoked almonds and espresso. If she planned correctly, her guests will have indeed felt that in fact the day went well!
What’s a derby party without a hat! Ms. Jeannie still needs to get her derby hat, so don’t you panic either, there is still a little time left. Etsy has a large selection, depending on your budget. Here are Ms. Jeannie’s favorites in the following price points: