Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cajun Moon Book Club

One of the highlights of last week was co-hosting our congregation's ladies book club. My friend Missy Jones and I wanted to transport guests to New Orleans for an evening at fictional Ledet's fine French Quarter restaurant. 


Under the Cajun Moon
by Mindy Starns Clark

Our book club was eager for a mystery, and Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark delivered with suspense and fast-paced action. Click the title above to learn more about this book. One attendee said this is her favorite book club selection thus far. Since reading Under the Cajun Moon, she has read and recommends all of the author's other works.


In the book, well-known etiquette expert Chloe Ledet is summoned home when her father, a famous New Orleans chef, is shot. His French Quarter restaurant, Ledet's, made the perfect setting for our book club dinner.


My chalk board platter served as a welcome sign for book club guests dining at Ledet's.


A Ledet's menu topped each place setting and served as the evening's program.


In keeping with our vision of a fine New Orleans restaurant, Missy and I topped tables with white tablecloths and fine china, crystal and silver. We save money on paper goods each meeting by collaborating on decorations and bringing what we have from home.


Missy and I provided appetizers, bread, dessert and drinks and asked guests to bring a favorite Cajun or restaurant-inspired dish. Missy had a pot of gumbo simmering on the stove when guests arrived, and the spicy aroma welcomed diners to the French Quarter. Find her recipe here. A highlight of each book club meeting is the reveal of the new book selection, kept as a tightly-guarded secret until the end of the evening. We mixed things up for this meeting, though, and gave the ladies three selections to choose from. Discover the chef's specials below.


Tonight's Specials

Which book would you choose for our next read: the Low-Country Boil, the Southern Feast or the English Tea? I will share our winning dish, along with a book giveaway, later this week. Learn more about these three books by clicking on the titles.

Veil of Pearls
by MaryLu Tyndall
Lasting Impression
by Tamera Alexander

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
by Julie Klassen


We concluded our dinner with an authentic New Orleans treat: cafe au lait and beignets.


I experimented with a homemade beignet recipe the night before our meeting, but opted for an easier option for the party. Find traditional French Quarter favorite Cafe du Monde products here. We prepared decaffeinated cafe au lait and served steaming cups alongside freshly-prepared beignets. I had plenty of coffee and beignet mix leftover after the meeting, so treated my family to a delicious New Orleans breakfast Saturday. Beignets and cafe au lait make a perfect combination on a chilly winter day.

Raspberry sauce was delicious for dipping and drizzling. I shared the leftovers with the children Saturday, and Emma begged me to let her eat the last drops with a spoon. ... She said it was delicious.
Raspberry Sauce
Adapted from Sandra Lee's beignets with raspberry sauce recipe, found here.
1 (12-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Add raspberries, powdered sugar and lemon juice to blender, and puree until smooth. Serve with beignets or drizzle over cake or ice cream. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.


We enjoyed a lively discussion of the book during dessert, and then it was time to reveal the new book. Usually we give away a copy of the new selection as a door prize, but since the choice was a surprise to us, I brought a half-dozen review copies of Christian fiction books to share.


I prepared "checks" for each guest, and six of the bills held a message urging its recipient to choose a book to take home. This was a nice surprise for the ladies, so we talked about incorporating a book swap into our next meeting.


I was so busy making beignets in the kitchen, I did not make it to the front of the house to photograph our restaurant. Missy photographed the tables with her phone; see her photos in the collage above.


Thankfully for Missy and me, there were no critics in the house when we hosted our private party at Ledet's -- just 22 sweet Christian women who love to be together. Be sure to stop in later to find out our new book club selection -- and to register to win a copy of the book. I close our book club dinner post with a sweet review from an even sweeter friend.

"Friends, food, and fellowship make a perfect combination. Discussing a great book is just powdered sugar on the beignet!" ~ Sharon Lyle


Anonymous said...

I loved your book club/dinner party idea and would like to do it for the ladies of our church. Can you share a few of your thoughts? How many books per year do you try to read? Is the dinner party a culmination of having finished the book? Please share some of guidelines that you have found helpful and that make this idea do-able. It is a completely new venture for me, but I would love to give it a try if you could share some advice!

Nancy Hood said...

I second the above writer's comment! I've wondered about your guide lines myself!

Gave you a shout out!! And have a beautiful day, Melissa~ Nancy

Melissa Lester said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Nancy! Book club has been a wonderful bonding opportunity for the ladies at our church and a great way to bring new friends in. I will put together some tips on how we got started. Look for that post soon.

The Mrs. said...

This is so wonderful. Loved reading every bit of this post and makes me want to go to New Orleans!! I'm going to try to make that gumbo! Be sure and weigh in on my blog about the tooth fairy. Dying to know what you think!

Louise said...

It was all SO wonderful!! Thank you to you and Missy for a wonderful evening!! Everything was wonderful, but I think I still dream about the beignets and raspberry sauce!! :)

My Life as A Plate said...

You event turned out wonderful! Everything is gorgeous! I love that your book club does themed meetings to match the book!

Julia Hu said...

This is all so cute!

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