How to Throw an Epic Kentucky Derby Party Complete with Southern Charm
CARROLLTON, Va. — As some 155,000 people descend upon Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. May 7 for the 142nd annual Kentucky Derby, local thoroughbreds of the food and entertainment track will host their own high-style, debut, Founders Foodies Kentucky Derby Affair. Established in January 2015 by Founders Pointe residents and former food columnists Matthew and Christina Erpelding, Founders Foodies is comprised of dozens of culinary enthusiasts who meet monthly at their neighborhood clubhouse to share great food, the histories behind it, and accompaniments such as good wine, cooking presentations and more. For remote Derby viewers throughout Virginia, Christina Erpelding shares some of her best tips and insights for throwing a Kentucky Derby party in style:
“The highlight of a Kentucky Derby event may not be the horses, but the food that gathers everyone and will be the highlight of the year to follow” Erpelding said. When planning the meal, “I like to start at the end and work my way back to the start. This thought process provides us the opportunity to decide the winner first and then work our way back through the field of choices,” she explained. The dessert is the top of the list, and Erpelding said she cannot imagine a derby event without chocolate bourbon pecan pie. “The crisp pecans combined with the gooey chocolate bourbon, it’s heavenly,” she reasoned.
Erpelding and her husband are big on buying from and supporting local businesses, so they chose delicious southern fare catered by Pendulum Fine Meats, a Norfolk-based old-fashioned butcher shop that connects consumers with local and heritage farmers. “Every cut of meat they sell has been locally sourced, priced fairly, and hand-butchered using centuries old techniques,” Erpelding said, adding that owner Dylan Wakefield “is a graduate of the very prestigious Culinary Institute of America.”
To add a dash of Virginia Southern charm, Founders Foodies will also serve sweet potato ham biscuits from nearby Smithfield. “They are served warm and literally melt in your mouth,” Erpelding teased. “I love the sweetness of the sweet potatoes with the saltiness of the ham.”
A mint julep may be as important as the horses in the starting gate, Erpelding said. “This simple truly American cocktail breaks out of the starting gate strong but as time ticks by, it mellows out,” she promised. “The hint of mint and addition of sweetness provides the complexity needed for a celebration toast, or to drink your sorrows, depending on the outcome of your favorite horse,” she said. But no matter the outcome of your wager, the Julep is always a reliable, American taste. Erpelding is enabling guests to order official Kentucky Derby mint julep glasses in advance.
Wine will also be served at the Founders Foodies Kentucky Derby party, and at 5 p.m. the group will partake in the Derby’s attempt to set a New Guinness World Record for “The World’s Largest Champagne Toast.”
Her husband will be donning the classic seersucker suit complete with a bowtie. Did you know that the seersucker was born in 1909 in New Orleans? The merchant wanted a suit that was lightweight and would make the humid weather in New Orleans bearable, Erpelding explained. The Kentucky Derby began in 1875 and in those days women donned their best, which included a hat. “My piece de resistance will be a fascinator; this is where it’s okay to go big and bold!” she urged. “I’m a hi-low dresser, meaning I splurge on accessories, but for the actual outfit I go thrifty. For a ‘theme’ party, thrift stores are your friend — or in my case they are a weekly stop,” Erpelding confided. “Hampton Roads has the best thrift store choices,” she said, and she’s been scouring them all for “the perfect dress.”
Friends and Fans
What fun what would a Kentucky Derby party be without those with whom we enjoy celebrating? “Ours includes our foodie club in our wonderful neighborhood of Founder’s Pointe, and food is truly the passion of this group,” Erpelding said. “This party gives us all the chance to splurge and look beautiful” as partygoers mingle near the pool and greens of this charming riverside community. Upon arrival, guests will stroll up a special red carpet to the clubhouse, where they will then be photographed celebrity-style, in their swankiest Derby attire, by a group of paparazzi.
A derby party wouldn’t be complete without a few dozen roses, Erpelding added. The bonus: “This makes an easy decision as a gift for the hostess,” she said. Roses became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby in 1904, Erpelding noted, and in 1925 Bill Corum, a New York sports columnist, famously labeled the Kentucky Derby, “Run for the Roses.”
Founders Foodies members meet monthly at the Founders Pointe Residents’ Club clubhouse. The “magic,” Christina Erpelding said, is the fun and culture shared among friends who hail from different parts of the country and world. Before moving to Founders Pointe from Arkansas in 2014, she and her husband wrote a food column for Life In Chenal magazine. “Food is our passion,” she proclaimed. “We love food; we love traveling for food. Food brings people together, and you can learn so much about different cultures” by sharing it.
The Founders Foodies inaugural Kentucky Derby party will take place 4 – 9 p.m. May 7 at the Founders Pointe Residents’ Club. Members of the media are welcome to cover the event. For complete menu, location address, and/or to interview Matthew and Christina Erpelding, club activities coordinator Lexi Snodgrass or other participants, please contact Christina Erpelding directly at 501-681-4852 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Article by Nora Firestone-
Founders Pointe is an East West Community waterfront neighborhood in Isle of Wight County, near the historic town of Smithfield. The resort-style community has been selected to host the Peninsula Housing and Builders Association’s 2016 Fall Parade of Homes event and twice selected “Community of the Year”