My friend Deb Shriver is the super-smart and super-fun communications and PR honcho at Hearst as well as the author of her second book on New Orleans, Assouline’s gorgeous In the Spirit of New Orleans. Like me, she (with her journalist husband Jerry) bought a house in New Orleans just before Katrina. Since then, she’s become one of the city’s greatest champions. Her first book, the beautifully put together Stealing Magnolias, Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard, told the story of finding and restoring her fabulous French Quarter house and was a total mash note to her adopted home. In the Spirit of New Orleans delves deeper into the city’s culture, from Mardi Gras and the music to the amazing architecture and unparalleled cuisine.
Deb, who shuttles to New Orleans from New York as often as she can, calls herself a “New New.” When not in New Orleans enjoying “perfect days” like the one she outlines below, she’s in Manhattan creating buzz. Just yesterday, she hosted a lunch at Michael’s for Cosmo editor-in-chief Joanna Coles—Lauren Bush, Diane von Furstenberg and Rose McGowan were among the guests. Next week she heads south for a flurry of New Orleans book parties.
Since you go back and forth between the two “News” and spend lots of time in between on the road, what are your go-to travel wardrobe essentials?
My silver Rowima luggage—one of two rollers and a cosmetics case—and a quilted silver shoulder bag by MZ Wallace. My carry on is a little matchy-matchy but it gets me upgrades all the time. I need a sleep mask and Shure earbuds so I can watch CNN, MSNBC and the Food Channel. I love my iPad and use it as a kindle. I wrote my last book on it, mostly sitting on an airplane.
Do you have a uniform? Favorite designers?
I love a uniform! On weekends in NYC, it’s leggings, ballet flats and a great white shirt. In NOLA, I add a striped Breton tee and espadrilles. Daywear is always a dress. Never pants. A kitten heel in warmer months. A motorcycle boot in winter. I like Lisa Perry, Max Mara and Pucci. I have a 1960s aesthetic — chemise shapes, vintage Elsa Perretti ‘circle’ jewelry, Roger Vivier pumps and Longchamp bags which are lightweight and come in every size and color. I can see everything in my closet all at once. The upside: I can dress for black tie in ten minutes and I never check a bag when traveling.
In your book, you list some of your favorite spots in New Orleans for eating, drinking, and listening to music. Can you preview a few for us?
My new fave is SoBou where I order the muffaletta salad. I told Ti Martin she should change the name to SoGood. Her lavender margarita is a current favorite. I love Cochon Butcher for their small dishes, and the entire menu at Meauxbar. An easy night means walking two blocks to Meauxbar and then having a nightcap at Bar Tonique. I love the I Club. We’ve seen incredible performances by Roy Hargrove and DeeDee Bridgewater. [Club owner and New Orleans Jazz Orchestra Artistic Director] Irvin Mayfield knows how to throw a jam.
Describe a perfect day in New Orleans…
Sleep late, bowls of cafe au lait in the courtyard with the newspapers, a swim at the Royal Orleans hotel, a walk by the river and a visit to the Historic New Orleans Collection or browsing at Faulkner House Books. I’d have lunch at SouBou or the Napoleon House, a long nap, then cocktails. New Orleans requires a siesta schedule.
What are your favorite haunts in NYC?
On weekends, we hit the crudo bar at Eataly then do a little food shopping on the way out. My husband is an amazing cook. I love the new lounge at Le Bernardin and Sunday brunch at Red Rooster in Harlem. We live across the street from MOMA so we go to the cafe side of the Modern for Sunday night dinners because they waive the corkage fees then. Il Gattopardo is the perfect place for an easy supper and Michael’s, just downstairs from our apartment, is my lunch haunt. I sometimes pop down to borrow ingredients. We love jazz so it’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Jazz Standard, or the Apollo.
Tell us your plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I know you have a fun Jazzfest tradition too!
We go south for all major holidays. I love traditions. The year is so busy but I like the ritual of small dinners, live music, and friends gathering together. I always serve a Southern menu — pimento cheese in the parlor and maybe crabmeat, seafood entrees and pralines hot from the oven. Once a year, we have a ‘sushi throw down’ during Jazzfest because everyone is feasting on those fabulous Natchitoches meat pies and cochon du laits at the fairgrounds all day. I put pewter chopsticks in my julep cups, break out the Limoges and use the fanciest dishes possible although the menu and the attire is strictly casual. I love mixing high and low.
Are there any cookbooks you drag dog-eared from place to place or have duplicates of in your respective kitchens?
I have two copies of Lally Brennan and Ti Martin’s “In the Land of Cocktails” and I’m not just saying this but I have your book, Ham Biscuits and Hostess Gowns, in both New York and New Orleans. Seems we like the same thing. I’m crazy for shellfish and oysters.
One of the items you chose on your shopping spree was the Fortuny book from Books & Books. Your house in New Orleans has a similar old-world romantic feel. What about your apartment in New York? Do the cities dictate the decor.
I consider myself a preservationist and two of my favorite causes are the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the PRC (Preservation Resource Center) in New Orleans. That said, it has taken me a lifetime to accomplish this, but I live and work in landmark historic housing. I go with French and European pieces in the French Quarter, modern easy furnishings by John Saladino in New York, which is a 1937 landmark apartment built by David Rockefeller. My office is in Hearst Tower, a Pritzker-prize winning skyscraper capping off a 1927 Beaux Arts base. I chose uber modern decor, a lot of glass and steel, tripped up with books and photographs.
Of all the things on your Taigan wish list, which would you most love to find in your stocking and why?
Julia, you know me—I’d wear those diamond earrings with my pajamas. I’m a Cancer and a nester so give me a stack of books, an aromatherapy candle, a cashmere throw and I’m a happy girl. Home is everything.
Pictured above, clockwise from top left:
Debra Shriver on her French Quarter balcony; her new book In the Spirit of New Orleans, avaiable at Books & Books on Taigan; H. Stern Ancient Serpent diamond earrings, one of Deb’s Taigan picks from Amanda Pinson; Aspen Bay Cinnamon Beignet Candle, another of Deb’s picks from Absolution; a Deb’s New Orleans guest room, as seen through a bejeweled mirror