Wednesday, February 13, 2019

VALENTINE'S DAY WINE-Love in a Bottle


"I don't want to live; I want to love first, and live incidentally.”
                                     Zelda Fitzgerald

~Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-I just made my purchase. Four bottles of  Saint Amour, the wine that says everything on the day we celebrate romance. No gimmicks here, not another beverage from madman hype . This wine is the real deal: made in a region of Burgundy, named after the village of the same name, bright red like a Valentine heart and delicious with almost all food. 

We all recognize that this wine bears a name which is gentle to the ear and to the heart. It is the wine of poets and lovers. If it did not exist, life would be a little less charming. The village of Saint Amour gives its name to this wine. Before that, a long time ago during Gallo-Roman times, a centurion named Amor belonging to the Thébaine Legion, stationed in the Valais region of Switzerland and famous for his Christian faith suffered martyrdom. In all evidence, the ways of lovers, with their pleasures and sorrows, are rarely easy. 

Saint Amour legitimately claims to be the most romantic of the 10 Beaujolais Crus. It’s name translates to “Saint Love” and loosely to “holy love,” “pure love,” or a variety of other equally delicious and romantic terms. 

With both the enchanting name and the reasonable price, this wine is ready for romance.
Saint Amour remind us that love is grand in all its forms – through youth, middle age, and maturity – and that this good wine is always an excellent accompaniment to romance, particularly on St. Valentine’s Day.

Here’a toast to everyone: All you need is love!

Note: Sherlock’s in Atlanta has Saint Amour and if you are lucky, the J.Sanders label. Good wine stores throughout the world sell out of this delightful wine each 14th day of February.

doclawrence@mindspring.com

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Last Dinner-A Romantic Evening, A Prelude to Tragedy


~Doc Lawrence

The last dinner on the Titanic was a spectacle of romance entwined with luxury, music, high fashion and the finest cuisine served with almost endless glasses of Champagne. The dining room for the wealthy was named The Ritz, an orchestra serenaded diners and encouraged dancing. An evening we can only fantasize about during the days leading to Valentine’s, our special time to celebrate the majesty of love. 
Luxurious Dining

Here is the menu for that luxuriously appointed event. Most of the dishes are recognizable. Some are antiquated. It is a guide of sorts for those who at least dream about a special evening with someone we love. In a place where the best of everything is served amid lovely music in a room tastefully furnished, with guests who excel in advanced conversation.


Although this was a prelude to tragedy, take a moment and imagine the evening spent in this manner with someone you love. Another glass of Champagne? Shall we dance?

                                                      
                                     The Titanic First-Class Menu
As served in the first-class dining saloon of the R.M.S. Titanic on April 14, 1912
First Course
Hors D'Oeuvres 
Oysters

Second Course
Consommé Olga
Cream of Barley

Third Course
Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers
Fourth Course
Filet Mignons Lili
Fine Champagne Flowed
Saute of Chicken, Lyonnaise
Vegetable Marrow Farci

Fifth Course
Lamb, Mint Sauce
Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce
Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes
Green Pea
Creamed Carrots
Boiled Rice
Parmentier & Boiled New Potatoes
     
Sixth Course
Punch Romaine  
Seventh Course
Roast Squab & Cress

Eighth Course
Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

Ninth Course
Pate de Foie Gras
Celery

Tenth Course
Waldorf Pudding
Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs
French Ice Cream

The repast was served with a different wine for each course. 
Following the tenth course fresh fruits and cheeses were available followed by coffee and cigars accompanied by port and distilled spirits like Scotch, Irish Whiskey and Cognac. 

May your Valentine’s Day dinner be elegant and romantic.


Dare2Pair
We plan and host host wine dinners and gourmet events.
www.thegourmethighway.com 


Friday, February 1, 2019

Atlanta Recipes-Super Bowl Brunswick Stew



~Doc Lawrence

Responding to good-natured requests for recipes that actually have culinary connections to Atlanta and Georgia, nothing stands out more than Brunswick Stew. It's ours, born here and served here in select restaurants, particularly those that serve great barbecue. You'll find it on the menu at Mary Mac's Tea Room, a landmark restaurant that has deep roots here. Manuel's Tavern serves a critically-acclaimed bowl of this staple as well.
Scarlett O'Hara

Jim Sanders, the father of fine wines here and an Atlanta restaurant pioneer, served on special occasions his barbecue pork along with his treasured, venerable recipe Georgia Brunswick Stew, something he learned during his childhood days in Covington, Georgia. It remains a traditional accompaniment to genuine Deep South barbecue. For those looking for a viable alternative to chili, here's a winner that is delicious. Sources swear it was a personal favorite of Miss Scarlett O'Hara.



ATLANTA BRUNSWICK STEW

INGREDIENTS:
1 four-pound baking chicken
4 pounds ground pork
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce 
1-tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoons cayenne pepper 
2 cups chopped onions 
1 cup red wine, preferably Rhone style
3 to 4 tablespoons bacon drippings  
36 ounces tomato juice 
4 ounce tomato catsup
3 cups cut corn
Kosher salt and black pepper

PREPARATION:
Boil the chicken until it is very tender, cool, de-bone and chop the meat finely. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, braise the pork until half done. Add half the chopped onions, one chopped garlic clove, chili powder, thyme, cayenne pepper and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper. Continue to braise until the meat is well browned, stirring every few minutes to break up any lumps and combine with chicken. Add the tomato juice and catsup and simmer for 11/2 hours. Add the rest of the chopped onions, another chopped garlic clove and simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste for salt and spoon off the fat before serving.

Serve as entree or side with fresh cornbread preferably made with a Georgia heritage product, Logan Turnpike Corn Meal available at the Dekalb Farmer's Market in Decatur. 

Wines? A Beaujolais-Village, ever affordable, pairs well. Cocktails? Use your imagination. I will be enjoying several made with Coca-Cola (this is Atlanta), variations of the Cuba Libre and a few others. We'll open up everything before kickoff with a toast to our beloved Gladys Knight who'll be singing out all our love for America!

More recipes on request. doclawrence@mindspring.com
Atlanta Legend Gladys Knight




Monday, December 31, 2018

Champagne Serenade: A New Year’s Toast


~Doc Lawrence


A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced; the imagination is stirred; the wits become more nimble.” Winston Churchill

The Champagne ritual has an exalted place in celebrations including the christening of a new aircraft carriers. Few events transcend the joys from crystal flutes overflowing with bubbly on New Year’s Eve. Each tiny rising bubble suggests optimism, a welcoming of yet unknown events during the next 12 months.  Abiding faith that we will enjoy the gift of life.

The word Champagne conjures up unfounded fears of burdensome expense. Because it is a sparkling wine-albeit a regal one-the more affordable choices are too often overlooked. Well-intentioned hosts opt for what is called grocery store wine, and open up bottles misleadingly labelled that promise no romance but are guaranteed to give everyone a stemwinding hangover.

The pleasures of Champagne and wonderful substitutes can be enjoyed for a very fair price. For those who don’t worry about costs (I’m not one of them), there are many smart choices that will add to the moment.

For a casual New Year’s Eve party, consider Lambrusco. The rustic Lini 910 Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna, Italy is widely available, affordable at $15, has bubbles galore and will be a big hit when burgers, wings or barbecue is served. 

This time of year, good people want to get tickled with bubbles. Spain’s wonderful Cava has that wonderful Champagne taste. Montsarra, a quality label will cost around $16 a bottle. Primarily made from three grapes, Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada, a little Chardonnay provides kinship to the famous bottles from France.

Consider a sparkling wine from Burgundy. Cremant de Bourgogne is produced methode Champenoise, and is as celebratory beyond what we expect. For less than $25, you can enjoy a few bottles NV Parigot Rosé made from 100% Pinot Noir that will make the occasion one to remember.

As the midnight hour approaches, after a full evening of cocktails and good food, something softer and friendlier like Prosecco should receive a big welcome. For $12, Riondo Prosecco, a popular Italian sparkler features abundant fruit, soft carbonation and a surprising lively, crisp finish. 
California’s Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noir, is bone dry and classically crisp. With every glass it becomes more enjoyable, a near-perfect companion to salty small bites and elegant canapés. A steal at $22.

For those who struck it rich in 2018, who light their cigars with hundred dollar bills, splurge with a bottle of Krug NV Champagne for a mere $150. This will comfortably accompany a rich dinner with a prime rib roast entree.

Instead of mass-produced supermarket sparkling wine, try an affordable estate-bottled delight like the Ariston Carte Blanche Brut Champagne for around $20. Likewise, there are so many elegant, smaller production grower-producer Champagnes. One, Franck Bonville Brut Millesime Blanc de Blancs Champagne is bright like a clear winter morning and recalls little green apples and toasted cinnamon bread.

Sparkling wines from New Mexico like Gruet, North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate and Georgia’s Wolf Mountain are genuine bargains, priced fairly and delicious. They’re out there. Try Whole Foods, the Dekalb Farmer’s Market (near Atlanta) or a top wine store.

Toss those plastic glasses into the rubbish bin. Fill crystal flutes with the good stuff. Toast to a better world, peace on earth, a healthy planet, the awesome power of love and the gift of good health and life. 

                                                     HAPPY NEW YEAR!



Monday, December 24, 2018

Oyster Stew For Christmas-Legendary Recipes and Wine Pairings



“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”
                                  Jonathan Swift

~Doc Lawrence

The colder weather of the holiday season harkens for tasty oysters. Early immigrants soon learned that what many had enjoyed in Europe were a staple in  much of the New World where Native Americans had been harvesting them for at least 3,000 years. Now, we enjoy them in stews, chowders, dressings, roasted and on the half shell. Boston’s Union Oyster House, opened in 1826, showcases gourmet bivalves. 
The popularity of oysters is omnipresent and here in the South, oyster stew is a ritual observed on Christmas Eve. Oyster dressing appears on the Christmas dinner table almost on cue. Enjoy these oyster recipes from the kitchens of experts. 

Oyster Stew For Christmas Eve
OYSTER STEW
From The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.
 Makes 6 servings.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 medium sweet onion, finely diced (approximately 1 cup)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
5 cups of milk, heated
2 cups heavy cream
1 quart jar fresh “select” oysters, drained with their liquor reserved
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Melt half of the butter in a large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is bubbling, add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well to blend together. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and heavy cream and then the reserved oyster liquor, keeping it at low heat so that it doesn’t scorch. Keep it at a very light simmer.
Heat the remaining butter in a large skillet until hot and bubbling. Add the drained oysters in a single layer. Add sea salt and pepper and sauté until the oysters begin to curl around the edges.
Transfer the contents of the skillet into the saucepan. Add the cayenne, cover and remove from the heat to mellow for 10 minutes. Heat again to just below a simmer, and add more salt as necessary. Serve hot accompanied by oyster crackers or Benne biscuits.
A rich, glamorous winter side dish. Good at Christmas or anytime. Just don’t overcook the oysters! You want them at their creamy, velvety best.

GRANDMA’S OYSTER DRESSING
Chef Joshua Butler, Atlanta

Chef Joshua Butler
Ingredients:
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup chopped onion
4 green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
Pinch cayenne pepper
3 cups crumbled Cornbread (either homemade or store bought)
3 cups bread crumbs, small dice*
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1 pint shucked fresh (live) oysters, drained (reserve 1/2 cup oyster liquid)**
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly butter a large rectangular baking pan.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Saute onions and celery in the butter until tender; remove from heat an add a small pinch of cayenne and let cool.
Combine cornbread and breadcrumbs in a large bowl.  Gently fold in sauteed onions, salt, pepper, and parsley.
Add beaten eggs and toss more; moisten with the reserved oyster liquid until moist but not soggy.  Gently stir in the oysters.
Pat the mixture into the prepared baking pan (it should make a 1-inch layer in the pan).
Dot with remaining butter and bake about 45 minutes, until golden brown and set in the center.

Fresh oysters in the shell as well as shucked can be found daily at Your Dekalb Farmers Market in Decatur, Georgia just outside Atlanta. Bonus, they are sourced from Apalachicola, Florida, Virginia and Washington State.

Wines: Champagne seems to have been created with oysters in mind. A bottle of bubbly, whether the real deal, or a Cremant from France, Cava from Spain or a sparkling wine from California’s Gloria Ferrer or New Mexico’s Gruet will add to the festive celebration.

                             Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Wines-Dare 2 Pair Goes Old World


"Eat the bread with joy and 
drink the wine with a merry heart."                         
                            Ecclesiastes 9 

~Doc Lawrence

The day we’ve been waiting for. Family, gifts, laughter, all kinds of food everywhere, a beautifully adorned evergreen tree, and uncorked bottles of wine ready for pouring into lovely stemware.

What is absent? Jugs of wine, cheap wine that smells like garbage when opened, fizz that pretends to be Champagne and anything that remotely suggests Ebenezer Scrooge. 

We established that variety is the key to wine enjoyment when Christmas celebrants gather. Different generations, family and friends from vastly different backgrounds and often different countries, commonly come together on this day when love and deep friendships seamlessly blend with the occasion.

Like millions of Americans, we’re enjoying so many dishes, from amuse bouche (finger food) to entrees of prime rib of beef, duck, ham and countless sides. We enjoy oyster stew on Christmas Eve, and serve oyster dressing with the Christmas feast, something my family first observed in the 18th Century. 

Does all this complicate wine choices? Not one bit.

I’ve chosen some delights that represent perhaps the oldest wine cultures. True, not always easy to find, but a good wine merchant will cheerfully get them. The Three Wise Men so prominent in the observance of Christmas, were from the East and historians have assumed this could include places like Armenia and Iran. The Armenians were the very first people to adopt Christianity as a national religion,  and their wines have been produced for 6,000 years. Zorah - Karasi Areni Noir 2015 can be ordered through your wine retailer or online. Each glass contains centuries of history and this red is truly delicious.

Lebanon’s ancient winemaking heritage is well-represented with Musar Jeune Red is a blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Deeply-colored and vividly fruity, inky-dark, silky-textured and aromatic, with hints of cherry jam, it’s topped with subtle spice.

Macedonia gave the world Alexander the Great who in all likelihood enjoyed local wines, with many of the wine grape descendants present today in bottles of exciting wines. Tikves Winery Kratosija Tikves, Republic of Macedonia, will surprise guests with taste and kinship. A sumptuous curiosity, it is zinfandel, made famous in California but with origins in the Balkans. Like its American cousin, it’s deeply colored and will be a guest favorite.

Armenian Wines Appeared 6,000 Years Ago
Greece has a wine  heritage older than the origin of democracy.  Atma Xinomavro Macedonia, Greece 2017, made from the great Greek red grape xinomavro, radiates a wild personality flavored with tangy pomegranate, cherry and indigenous herbs. Ruby red Atma is defined by easygoing drinkability.

Hungary refuses to be ignored. Unfairly stereotyped as producer of sweet but elegant wine, there are far more diverse superior wines as evidenced by Ostorosbor Egri Pinot Noir Hungary 2016, earthy with red berry fruit that will pair with anything served at Christmas. Good value as well.

The holiday dinner would be laking without Italian wines. Villa Vincini Il Gran Rosso Veneto, Italy 2017 is a rich red blend of merlot and corvina with just enough sugar and spice for dinner or with cheese trays.

Spain deserves presence this time of year. One interesting wine is Carta Roja Pura Organic Monastrell Jumilla better known as Mourvèdre, that thrives in the warm climate of southeastern Spain’s Jumilla region, offering abundant tangy red and black fruit seasoned with peppery spice.

Pricey but almost obligatory at Christmas, Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of Rhône’s legends. A blend of fruit and sensuous aromas, this is a top-tiered wine you give to the person who made you so rich this year. Easy to locate.

Who would dare recommend Old World wines and ignore Bordeaux?
Château Jouanin Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, France 2014 is delicious and  affordable. With a predominance of Cabernet Franc, it’s just waiting to be enjoyed now.

German Pinot Noir? Today, Germany grows more Pinot Noir than New Zealand and Australia combined and German Pinot Noir also known as Spätburgunder) is getting better all the time.

Katharina Wechsler Riesling Trocken Rheinhessen, Germany 2016, is a scintillating dry riesling featuring ripe and juicy tropical fruit. Its acidity makes it perfect for an aperitif and it handles heat-infused appetizers with ease.

Sherry was served by Scarlett and legend has it that Captain Rhett Butler enjoyed it daily. It should have an exalted place during this holidays. Impressive Mil Pesetas Manzanilla Spain NV is a festive and a crowd pleaser.

Bubbly was saved for last. The world loves Champagne and favorites run from moderately expensive to highly affordable.  Sir Winston Churchill’s favorite, Pol Roger Brut Reserve Champagne, France NV is what you give to a member of a royal family who was kind and generous to your mother. A less expensive but high quality choice is Vilmart & Cie Grande Réserve Premier Cru Champagne, France NV.

Don’t overlook a Cremant like La Cave des Hautes Côtes Crémant de Bourgogne Burgundy, France NV. Created under the same protocol as champagne, here’s an excellent value complete with gazillions of little bubbles and regal flavor.

Then there’s Cru Beaujolais. Stay tuned.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!





Friday, December 7, 2018

A Broadway Christmas Carol

“A little song,
  a little dance,
  a little eggnog down your pants.

~Doc Lawrence

The holiday season traditionally juxtaposes sacred ritual with the celebratory glory of gatherings, particularly the joys from the live stage. Art Station Theatre’s production of Kathy Feininger’s A Broadway Christmas Carol opened to a sellout audience and earned a standing ovation from a well-entertained audience. Combining the Dickens classic with more than 30 Broadway standards and a full warehouse of comedy, brilliant sets and parody can only work with a talented cast, flawless singing, precision dancing and tight directing. 

Once more, Art Station succeeds.
Jeff LeCraw delivers a cranky Ebenezer Scrooge, counting the loot from his shameless stinginess to the song “We’re in the Money,” followed by Joy Walters’ sultry delivery of “Big Spender.”

Ben Thorpe becomes all the other males in the story from Bob Cratchit to Tiny Tim, entertaining with “Tomorrow” from Annie, to “Put on a Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie and “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast. 

Music director and accompanist Patrick Hutchinson is the show’s backbone. Nothing short of perfection is required to make this two-hour production work. A high bar of excellence skillfully met. 

A Christmas Carol as we know it is the story, but the added comedy and Karen Beyer’s precision choreography transforms it into a very modern crowd pleaser. 

Just glow we need during the cold days of the holiday season.

Through December 21.
Tickets and information: (770) 469.1105; www.artstation.org