Wednesday, July 27, 2011



SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS-Freya Pruitt is not someone you ignore. She is way beyond clichés like iron will and dogged determination. If anyone else had offered this, I would have laughed, saying thanks before refusing. But, Freya asked me to be her magazine’s new Food and Wine editor. As of now, I’m aboard with Today’s Texas Woman. And very happy with my decision.

Why? It’s not only the exceptional quality of the publication and the lofty but attainable goals. I was persuaded by Freya’s words:

“There is great power in a group of people who live from a spirit of hope and gratefulness. America was founded on a pioneer spirit of truth and faith. We need to believe we have not changed our very souls. This defining moment in history will either produce giants of hope and encouragement or a quivering spirit of fear and indecisiveness. I have chosen to believe in the indomitable spirit of America. We must reach out to make a difference by being a difference. Join us all in making our world a beacon of hope and encouragement by speaking the truth and extending our family of love to the world.”

Today’s Texas Woman is domiciled in San Antonio, one of the most exciting cities in America. My work will showcase people, places, wines, celebrities and stars of tomorrow, restaurants, chefs, and travel opportunities not only in Texas but also throughout the country. 

Good news. I'll continue writing for the other publications from Atlanta to Oregon to Florida that carry my columns and features. I will remain the managing editor of Wines Down South. Too much work? Hardly.  Freya Pruitt, by words and deeds, reminds me each day that limitations are self-imposed . Good work is transcendent. There are no barriers.

Enjoy an evening at Savi in Atlanta:

And a journey along North Florida’s Spanish Trace:

Friday, July 22, 2011


The Day Dixie Died

By Doc Lawrence.

Susan Coletti paints alongside the children

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA— July 22, 1864, according to Gary Echelberger’s book, “The Day Dixie Died,” was a Southern scorcher, the embodiment of Dog Days and still remembered here as the day of the battle of Atlanta that would take the lives of 10,000 men and lead to the destruction of my hometown. Later on, Atlanta, like the Phoenix, would rise from the ashes. In this Atlanta area city of Stone Mountain, I joined a group of wonderful people to paint a mural memorializing the village’s rich heritage. Designed by Georgia’s award-winning artist Olivia Thomason, the mural is on a wall of a building that squarely faces imposing Stone Mountain where the largest memorial to the Confederacy is carved on one side. The grounds surrounding the wall and mural are owned by the First Baptist Church of Stone Mountain, a place of worship founded before the Civil War that had integrated Sunday services prior to the Emancipation Proclamation.

General Sherman’s March to the Sea actually began here in 1864. Just a few blocks away is Shermantown, a city within a city where African-Americans live in the community named for their liberator. Soon, Stone Mountain will dedicate a monument, “Sherman’s Neckties,” the twisted steel rails ordered by Sherman to prevent the railroads from supplying Georgia during the infamous march.

The artists were diverse. Laughter was omnipresent. Grandmothers worked alongside pre-schoolers. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an Atlanta native, prophesized during his “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington: ”Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia.” Joy thrives when freedom reigns.

Children came together to do what children do in the summertime down south: Have fun on a Georgia evening. Many were attracted by invitations sent through Twitter and Facebook. One teenager’s ancestor actually led a raid in 1864 from Montreal into St. Albans, Vermont in retaliation for the burning of Atlanta.

The gifted journalist Marshall Frady, another Georgia giant, once described the South as “America’s Ireland.” Peel away the tragedy and listen for the lyrics, the melodies, the rhythms and the rhymes. This land gave birth to so much that makes up the American fabric. Here is the birthplace of wonderful music: gospel, bluegrass, jazz, country and rock and roll. The hymn, “Take my Hand Precious Lord,” was sung at the funerals of Hank Williams, Dr. King and Elvis Presley. It was composed by Thomas Dorsey, an African-American minister who grew up in Atlanta.

Here on the evening before the anniversary of one of the Civil War’s significant battles, Americans, mostly with a Southern accent, created something lovely that will be here for a long time. A symbolic affirmation that we share common ground.

By example, children teach us how easy it is to live, work and play together. Why, more of this and we’ll learn to really love each other.

We left and I thought I heard a bell ringing. Or was it a choir singing?

Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

Sunday, July 17, 2011



By Doc Lawrence

It was a journey into Atlanta’s evolving culinary culture. The neighborhood, Inman Park, is original Atlanta where progressive denizens seamlessly blend with the community and its rich heritage, something you might expect to find in places like Savannah and Boston. The aromas, sights and sounds mix well here. The clientele, food-focused Gen X-Y’s, provided, I believe, a glimpse of Atlanta’s future.

Doug Dillard, far left, with Savi's Gourmet Team
Welcome to Savi Urban Market.

I opened the door to attend an intimate media dinner and faced a chrome and stainless steel device I mistook for high-tech pinball or a gizmo on loan from the International Space Station. Instead, I soon learned from my host, esteemed wine journalist Greg McCluny, it was the Enomatic Wine Dispenser which pours tastes of up to 16 different wines for a very affordable charge.

McCluny led me through an Enomatic wine flight and I tasted wines from different countries for a very low cost. “Old dogs,” he commented, “should occasionally learn something new about wines.” I agreed and we laughed.

Savi features an abundance of farm-fresh products thanks to a partnership with Doug and Rosetta Dillard’s Dillwood Farms, the heralded Loganville, Georgia farm that keeps the operation supplied with high quality natural, Georgia-grown produce. Mr. Dillard, a Decatur native and powerhouse Atlanta lawyer, told dinner guests that while young he dreamed of becoming a farmer, but discovered that practicing law and farming are compatible and lucrative.

Fresh rules supreme at Savi, mirroring the farm mission and management at Dillwood Farms. Savi has other advantages: meat is cured and roasted here and they also cook food employing the sous vide method whereby food in vacuum sealed packages is cooked for an extended period at a low temperature assuring that dishes have enhanced flavor, aroma and tenderness.

Don Trimble, Savi’s Executive Chef, served up a menu showcasing portions of various dishes, all utilizing sous vide cooking, nicely paired with wines selected by McCluny and veteran wine professional Dan Thompson from Savi’s impressive inventory. No experiments here. When you are good, I thought, you are also positioned to become great.

Strolling through the cheese display, I was delighted to find Georgia Gouda and Thomasville Tomme, two magnificent cheeses from Thomasville, Georgia’s acclaimed Sweet Grass Dairy, signals that here farm to table isn’t a marketing cliché and management has a solid Georgia perspective. An added benefit: cheese monger Joy Messerschmidt is approachable, knows her store’s wines and will cheerfully provide pairing suggestions for these and other cheeses.

Savi’s gourmet to go is a store specialty. Before leaving with your dinner, take a few minutes to look for that special bottle of wine (it’s probably here), and think about breakfast the next morning. Homemade sausage with fresh baked bread? Organic yogurt or eggs with other artisan cheeses?

Savi Urban Market works for those who appreciate effortless gourmet dining with some taste adventures, all bundled up in quality. It’s a higher life.

Also, join my journey along North Florida’s Spanish Trace. Organic wines, elegant B&B’s, an herb farm, goats as pets and a historic wine tasting at Tallahassee’s Mission San Luis.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011




By Doc Lawrence


 ATLANTA—Margaret Mitchell was asked many times what was her book about. “Gone With The Wind,” she replied “is about the South.” Concurrent with the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Gone With The Wind’s publication, Mrs. John Marsh – The World Knew Her as Margaret Mitchell, a one woman play about the author, is live and onstage at Atlanta’s acclaimed Ansley Park Playhouse through July.

And what a spellbinding performance.

This original play tells the story of the reclusive author’s life before and after she became a publishing sensation. It stars Kandace Christian, a Tennessee based actress and former Miss Mississippi. The one-woman play includes an audio visual component of rarely published photographs and newsreel footage from the movie’s Atlanta premiere.

“Have you ever wished you could have met Margaret Mitchell? Here’s your chance! Kandace Christian brings the author of Gone With the Wind to life,” said John Wiley, Jr., co-author of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood.

“Hat contests during matinee performances seemed perfect for a play about Margaret Mitchell,” said Melita Easters, playwright and producer. ”She was frequently photographed in hats and they were an important part of any woman’s closet for her generation. And, who can forget the hat Scarlett wore to the Twelve Oaks barbecue in the movie’s opening scenes or the green velvet and feathered number Rhett smuggled through blockades for Scarlett during the war. Our actress wears several vintage hats during the play.”

Easters said she was inspired to add extra “Talk Back” sessions after giving a speech to residents at an Atlanta retirement home and asking how many had attended the premiere or Junior League ball during 1949.  “So many residents had met Margaret Mitchell or had special memories associated with the book or movie that I wanted a forum for the rest of us to learn from and share their experiences,” she said. Easters added that there are many amusing anecdotes about Mitchell and the book which simply did not fit the format of the play which are perfect for sharing during a talk back session. She confirmed that Ms. Mitchell drank Martini’s from a Mason jar and led a discussion about the recipe for Scarlett O’Hara cocktails. (The base ingredient is Southern Comfort).

The play tells the story of the reclusive author’s life before and after she became a publishing sensation, and includes an audio visual component of rarely published photographs and newsreel footage from the movie’s Atlanta premiere.
The play is based on the author’s articles, letters and the one hour radio interview she gave in 1936. Additionally, Easters incorporated her research to construct an engaging and historically accurate picture of Mitchell’s life.

“Proving it is possible for aura to emanate from words, the presence of Margaret Mitchell has been wonderfully resurrected in Melita Easters’ compelling one-woman theater piece. Easters masterfully celebrates one of America’s most famous literary figures by giving her the spirit of life that gave us the book — Gone With the Wind,” said noted Georgia author Terry Kay.

Enjoy these if you like wine and travel::

Saturday, July 2, 2011



 "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."   Ernest Hemingway
Fifty years ago on July 2, Ernest Hemingway took his life. July, also the month of his birth, is a core part of the Hemingway legacy, which encompasses much more than his novels, short stories and combat journalism.
I have visited his homes in Cuba and in Key West. Beyond the books, typewriters, Picasso paintings and celebrity momentoes, I was impressed by his limestone wine cellar in Key West and the full bar he maintained in both homes. Papa, as he was universally called, had a love for life that was nearly as strong as his fascination with death. His personal yin and yang, a dominant theme in classics likes The Snows of Kilmanjaro and For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Cocktails are appropriately associated with Papa. Beginning with his early Paris days, he and his entourage, particularly F. Scott Fitzgerald, drank at places like Harry’s New York Bar, the birthplace of the Sidecar, a venerable cocktail that is still popular.

Havana was paradise for this man who radiated  joie de vevre. Hemingway’s lifelong routine was to rise early, write until mid-afternoon, walk to his neighborhood bar, and, over cocktails, share stories with locals. Although one of the world’s best known celebrities, Papa was comfortable with grassroots people, whether Cuba, Spain, Africa, Cuba or America. Guys and gals he knew in bars appeared in great stories like The Old Man and the Sea and The Sun Also Rises.

Would we have the daiquiri or mojito today without Hemingway?  His years in Havana and Key West were energized by his love for rum. Papa wrote “My mojito at the Bodeguita” in Spanish on the wall in La Bodeguita del Medio remains there today. The Papa Doble, called the Hemingway Daiquiri was crafted in Havana’s La Floridita, a favorite hangout during his years on the island.

During visits to Paris, he regularly stayed at the Ritz. Papa’s preferred cocktail there was the Montgomery Martini. Craig Boreth writes in his marvelously entertaining The Hemingway Cookbook: “Like James Bond with his Vesper, Hemingway, too, had his special martini: the Montgomery. Named after the World War II British General, Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, who would not attack unless he outnumbered the enemy fifteen to one, Hemingway’s martini contains that same proportion of gin to vermouth.” Papa’s ingredients, according to Boreth, were Gordon’s Gin and Noilly Prat Vermouth.

The Hemingway Bar at the Paris Ritz is widely considered the world’s most famous watering hole. The potent cocktails associated with Papa are house specialties.

On a July afternoon, deep in Dixie, the heat calls for rum. It’s a pleasant delimna: a daiquiri, mojito or martini? The mojito, a first cousin of the mint julep, seems appropriate and I’ll mix one and toast to life, laughter, adventure and friendship. A salute to Papa.

July is also the month America was born. Why and how we celebrate: