When it comes to parties, I really don't think you need an excuse to throw one. "Just because" can be one of the best reasons to host one. But sometimes it's fun to have a point to your party. Better yet, it's nice to have a guest of honor.
For the past few months, I had been mulling over ideas for a party. Maybe a birthday party for somebody? A bon voyage fête? And then late one night, it hit me. What about a party in honor of Julia Reed? Now, if you're thinking how neat it is that I know Julia Reed, stop. I don't know Julia Reed. I'd love to know her, but I've never met her. I adore her writing, admire her sense of humor, and think that she must be the life of every party she attends. But she didn't attend my party. Rather, she was the guest of honor in absentia.
I'm sure this sounds crazy to most of you, and maybe it is crazy, but I have a group of neighbors and friends who are just as crazy about Julia Reed as I. When we get together for drinks or dinner, Julia Reed inevitably comes up in conversation. We cook her recipes, drink her drinks, and talk about her like we know her. That's why I knew I could throw out the idea of having a Julia Reed party and not worry that they would think I had lost control of my mental faculties. In fact, everyone was gung-ho in favor of the party. After all, they knew that any party with Julia Reed (real or imaginary) means good food and a lot of libations.
So let's start with the drinks- sometimes, they're the most important part of a party. In honor of New Orleans, the home of Julia Reed, I served French 75s, one of my favorite warm weather cocktails. (You know that any drink with gin and champagne can't be half bad.) My neighbors David and Scott brought Satsuma Stingers. And of course, there was wine. A lot of wine. I wanted to take a photo of my drinks table (the living room half of the Kittinger table) once it was set up and looking pretty, but I didn't get a chance to. Once everyone arrived, the table immediately looked like it had been hit by locusts. I guess that's a good sign, right?
For the food, we wanted to serve dishes that Julia Reed has written about in her books and her former New York Times food column. Because she is Southern, we are Southern, and our style of entertaining is Southern, it means that the food mostly consisted of cheese, pork, and beef. How my ancestors lived to such ripe old ages, I haven't a clue.
If you've read Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena, you might remember Julia Reed's chapter on funeral food. It used to be that anytime somebody died in the South, you showed up at the family's home bearing a beef tenderloin. Fortunately, nobody died around here, but I did serve a really tasty tenderloin with a mustard horseradish sauce.
Some of you are probably very familiar with Sausage Balls. If you're not, then you're probably thinking that they sound kind of trashy. Listen, don't knock 'em til you try 'em. My sister serves these to her guests in San Francisco, people who are either super health conscious or big time food snobs. They might snicker, but then they proceed to inhale them. Julia Reed also wrote about these tasty morsels in Queen of the Turtle Derby.
My friend Angela is a fellow Julia Reed fan. When she met Julia Reed at a book signing, she had the author autograph her copy of Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties: An Entertaining Life (with Recipes) not on the title page, but rather on Julia Reed's favorite recipe. Want to know what it is? Mary Bell's Pimento Cheese. Angela made the pimento cheese, and it was delicious. You can see how we made a dent in it.
And of course, we couldn't forget that it's Mardi Gras, so David and Scott brought a King Cake. When Scott ordered it, the bakery asked him if he wanted it decorated. Scott asked them what that entailed. Turns out it entails beads, doubloons, and that lovely feathered mask. Oh, and horns too. Why not go for broke? Angela, David, Scott, and I just had to get our picture taken with...it.
That photo placed in front of the King Cake? It's a photo of Julia Reed's New Orleans house that she wrote about in The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story. David and Scott took it while they were down in New Orleans last weekend. (Told you we were crazy for Julia Reed.) In a way, it almost made us feel as though our guest of honor was actually at the party. Well, almost.
Julia, next time you're in Atlanta, come on over to Plaza Towers. We're ready for another party!