Derby Day in Williamsburg

The most controversial Kentucky Derby in history was on Saturday. Were you watching? If not, you should definitely catch up on the drama. 65-1 odds on the second-place finisher! The first disqualification of a Derby winner ever!

People have asked me why I love the Kentucky Derby so much, and I really don’t have a good answer. I didn’t grow up with horses; I didn’t even grow up in horse country. But I love it. Maybe it ties back to my obsession with the Thoroughbred series when I was a kid. Maybe it’s the crazy names people give their horses. Maybe it an excuse to wear fabulous headgear.

Photo credit: Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images via Forbes

This year’s hats were a little tame for my taste, but you can take a look at the entire slew of the 2019 Derby headgear in an article by Michael Solomon that Forbes published here. (The image above is borrowed from that article.)

I spent Derby Day in Williamsburg with a few of my lady friends. But let me back up a little bit.

A few months ago, I went to the opera with my friend John as part of the Fridays Under Forty at the Met. As part of the ticket price, the Met hosts a reception before the show for the FUF attendees, complete with wine, cheese, crudités, and roaming chorus members. John and I were standing at the bar, finishing our first round of rosé, when I spotted these gorgeous shoes at the end of the bar.

I’m me, so I didn’t even hesitate before I told the woman, “I love your shoes,” and Gina is Gina, so she didn’t even hesitate before telling me exactly where I could get a pair of my own and asking me a bunch of questions about my life.

Within ten minutes, she had discerned that

  • Otello was my first opera
  • John and I knew each other from work
  • I hated Othello but really wanted to hang out with John
  • I had been in New York for 3 months
  • I arrived with 0% of my wardrobe, so needed shoes desperately
  • I had a black pug
  • I was single
  • John and I wanted her to join us at intermission
  • John and I wanted to get a photo with one of the chorus members who was being swarmed by all the single ladies, gents, and non-binaries in the room

In those same ten minutes, I learned that Gina

  • had moved from Oklahoma with her husband (but was from the East Coast originally)
  • worked in tech
  • had a dog, too
  • loved opera and musicals and theater in general
  • had even more amazing shoes at home

Gina is a very good listener, and I swear I know more about her now.

Gina helped me and John get a picture with our chorus member, texted me a link to buy her amazing shoes, and joined us for intermission snacks at the Grand Tier.

Long story short, Gina and I became real friends, not just intermission buddies, and she wound up introducing me to two more of my favorite ladies in New York, Cassie and Rachel. These were the ladies I spent Derby Day 2019 with at Maison Premiere.

Oddly enough, Maison Premiere was Baader-Meinhof-ing me like crazy all through April. As of April 1st, I had never heard of the place. By May 4th, no less than four people had recommended it to me.

So when Cassie told us that MP hosts a Derby Party every year, I called it kismet.

MP is a gorgeous retro cocktail and oyster bar in the heart of Williamsburg. And apparently everyone I know thought I would fall in love with it. (They were right.)

Due to a head injury (sadly, I’m not kidding) I’m not drinking for the month of May. I wasn’t concussed, so alcohol isn’t life-threatening or anything, but I’ve been prone to headaches since the accident.

So I’m avoiding for now, which is a tragedy because Maison Premiere had a special julep menu for the occasion. We couldn’t work our way through the entire menu because it was an impressive number of them.

Our bartender was kind enough to make me some virgin juleps that I swear tasted like a minty banana cream pie.

And my goodness look at that lime art.

They even had a live band (comprised of a washtub bass, banjo, trombone, and an instrument I’ve never seen before in my life) playing jazz. The band started out playing out in front on the sidewalk, and then moved into the green room just off the bar.

Gina suggested the four of us should start our own jug band. We’re still considering the option.

In short, if you have a chance to go next year, you absolutely must.

Not a super flattering photo, but we wanted some of the bar in the background!

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