Stealing Magnolias


Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard *****

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.”

Table Ingredients:

 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.

Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:

  33 comments for “Stealing Magnolias

  1. February 23, 2011 at 6:26 am


  2. February 23, 2011 at 10:42 am

    oh you are just leaving me in the literary dust with all your exquisite visual reading… i will just say it, i am green with envy! another masterpiece thru your eyes and tastebuds…

    you do the south so well, be it the low lands, watery cities or old cobblestone streets its always thrilling for me to visit…i love love love fdl, i collect many pieces myself. we once had a mardi gras party, i had so many fun feather masks leftover for a decade, great to see them in a more proper use~

    you are a danger to my health, i so would love to nibble pralines and sip champagne…

    beautiful as always, and heartbreaking all at the same time as i stay my steady course of lean and mean~

  3. February 23, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I think I need this book!!
    Gorgeous table as always, Mary.
    The pralines tugged at my heart. Reminds me so much of my mother’s pralines. A happy memory.:-)

  4. February 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Mary, what a wonderful book. I’m ordering it today! Actually two copies, one for me and one for my friend’s birthday next week. I haven’t laid eyes on the book, but I’d be will to wager that your table setting rivals anything this author has to share. Every detail of this table has me longing for a trip to New Orleans just to shop Magazine Street. ;-) The Fitz & Floyd Classique D’Or sets an eloquent table. Love the shape of the coffee pot. The tray for your service is one I also have. It’s a favorite here! As are champagne and pralines.
    I’ve scrolled up and down numerous times and feel like I’ve escaped to New Orleans for a little get away. Thank you, Mary! ~ Sarah

  5. February 23, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Oh, what a glorious review of this magnificent book and the most magnificent city in the “New World”…Mary, your reviews make me want to order each book as soon as I finish reading them…You are becoming a danger to my pocketbook!

  6. Pondside
    February 23, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    What a fabulous book. It would be just the thing to buy and bring with one to New Orleans. Thank you for the lovely excursion to somewhere warm and elegant on this snowy day.

  7. February 23, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Okay, I’m sold. This is the quote that did it:

    “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?’ ”


  8. February 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    If you eat pralines with a mask on, do the calories count?

  9. February 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    What a delightful treat this afternoon. I am enthralled with your writing, with your photos and with your tempting morsels.. Your table is lovely and I love the masks.. I might just have to “borrow” this idea! Great post and sooo beautiful. I’m delighted I dropped in. Thanks for visiting and leaving your kind comments. laissez les bons temps roulez!

  10. Lola
    February 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Superb pics and post!

    XOXO Lola:)

  11. February 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    This is great! I just love your table with the peacock feathers and masks. Beautiful!

  12. jo
    February 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    what a wonderful scrumptious post … and the book sounds like a great find.

  13. February 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Mary, I have great memories of Mardi Gras and all those decorations! We went every year for many years because we belonged to a krewe. I love decorating for a Mardi Gras party!

  14. February 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    What a great table! So many wonderful details! We have been trying to get to New Orleans for a couple of years now, but getting everyone off of work at the same time is nearly impossible! I love your table!

  15. February 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Your table is a great tribute to Mardi Gras/New Orleans! Pots de Creme is my favorite dessert.

  16. February 24, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Your goblets are beautiful and those pralines look heavenly. My mom has been making my great grandmother’s praline recipe forever!!! (They were from Louisiana!) Such a beautiful tablescape!

  17. February 24, 2011 at 12:51 am

    STUNNING!!!!!!!!!! And well written/photographed by YOU! Thank you for sharing. New Orleans is such a belle. I have not been in a LONG time but, I do love that city. The table setting stunning. Pralines looked divine. The only thing I don’t like is coffee from New Orleans. So bitter. I am going to look for this book. I enjoyed this so much. Charlene

  18. February 24, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Amazing! Wow, that book does indeed look very well written. I absolutely love how it inspired you to create such a gorgeous tablesetting. Very nice and very festive. Definitely makes me think of the New Orleans :)

  19. February 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

    What a beautiful post. Wow.

  20. February 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    So, as luck would have it, I’m going to New Orleans in May on business for a while. I just ordered this to take with me.

    Looks like great flying reading…

  21. February 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    What a terrific stop on our little journey through Alphabe-Thursday’s letter “T”.

    This is a brilliant and gorgeous tablescape. I love the textures, shine and colors here. It is one of prettiest I’ve seen!

    The book sounds superb, too!

    Thanks for sharing this week.

    I really loved this.


  22. February 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    A beautiful table and post! I enjoyed your journey through the book. It was beautiful! Thank you for sharing…
    Blessing My Friend,

  23. February 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Oh, I enjoyed every minute of this! I have never visited the south but I am endlessly fascinated with the food and culture. Thanks for a peek into it all. Lovely post!

  24. February 24, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Oh, this makes me miss New Orleans! We lived in Baton Rouge for 8 years and went all the time, and we’ve been back once or twice a year since then. Your table is a very elegant Mardi Gras table! I love the napkin rings, and the purple placemats are just perfect. I really have enjoyed your book-related posts! I need to check out the party you mentioned!

  25. Happier Than A Pig in Mud
    February 24, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    What a pretty, fun and festive table Mary-love it! The Prah-leens look mighty fine too:@)

  26. February 25, 2011 at 2:10 am

    This recipe sounds quite easy! Pralines are a favorite around here.
    Thank you for sharing…

  27. February 25, 2011 at 3:36 am

    What a delightful post! I’m Georgia born – though I’ve lived in the San Francisco area now for 35 years. I also went to nursing school at Charity in New Orleans – just had my 45 year reunion – so I go back at least once a year to see classmates who didn’t stray far from the city that care forgot. I’ve grieved at all that N.O. has suffered with Katrina and the oil spill and their many tragedies over the years.

  28. tess28
    February 25, 2011 at 10:54 am

    EXQUISITE!!! Everything is gorgeous and all of your commentary is wonderful. I’ve never been to N.O. but have always felt it was wonderful that we have such a gem of old European history and flavors as part of the U.S.A Thank you for sharing your table, insights, and knowledge!

  29. February 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    This is my first time participating in Foodie Friday and I’m so glad to be here. What a beautifully nostalgic trip I’ve enjoyed with you. As a southerner (Virginia) transplanted to the midwest, I take every opportunity to connect back south. And, before we moved here, we lived in Charleston so I must seek out the Folly Beach book.

    Thanks so much for a very special visit.


  30. February 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    “Memories light the corner of my mind…” My husband and I honeymooned in New Orleans and while it was not my first time to the Crescent City (we traveled there and to Baton Rouge often when I was a child to visit family), it was the most memorable time. Everything about New Orleans – the sounds, the sights, the smells, the food – is a cherished memory. I cook up a Creole-inspired dinner every chance I get! I have never attempted to make pralines (and thank you for letting folks know the proper pronunciation!), but I may do that this spring. Very pretty table you’ve created in honor of old New Orleans, and I love the jeweled cannisters and double-decker napkin rings! Thanks for the memories, and have a great weekend!

  31. February 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    You know, Mary, I’m thinking you could do your own book. You’ve got style, girl! Speaking of pralines, I had some homemade ones this week brought to me by a wonderful Louisiana bred gal. I was going to share, but you know what? I ate every one of them!

  32. Pondside
    February 26, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Could you please email me a mailing address ? You’ve won a prize on my post.

  33. March 7, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    You had me at masks and peacock feathers! Oh…and Mardi Gras beads! I love New Orleans!! I wouldn’t want to live there….I couldn’t handle the humidity!! But I do love to visit! Wonderful post!!

Comments are closed.

Discover more from Home is Where the Boat Is

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading

%d bloggers like this: