Sunday, February 26, 2012






By Doc Lawrence



Noted author Dr. George D. N. Coletti shared some very exciting news. His masterpiece, Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel, is available from many eBook retailers and this opens up a world of enjoyment for those who love a story brilliantly told about one of the most tumultuous periods in America’s history. Coletti’s exciting 796 page historical novel of the Old South is a well-documented fictional account of life before and during the Civil War, and follows the lives of the Jernigan family and their friends as they face life, death, love and war. 

George Coletti, whose own life is a worthy story, lives and works in the historic village of Stone Mountain, and his contributions to the city’s cultural heritage are legendary. General Sherman’s March to the Sea actually began near Coletti’s home and it was largely through Coletti’s efforts that a monument was dedicated last year commemorating what history calls “Sherman’s Neckties,” a destruction of railroad tracks that crippled the South’s ability to supply food and soldiers during the final year of the Civil War

Dr. Coletti’s monumental book is an eye-opener, awakening me to how little I knew about my ancestors. Prompted by these brilliantly told stories, I began visiting many of the places described in the book. The Andrew Johnson cemetery, holding the remains of a Stone Mountain founding family, the Stone Mountain Cemetery with the mass graves in the Confederate section, an uncomfortable experience as you think of the wartime tragedy leading to such impersonal burial, knowing how their surviving families likely never knew what happened to them.

Grown men make war and everyone somehow loses something, a life, a few years of youth, a healthy body or hope. There are magnificent heroes in The Granite Sentinel to be sure, but the overriding sentiment is that war is senseless, attacking the core of our collective humanity. That's not to take anything away from the brave soldiers who gave their lives-my own family shares a similar heritage-but more a personal lament that any of God's children had to die unnaturally.

It takes a mighty effort to bring a reader's interest back to the events of long ago, but Coletti is equal to the Herculean task. The characters seem to leap from the pages grasping for a heartstring. There is a message: "Never forget us."

All the elements of greatness are drawn together in The Granite Sentinel: romance and love, loyalty and duty, chivalry and generosity, and most of all, honor. Reading the debate between two of the South's finest statesmen-orators, Alexander Stephens and Robert Toombs during Georgia's Secession Convention in 1861, is a stunning example of the remarkable power of language, history, law and love of place. Two men destined to lead the Confederacy, one as Vice President, the other as Secretary of State. One opposed to Secession, the other in favor. Both were close friends and shared a love for the South that transcended differences.

That's just one of the powerful lessons Coletti leaves us. The Granite Sentinel is a profoundly important book that readers throughout the world can now enjoy.

The eBook retailers include:

Apple (Bookstore for iPad)
Amazon (for Kindle)
Barnes & Noble (for NOOK)
Reader Store (For Sony Reader)
Baker & Taylor

The range of access is staggering: 16 languages and 200 countries.

Saturday, February 18, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

I learned to cook, drink good wine and enjoy the culinary pleasures of life sitting in front of the television on Saturdays, watching wizards like Julia Child, Justin Wilson, Nathalie Dupree and John Folse make magic in their studio kitchens. John Folse’s “A Taste of Louisiana,” became a weekly ritual, one of those pleasures where you learned something about joie de vivres, Louisiana style, meaning good manners, soft spoken humor and elegantly prepared dishes. 

Chef John Folse invited me to be his guest on the amazingly entertaining radio show, “Stirrin' it Up.” We talked about wines that we used in cooking, poaching, baking and in particular which wines worked best with particular dishes. “You can’t go wrong using any wine,” said the chef with laughter, “but if you want a white sauce, maybe you shouldn’t put red wine in unless pink is the desired effect. “

Accompanied by his accomplished staff of Michaela York and Dr. Shirley Sands, we explored a few boutique Southern wineries, particularly the outstanding Ponchatrain Winery in Covington, Louisiana where John Seago produces a red Cynthiana/Norton, a knockout white with Florida origins named Blanc du Bois and the delicious after dinner wine, Port of New Orleans.

The show will be aired on March 3 and you can listen using this link:

Inspired by such greats as Chef John Folse, I took a little trip down to the Mississippi Gulf vacation paradise of Biloxi and Gulfport, eating oysters raw and served as they say there, "every which away." The friendliest folks in America know how to cook and entertain. Stay tuned for a bunch of stories about this divine experience here and in my magazine columns.

Meanwhile, you will want to join in the festivities as Florida gets set to celebrate  its 500th anniversary.Here's one of many stories I will be producing through 2013:

Sunday, February 12, 2012



“He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long.”

                                                              Martin Luther

By Doc Lawrence

With Valentine’s Day positioned right in the middle, February should be an uninterrupted celebration of love.  Getting started is easy and so romantic. Some of the greatest love stories-The Black Swan, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle- are told through dance, highlighted by iconic pairings of dancers, or pas de deux, a French ballet term meaning “steps of two,” in which two dancers perform together.

The pas de deux usually includes an entrée, adagio, two variations (one for each dancer) and a coda all throughout which the dancers communicate expressions of love and emotion. Wine pairing should have this same romantic balance and I have found few for Valentine’s Day more lovely than the sparkling wine named Pas de Deux.

The creator of this bottled treasure is Sharon Fenchak, a visionary winemaker at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. I asked her how this particular wine with the enchanting name was born.

“I was inspired, “ she told me,  “to craft this wine following a stint in Italy’s Veneto.  After enjoying some of the classic Moscato of the region, I dreamed of creating my own sparkler on home soil.” She added that her dream became a reality “when I landed here at Biltmore, a property where sparkling wine has been part of the culinary and entertaining tradition since George Vanderbilt opened his doors to guests back in 1895.”  Crafted in the classic Methode Champenoise, the wine’s lively bubbles, according to Ms. Fenchak, symbolize a celebration, while its delicate sweet flavors and crisp finish “are the perfect foil for the rich, creamy texture and complexity of chocolate confections and decadent Valentine’s Day fare.”

The slow, elegant, unfolding movements of two dancers mark an adagio. Pas de Deux serves as the perfect start to a Valentine’s feast. All great love stories must end. The coda, or conclusion, of your own Valentine’s Day with Pas De Deux assures a refreshing finale on a high note.

From Maldova's ancient winemaking tradition, Exclusiv Moscato Sparkling wine is a beatiful production, delicious and versitile. If a sparking wine is only part of your wine plans and because of the special meaning of Valentine’s Day, think about a lovely bottle of Rosé. No, this isn’t "white zin" that comes in a huge jug. Complex, yet gentle, food friendly, cool on the palate and memorable, look for bottles from New York, particularly Wolffer Estate, or from Provence, Spain or Italy. Rarely are they overpriced and be forewarned, that you likely need more than one bottle.

NOTE: Stories on the horizon include a visit to Biloxi/Gulfport on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, retracing the “The Great Locomotive Chase” in North Georgia, farm to table dining in Tallahassee/Thomasville, equestrian North Florida and new plays on the great stages in Southern cities. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

The George Lucas movie, “Red Tails,” is a big box office hit and doesn’t need a whit of boost from me to bring in more royalties. My interest, beyond being superbly entertained was the Georgia connections to the movie: the fabled Tuskegee Airmen, the characters portrayed and even the music.


One of the actors in this movie is Elijah Kelley who is from lovely LaGrange, Georgia and hosted a premiere in the city featuring a museum exhibition on the Tuskegee Airmen. The multitalented Kelley also composed and performed the theme song from “Red Tails,” giving the movie added spiritual resonance and cultural authenticity.

One of the most famous members of the Airmen was an Atlanta resident. I met Chuck Dryden at one of the most memorable events of my career during a historic gathering hosted by Pat Epps at Atlanta’s Dekalb-Peachtree Airport in 2005. The occasion was the 90th birthday party honoring General Paul Tibbits who piloted a B-29 named the Enola Gay over Hiroshima in 1945.

Epps had pilots representing air force units the world over at the soiree. There was a big band playing Glenn Miller-style WWII hits and many of the senior former combat pilots who came could jitterbug like teenagers.

Dryden, confined to a wheelchair, was as active that night as any of the youngsters brought to the celebration. I spoke at some length with him, had the wonderful opportunity to thank him for all he and his fellow airmen did to defeat Nazi Germany and acknowledged that America was a far better place for the Tuskegee Airmen’s efforts that helped bring down terrible color barriers.

Late in the evening as I was getting a last Jack Daniel’s, I saw Chuck Dryden on the dance floor, swaying his wheelchair in an improvised dance step to the band’s rousing “Take The A Train,” Duke Ellington’s swing masterpiece. I later learned that his P-40 fighter plane was nicknamed "A-Train," and that Colonel Dryden titled his autobiography "A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman."

I never saw him again.

Lt. Col. Charles "Chuck" Dryden, one of the first Tuskegee Airmen, died in 2008 in Atlanta. He and his fellow airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at ceremonies in the White House. His many honors and accolades included service on the board of diretors of  the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta.

NOTE: The 57th Fighter Group Restaurant is located at Dekalb Peachtree Airport. Another success from Pat Epps, It faces the runways, has a wonderful outdoor patio, serves the best Sunday brunch imaginible and is family friendly. Dancing on weekends in the lounge is a lagniappe. .