We’re fans of Styles’ welcoming and understated approach to parties, so we asked her to share her secrets to hosting a great Run for the Roses get-together. “I love the idea of a watching party,” says Styles. “It’s a great way to join in the fun of the Derby no matter where you live.”
The Flowers: Styles suggests keeping things local and seasonal. Below, she chose mountain laurel that bloom in her native Texas in spring and arranged them in vintage trophies. “I wanted to incorporate some of the iconography of the Derby while staying away from using roses or hats as decor or anything too clichéd,” she says. “The vintage trophies were the perfect solution—just a fun subtle nod to the race.”
The Décor Details: A garland made entirely from vintage equestrian ribbons that Styles scored on sites such as ebay adds an unexpected twist on a traditional theme (pictured below):
The Cocktail: “Mint juleps are pretty much mandatory at a Derby party,” says Styles. “I served them with all the traditional accouterments, from the monogrammed silver cups right down to the linen napkins.”
The Menu: “I wanted to create a “Kentuckian” menu for the event that was a nod to some of the delicious regional food,” says Styles. “So I made Kentucky ham and biscuits with a mango fig chutney and built out from there.”
“Derby Pie Parfaits (below) are so easy for guests to eat while they’re mingling. To make them, just break up chunks of brownie into the bottom of a mason jar, then add a few candied pecans and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Repeat those layers, then top it off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream—who doesn’t love that?”
The Main Event: May in the South is the perfect time to entertain outdoors—it’s not too muggy or buggy yet. “Instead of cramming around a television set, tune into the race on a vintage radio,” Styles says. Post time is scheduled for 6:24 p.m.; you can head inside to watch the most exciting two minutes in sports, or stay right where you are and listen in and celebrate the big winners with a bottle of champagne.
For more tips on Derby entertaining and more, visit camillestyles.com and pick up her new book, Camille Styles Entertaining. Photographed by Kate Zimmerman on location at the Pi Beta Phi house at the University of Texas.