by Debra Shriver
An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.
“In this dreamy and seductive entrée into the magical city that is New Orleans, author Debra Shriver, a twelfth-generation Southerner, Francophile, passionate preservationist and jazz devotee creates a book that is part-love letter, part scrapbook, and gives readers a rare tour behind courtyard walls and private gates of this enigmatic city, which is often considered the Paris of America.”
“So whether it’s food, gardens, décor, decoration, architecture or design, this book engages the reader to experience every element of one of the world’s most romantic cities. Chapters highlight food and entertaining, decorating, gardens, landscapes, local traditions, interiors, and architecture. Readers will find themselves enthralled by exploring a unique and lavish compilation of original works by more than twenty photographers and artists who share her vision.”
What a delightful tour of the Crescent City through the pages of this book as well as a feast for the eyes & taste buds!
This book would make a perfect gift for the hostess-with-the-mostest, Francophile, or anyone who enjoys ‘lifestyle’ books. The sampling of culinary & cultural flavors to be experienced within these pages are sure to whet your appetite for a visit to New Orleans. It made me long to steal away for an extended weekend, since it’s been 15 years since we visited there.
With New Orleans evoking “a deep virtual sigh, that surrenders all weight of thought and behaviour”~ the chapter on Recipes & Rituals, tempted me to surrender my wallet, all reason, and hours of my time searching for sterling silver oyster forks, antique oyster plates, & vintage porcelain pots de crème cups :-)
Entertaining with family heirlooms & the silver service is the norm, where these treasures are used in everyday ways, not just special occasions~ serving up crawfish in grandmother’s crystal finger bowl, or presenting deviled eggs on antique Limoges oyster plates.
My Fitz & Floyd Classique D’Or (French in name only :) set a foundation for a Mardi Gras-inspired table. . .
I’m still dreaming of pots de creme cups & oyster plates, as well as beautiful French-inspired ‘lapkins’~ a large napkin measuring 24 inches square that grace a seasoned host’s table. Typically monogrammed (the monogram serves as a metaphor below the Mason- Dixon line :) with initials that are embroidered on linens & embossed and on correspondence, in a similar fashion that the crown motif can be found stitched and stamped throughout the city.
I used two napkin rings, layering a gold fleur-de-lis ring on top of my banded Fitz & Floyd ring.
“Icons and symbols of New Orleans style are repeated, and none is more familiar than the ubiquitous fleur-de-lis. The French lily, which was initially embraced as a nod to the city’s royal European roots, is now a poignant, ever-present reminder of post-Katrina rebirth.”
Gold chargers – Hobby Lobby
Fleur-de-lis Napkin Rings & Placemats - Bed, Bath & Beyond
Flatware - Horchow, Goblets - Abigails
Feathered Masks – World Market
“As a Southerner, I know true hospitality when I see it, yet the Orleanais are the consummate convivial creatures. In a city known for forty food festivals a year, an exhaustive list of world-class restaurants and too many star chefs to count, Southern hospitality combines French table service, European flavors and Creole traditions. The result: a population of charming, outgoing, epicureans.”
“Locals dine out so frequently that, in older establishments like Antoine’s and Galatoire’s, regular customers have both a house account and a personal waiter. In fact, New Orleans author Peter Feibleman wrote that when he was a child, an uncle warned him, ‘You can’t let an unknown waiter serve you,’ explaining that it was ‘akin to eating on the floor.’ ”
“Drink in hand, the hosts will make proper introductions, followed by lively conversation, none of which will ask—or care—‘What do you do?’ The first question is always, ‘What do you drink?’ ”
“A friend calls New Orleans ‘Europe with heat.’ She means the lusty, leisurely, European lifestyle is recalibrated to an even slower, heat-driven and tropical pace. Searing temperatures are matched only by the more palpable spices of its cuisine— a hot peppery jambalaya, the African-inspired ingredients of a salty andouille gumbo, or a spicy, roux-soaked etoufee. Neighborhoods, accents and menus are an irresistible mix inspired by France, Italy, a dose of Spain and the melding flavors of Africa, the Caribbean and the Deep South.”
“The old city is at once exotic and familiar, cool and hot, scrappy and elegant, friendly and even dangerous. Her contradictions draw you in, and then, one by one, dominate your senses. Sight, sound, scent and taste collide and conspire to captivate.”
With New Orleans a foodie’s paradise, there was plenty to tempt my palate between these pages for Food for Thought.
Pralines are named for the French Marechal du Plessis-Praslin, Duke of Choiseul- Praslin, whose recipe of sugar & pecans is now a classic New Orleans’ treat.
Serve warm & fresh from the kitchen with a demitasse of chicory flavored coffee. You can also crumble them on top of vanilla ice cream for a quick & easy dessert.
I followed a quick & easy microwave recipe in the book, a similar recipe can be found here.
Another reason to fall in love with New Orleans~ Carbohydrates are never a sin :)
“Be prepared to plunge into an authentic cocktail hour. At every party, a full bar service, fully-bartended or self-serve, is always set up within easy reach of guest. Cocktails, having been created here, are such a part of New Orleans culture, that we know we’ll be served the real thing: a Sazerac, an Old-Fashioned, a Sidecar or perhaps an orange-scented Ramos Gin Fizz. And, the French tradition of Champagne and Champagne aperitifs is alive an well.”
“New Orleans never strays far from its founding French fathers, no matter the meal or the month. Evenings in high-end restaurants often begin with the traditional Parisian prelude: Champagne or a Champagne cocktail in tall, faceted French flutes sold throughout the city’s antique shops. It is said that the cocktail was invented here.”
Kumquats were a popular fruit with the early Creole people of New Orleans. I celebrated with a Creole Champagne Cocktail for Food for Thought.
Kumquats are seeded and mixed with Cointreau and sugar, heating the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
Spoon one of the kumquat halves or several small pieces into the bottom of a Champagne flute with a little bit of the Cointreau. Top with your favorite chilled Champagne.
“Between these covers are the images that draw me, an outsider, back to the city time and time again. I am neither historian nor native daughter, yet I am bewitched. On these pages, I have compiled musings on the spell that New Orleans has cast upon me, the house my husband and I now call home, the foods we like to eat, the cocktails we often drink, the local music we listen to and play later to quell the homesickness when we are far away, the jazz clubs and dive haunts we return to, the footpaths of grand gardens and home we have visited, and the well-worn sidewalks of our neighborhood, the Vieux Carre.”
As a lagniappe, or something extra, Debra Shriver has offered a list of favorites including places to rest your head, shopping experiences, sensational sippers, best oyster dishes, and ending with a dozen reasons to return to New Orleans again & again.