Saturday, September 29, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Not an empty seat anywhere for over an hour before game time. The fans came from all over the South to thank their hero, third baseman Chipper Jones, a future Hall of Fame member and a career-long Brave. Outside in the parking lots, Tailgaters were grilling Andouille, lamb lollipops, Georgia White Shrimp and one was serving Ceviche, a dish more common to South Beach than Peachtree Street.

But, Chipper is a Floridian, so the dish was appropriate after all, particularly since my generous hosts Babs and Jim Morris, two Atlanta residents, served this with generous pours of Nadia Sauvignon Blanc, a delightful wine from Santa Barbara County that has found a home in Atlanta.

I ate and then ate some more. The benefits of being a roving Tailgating reporter include great food and wine, hand-crafted  cocktails and the joy of making new friends. This was just a perfect night to play some baseball, have a pre-game feast and begin the process of saying goodbye to Chipper.

The final act before going into Turner field to watch the ceremonies that included other Braves legends like Hank Aaron and Bobby Cox, was enjoying an Old Fashioned, perhaps America’s oldest cocktail. This beauty was made with Maker’s Mark, a perfect end to this Tailgating feast.

Great job, Chipper. Braves fans have long memories. We’ll always be grateful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA—Clinching a place in the playoffs last night was special, but the way it happened-a two-run come from behind home run in the bottom of the ninth-was heroic. Somewhere above Atlanta two hours before midnight the Angels were celebrating. For the uninitiated, Braves’ fans for over a century have known since the days in Boston that flocks of Angels cheer them on. According to my grandson, they were doing the tomahawk chop and chant as two heroes crossed home plate to victory.

Getting into the playoffs after a dry run of several years in a city that became accustomed to being near or on top every baseball season brought memories of my dear mother who absolutely loved the Braves. I always said she would never die during baseball season. She left this planet during the Christmas holidays and is buried near the grave of the Braves’ immortal announcer Skip Carey.

Way to go, Mom.

The other evening, I sat in an audience and enjoyed a young author talk about his book about baseball in Atlanta. He opened with a story about a game played here in 1866. The Civil War had just ended. Sherman had destroyed all but a few homes in the city. The baseball field was near the graves of Confederate soldiers in Oakland Cemetery. And those who had lost everything but hope cheered on the players.

Those words confirmed that baseball became the national sport because of the Civil War. I have a photo in a book showing Union guards playing baseball with Confederate prisoners at a New York prison.

Baseball unifies, crosses all boundaries and nourishes the better aspects of our humanity. Baseball encourages seniors to act like children. And it’s played just about like it was long, long ago.

In 1991, the Braves brought Dixie our first World Series. For a good many days that October, there was magic in the air. Where the Braves finish this year is a work in progress. But just getting the chance to reach the pinnacle is enough for now.

I’ve found that old red foam rubber tomahawk from 1991 and am getting in the proper frame of mind for the playoffs. The grass is as green as the Irish countryside, the autumn air is comfortably crisp and the sunshine is warm and gentle. Everything feels like baseball.

May those Angels above Atlanta smile upon our “Boys of Summer.”

NOTE: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden is the feature story in WINES DOWN SOUTH.

Monday, September 24, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

TALLAHASSEE—Driving into this lovely state capital city from the nearby Georgia border town of Thomasville always means a stop at Bradley’s Country Store. It’s a chance to see “Miss Jan,” more formally known as Jan Bradley Parker, and pick up some tailgating essentials like pork chops, homemade sausages, Mayhaw jelly and Tupelo honey. On a football weekend, Bradley’s becomes a Florida culinary adventure, bringing in customers who appreciate Miss Jan’s food store where grits are stone ground, the meat cured in a real smokehouse and the conversation is down home cheerful.

If you are lucky, you’ll run into celebrities here like legendary coach Bobby Bowden, a frequent customer.

The evening before the Clemson-Florida State game allows time for dinner at David and Elizabeth Gwynn’s Cypress restaurant, a showcase of impressive dishes reflecting the diversity of Florida’s harvest. Fresh seafood from nearby Panacea on the Gulf of Mexico is the norm, and you haven’t really lived until you devour their signature Oysters and Biscuits, a gourmet original.

Tallahassee’s regal Hotel Duval with a history that dates back to FSU’s earliest football days, is the perfect place to get in the mood for a night game. The day was free for drinks and light fare at the Duval’s Level 8 Lounge. The lagniappe is a stunning view the capital city.

On this first day of autumn, the lots outside Doak Campbell Stadium became a moveable feast. Gumbos galore, smoked mullet dip (a North Florida delicacy that deserves a place in tailgating), shrimp served in countless ways, plus authentic Southern-style chicken and of course barbecue pork were mere samplings.

The predominance of Jim Beam Bourbon-which includes Beam varieties like Red Stag- confirms the masses appeal of Bourbon.The tasty elixir is soaring in tailgating popularity. With fresh air, warm sunshine and friendly surroundings, legendary Bourbon has a prominent place.

Had a grilled Bulldozer lately? This is Sunshine State vernacular for the Florida lobster and few things taste better from the grill. Plump, smoky and buttery, this calls for wine with some complexity. One parking lot chef served my entourage  Bulldozer along with a glass or two of chilled  Château La Gatte Bordeaux Rosé. For a few priceless moments, Florida met France..

Next year Florida celebrates its 500th anniversary and the ancient Spanish Trace literally goes through the heart of Tallahassee. The trading route was the first by Europeans in America connecting St. Augustine with all of North Florida. Vestiges of the early civilization remain here in the food and wine traditions. The old wine cellar built centuries ago by Franciscan monks has been restored at Tallahassee’s Mission San Luis, confirming that the first wines brought into America came to Florida.

One of my favorite tailgating recipes is from Lara Lyn Carter, a rising star celebrity TV chef and a regular on the NBC affiliate WALB-TV in Albany, Georgia. Dedicated to her father, an FSU stalwart, it’s one of those dishes filled with flavor from the grill and perfect with a bottle of dry Dr. Loosen Riesling from the Mosel River Valley. Enjoy Lara Lyn’s tailgating recipe before kickoff:

In the Deep South, tailgating is more than a ritual, it’s a social umbrella that combines the exciting pageantry of college football with the great outdoor feast. The food is local. The wines, in the Jeffersonian tradition, are from all parts of the world, and the Jim Beam Bourbon is from Kentucky.

Monday, September 17, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA, Ga.—Brian Jones is my kind of chef. A native of the Atlanta area, deeply steeped in genuine Southern cooking traditions, Jones has that sparkle of stardom everyone who cooks should want. Atlanta’s kitchen wizard is teaching a few classes at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Atlanta. Under Brian Jones’ guidance you can explore, regional southern cooking in all its diversity and eccentricity as he presents a series of demonstration-style culinary classes. Jones, chef de cuisine of Atlanta Grill, will sprinkle an entertaining dose of southern lore with the preparation of regional specialties in a casual setting beginning this Thursday September 20 with Low Country Deconstructed

“History, culture and foods from low-elevation land and the seacoast are the cornerstones of Low Country cuisine,” said Chef Jones. “We’ll think about the origins of the ingredients and flavors, the revival of heritage grains today, then bring it all together in great regional dishes that guests can easily make at home for friends and family.”

Guests will taste small plates from a three-course menu paired with traditional cocktails and selections from regional wineries and breweries. Ritz-Carlton Atlanta Sommelier Brian White hosts special guest Brian “Spike” Buckowski, brewmaster and co-founder of Athens, GA-based Terrapin Beer Company, who will bring six craft beers to sample with Chef Jones’ menu.

Here’s the taste thrills for Low Country Deconstructed:
St. Cecelia Punch or Plantation Punch
Pâté of the South: Pimento Cheese Three Ways, Cheese Straws, Pickled Shrimp
Terrapin Golden Ale, Rye Pale Ale and All American Pilsner
Main Course
Savannah-style Purloo, Carolina Gold Rice and Coastal Seafood
Cracklin’ Cornbread
Terrapin Hopsecutioner, Monk's Revenge and Pumpkin Fest
Muscadine and Port Syllabub, Benne Seed Cookies

Classes are $75 per person and may be made by calling Atlanta Grill at (404) 221-6550. Low Country Deconstructed is followed by Foraging through the Great Smoky Mountains on October 18 and Holiday Dining at Chef Brian’s House on November 15.

I'll see you at The Ritz!

Sunday, September 16, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

KNOXVILLE, TN—You’ll never know what it feels like to be in a totally orange city until you enter this lovely town on the banks of the Tennessee River on game day. It’s the home of the Volunteers, the pride of the University of Tennessee and today is the first SEC game for both the Vols and their rival from the Sunshine State, the Florida Gators. Tailgating here is a daylong affair of slow cooking: baby back pork ribs, beef brisket, smoked chicken and many dishes brought from home by home chefs.
Tailgating here takes on a new dimension with festivities on countless boats docked on the river just outside Neyland Stadium. These partying partisans may be having more fun than anyone.

Frank Spence, a former top Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons executive is a respected student of Southern culinary traditions who maintains that “The Great Skeedadle” in 1861 probably set the stage for the first tailgating party.

A native of Nashville, Spence was referring to the Union army retreat the after the first battle of Bull Run. “Accompanied by their beautiful women, Congressmen set up colorful tents for a fancy hillside picnic to observe the assumed destruction of General Lee’s army. Unaware of the looming defeat, party wagons-the forerunners of today’s caterers- arrived loaded with picnic baskets of gourmet food, and bottles of fine French Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. Because of the sudden panic to reach Washington’s fortified safety, the unpacked goodies were abandoned. Unloading everything from the rear of the wagons, jubilant Southern soldiers celebrated with a feast and told about the experience after the war.” Thus, says the ebullient Mr. Spence,  “both the name and the tradition of tailgatin’ was born.”

Tailgating in Dixie means great food but, wonderful beverages are just as important. This is Tennessee and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is the one I spot being poured more than any other.

Earl and Dottie Maynard are here in the lot beside the stadium with their friends and enjoying fried chicken (“Dottie’s secret recipe batter,” says Earl), grilled hanger steak along with boiled shrimp, creamed corn, sliced Grainger tomatoes and some lovely mandarin orange cake.  This was served with many beverages including Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard Cider that had a fresh sweet apple flavor and with Tennessee food became a marriage made in heaven.

The bottle of “Jack” was going down fast with each cocktail mixed by Earl.
On this day, I concluded that boxed wine deserves a place at tailgating. They are unbreakable, easy to dispose and offer surprising quality. CalNaturale is made from organically grown grapes and comes in one-liter portable containers. The Cabernet Sauvignon made some nice sangria.

This is pure Americana. Fun, food, superior beverages enjoyed by cheerful tailgaters. They don’t know me (I could be the opposition) but they smile, and several offer me food and drink. I accepted Earl and Dottie’s invitation because they remind me of other friends who do these things on many Saturdays somewhere far away.

Well, it’s time for toe to meet leather and I’m going to watch the game, comfortably satisfied after a great pre-game meal enjoyed with a glass of “Jack.”  As one reveler said, “it’s not just who wins or loses, but also what you ate and drank that counts.”

NOTE:Jefferson, the revolutionary gardener, is the subject of a new book, See:

Monday, September 10, 2012




 By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA—With their giant painting of the historic city’s heritage hovering above them, a crowd of good citizens participated in the formal dedication of an impressive mural, proclaimed by Dr. Dan Parker, minister of The First Baptist Church of Stone Mountain as “the incredible beauty that arose from the cooperative energy of people working together for a noble purpose.” Joined by Stone Mountain Mayor Pat Wheeler and city councilwoman Susan Coletti, Parker, who presided over the ceremonies that included congregations of both his church and the United Methodist Church of Stone Mountain, said the mural was the product of “imagination, a deep love for our city, for each other, lots of hard work that is now a permanent example of how art can truly bring people together.”

Dr. Dan Parker Served As Master Of Ceremonies
The dedication ceremonies were preceded by dinner on the grounds after church services, a Southern tradition that harkens to early America according to one prominent nearby resident. Frank Spence, a former top official with the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Special Olympics praised the event: “Where else except in a town like Stone Mountain could we enjoy a bountiful community feast, inspirational choir singing and renewing payer to honor a magnificent painting?”

The mural project began as the idea of community leader Pat Sabattle who joined with councilwoman Susan Coletti to gain the support of city government and the owner of the property for the proposed mural, the Stone Maintain. First Baptist Church. Stone Mountain resident Olivia Thomason, a noted Georgia folk artist whose paintings are in corporate and private collections throughout the country, agreed to design and supervise the project. “When Olivia came on board,” said Ms. Sabatelle, “we had a winning team in place.” Ms. Thomason has created paintings for the Dekalb History Center, the Decatur Arts Festival and other Georgia events and for many years owned The Primitive Eye, a major art gallery in Atlanta’s Dekalb County.

The mural took shape over a period of months, Parker revealed, “in scorching heat, working on a high scaffold, motivated solely by goodwill and love for the city.” The wall with the painting is part of the pavilion and lawn that contains some remarkable history. Although they are no longer there, Riverside Military Academy was once on the grounds, followed by a luxury hotel. At the base of the lawn is a memorial bell honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream” speech where he said, “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.” Another monument documents “Sherman’s Neckties,” part of the Civil War strategy employed by the Union Army to destroy the railroad system of the Confederacy. And in 1864, “The March to The Sea,” began here.

The mural sits high above the historic village buildings, and according to mayor Wheeler has already attracted the attention of visitors. During the day, it can be seen from the top of Stone Mountain and plans are to spotlight it at night for the enjoyment of the throngs of guests during the upcoming holiday season.

The dedication ceremony was part of a month of significant activity in Stone Mountain which included parts of the city used as a set for an upcoming major movie.
One song by the choir seemed to capture the spirit of the ceremonies on a glorious Sunday afternoon in Georgia:

“I’m standing on the rock of ages;
Safe from every storm that rages;
Rich, but not from Satan’s wages.
I’m standing on the solid rock.”

Peter J. Hatch discusses his book, “A Rich Spot of Earth-Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello.”


Friday, September 7, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA-He was pure Georgia. As authentic as Blue Ridge mountain spring water and red clay. Like two other native sons, Ray Charles and Johnny Mercer, Joe South will forever be an important part of the state’s cultural DNA. Beyond his many hit records, songwriter, singer and virtuoso guitarist Joe South, backed greats like Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. Joe South died a few days ago in this Northeast Georgia town with the pretty name.

Joe South penned many songs, almost all mega-hits. My memories of him began during childhood when my nextdoor neighbor, a studio musician named Charlie Broome, had a bunch of guys and one girl over on Saturday nights to jam. I sat in the living room with Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, Ric Carty, Carole Joyner and a very young Joe South and for about four hours was in paradise.

Stevens and Reed moved to Nashville and well-deserved fame. Cartey and Ms. Joyner composed what would become the number one hit on the planet, “Young Love.” Joe South stayed around Atlanta where he was born and where most of his songs were recorded. The hits were chartbusters that earned Grammy awards. They are as alive today as they were during the 60’s. I hear “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” performed by younger generation artists regularly, confirming the majesty of powerful words and melody. I stumbled on the great Kelly Hogan’s version of Joe’s masterpiece, “The Greatest Love,” and it sounded like it just came from the mind of a budding genius.

There is a Lexus television ad that incorporates a version of South’s hit song “Hush,” recorded by Deep Purple. I hope they paid him well because the song, not the visual, made the ad effective. Go to an oldies show or one featuring “Beach Music.” The Tams, also from Atlanta, are still around performing at these events, and many of Joe South’s songs were written for them, particularly “Untie Me.”

A member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, South should also be inducted into both the Rock and Roll and Country Music Hall of Fame. Listen to Aretha’s “Chain of Fools,” and there’s Joe on the guitar. He could make his guitar sound like a Sitar and it’s showcased on “Games People Play,” recorded before George Harrison introduced the instrument on Beatles’ recordings.

I was in England on an extended stay and stopped by a pub that had music on the weekends. Everything they played was from the American South: Elvis, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson and Carl Perkins. A young woman sang Joe South’s remembrance of his Georgia childhood, “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home.” I knew I was terribly homesick and three days later was flying over the Atlantic, headed home to Atlanta.

“Oh, the whippoorwill roosts on the telephone pole
And the Georgia sun goes down
Well, it's been a long, long time
But I'm glad to say that I am
Goin' back to my home town
All God's children get weary when they roam
Don't it make you want to go home?”


NOTE: Join me on a journey through Alabama:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012



By Doc Lawrence


CHARLOTTE, NC—North Carolina’s Queen City is where visitors might reasonably be expected to search for regal cuisine. Look no further than Chef Jim Noble’s heralded The King’s Kitchen, a gourmet establishment that not only has one of the South’s most authentic and creative menus, a full selection of fine wines and wonderful ambience, but also has a mission to make Charlotte a better place. When you meet Chef Jim Noble and wife Karen, you’ll know soon enough that they are very special people.

The King’s Kitchen is a not for profit restaurant where earnings go towards feeding and educating the homeless as well as providing employment to those who deserve a second chance. This Charlotte gem is nothing less than a modern upscale restaurant with a trained staff, a wine selection you’d expect to find in Manhattan and austenitic Southern food.

To date, I have found no restaurant counterpart and if you want a memorable Charlotte dining experience, then come on over for lunch or dinner. So you have to wait a few minutes. No worry. The attractive bar is efficiently operated (i.e. you can get a good drink quickly featuring a “Charlotte pour.”)

The King’s Kitchen continues to win fans and critical acclaim. I dined there with Jim and Karen joined by Carl White, the accomplished host of the popular television show “Life In the Carolinas.” The food, particularly “Aunt Beaut’s Pan Fried Chicken” was wonderful. Each dish had the fresh taste of good food from nearby farms. The wines recommended by our talented waiter were superb.

Chef Jim Noble is a High Point, NC, native whose heartfelt approach to slow food was inspired by French cooking visionaries Auguste Escoffier and Julia Child. Following their lead, he began using local, organic ingredients to prepare meals for his own family. During dinner, he revealed that a trip to Napa in the early 80s introduced him to the benefits of pairing exceptional wines with meals that reflected local sourced food and North Carolina cooking traditions. Today, King’s Kitchen and Chef Jim’s other restaurants showcase his food philosophy.

Some menu items have elevated status with local diners. The seared scallops with low country succotash and sweet copeach suggest a taste of the Outer Banks, while Chef Jim’s glazed pork chop served with his sea island red pea hoppin’ john mirrors much of the food from North Carolina’s Piedmont. Side dishes of renown include properly seasoned collard greens, pan seared cabbage, crowder peas, blackeyed peas, coleslaw, sea island red peas and hugely popular Anson Mills cheese grits,

The wine list demonstrates Jim Noble’s commitment to pair wines with the modern new Southern cuisine offering a personal favorite, the delicious Albarino, Spain’s white wine that is comfortable with shrimp, collard greens or fried chicken. Pinot Noir, and other elegant red wines may be poured with confidence.

The King’s Kitchen is in downtown Charlotte, open for a memorable lunch or dinner. (704) 375.1990.

NOTE: The Year of Alabama Food is the ultimate vacation for those who like the cuisine of the Deep South served alongside music and literature. Join me in some lemon icebox pie with Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Nat King Cole and Hank Williams: