Monday, February 28, 2011

Celebrating Julia Reed

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

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!


  1. Great attention to detail! I love the tablecloth and linens you used and the plates are perfect! Great idea for a party.

  2. Your party looks like a such a fun evening!! I hope Julia Reed's ears were ringing - that's what I want - a party in my honor even in absentia - what a compliment. I love her musings over at Taigan these days. I haven't done much entertaining since we moved - might have to ramp it up in that category - you're inspiring me!!

  3. Julia Reed is a close friend of several of my friends, so I have had the great pleasure of meeting her on several occasions. She is exactly as you would expect from her writing. I hope you have the opportunity soon to have another party that Julia will actually attend. I am sure she would love it.

  4. Great idea for a party! Love her!

  5. And a great time was had by all!!
    Many thanks.

  6. I need to focus but I can't stop staring at your plates--love them. Yummy foods, yummy drinks, good friends and a fun topic--what more do you need?

  7. I love sausage balls--those look divine. Sounds like a great party!!

  8. I keep a stained and battered article torn from the NY Times by Julia Reed titled Eat the Rich Stuff. I pull it out every Christmas season and make the cheese straws and salted pecans which always get raves. Although I don't know her I'm sure she'd have loved your party!

  9. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Amen to the sausage balls! I'm a Southerner, too (TN). Hey, don't knock 'em til you've tried 'em.

    Karen T.

  10. Okay, now I have a new author to pick up!!! Being a woman of imagination, I LOVE your idea of this party ... and it looks as if you pulled it off famously! (Btw, how pretty is your house?) I'm making a note now to pick up some Julia Reed!!!! xoxo

  11. Sounds like so much fun. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I love Julia Reed, and the idea of having a JR Dinner party is very innovative, I have to say I feel very close to Southern Designers,being French speaking from Montreal, somehow I find we have lots affinities. Thanks for sharing this fun experience.


  13. Anonymous6:53 PM

    Oh no, you can't cut all the tenderloin at the beginning of the party. It should be carved as the party goes along, a la minute. And served with a small slice of bread. Otherwise, wonderful looking party.

  14. Anonymous3:16 PM

    Your plates are beautiful! Would you share the pattern info?

  15. Anon- Thank you! It's "Audubon" by Tiffany & Co. Unfortunately, it's been discontinued, but I think that it can be purchased on Replacements. The salad plate has the central Pagoda medallion (that's shown here) while the dinner plate has no design in the center. Hope that helps!

  16. What a wonderful theme for a celebration!!!