You may know her wonderfully descriptive writing from her political coverage in Vogue, Southern life and culture for Garden and Gun Magazine, and more recently, home coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Or, you may know her as the erudite foodie who often writes about her beloved New Orleans. One of the most stylish women there is, Julia Reed, is also the creative director and Fetch editor for online shopping site Taigan, which gathers unique finds from specialized boutiques around the country.
I had the great pleasure of sitting next to Greenville, Missisippi-raised Reed at a Garden and Gun dinner this fall, held at Bunny Williams' and John Rosselli's vast garden emporium, Treillage. I went to school in Virginia, so I get the South a little bit. But Reed's South is a mystical, magical place, with heritage and special traditions that seem to have existed for ages. A total dynamo, she has nabbed interviews with so many remarkable people, is incredibly well-traveled, and is the most fun you could ever hope for in a dinner partner. Every adventure has an unbelievable story to go along with it. With this diverse and interesting background, I knew she was a perfect gift guide candidate! I asked the New Orleans-based author of Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties to weigh in on her holiday traditions and go to gifts this year.
Read on for Julia Reed's inspired selection:
When I moved to New Orleans, I decided it should be all about the citrus that is so plentiful this time of year. I have must hundreds of Meyer lemons in my pots outside, along with kumquats and Satsuma oranges, so I use them everywhere. I wire them to wreaths, I drape garland around the front door frame and affix clusters of the fruit in the corners, I swag garland up the banister and put more clusters between the swags. I use them on the dining table in bowls or arrangements (it’s gorgeous to mix stems of kumquats or even lemons and oranges with deep pink and yellow roses, hot pink and red camellias, branches with berries, whatever). On the table, I also mix the fruit with their silver counterparts from Creel and Gow, one of my very favorite stores in the world.
Photo courtesy of Taigan
This year I added silver birds from William Wayne. The real birds eat the oranges right off the trees every year, so I figured they might as well keep company inside!
This year I’m giving a big Christmas bash for my neighbors and I’m going to do an old-fashioned cocktail supper menu that is almost the exact same thing my mother use to serve at her own holiday parties: seafood Newburg in a chafing dish with toast points, spinach Madeleine, country ham with homemade hot mustard and biscuits, tenderloin with horseradish sauce and yeast rolls. I’ll pass things like sausage balls and olives wrapped in cheese pastry—the kind of stuff people secretly can’t get enough of. When my mother hosted her own party, she always wore a plaid hostess skirt with a satin blouse.
Photo courtesy of Taigan/Jules Reid
I might just have to follow suit—I adore this skirt from Jules Reid on Taigan.
Photo courtesy of Taigan/Herend
On Christmas day, most of my family will be here and we’ll sit down with close friends for another ridiculously rich feast that will include a standing rib roast, scalloped oysters, and Charlotte Russe. I usually use my raspberry Herend Chinese Bouquet plates because they look so pretty with all the citrus on table.
GO - TO GIFTS:
Always books. There’s a bookseller called Nick Harvill on Taigan that sells out-of-print and rare books and there’s always something spot on for everyone—I got my friend Jon Meacham (whose first bestseller was “Franklin and Winston”) a book by Winston Churchill about his own watercolors. I also love to give and get gorgeous coffee table books.
Photo courtesy of Taigan/Nests
This book called “ Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them” is right up my alley.
Great soap. My friends call me the soap fairy because I keep a stash on hand for last minute gifts. For special friends at Christmas, I try to find a pretty silver or antique porcelain dish to go with it. And everybody gets a bar or two in his or her stocking.
Photo courtesy of Taigan/Aidan Gill
For guys it’s always this fabulous Italian cypress-scented soap from Aidan Gill on Taigan.
Photo courtesy of St. James Cheese Company/Taigan
Stilton. We always have a wheel of Stilton after at least one sit-down holiday dinner. When I give it as a gift, I usually accompany it with a bottle of good Port or Madeira. This is Colston Basset from the St. James Cheese Company.
Photo courtesy of Taigan/Notti Toffee
Yummy toffee. My mother is a toffee fanatic, so for years I stuck a handful of Heath bars in her stocking. Now I’ve graduated to this divine butterscotch toffee with pecans from Notti Tofee on Taigan. It’s a great stocking stuffer for everyone. Butterscotch Toffee with Nuts by Notti Tofee on Taigan.
Photo courtesy of Taigan/Hollyhock
Italian paper. I’m a paper freak, so I am forever giving notebooks, letter holders, or desk trays covered in pretty Italian paper. My friend Suzanne Rheinstein’s fabulous L.A. store Hollyhock has a great selection. I especially love this table-top-sized paper garden pavilion. It’s just big enough to fill with a treasure—a bird’s nest, a seashell, you name it.
Photo courtesy of Treillage
Pot of Paperwhites. This trellis cachepot from another of my favorite shops, Bunny Williams’ and John Rosselli’s Treillage, is the perfect thing to fill with my favorite Paperwhite Narcissus, but an an Amaryllis Lily or a Rosemary Topiary would be equally festive—and of the season.
Photo courtesy of Creel and Gow
Tiny mineral bowls. Creel and Gow is a magical place full of treasures, including these bowls that come in a couple of different sizes in everything from lapis and malachite to this lovely moss agate.
Photo courtesy of Creel and Gow
Silver citrus. I have long decorated during the holidays with Creel and Gow's silver fruit. When I give someone a piece, as in this tangerine, I usually tuck it into a crate of clementines. There’s also a silver walnut that you could include in a bag of the real thing.
Photo courtesy of MacMillan
If you need some great Southern food for your holiday table, Reed's book, Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties: An Entertaining Life, will help you create some holiday rituals of your own.