Every year residents of Wilmington, Delaware gather on the first Sunday of May to celebrate the first race of the Season of Steeplechase, Winterthur Point to Point.
Since 1978, this day-long event has been held at Winterthur, a Henry Francis du Pont country estate. These gorgeous grounds are the perfect setting for this day filled with wine, sumptuous food, elegant race-day attire, including fancy hats and seer sucker suits, and of course, the steeplechase that originates from English heritage.
This year we competed in the annual tailgate contest, featuring a Downton Abbey theme, for which we decked out our SUV with traditional items, such as silver candelabras and served a buffet of English delights including scones and a blackberry trifle. We set up our tailgate on Country Club Loop, along the fence where we had front row view of many of the races.
Setting the stage and serving as the focal point for the tailgate party were these gorgeous floral arrangements that flanked the buffet table. It was a windy day so we set them on the SUV tailgate and secured them with some stay putty. The bright orange roses coordinated perfectly with the deep purple napkins and the shiny silver serving dishes.
What would a Downton Abbey theme be without the staple silver candelabras? Furnished with extra long, 12-inch white taper candles, these traditional English candle holders definitely brought the theme together, giving the buffet table an upscale feel.
Set in the center of the two floral arrangements were silver flatware in its case for display and added décor. Positioning it in the center of the buffet made it very accessible for guests to grab a utensil when needed.
The tailgate buffet was filled with traditional English foods that you might see on an episode of Downton Abbey and other items that are great for an outdoor event. We served all cold selections, making it easy for transport and set-up. To truly capture the theme, we served all food items in real silver with real china and flatware.
Served in this gorgeous silver chaffing dish was a Grilled Pork Tenderloin with a Spiced Rhubarb Chutney from Bon Appétit. If you have never had pork tenderloin cold, it is a must-try. The meat and the sauce were prepared the day before, allowing all the flavors to come together and making it incredibly easy to serve on race day. This smoky and sweet sauce was simply divine and could be made with other meat options, such as chicken or lamb.
Next up on our menu were these fabulous Smoked Salmon Mousse Tarts. These bite-sized appetizers were very rich and smooth and featured the perfect amount of smoke and salt flavor. Topped with a sprig of dill and placed on a doily-covered silver tray, these tarts were a great selection for the upscale event.
Another easy and make-ahead food selection is Roasted Shrimp Cocktail. Ideal for a picnic-style meal as it can be eaten with your fingers, although I am not sure that would have been the proper way in an episode of Downton Abbey. Nonetheless, it was a delicious choice and looked perfectly elegant served on this beautiful silver-plated pedestal tray from Godinger.
A day at the races would not be complete without a fine cheese plate. This platter included a Cage-Aged Gruyère, Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar, Brillo Di Vino Pecorino, Stilton Blue, and a Sharp Cheddar from Wales. Garnish with raw almonds and some dried apricots for a perfect Artisanal cheese plate.
This Fig and Stilton Salad would definitely be something you might see served on an episode of Downton Abbey in one of the dinner party scenes. The freshness of the greens paired with the powerful flavor of the blue cheese and finished with the crunch from the red onions and walnuts make for a delectable salad.
Scones are a classic food selection for an English tea party. We chose Lemon and Ginger Scones from Sticky Fingers Bakeries. They were so incredibly easy to prepare (just add water) and were a nice light treat that packed an amazing flavor combination of lemon and ginger making them a great springtime selection. All of the buffet items were dressed with these Victorian-style custom food tags from Karma K. Designs, an Etsy vendor. We just loved the design on these and thought they were the right fit for this Old English buffet.
For dessert, were served this amazing Traditional English Trifle from Celebrate & Decorate with Chloe Crabtree. Chloe provides a step-by-step, how-to video on how to make this gorgeous and simply divine dessert. This can be made with blueberries, cherries or even a lemon curd and raspberry version. We served ours in a modern-style trifle bowl and topped off the center with fresh blackberries.
Is there any other way to celebrate a gathering with friends and family on a Sunday morning in May than to pop a bottle of bubbly? The brand of choice for this year’s event was Veuve Clicquot, which known for its consistency and recognizable yellow-orange label. Serve it on its own or with an accompaniment of assorted juices for a fabulous mimosa and bellini bar.
Dressing up is part of the fun of this historical event. Ladies, this is the event to break out all those big hats and don your favorite springtime dress. Although, the first weekend in May can be a guessing game as to whether it will be warm or cold, top any outfit with one of these hats and you will fit in perfectly with the race-day crowd.
And for the Gents, pretty much anything seersucker or khakis and a blazer would be a great choice for this preppy party. Cap it off with a pair of shades and some Sperrys or loafers for a nice relaxed look.
And don’t forget to dress the kiddos in some race-day attire like this little one’s seersucker three-piece suit and lobster hat. Dogs are welcome too and were decked out in their argyle bow ties and jockey style harnesses.
Although we did not win the tailgate contest, we sure had a great time creating this amazing tailgate and spending time with our family and friends. We were able to pull together a beautiful theme and take part in a tradition that has been around for over 30 years. Cheers!