When asked to host a small dinner party fund-raiser for the Creative Alliance, South Carolina native Mary Roby didn’t have to think twice. The Butcher’s Hill resident says her collection of folk art and a weakness for Southern food— “always a good thing to entertain people with,” she says with a laugh— made a Southern theme a no-brainer.
The 30-some guests were invited to the November fund-raiser with a promise of “Southern Accents on the Hill.” Upon arriving, guests helped themselves to bowls of gherkins and olives, which Mary says were served at both her father’s barbecues and her mother’s tea parties. Appetizers included classically Southern garlic shrimp and grits, made with shrimp that Mary and her husband, Clint, brought back from their annual trip to Holden Beach, N.C., as well as petite crab cakes from Faidley’s in Lexington Market. Mary made the colorful black-eyed pea salad and pimento cheese— served with crackers and celery— but headed to Big Bad Wolf’s House of Barbeque (5713 Harford Road, 410-444-6422) for pork barbecue sandwiches. “It’s just great barbecue,” she gushes. “Almost as good as you get in Carolina.” Dessert was homemade lemon bars and pecan squares.
The drinks also had a distinctively Southern flavor. The couple returned from their North Carolina trip with Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soda that they offered alongside an assortment of wines and Southern beers from Dixie Brew and Co. in the stainless steel ice tubs outside. The unseasonably warm weather allowed people to mingle throughout the house and the back yard.
While this was the Robys’ first fund-raising party, they usually have three or four personal dinner parties a year. “It’s a great party house,” she says of their three-story townhouse, their third home in the Butcher’s Hill area. A brick Victorian built in 1890, the house was about to be demolished when the Robys snatched it up in 1999. They won a Baltimore Heritage Historic Preservation Award for renovation in 2003, and the result, she says, is “thoroughly modern inside,” the openness of which allows a good flow of people on the first floor.
Guests also got a peek at the couple’s eclectic art collection, which includes an Astonia clock given to her parents in the 1950s (“I hope I remembered to dust it for the party!” she remarks). Above the plaid sofa in the living room is a framed piece of a quilt her grandfather was given a century ago in South Carolina.
The guests included both friends of the couple and supporters of the Creative Alliance, some of whom Mary had never met. “I loved meeting Emily Rothschild,” she exclaims about the well-known photographer whose mother is the namesake for a gallery at the Creative Alliance. “People seemed to enjoy themselves, so that’s the incentive to repeat the party.”
Will she do anything different the next time around? “Get a maid, maybe,” she says with a laugh.
Katie O’Donnell is a Style intern.