Thursday, November 25, 2010



Josh Butler has been the executive chef for Florida’s governors beginning with Lawton Chiles. Many consider him Florida’s “Top Chef,” and considering those heads of state, members of royal families, Hollywood legends and legion of dignitaries who enjoyed his stellar dishes, there should be no debate.

Josh Butler, Florida's Top Chef

Chef Josh-still a very young man- maintains his Florida and Deep South culinary influences, incorporating them into so much of his cooking. Here is his signature Oyster Dressing, one he attributes to his grandmother. In Dixie, this is a holiday staple, perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day feasts.

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cups crumbled cornbread
  • 3 cups stale bread crumbs, small dice
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 pint shucked oysters, drained, reserve 1/2 cup liquid
  •  pinch cayenne
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté onions and celery in the butter until tender, add a small pinch of cayenne, and let cool.
Combine cornbread and bread crumbs in a large bowl; gently fold in sautéed onions, salt, pepper, and parsley.
Add beaten eggs and toss more; moisten with the oyster liquid until moist but not soggy. Gently stir in the oysters.
Pat the mixture into a large lightly buttered rectangular 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.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


DOC'S NEWS: THANKSGIVING PRAYER: "Before we are overwhelmed by the delights of the table, ponder the spiritual meaning of this day. Everyone has something to be thankful for,..."


Before we are overwhelmed by the delights of the table, ponder the spiritual meaning of this day. Everyone has something to be thankful for, even if it’s just remembering a trumpet solo.

Thankful For A Gulf Sunset

 A prayer of gratitude was found in the belongings of a dead Southern soldier during the Civil War:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked God for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for
- but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among men, most richly blessed.

This is the time to reflect. If we enjoyed a good year, we express thanks. If there have been difficulties, we are happy for what we do have and resolve to continue doing our best. The appreciation of life isn’t predicated on wealth or plenty, just simple gratitude for the beauty of the world.


Sunday, November 21, 2010


All-American Pairings

By Doc Lawrence

The year is winding down and we’ll help it go in high style. Gatherings and homecomings are highlighted by feasts.  Laughter permeates and for a little more than a month we celebrate. Joy is the prevailing emotion, mercifully shoving aside problems and disappointments.

Thanksgiving launches the holiday season where every day acknowledges joie de vevres. It is the most American of these wonderful days, incorporating much of what we hold dear. We return home even if the journey is just reliving precious memories. It is that day when we genuinely want someone-a lonely neighbor, a student far from home- who is alone to come on over and join the fun and share the harvest bounty.

Wine is enjoying growing prominence during holiday feasts and more wine is sold for Thanksgiving Day dinner than for any other meal of the year. With so many different flavors, tastes and traditions, Thanksgiving wine choices can be vexing. Given the great variety of foods and flavors, it’s smart to place different bottles on the table to reflect the many different dishes served. This is our special day so serve only American wines.

Because most foods on the dinner table are all consumed together, pairing wines appears a little daunting. Remember the most important consideration is taste, how each wine complements what you're serving and what you like. There are no hard-and-fast rules for selecting the right wines. But some are almost perfect with turkey and all the amazing fixings.

Begin the feast with an American sparkler. Serve a flute or two of Gruet Blanc de Noir Sparkling, a highly regarded bubbly from New Mexico.  And, if you want a gift for your dinner host, the safe path is a good sparkling wine and Gruet has some rarity about it combined with a solid reputation.


Instead of Chardonnay consider white wines that are refreshing, tangy, floral and fruity, the dominant holiday flavors. Oregon’s secret weapon white is Pinot Gris.  Unlike Pinot Grigio (the same grape), Oregon Pinot Gris has personality.  King Estate Pinot Gris is a sure bet, and is nice on the palate between bites of turkey, dressing and gravy. It goes nicely with vegetables like asparagus.

North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley offers a cornucopia of food friendly wines. Acclaimed Rag Apple Lassie’s Viognier or Pinot Gris are regulars for my Thanksgiving guests.

Riesling and Gewurztraminer belong on the table. With a lovely, complex, and rich core of fruit flavors, and a bit of minerality, Gewurztraminer has enough acidity to work with holiday dinners. New York’s Finger Lakes is home to Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling, a benchmark for American Riesling that will lift Thanksgiving dressing, holiday oysters and shrimp and baked pork loin to new heights.  


Don’t hesitate to serve red wine with turkey.

Young bottles of Pinot Noir like those from Asheville’s Biltmore Estates are distinctively fruity with essence of plums, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. Another respected North Carolina winery, Hanover Park, produces a Mourverde plus a Chambourcin blend labelled Courtney Red that add ecitement.

Take the path less traveled with Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel, a vineyard with vines dating back to 1913, planted with a smattering of other grape varieties like Carignane and Petite Sirah.

This is the time to reflect and express thanks. We toast to commence the Thanksgiving feast, happy to be together. The appreciation of life isn’t predicated on wealth or plenty, just simple gratitude for family, friends and the beauty of the world. Joy manifests in many ways: a Thanksgiving dinner or even a precious memory of a melody played on a trumpet long ago.

Pairing advice?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010



         By Doc Lawrence

“Travis McGee's still in Cedar Key
That's what ol' John MacDonald said
My rendezvous's so long overdue
With all of the things I've sung and I've read
They still apply to me
They all make sense in time.”
                Jimmy Buffett, Incommunicado

Foster Thomason Casts Into The Gulf For Family Dinner

CEDAR KEY, FL. The Big Bend on Florida’s Gulf Coast remains a lockbox overflowing with priceless treasures from the sea, countless crystal springs and legendary rivers with mysterious names like Wakulla and Steinhatchee plus some famous ones like the mighty Suwannee. Much of the area has been suffering economically, a tragedy that began with familiar destructive events that I only know from television coverage.

The region is where many of my happiest memories were made and when asked to visit, I accepted. I love the area and the people. It’s what Cross Creek’s Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote about: Florida’s indigenous Cracker culture with roots that extend back to ancient Spain. For generations, kids-including me- were first introduced to life-changing culinary experiences like raw oysters, smoked mullet, fried grouper sandwiches and even stone crabs.

This little village is genuine Florida. It’s known for clams, artists, expatriates and once supplied cedar for pencils. John D. MacDonald wrote his Travis McGee books about Cedar Key. Detective McGee became America’s version of James Bond. Instead of a luxury Aston-Martin, Travis McGee traveled and lived on a beaten-down boat called the “Busted Flush.” According to Miami novelist Carl Hiassen, Travis McGee is making a big comeback.

This is where I go to fish, meditate, drink when I please, eat what I like and dream. Here, for a few days, peace and tranquility reign over discord and troubles. Returning allows me look and listen, to tell some stories that need telling. About good, resilient people, part of America’s bedrock who created an enviable lifestyle. Should paradise be so fragile?

Monday, November 1, 2010



And why not? If it’s the first of three volumes by America’s all-time favorite author and storyteller, a genuine tell-all that is irreverent, hilarious, poignant and sad; a monumental work for the ages. It deserves to be wrapped in luxurious paper garnished with a satin bow and given to anyone who loves American literature. The Autobiography of Mark Twain, (University of California Press 2010), was at Twain’s instructions, not to be released until 100 years after his death. Twain died in 1910 and his orders have been honored just in time for the Holidays.

The book's release is timed beautifully for our gift-giving season. It is the product of Twain’s dictation during his final years to a stenographer with two more volumes to be released later.

Mark Twain never really died, did he? A year ago at Atlanta’s Emory University, I took a course in Mark Twain, examining his “darker side.” There was as much laughter during class time as there was when I saw Hal Holbrook’s magnificent stage portrayal, “Mark Twain Tonight.” Twain eludes classification.

The Broadway musical, “Big River,” based on “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and featuring Roger Miller’s songs, is a masterpiece of song and dance that I recently saw at Atlanta’s glorious Balzer Theatre. Like Twain, Huck, Tom and Jim, remain vibrant, mischievous, mysterious and lyrical. 

As intended, Mark Twain speaks to us from the grave providing uncensored remarks about his friends and enemies. The University of California Press said that “[t]he strict instruction . . . meant that he would be ‘dead, and unaware, and indifferent,’ and that he was therefore free to speak his ‘whole frank mind.’” And he did.

I couldn’t put the book down. The wit, the daring observations, the command of language and the unbridled passion is irresistible. Mark Twain talked to me like I was his closest friend.