Tuesday, March 29, 2011



Christa Sladky Creates Gourmet Cocktails

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-During the regal hotel’s first years in Buckhead, Atlanta’s shopping and fine dining district, I regularly walked here from my home after work to meet friends, enjoy cocktails and listen to the piano and vocal styling of the incomparable Freddy Cole, Nat King Cole’s brother. A recent visit, almost three decades later, confirmed that little has changed inside the palatial Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead. Freddy, still one of heaven’s gifts to Atlanta, spends his performance time touring Europe, but the gifted Theresa Hightower, a wonderful lady with a voice that combines Ella Fitzgerald with Sara Vaughn, sings here like a jazz angel beginning on Thursdays, and the intimate Wine Bar, features a rising star mixologist handcrafting cocktails.

Christa Sladky creates customized cocktails, making her own vermouth, ginger beer, fruit purees and much more using nothing from cans or jars. The effervescent Sladky took my order for an Old Fashioned (arguably is the oldest cocktail of them all) and confidently proceeded to modify it. Instead of Bourbon, she made it with Don Julio Anejo Tequila, a spoonful of raw honey, Fee Brothers Orange Bitters, a maraschino cherry, finished with some secret MoJo.

Stirred and served over rocks in the appropriate glass, Christa Sladky named it “Doc’s Remedy.” The ceremony recalled the story of the Mojito made in Havana’s La Bodeguita del Medio. It was fashioned for a local denizen, Ernest Hemingway. Christa’s cocktail was ambrosia: delicious, refreshing and became a near-perfect aperitif, readying my appetite for an evening dining in the Café, a reuniting with esteemed Chef Todd Richards and his distinctively Southern haute cuisine.

A devotee of the legendary Dale DeGroff, who pioneered the gourmet approach to recreating classic cocktails, Christa Sladky performs at the cozy Ritz-Carlton Buckhead Wine Bar Wednesday through Saturday evenings. The bar is her stage; the set is a collage of crystal bottles, soft lighting, elegant furnishings in elegant surroundings. Watching her work is great theater in a storybook bar, a virtuoso performance.

A one-of-a-kind cocktail, intelligent conversation, classic jazz, all a prelude to gourmet dining would be a memorable evening in New York City or San Francisco.  It’s here, now. An All-Atlanta experience, offered in de rigueur grand style at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Bartlesville-Architecture, Oil, Opera and Good Living


By Doc Lawrence

Headed into Bartlesville from the Tulsa, Oklahoma airport, I could see it on the horizon. I knew all about Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece but seeing is believing. As soon as I detected the absence of right angles and the Cherokee red floors that I knew I had entered hallowed ground. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Inn at Price Tower is one of only three Wright structures in the world that offer architectural fans like me the opportunity to overnight.
When he completed it in 1956, Wright called his masterpiece-his only built skyscraper-the “tree that escaped the crowded forest.” On the National Register of Historic Places, the architectural jewel attracts visitors from around the world but is also known for its world-class exhibitions. 
My room was a Wright creation in every detail and the view was a panorama of the entire city. I changed clothes and headed over to the OK Mozart, part of the annual festival in Bartlesville that attracts national audiences and international acclaim. The fact that I could walk from Price Tower to the performing arts center said much about the quality of life in this city of around 35,000. The evening of classical music was a reminder that Oklahoma has contributed mightily to America’s landscape and regarding popular culture claims as its own Jim Thorpe, Gene Autry, Brad Pitt, Will Rogers, Reba McEntire and Ron Howard.
Ponca City is vintage Americana.  Here is the original home-a museum today-of oil baron Ernest Whitworth Marland, the tenth Governor of Oklahoma and founder and of Marland Oil Company. The displays of Native American and frontier artifacts, paintings and photographs are impressive. The other home, the spectacular E.W. Marland Estate was modeled after the Davanzati Palace in Florence, Italy. Marland, one of the mighty forces in the development of America’s oil industry and called this his “Palace on the Prairie” a castle detailed with carved wood, sculptured stone, wrought iron arched doorways, Waterford crystal chandeliers and hand-painted and gold-leaf ceilings. Complete with a leather-lined elevator, seven fireplaces, twelve bathrooms, it was designed and constructed as a showplace for fine art, and one-of-a-kind craftsmanship.
This magnificent mansion reflects the elegance of the affluent days of the oilman, who lived lavishly and entertained in the same style. Marland’s story and lifestyle stirs images of “The Great Gatsby,” and includes the tragic story of his financial ruin and his widow’s amazing journey.
E.W. Marland commissioned Ponca City’s Pioneer Woman Museum and the accompanying Pioneer Woman Statue "in appreciation of the heroic character of the women who braved the dangers and endured the hardships incident to the daily life of the pioneer and homesteader in this country." Local historical landmarks include Ponca City’s downtown district Grand Avenue and the theatrical palace, the Poncan Theatre.
The Conoco Museum showcases the accomplishments that expanded Marland Oil and Continental Oil Company into the global energy colossus, Conoco, and is a worthy stop before visiting Standing Bear Native American Park and Museum, featuring a dramatic 22-foot bronze statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear.  A colorful 60-foot diameter circular viewing court is located at the feet of Standing Bear and contains large sandstone boulders around its parameter affixed with the official brass seals of the six area tribes, Osage, Pawnee, Otoe-Missouria, Kaw, Tonkawa and Ponca.
 Oil baron Frank Phillips was the founder of Phillips Petroleum Company. His Bartlesville home was built in 1909 and occupied by the Phillips until their deaths. Preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society, this National Register Historic Site reflects the family life of one of the legends of the Oklahoma oil industry. But, his home in the Osage Hills country, Woolaroc, is a place for the ages.
Will Rogers said, "Of all the places in the United States, Woolaroc is the most unique." Once the country estate of oil baron Frank Phillips, it is now Woolaroc Ranch, Museum and 3,700 acre Wildlife Preserve where Phillips hosted U.S. Presidents, wealthy Eastern investors, dignitaries, Indians, tycoons, movie stars, lawmen and outlaws on this sprawling ranch southwest of Bartlesville. The museum comfortably fitted into nature’s beauty houses over 55,000 pieces including some of the greatest collections of western art, relics and exhibits that tell the story of the American West.
Prairie Song, Indian Territory, has the look and feel of an 1800’s prairie village set on an authentic turn-of-the-century working ranch, which features more than 20 buildings including a two story saloon, a post office, trading post, rock jail house, chapel, covered bridge and train depot and is a brief distance from Dewey, the home of cowboy movie star Tom Mix
The Tom Mix Museum houses items from the local sheriff-turned-movie star’s personal collection providing a glimpse into the life of one of Oklahoma’s most colorful figures.  Numerous costumes, memorabilia and photographs of Mix, the first “King of the Cowboys,” are displayed at the museum. The Dewey Hotel Museum – A restored Victorian hotel, built in 1900, offers an array of period furnishings, rare photographs, clothing, and glassware depicting the early lifestyles of the area and the Cherokee Trading Post is a reminder that this area of Oklahoma is Native American heartland.


This annual festival takes place each summer in Bartlesville and continues to be one of Oklahoma’s most unique cultural assets, celebrating music, culture, and the arts by bringing the highest quality concert artists to perform at the Bartlesville Community Center, a visually- and acoustically-stunning masterpiece by W.W. Peters, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. Past festivals have featured artists such as Andre Watts, Joshua Bell, Branford Marsalis, Leontyne Price, Itzhak Perlman and Sir James Galway. This year, patrons enjoyed the talents of some familiar artists like Mark O’Connor, Barry Douglas, Anne-Marie McDermott and Ani and Ida Kavafian.
The finale was the performance of acclaimed mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade. The Woolaroc Outdoor Concert is part of the OK Mozart Festival and quite comparable to music venues like Wolf Trap near Washington, D.C. and Atlanta’s Chastain Amphitheatre. Food and wine all enjoyed in a family friendly environment. You sit on lawn chairs or blankets in the mini valley listening to the orchestra play selections from Broadway, movies and Americana while the brilliant Oklahoma sun sets over this magnificent fresh air facility.
Oklahoma is best described by music, whether the songs from the Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway classic of the same name or the cowboy classics of Gene Autry. And what other place on earth celebrates Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Jimi Hendrix in one music festival?

Monday, March 14, 2011


 Father Thomas O’Reilly

By Doc Lawrence

Since childhood days, I’ve known about the incident. Every word is true and remains one of the most fascinating stories I know about the Civil War and St. Patrick’s Day.

This wasn’t about battlefield courage, a strategy that resulted in a monumental victory, or a stirring, inspirational speech. No, it was about how an Irish immigrant priest acting alone on behalf of God and innocent civilians, confronted a mighty warrior, faced impending execution squarely in the eye and peacefully won a victory that somehow escaped history books.

A native of County Cavan, Ireland, Thomas O’Reilly, appointed as pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, arrived in Atlanta in 1861. Atlanta was a strategic transportation center for the Confederacy, and in 1864, the Union army, commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman, held Atlanta under siege with intense artillery bombardment. During the horror of Sherman’s extended assault, Father O’Reilly ministered to the wounded and dying of both armies, along
with civilian casualties.

After the Battle of Atlanta, the city fell, and the decision was made to destroy Georgia’s infrastructure as part of Sherman’s well-known “March to the Sea.” Sherman issued the order for Atlanta to be burned, including all homes and churches. Enraged, O’Reilly gained an audience with Sherman at his headquarters, which is now the site of the Carter Center and Presidential Library.

The confrontation was unpleasant. O’Reilly, failing in his efforts to persuade Sherman to spare the city, was told by Sherman that he was pondering whether to have the priest summarily executed by firing squad. Undeterred, O’Reilly reminded Sherman that his army was substantially Irish Catholic conscripts who would likely mutiny before burning a Catholic church. O’Reilly also informed Sherman that, in the event of the destruction of churches, he would take official measures to have every Irish Catholic soldier in Sherman’s army excommunicated.

Sherman relented. Although the city was destroyed, five Atlanta churches were spared—three (Immaculate Conception, Trinity Methodist and Central Presbyterian) remain active today.

O’Reilly was not executed. Upon his death in 1872 at age 41, he was buried in the basement of his church. A few possessions are on display. His resting place, which may be viewed by appointment emits the feel of a sacred shrine. I have visited there regularly over the years.

Each year, at the end of Atlanta’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Hibernian Benevolent Society of Atlanta places a wreath at the memorial for Thomas O’Reilly, which stands on the corner of Atlanta’s city hall. It was erected long ago by the congregations of the churches he saved.

The courage and tenacity of Father Thomas O’Reilly embody the ecumenical spirit that continues to make Atlanta an international beacon for human rights.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sunday, March 13, 2011



By Lynne Brandon

SMITHFIELD, NC-The Ava Gardner museum has been likened to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” for the long winding path that led to its final destination, and current home in Smithfield, North Carolina.
The museum is firmly established in the town’s bustling downtown but it was years in the making. The tribute to North Carolina’s beautiful movie star began more than 20 years ago with a private collection donated by the family of Dr. Tom Banks. Today after several locations, the museum’s final resting spot showcases a collection that begs to be seen: extraordinary costumes, movie posters and awards recalling Ava’s 50-year career as a Hollywood legend.
2011 marks the 30th   anniversary of the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield. “We are always amazed at the far reaching appeal of the Ava Gardner Museum,” said Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, Johnston County Visitors Bureau, “and its ability to attract visitors from around the world, as Ava Gardner remains an international icon from the Golden Age of Hollywood.”
Ava Gardner’s legacy has brought new life into Smithfield’s downtown and officials from the city recognized the museum as a North Carolina 2010 Main Street Champion. Visitors and tourism officials are also on the bandwagon with kudos. Liviability.com rated the museum in its “Top 10 Fun and Unusual Museums.” The tourism website identifies the top 200 most livable cities in the U.S. and included the Smithfield on its list, in part due to the town’s cultural amenities and Ava’s star power represented by the crown jewel museum attraction.
Livability.com states that its pick for fun and unusual museums are the ones that “pay homage to a single subject, honor a special interest and celebrate the strange. They may draw smaller crowds, but their founders and visitors definitely don’t lack for enthusiasm.”
An outgrowth from the museum is the annual Ava Gardner Independent Film Festival, attended by over 250 filmmakers in 2010. The festival was recognized by the North Carolina Main Street Organization, and received honorable mention as Best Downtown Special Event. The festival features workshops, independent films, documentaries, narratives, short films and features.  Films were shown in various venues in downtown Smithfield, including the historic Hastings House and the Neuse Little Theatre. The festival hosted a number of special events including a kick-off party, opening art exhibit, Filmmaker’s Lounge, and a breakfast with the filmmakers.
During the zenith of her Hollywood career, Ava Gardner had few peers in the world of celebrity and glamour. Men adored her. Some saw beyond her physical beauty and Southern charm, recognizing an actress with enormous talent. One admirer was her friend Ernest Hemingway who insisted on her being cast in starring roles in “The Sun Also Rises” and “The Snows of Kilmanjaro.” Ms. Gardner appeared in over 49 motion pictures and several television mini-series.
Lynne Brandon is a Greensboro, NC-based journalist, a rising star in travel, arts, wine, fine dining and Southern lifestyles feature writing.  http://www.butterflybyways.blogspot.com/ .

Tuesday, March 8, 2011



 It’s my annual entry into springtime when Atlanta is ablaze with color and natural beauty. The 19th annual High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction, celebrating  “The Ultimate Collection: A Sumptuous Blend of Wine, Art, Food and Friends,” offers multiple public events leading up to the auction on March 26, 2011.

Dine Around Dinners
Wednesday, March 23, times and pricing vary by restaurant
The prix fixe dinners will pair Atlanta’s most prestigious restaurants with experts and winemaker friends from the High’s Wine Auction
 The 14 restaurants and participating wineries are:

·         Bocado Chef Todd Ginsberg, Fiddlehead, Hourglass
·         Canoe Chef Carvel Grant Gould, Capture Wines, Cliff Lede Vineyards
·         Dogwood Chef Shane Touhy, Hawkes Winery, Martinelli Winery
·         Holeman & Finch Public House Chef Linton Hopkins, Jarvis, Red Car
·         Iberian Pig Chef Chad Crete, Frogtown, Newton 404-3718800
·         La Grotta Ristorante Chef Antonio Abizanda, Robert Mondavi
·         La Tavola Chef Craig Richards, Cass Winery, Row Eleven
·         Paces 88 Chef Jonathan Jerusalmy, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
·         Rosebud Chef Ron Eyester, DeLoach, Peju
·         Serpas True Food Chef Scott Serpas, Long Meadow Ranch Winery, Qupé
·         Sotto Sotto Chef Riccardo Ullio, Carpineto 404-5236678
·         Table 1280 Chef Gary Mennie, Arkenstone, R. Stuart & Co.
·         Terra Terroir Chef Cynthia Dieges, Hearst Ranch, LaZarre, Villa San Juliette
·         Valenza Chef Matt Swickerath, Kristine Ashe Vineyards, Skipstone

Vintners’ Cup Golf Tournament at East Lake Golf Club
Friday, March 25, East Lake Golf Club
The second annual Vintners’ Cup pairs players with world-renowned winemakers while they take in the links at historic East Lake Golf Club, home to the PGA TOUR Championship.

Premier Tasting Seminar: Pacific Preeminence: True Sonoma Coast
Friday, March 25, 11 a.m., The St. Regis, 88 West Paces Ferry Road
Join our panel of experts—Carroll Kemp of Red Car, Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards and ring leader Andy Peay of Peay Vineyards—for a lesson in why the
Premier Tasting Seminar: The Cultivated South: A Look at the Good Life as Presented by Southern Farmers, Chefs and Winemakers
Friday, March 25, 2 p.m., The Cook’s Warehouse, Ansley Mall, 1544 Piedmont Road
Angie Mosier of Southern Foodways Alliance will moderate a panel that includes Kristen Hard, Atlanta native and chocolatier at Cacao Atlanta, and Will Harris of White Oak Pastures. Chef Shaun Doty will offer a taste of White Oak Pastures beef while discussing product and technique. Hardy Wallace, Atlanta’s favorite wine blogger and recent transplant to Napa, lends his voice as well. Charleston native Jamey Whetstone of Whetstone Wine Cellars, along with Atlanta native Robbie Meyer, who makes wine for both the Peirson Meyer and L’Angevin labels, will address the influence of the South on both their palates and their craft.

Premier Tasting Seminar: Style vs. Site in Vineyard-specific Pinot Noir from Kosta Browne
Friday, March 25, 2:30 p.m., The St. Regis, 88 West Paces Ferry Rd.
Kosta Browne winery employs one winemaking style or technique for all Pinot Noir bottlings. Join us for a fun, educational seminar highlighting the differences and flavor profiles of the premier Pinot Noir growing regions in California: Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands. Winemaker and founder Michael Browne will lead us through this engaging and rare side‐by‐side comparison of single vineyard Pinot Noir from the 2009 vintage. Wines include Koplen and Keefer, Kanzler and Gaps and Gary’s and Rosella’s Vineyard..

A Napa Valley First Growth: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Friday, March 25, 4 p.m., The St. Regis, 88 West Paces Ferry Road
Join Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ winemaker Nicki Pruss as she leads us on a tasting journey of the winery’s iconic Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting will feature a mid-1990s library vintage of FAY, S.L.V. and CASK 23 Cabernet Sauvignon alongside the spectacular 2007 current release of each, showing just how gracefully these wines age.

Exciting details: WineAuctionInfo@woodruffcenter.org.