Friday, November 25, 2011




"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well,
if one has not dined well."

                         ~ Virginia Woolf, "A Room of One's Own"

By Doc Lawrence


They gathered at Atlanta’s Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, celebrating the good fortune of four chefs with food, wine and cocktails. Atlanta has evolved as a gourmet destination, reaching well-deserved heights and there’s no getting around the tireless effort by the Ritz-Carlton to maintain its position as the best here.

 This was a special dinner inspired by Esquire Magazine’s selection of Ritz Chef Todd Richards and three other masters as chefs to watch, rising stars who produce, as the magazine feature said, “The Best Food in America.” Introductions and commentary were from the magazine’s highly regarded food critic John Mariani who selected the four chefs for Esquire.

And joining Mr. Mariani at The Café in the Ritz Buckhead were the four chefs.

The reception featured a touch of North Georgia elegance, flutes of Wolf Mountain Blanc de Blanc, served with The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead’s Chef Todd Richards’ canapés: duck croquette with duck sauce, local apple, pork belly with acorn squash puree, plus seared scallop with chorizo crisp, lemon sabayon, and Blue Ridge Mountain trout roe.

More than a few guests clamored for something original and daring.  Mixologist magician Christa Sladky answered, serving her “Buck Stone” Sidecar, a knockout cocktail welcoming everyone to Atlanta.

Chef Sachin Chopra came from All Spice in San Mateo, California to prepare the first course, roasted mini-pumpkin with truffled wild mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, spicy pumpkin spread. The gifted Sommelier Linda Torres Alarcon poured her delightful white wine selection, Chanson Mathier, “Les Cabotines,” Montlouis, from the Loire Valley of France, and it seamlessly blended with everything on the plate.

Next was Chef Tyler Brown who commands Nashville’s crown jewel, The Capital Grille in the legendary Hermitage Hotel. His second course of capers glade clams was served with “dirty” Anson Mills faro and paired with Ms. Alarcon’s delightful choice, a Gruner Veltliner from Austria.

The third course was Mangalitsa pork neck with braised radish, pesto, cardamom and chickpea prepared by another Esquire rising star, Scott Anderson, the acclaimed Chef at Elements in Princeton, New Jersey. It was time for a light, fruit-filled red wine and the generous pours of Chiroubles, a Cru Beaujolais, magnified the majesty of this dish.

Chef Todd Richards heads the gourmet kitchen at the Buckhead Ritz, and is among Atlanta’s food elite, that upper echelon who sets the standard for epicurean excellence. The event pièce de résistance was his dessert, a maple panna cotta with a touch of Bourbon. The accompanying wine was Cocchi, Barolo Chinato from Italy’s Piedmont.

In his comments, John Mariani observed that Atlanta and Nashville, represented in Esquire by Chef Todd Richards and Chef Tyler Brown, “show how far southern cooking has come without losing what made it great in the first place.”

Four rising star chefs, three courses, one dessert, a new cocktail, five classic wines and a trove of priceless memories.

We dined well.

NOTE: Jack Daniel's World Champion Barbecue. Read the story-

Sunday, November 20, 2011




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 church bell ringing or a haunting trumpet solo.

Thanksgiving was officially introduced to Americans by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. The Civil War Sesquicentennial began this year and extends through 2015.  A prayer of gratitude was found in the belongings of a dead Confederate 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.

Thanksgiving 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 quiet acknowledgement for the gift of life and the beauty of the nearby world.

Warmest wishes,
Doc Lawrence
Stone Mountain, Georgia

Friday, November 18, 2011



By Doc Lawrence

Most music fans today may not be familiar with songs like “Work With Me Annie, “ and “Sexy Ways,” but in my baby days whether high school or college, these were anthems for Saturday night dances. Hank Ballard, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was banned from white radio stations during rock music’s early years. Like all mindless censorship, this only made his records more popular with listeners like me.

Hank’s band, the Midnighters, has no counterpart today. These guys could boogie all night.  They did Hank’s music, not some stranger’s. I saw him many times at Atlanta’s legendary black nightclub, The Royal Peacock, where he sang and danced his own creation, “The Twist.” Chubby Checker was a poor imitation of the real thing.

I was on my college homecoming committee and persuaded them to book Hank instead of The Glenn Miller Orchestra, assuring them that the Midnighters were family entertainment.

FSU tossed around the idea of expelling me.

Long gone now, Hank Ballard would be 83 today. I became a musician in college, played in a good band, making a little walk around money and dated pretty girls. Deep inside, I know I got the rhythm and swagger from Hank. These are precious memories today, and I still play “Annie Had A Baby,” when I have weekend cocktails. I think of him and his magnificent live performances and just feel good all over.

Happy Birthday, Hank! From me and millions of grateful fans.


Thursday, November 17, 2011



By Doc Lawrence

CHEROKEE, N.C.- As part of American Indian Heritage month, the highly-respected Museum of the Cherokee Indian launched a series of new programs showcasing Ostenaco's and Henry Timberlake's historic journey to each other's countries as Emissaries of Peace two hundred and fifty years ago. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian will celebrate their stories and explore their two cultures-Cherokee and British-with seven events in four states in through the new year.. 

"We are looking forward to these exciting events, and taking this story of two cultures to a wider audience," said Ken Blankenship, Executive Director of the Museum and a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  In 2006, the Museum created the exhibit, "Emissaries of Peace: 1762 Cherokee and British Delegations." It was designated a "We the People" exhibit by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  This designation is awarded to projects that encourage and strengthen the understanding of American history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.

During 2012, seven events and a public television broadcast will tell this story to new audiences.  A battle re-enactment, festivals with eighteenth century Cherokee living history, scholarly symposia, a television broadcast and a trip to London take place from Memorial Day through November. Additionally, a smaller version of the Emissaries exhibit will be on display at Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Farmington, Penn., and at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore, Tenn., while the original exhibit resides at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, N.C.

Performances throughout the year bring history to life. Henry Timberlake and Ostenaco will provide first person historical interpretation.  The Warriors of AniKituwha, a traditional Cherokee dance group sponsored by the Museum, will be performing at all venues.  As official cultural ambassadors, this group has been at the center of cultural revitalization for Cherokee people. They have inspired pride in a little-known period of Cherokee history when Cherokees took part in global events. Timberlake's description of the War Dance that welcomed him is the basis for their revival of this and other traditional Cherokee dances. Research used in the exhibit has inspired and helped create cultural revitalization in traditional dance, Cherokee clothing, pottery, fingerweaving, feather capes and more. 

The exhibit has been viewed by more than two million people since its opening in 2006. It was the first exhibit created by an American Indian tribe to be displayed at the Smithsonian, opening in 2007 at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It has been on display at the Frank McClung Museum in Knoxville, Tenn., the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Okla., and the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. 
For more:


Tuesday, November 8, 2011



By Doc Lawrence

The forests around Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park, one of the most well-maintained and popular urban parks in America, have Indian paths. The Cherokee Trail is fairly well marked; the Hightower (Etowah), which is the boundary between Gwinnett and Dekalb counties is mentioned on a few historical monuments, and there are others you will find only by some expert searching with a local native. I have one guide, a friend who is part African, part Creek, part Blackfoot and knows what he’s doing.

Each year, Native Americans gather here at the park facing the Confederate memorial carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and for a few days perform dances accompanied by drums, chants and very informative introductions. I come over from my house to enjoy the color, children, and photo opportunities and to absorb all the irony.

This was once their land. Period. Stone Mountain has spiritual and heritage importance to Indians. One, my friend Howard, an elderly and very pleassant man who lives in nearby Shermantown, once told me to “walk up the mountain without shoes.” He explained that the mountain has healing powers. He also has spring water from a deep well he drilled in his yard adjacent to the mountain. When I feel a little down, I trade Howard a bottle of wine for a gallon. It’s a Southern tradition.

He’s convinced me it’s the best water in the South.

The event is top notch and due to the absence of all alcohol is family friendly and completely safe. The tom-toms kept up a pulsating beat, the chanters stayed on track and the dancers kept going until everything came to a close.

You leave and wonder why in heaven’s name native people were treated so badly? They honor this land that was once theirs.

Thanksgiving Wine? It should be American. Read the story:

And don’t forget to join me with Esquire Magazine’s Four Chefs on Nov. 14 at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta:

Thursday, November 3, 2011



I met Todd Richards while he was the Executive Chef at Louisville’s Oak Room in the Seelbach Hotel. When he assumed the gourmet helm at Buckhead’s Café at the Ritz-Carlton, I quickly booked a reservation and dined, confirming glorious memories of my previous dining experience and realized that Richards was rapidly advancing his seemingly unmatchable wizardry with food.

Now, here’s some great news for Atlanta. Chef Todd Richards was just named one of four new “Chefs to Watch” in the November issue of Esquire. For those who haven’t experienced his menu, Richards, along with the other three "Chefs to Watch,” will gather at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead for a first-ever collaboration to create lunch and dinner on Monday, November 14.

Each chef will prepare one course of a four-course menu. Adding even more to this event, acclaimed sommelier Linda Torres Alarcon will be pairing wines. For lunch, the courses will be slightly different and smaller, and the wine pours will also be appropriate to the portions.

Esquire lavished praise for Chef Richards: “Following European masters at the Ritz, Richards, an American, shows his own sumptuous style in dishes like foie gras with huckleberry gastrique.” This recognition follows Richards’ well-received recent appearance and lively cooking demonstration with Al Roker on NBC’s TODAY.

The other chefs are Tyler Brown The Capitol Grille, Nashville, Sachin Chopra, All Spice, San Mateo, California and Scott Anderson, Elements, Princeton, N.J.

Lunch begins with a reception 11:30 a.m. with seating at 12 Noon and $65 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuities The Dinner reception is 7 p.m., with seating at 7:30 p.m. $85 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuities.