As a lifelong plant and flower enthusiast I am excited about the return of floral design workshops at Mitch’s Flower’s, a beautifully appointed horticultural oasis on a shaded block of Magazine Street.

While they were once common, today shops dedicated to interesting plants and the ancient art of floral design have become a rarity in our world of ho-hum flowers from the grocery store hastily tossed into a vase and stressed-out, half dead work-a-day plants from a home improvement garden center where they are left to fend for themselves, most often with neither water nor care.

The scene at Mitch’s is quite different. The entrance to the soothing space that has served New Orleans since 1986, is reached through a verdant courtyard garden. The interior of the space is lush with rare, decades-old, blooming Tillandsias, and masses of Vanda, Phalaenopsis, Lady Slipper, and Dendrobium orchids that staff artisans pot up into living works of art. In the European fashion, a pathway winds through vases and buckets filled with fine, brilliant blooms—lilac Allium orbs bobbing on three-foot stems, roses of all hues with heads the size of a lady’s fist, doe-eyed Anemones, delicate ranunculus with the appearance of spools of tenuous feathers. The flowers arrive in great bundles gathered from area farms as well as far-off places with exotic names. The blended perfume of the blooms hangs richly in the air and a plethora of antique mirrors gathers the light, reflects the flowers’ great beauty. and amplifies their volume. Time spent in this place feels secretive, luxurious, self-indulgent.

Yes, I am looking forward to those workshops, a birthday gift to myself. Join me?

Introductory classes will be offered next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings (July 21, 22, 23) from 5-7 p.m. Participants will learn the fundamentals of floral design. They will be invited choose their flowers and the staff designers will be on hand to advise on creating arrangements in a vase.

The following week (July 28, 29, and 30), Intermediate level classes will be offered from 5-7 p.m. each day and attendees will more thoroughly explore color palates and advanced design techniques.

For both classes, all materials will be provided for guests to create the arrangements they will take home to enjoy. Classes will be limited to eight students per day and the cost is $100 per person, which must be tendered upon signing up either with a credit card over the telephone (504.899.4843) or via cash or check in person. Participants are strongly encouraged to be fully vaccinated.

I am headed to Asheville, North Carolina to see my bestie for my birthday and she wants shrimp and crabmeat. Shrimp, no problem: just freeze them and pack them in an insulated bag with ice. But crabmeat?  On the rare occasions when I buy it its destiny is predetermined, no freezer action is even contemplated. On the flip side, at $40 a pound if I get lucky, I am not risking spoilage with jumbo lump. Unsure what to do I called my friend Chef Michael Nelson of GW Fins.

“Uh, no. You can’t freeze that. Uh, no, you have to grab it at the last minute then use the frozen packages of shrimp as ice.”

Problem is I do not have a moment to spare until I leave town…

So, Mike (The Man at GW Fins!)  hooked me up with one of his seafood purveyors (Craig Bourges’ New Orleans Seafood Company) and, just in case, a produce/meat/cheese vendor (JV Foods), too. Both restaurant wholesalers pivoted during the pandemic and now sell to regular Janes like me.

Oh my, the mind-blowing culinary gorgeousness to be had when you have access to what the hard-core pros like Mike Nelson get.

“They will usually bring it to you, too,” Mike advised. “Get the wild-caught Gulf shrimp from Craig, too: IQF, peeled and deveined. Comes in five-pound packages.”

I am showing up in Ashville with loads of huge Gulf shrimp, jumbo lump crabmeat, and a yellowfin tuna collar from Craig Bourges’, and a flat of Celeste figs, fresh chanterelles, fresh pasta (made a Josephine Estelle) and Louisiana Wagyu beef steaks from JV Foods.

Think my hosts will be happy to see me?

I am not so much the princess nor the cake type. That said, on my paternal side my family heritage I am Scandinavian, so I dig things involving raspberries, puffs of cream, marzipan, and cardamom. All these treasures, except the cardamom (sigh), come together in Bywater Bakery’s Princess Cake (White almond cake layered with raspberry preserves, domed with whipped cream and topped with marzipan) about which a friend was absolutely raving last week, so that is on my birthday menu, as well. I hear it even has a sparkly/shimmery thing going on so am all over that, too.

Have a great week everyone. Use it to uplift at least one other person.