Kentucky Derby Buffet

If you missed out on the Tartan Parade that started on April 1 at Upstairs Downstairs, Hyacinths for the Soul, Vignette Design and The Polohouse, be sure to click on over to see some really fabulous representations of Scottish tradition. Since they were accepting simple plaid for us non-Scots to be able to participate, too, check out my entry “Pink Plaid & Posies” which is a charming celebration of Spring-y pastel plaid!

It’s already the first week in April, and with time flying this fast the 138th Kentucky Derby will be here before you know it! (That’s May 4th & 5th.)

For my first “Art of Tablescaping – Buffet Style” class last month, I put together a Kentucky Derby buffet for the students to consider for ideas and form. Next week I’ll feature the sit-down dinner version, so please be sure to stop back in to check that out, too!
Click on any photo to enlarge!

Yes, that’s me hiding behind the horse’s hindquarters! Perfect product placement, huh? 😉 This horse really gets around a lot lately. This week he’s prancing on a bed of red rose petals, while just last week he was featured out on the deck in my Spring/Summer brunch post “Carousel Colors“! (He can also be seen in the posts “Run for the Roses” and “Celebrating Longview Farm“.)

img_7646wm.jpgAlthough this table is facing one way, I need for you to imagine it going lengthwise this direction starting at the plates & forks. This is a heavy Mission style table, and there was no way I was going to try and move it!

I draped the table in a full-length black linen to make it just sort of disappear and allow the brilliant red and silver be the stars. The start of this casual buffet table allows guests to take a plate from the double stack and a fork from a line on either side. The forks are arranged in an interesting “head-to-toe” pattern partly for the sake of playful design and partly to help allow more forks to fit into the available space. (Try it! You really can fit in at least 2-4 more forks!)

IMG_5387WMInitialed napkins, a gift from my best friend, are displayed in a silver champagne bucket. The idea is to not only provide a basic service but to also “stair step” (forks at the lowest level, plates up a bit higher, napkins next highest) the start of the buffet for a dramatic effect.

IMG_5357WMA themed buffet is the place to really play with unusual serving pieces. For example, loaves of French bread are displayed in a pair of black riding boots that resemble those worn by the jockeys. The boots are actually an umbrella stand purchased at Z Gallerie! (I got it for half price because of a tiny chip at the top that no one will ever see!!!)

Almost nothing says Kentucky Derby like a silver mint julep cup! Bread sticks are offered here, but you can serve just about any and everything out of these…including actual mint juleps!!! (Note: If you don’t have the budget for a lot of silver juleps, consider contacting your florist for faux silver cups like the one above. C’mon admit it…Would you have known if I hadn’t told you?)

Chafers look really great when lined up like tin soldiers in a clean, single line. These are smaller 2-qt. capacity chafers as opposed to the larger 5-qt. ones most often seen. It’s nice to have smaller ones on hand for serving smaller crowds or if you need to conserve table space. I bought these at Big Lots for $15 each about 10 years ago, and I have recently seen them in that store again. (Of course, like everything else, they cost a little more now!)

Derby time is the time to pull out all the silver – heirloom or nouveau – and put it into service in conventional and unconventional ways. For instance, when’s the last time you saw grape scissors like these? They were made popular in the super pompous Victorian era to snip small portions of grapes from a large bunch for eating. They come in just as handy in this era!

Instead of running for the roses, this horse is running with the roses…in his mouth! The traditional blanket of 554 red roses for the winning horse may not be his, but he’s got his own sense of style on the track! 🙂


The area behind the buffet table is set up with a punch bowl (a loose replica of the famous punch bowl that graces the dining room sideboard of the governor’s mansion in Arkansas) full of the traditional bourbon, mint and simple syrup concoction known as a mint julep. Making juleps in large quantities in advance cuts down on time spent behind the bar. Guests can ladle their own into a silver julep cup with ease. Uncouth lushes like me may simply opt to stick a giant bendy straw in the bowl and have at it!!! 😉 The silverplated julep cups pictured here (yup…these are the real deal) are highly recommended to bring out the full experience of each frosty sip! (Unless you can afford the too-rich-for-my-blood sterling silver which is the ultimate!!!) When purchasing julep cups, make sure they are suitable for food consumption. Some contain a compound that allows them to be used for decorative display only.

IMG_5097WMRed roses throughout the room are a given…and a must! Here, festive yet sophisticated red rose balls are set atop heavy oil rubbed bronze urns on each end of the sideboard and flanked by a pair of silver candlesticks.

IMG_5406WMDon’t forget about your entryway! Here, a bouquet of red roses greets guests/students as they check in for class. Consider also a wreath of red roses on the front door in the shape of the traditional blanket or perhaps a horseshoe.

Don’t forget to check back in next week for more Kentucky Derby tablescape ideas. I’ll have a full sit-down dinner table prepared for you.

Other Kentucky Derby posts on this site:
Run for the Roses
Derby Day Dining
Should Have Put a Ring On It
“Roses In October”

I’m linking up this week with Kathleen for “Let’s Dish” starting at 6:00 p.m. (CDT) Wednesday, Centerpiece Wednesday with The Style Sisters, and Tablescape Thursday starting at 9:00 a.m. (CDT) Thursday. Join us, won’t you? And catch me over at, too!

66 thoughts on “Kentucky Derby Buffet

  1. Gorgeous! What a spectacular centerpiece.

    We just got back from the lake. I am sort of browsing blogs and Facebook. Miss Gabi is still with us until tomorrow, so I won’t be doing a lot of visiting until she goes home. When I saw this pop up on Facebook, I couldn’t resist!


  2. OK…could you ppppllllleeeeasssseee put that punch bowl in your will with my name next to it??? Pleasesssseee???? OH, it’s gorgeous!! All your pieces are wonderful, Alycia, and the table is perfect! What lovely interpretations. Can’t wait to see the dinner tablescape!! Love your stuff and what you do with it!! 🙂 ~Zuni


  3. Yay for Derby Day! You frightened me with the jockey’s boots for a moment…I could NOT imagine you putting a pair of boots on the table that had been to the track! Thank goodness they’re an umbrella stand. 🙂 Your table is lovely as always. About that faux food you’re serving…it’s a little chewy. But it shouldn’t be a problem once we get our silver straws out of the punch bowl. 😉 So will you be serving up mint juleps this year, or tequila for Cinco de Mayo? It appears we may have a slight scheduling conflict.


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  5. If you find that the horsie is missing… I whispered him to come to me!

    This setting is spectacular — we love the Kentucky Derby although I have never been for real. The husband promises when he retires we will go. Each year we get out the julep cups and have mint juleps while the race is on.

    You have the most gorgeous things to work with — I know you are a big hit with the students.


  6. All I can say is, “WOW”. I bet there aren’t too many party tables here in the Bluegrass State that rival yours! Can’t wait to see the full spread!


  7. Totally fun Alycia! You sure know how to jazz it up! I love that the horse is “running with the roses” ! Cute! All of your suggestions of how to display and serve are wonderful! Love the silver pieces and all the red roses! The punch bowl rocks- and tell your friend my name is on it already!! Isn’t it amazing what the victorian era brought to life? They really went overboard with details!


  8. Love your wonderful comments, save a straw for me! What a fabulous buffet. I would love to be a guest for this one! How grand to serve the baguettes in riding boots. The food looks amazing and although I have a warmer, the chafing dishes look amazing lined up like the horses in the gates. Have you ever been to the derby? Not I, but we did get to walk on the turf many years ago. But I didn’t see those julip cups there nor the bowl.. That is a magnificent piece. Totally. Love the beautiful details.. Alycia, a fabulous buffet! When are you serving.. xo marlis


  9. Ok I think I’ll just go get Rose out of the stables and head down to the derby, Mama V makes a bad mint julep. Good idea I’ll take my punch bowl over so she can make me up a batch. Could I borrow your cups please?


  10. Oh, Alycia, this is fabulous! So many good ideas — love the “head to toe” fork arrangement, and all the silver takes my breath away! Love the artfully arranged tray of crudites and the amazing punchbowl! What a fun party this would be!


  11. You continue to outdo yourself! This is fabulous and you write so well too. I wish I had that talent. I can TALK for sure but I struggle with writing:):) I have never had a mint julep. All of your rose accents are beautiful and I LOVE that horse!!!! XO, Pinky


  12. Whoa!!!…and a couple of whinnies too….Your table is out — stand — ing!!!

    You created a table that is both sophisticated and fun all rolled into one!…
    Everything from the silver to the breadsticks, so gorgeously displayed with such expertise and finesse. So send me an invite a and I will join you at this amazing table sipping a mint julep!!….Bravo Alycia!!!


  13. Pass me a giant bendy straw please! What fun~ love your carousel horse on the table and your sense of fun with the baguettes in the riding boots! Once again I’m amazed~ I bet your students were in awe…did they have to don hats to attend? 🙂


  14. wow, this one is spectacular. Just spectacular. Sure wish I could attend your classes. I’ll bet your students are having a blast!


  15. Alycia…….you’ve done it again!!! Unbelievable – one day I’m coming over there to check out your home. Why on earth did you give up the wedding business??? Your tables are to die for,


  16. I’ll have to live vicariously through you for the Derby, but I will mark my calendar for May 4th & 5th. My cousin races horses for a living here in New York, so I should pay better attention to the Derby :o) Love that horse centerpiece! I’ve never had a mint julep…are they good?


  17. I would like to go to a Kentucky Derby party like this one! You have so many little touches that set the mood perfectly, like the mint juleps and cups for those too proper to stick the straws in with you and me. I like the fork idea, too, and all the red roses. Looking forward to seeing the dinner party ideas. Linda


  18. Stunning buffet presentation, wow! This sure is magazine material my friend. What a KD party, wish I could just get into the computer like a cartoon, lol..
    The silver punch bowl and cups is magnificent! Hope you visit my new post.
    Have a blessed EASTER SUNDAY!


  19. “Perfect product placement, huh?” LOL You are too funny, Alycia!

    What a glorious table to honor the *Run for the Roses*! I hope you don’t mind if I put my MUCH SMALLER horse in the middle of a tablescape for next month? I never would have thought of it, if I hadn’t seen this one!

    We’ve been to the derby…I still have my hats,! I think a should use them at the table, too… somehow.

    I am seriously coveting your beautiful silver champagne bucket & punch bowl display!!! I also like the “head to toe” arrangement of the forks. Very interesting display trick!

    The breadsticks in the silver cups are another tip I’m going to *borrow*. I sure hope you don’t mind me being a copy cat!

    I love all this over-the-top-silver & I think I should have been born in the super pompous Victorian era!!

    Wonderfully done, Honey! You get A+ for this one!


  20. WOW, what a statement that makes! Love the bread in the boots too! This is an amazing buffet presentation, A! The horse is fabulous! I would love to be a guest, but no juleps for me!
    Thanks for linking to Let’s Dish! Happy Easter.


  21. Alycia your accessories always stun me! He is just fabulous. I can’t get over the bread in the boots either! Your presentation of the veggie platter is just gorgeous. What a fun fun table!


  22. First I have to say… Girl you look fabulous in that picture! You caught my eye before I looked at the table. And the table is a visual delight, too! Absolutely stunning! And as usual it’s accompanied by a lesson delivered with wit and humor. Beautiful silver pieces everywhere, innovative use of the umbrella stand, gorgeous carousel horse… and the food makes it all look like it’s really happening. I was ready to don my big flowery hat!


  23. Wow! That’s a big centerpiece and a lovely one! You sure give it your all when you tablescape. I bet your students really enjoyed this. I attended a Kentucky Derby buffet once and their centerpiece was also a huge racer horse but it was made out of carton. Your food looks delish! Happy Easter!…Christine


  24. Oh My Gosh! You are so talented. Your veggies tray is beautiful. I don’t know if I have ever said that about a veggie tray before. 🙂 Your silver collection is stunning. I love the feel of your buffet. You have incorporated rich tradition as well as whimsy with your beautiful horse running with the roses. You rock. You look like the perfect host. My pre-party look is usually panic. LOL. I can’t wait to see your follow up with the sit down dinner tablescape. I so, so wish I could take your class.



  25. Wow, look what you have done now!!. That horse on the table takes it all. Love it, what a fabulous idea and I do see you peeking out from behind him. You have so much talent to share with us. The veggies, the fruit, the silver, I can’t say enough about it. I do love silver and most of mine is packed away since our house if for sale. When ever he do sell and get moved, I certainly will be showing more of it after I do some serious polishing.I also like putting the bread in napkins and then in the boots. I love to watch creative minds at work. Thanks and keep sharing.


  26. Well Alycia, you left the pack behind on this one (is that horse-racing lingo?) and I think you captured the decadence of the Kentucky Derby! Red roses and silver, polished to a stunning shine ( I refuse to believe any of it is plastic), are the perfect touch to celebrate the sport of kings!

    I’ve been thinking about your 5 uses rule. This is the 2nd time I’ve seen your horse and will be looking for him to lead an Independence Day parade, wear a Halloween mask, and pull a platter of turkey!

    Happy Easter to you!!!


  27. This is a fabulous table! I love the horse and punch bowl! I think I would use a straw….it all looks so wonderful ! Lots of ideas on this tabale! Thank you…You are the best! By the way, thanks for visiting me…love to hear from you.
    Blessings My Friend,


  28. OKI — I’m trying really hard not to have julep cup envy….but it’s not working well. LOVE your pretty punch bowl and your handsome horse. As soon as I find my big floppy hat….I’ll be right over. This looks like such fun for derby day.


  29. Love, Love, Love it! I am love with your beautiful punch bowl…oh who am I kidding…I am in love with it all.
    Have a great weekend.


  30. What a fabulous display Alycia. You have thought of everything! I love the varying heights of the silver fruit bowls. It would be a fun excuse to host a party for the Kentucky Derby. 🙂


  31. I’m late hopping around this week, but you know I wouldn’t miss your latest creation which is just terrific. I love, love, love the horse. In fact, I was just wishing for a carousel type horse this week and keeping my eye open at the big antique show that took my time the last few days. I’m also crazy about the layers you’ve created on the table….just plain good work!


  32. Wonderful! I’ve been AWOL and am just peeking into blogland in nearly a week. I love this, and my favorite part of all is the punch bowl with the julep glasses. I would love some like that.


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  34. I got so many great ideas from your KD buffet. We’re attending, or maybe helping host a KD party. I really like the small chaffing dishes. Mine is that 5 qt one, but the 2 qr ones would be so much better. Love the idea of the napkins in the champagne bucket..of course the napkins MUST be monogrammed. 🙂
    With all these great ideas, all I need is my hat.


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  41. Looks like I’m going to spend the whole day looking at all you tablescapes. And NOW, Kentucky Derby! Really! You must know all my weaknesses. Our family has had a Family Reunion every year for the past 20+ years on Kentucky Derby Day. We make a whole weekend out of it, with some serious eating, drinking and betting. I got some wonderful ideas from your settings. Thanks and Derby Day is just less than a month away. We’re on the “Road to the Roses”.


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