I’m from Seattle, and to chart the farthest I’ve ventured into the southern states I could draw an arc from Santa Fe through Kansas City and on to Raleigh, North Carolina. But after reading Julia Reed’s South, I’m ready to pack my bags and head to the Deep South—and to stay awhile.
Reed is the preeminent Southern hostess of our day, and an accomplished writer—the author of seven books as well as a columnist at Garden & Gun and a contributing editor at Elle Decor. In Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long, the Mississippi native takes readers on a journey through the South she knows best, by way of 11 mealtime parties with family and friends in Louisiana, Georgia, Virginia, and beyond. Reed shares table settings, cocktail pairings, and recipes, most of which to my ears sound foreign and intriguing in equal parts (see: daube glacé, a jellied mixture of beef and broth). Reed gilds the lily with a playlist and wine pairings for each.
Reed’s South is warm, funny, and magical. See for yourself and read on for a recipe for Julia Reed’s Tomato Tarte Tatin:
Above: At a “country supper” summer party in Nashville, Reed served fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and a “healthy shot” of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon for each guest.
Above: A “lifelong tomato fanatic,” Reed dreamed up an annual multi-course tomato dinner among friends, known as “Tomatopalooza.” In the book, she lays out recipes for the six-course celebration plus a cocktail and recommendations for her favorite wine to pair it all with—rosé.
Above: The annual tomato party is held at Brookside, a 54-acre Tennessee estate and the home of Reed’s friends Ben and Libby Page.
Above: Estate owner Ben Page is a landscape designer, and created a formal parterre featuring trimmed boxwood mixed with lilies and grasses. Page also designed Reed’s gardens at her former New Orleans home.
Above: Next to the formal hedge gardens at Brookside are kitchen and cutting gardens, including this one which Reed calls “a riot of zinnias, enormous marigolds, and celosia.” She uses the zinnias as the centerpiece of her Tomatopalooza table.
Above: The property features an original log cabin, barn, and stone wall—all painstakingly restored by the owners.
Julia Reed’s Tomato Tarte Tatin
Above: Though it’s one of six courses in the dramatic Tomatopalooza dinner, Reed also suggests this tart as a simple weeknight supper alongside a green salad.
Serves four as a main course or six as an appetizer.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the baking pan
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons raw sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Leaves from 3 thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish (optional)
- Leaves from 1 oregano sprig, plus more for garnish (optional)
- 3 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 8 ounces crumbled goat cheese (2 cups)
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
Preheat the oven to 275°F. Brush a 9-inch round baking pan with olive oil and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
Toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the garlic, a healthy pinch of salt, and a couple grindings of pepper. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
When the tomatoes are done, remove them from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a small skillet stir the fennel seeds with a wooden spoon over medium heat, for a minute or so until they’re “toasted” and you can smell their aroma, being careful not to let them burn. Add the butter to the skillet. After it has melted, stir in the sugar and vinegar. Remove the fennel mixture from the heat and spread it over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Scatter in the thyme and oregano leaves, then add the tomato slices in a single closely packed layer. Season with salt and pepper. Add the roasted cherry tomatoes, pressing to fill in any gaps. Add the sautéed onion and top evenly with the goat cheese.
Cut a round of puff pastry 1 inch larger than the diameter of the pan. Lay the pastry round over the tart filling and tuck the edges into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the pastry is completely cooked through.
Cool for 10 minutes and place a serving plate on the top of the pan. Hold the plate and pan firmly together and invert. Carefully lift off the pan and rearrange any tomatoes that may have become dislodged. Scatter the surface with more herb leaves, if you like.
Above: Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long is $29.76 on Amazon.