Friday, November 30, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that.”
                               C.S. Lewis

ATLANTA-- At formal dinners in England, the British Army, RAF and Royal Navy use Port as the wine to toast the Queen. While the Queen will not be in Atlanta during this holiday season, Port as regal as the monarchy itsef is being served during December at the heralded Ritz-Carlton Buckhead.

Not just any Port, mind you, but one of the rarest of them all, a century-old treasure: J.W. Burmester, Port, "Rio Torte", Late Bottle Vintage, Douro, Portugal, 1900. This special offering presents an experience at a very special time of the year for couples to toast the holidays together. And who’s to say others should not enjoy a glass of Port that has few equals here or anywhere?

Linda Torres-Alarcon

Linda Torres-Alarcon, the highly respected Ritz-Carlton Buckhead Sommelier, sings the praises of this Port: “With this much age on it, the flavor profile is leaning more towards a dry sherry with lots of complex nutty dried fruit characteristics.” How perfect for a season to remember. Port as a prelude to a lasting relationship? Aim high and all good things are possible..

The cost is $90 per glass and it is offered exclusively during the holiday season in the hotel’s Lobby Lounge, a luxuriously cozy and romantic room that will recall that last vacation in London.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Art Ginsburg As Mr. Food-
A TV Cooking Pioneer

By Doc Lawrence

WESTON FL- Almost everything that I consider worthwhile about the relationship between food and celebrity I learned from Art Ginsburg, including the gentle art of promotion and marketing. Known to millions of television viewers as Mr. Food, he built an empire consisting of syndicated cooking shows, cookbooks, DVD’s and Internet advice few if any will ever equal.

After a battle with cancer Art Ginsburg, 81,died at his home in Weston near Fort Lauderdale. His signature declaration, "Ohhhh, it's so good," which was a colorful part of each television cooking segment, helped to define him as an American celebrtity chef original. If you looked closely, there was a twinkle in his eyes when he was facing the camera.

Art Ginsburg as Mr. Food began with a local show that was eventually syndicated nationally. At peak, the show was seen on more than 100 television stations and as Ginsburg once told me during a converastion at his studio office, was ideally suited for local television programming because it was not only interesting and entertaining, but “fit seamlessly into a brief format.”

Completing a dish or meal ready to be served in a matter of minutes seems impossible, but Ginsburg could do it masterfully with ease.

The television production company was the core of the overall businessoftheMr. Food operation and the physical facility was as complete and technolgically advanced as a major city television station headquaters. What impresse mewas that Ginsburg’s family was included in his business from top to bottom..

I have a growing kitchen library loaded with cookbooks and food and wine literature. Among the best are the ones from Mr. Food, particularly his cookbooks for diabetics. The recipes are healthy and should be guideposts for everyone seeking a better dining experience.

Mr. Food deserves credit for much of today’s interest in cooking live on the set, and the attention to local grown products, farm-to-table dining and healthy diets.

He was oh, so good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012



 By Doc Lawrence

Stone Mountain Village Celebrates
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 extends through 2015.  A prayer of gratitude was found in the belongings of a dead Confederate soldier after a terrible battle:

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. A meaningful existence isn’t predicated on wealth or excess. We honor what we are by simple gratitude for the gift of life and the beauty of the world.

Warmest wishes,
Doc Lawrence
Stone Mountain, Georgia

Monday, November 19, 2012



A New Dixie Football Feast

As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. I'll never be hungry again.”
                     Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Standing on a grassy area outside Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd stadium was an ethereal experience. Surrounded by towering buildings including the international headquarters of Coca-Cola, a native son can be overwhelmed by these monuments to power and growth. Just a few blocks away is a storied Peachtree Street home where Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell wrote her book, the Fox Theatre where a very young Elvis Presley performed just before fame and fortune and The Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in restaurant where zillions of hot dogs are served.

Atlanta justifiably claims to be the cultural hub of the Southeast. The High Museum of Art, The Atlanta Symphony, and the Alliance Theatre Company are side-by-side components of the Woodruff Arts Center near Tech’s campus. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Center hosts world renowned leaders and Nobel-Laureates and sits just a mile from the grave of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1954, at a studio on this college campus, Georgia native Ray Charles recorded his first hit, “I Got a Woman,” and the earth trembled.

This fall Saturday before Thanksgiving features a football game between Tech and visiting Duke’s Blue Devils, two great academic institutions with alumni and fans that take tailgating to new heights of excellence.

Scarlett’s Atlanta legacy includes a delicious cocktail, the Scarlett O’Hara. Chuck Jackson has been a Georgia Tech fan since childhood days in Atlanta and makes cocktails with the skill of a Ritz-Carlton mixologist. He served his interpretation of this hallowed beverage at his tailgating space and the Southern Comfort-based drink was a near-perfect eye opener.

While Atlanta has an abundance of outstanding Southern restaurants, New Dixie cuisine includes bolder takes on traditional Southern dishes: Apple wood smoked Georgia Mountain trout served on this day soared with a 2010 Becker Estate Pinot Blanc, Pfalz, a great German white wine.

With the Coca-Cola skyscraper hovering, the Atlanta version of the Cuba Libre was ready on call from more than one outdoor bartender. Camp and Marilyn Riddle made them with Mount Gay Dark Rum from Barbados using Coke One to cut down on calories. A nice squeeze of lime added authenticity to the cocktail classic.

They served shrimp cocktail showcasing wild Georgia White Shrimp from Brunswick on the state’s Atlantic coast. The Bloody Mary included a new find, Dimitri's Bloody Mary Seasoning.

Georgia is a rinsing star artisan cheese producer and Sweet Grass Dairy in the southernmost part of the state wins awards as often as Georgia-born Buster Posey, the San Francisco Giants baseball MVP. The Riddle’s presented a pre-game winner, Sweet Grass Thomasville Tomme with Biltmore Estate’s Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine.

Tailgating at Tech was a synthesis of old and new cooking where the beverages were relevant to the event. The cuisine traditions of nearby Mary Mac’s Tea Room, a venerable restaurant legend were juxtaposed with the influences of great chefs like Linton Hopkins, who heads up Atlanta’s acclaimed Restaurant Eugene.

As the fans packed up everything and filed into the ancient stadium, I walked up the hill to Peachtree Street’s Georgian Terrace Hotel where the cast of Gone With The Wind celebrated the movie’s world premiere long ago. The hotel launched the career of Arthur Murray who began teaching the country ballroom dancing while he was a student at Georgia Tech.

The array of diverse food was a prelude to the upcoming holiday feasts. The wines and cocktails coalesced into an existential tribute to Scarlett, forever Atlanta’s favorite personality. For a few hours in her old neighborhood, no tailgater was hungry.

Enjoy a Jack Daniel’s Gourmet evening in Tennessee:

Monday, November 12, 2012


Champagne, Grilled Shrimp & Tequila-
                 A Football Afternoon in Alabama

"My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done, such as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
                           James Bond; played by Sean Connery in “Goldfinger.”

By Doc Lawrence

TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA-Alabama gave the world Tallulah Bankhead, Hank Williams, Nat King Cole and my dear mother. My great-great grandfather died in this state as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. Returning is spiritual renewal.

This glorious Saturday started with a nice walk along the Black Warrior River where Kentuck, Alabama’s great outdoor folk art extravaganza was held last month. The night before was one of the most memorable dinners in recent years at The Bright Star, perhaps the most popular of all Alabama restaurants. Located in nearby Bessemer, Jimmy Koikos carries on a family tradition of more than a century serving Greek/Deep South food. My choices were Shrimp Remoulade followed by their incredibly delicious Snapper cooked Greek style with a side of pickled beets. Wine selection was St. Francis (Sonoma County) Chardonnay.

Tuscaloosa is Southern heartland: Football, a great university, home to barbecue’s heralded Dreamland and one of the livelier places anywhere on an autumn Saturday. This was a day for a monumental football game with a reunion that caught national attention. “The Junction Boys,” 21 of them from Bear Bryant’s teams of the 1950’s at Texas A & M were here to celebrate their common thread with Alabama (both colleges are part of Bryant’s footfall coaching legacy) and they were treated as heroes.
Strolling the grounds near the stadium with a hangdog thirsty look will, I found, attract sympathy and relief. Alabama tailgaters are famously friendly and before long, here was a flute of chilled Laurent-Perrier Champagne-the real thing-in my right hand courtesy of a nice family from Birmingham. Adding more enjoyment, they tossed in bacon-wrapped just grilled shrimp we consumed as they were transferred still sizzling from the coals to plates. I had seen the latest 007 movie and James Bond always triggers a need for bubbly.

You pay homage to the University of Alabama’s impressive list of accomplished alums: Begin with Harper Lee. Her “To Kill A Mockingbird,” remains a global favorite and in some ways Kathryn Stockett (“The Help”) has followed in Ms. Lee’s footsteps. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black gave meaning to the Bill of Rights and was a champion of fairness and equality under the Constitution. Then, there is “Broadway Joe” Namath, the swashbuckling quarterback who literally made Americans crazy for football.

‘Bama grads Nell and Tim Nations are retired, living in a Central Florida resort town. These are seasoned tailgaters who, according to Tim, “came into this kind of weekend fun later in life when the kids left home.” On this day, we had pre-game laughs and shared stories propelled by some of the most amazing tequila cocktails this side of Guadalajara .The spread was like a picnic catered by the Ritz Paris: Pate, artisan cheeses, fork-tender tournedos of beef, poached salmon. Wine? Inman Family Pinot Noir, a spectacular selection from the heart of California’s Russian River Valley. Recognizing that Champagne has been a Deep South favorite since the Civil War, bottles were opened and poured. On a lovely fall afternoon in Tuscaloosa, their Champagne was served att the proper temperature.

Down South, we honor tradition.

NOTE: The Jack Daniel’s Gourmet tasting dinner was on a magic Tennessee evening beside the historic distillery:


Monday, November 5, 2012



"Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel," Has An Impressive New Fan

By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA—Dr. George Coletti, the noted author and Stone Mountain civic leader, earned some prestigious praise from a television and movie actress for his acclaimed Civil War historical novel, Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel. Actress Marla Gibbs who soared to stardom in the feisty maid role on the popular ground-breaking CBS comedy "The Jeffersons,” stated in a letter to Dr. Coletti and wife Susan, a city Councilwoman in Stone Mountain, that she “fell in love with the characters,” in his book, “which kept me up nights.” Ms. Gibbs, who was in Stone Mountain late last summer for the filming of the highly anticipated movie, “Grantham and Rose,” added that “you are quite a historian George.” Ms. Giibbs observed in her letter that Coletti’s book  “helped me understand Georgia a whole lot better as well as the perplexity of the various feelings and loyalties of the slave.”

Coletti’s book tells the story of Civil War Stone Mountain and wartime events in Georgia, incorporating both historical and fictional characters: Families torn by war, the invasion of a massive army, the circumstances of slaves before and after emancipation, and the grief and suffering that accompanies war. “These are complicated subjects, “ said Dr. Coletti. “Nothing enlightens today’s readers better than a story based on facts and circumstances that actually happened.”

The friendship between George and Susan Coletti and Marla Gibbs began as the result of true Southern hospitality. The Stone Mountain area was the location of filming of the movie and the prominent couple extended resources to the cast and crew including an old-fashioned Low Country Boil accompanied by fine wines from France, Italy, Spain and the United States.


In "Grantham and Rose." Marla Gibbs is cast opposite young superstar Jake T. Austin. The 17-year-old star portrays a young man struggling to find his way as an adult in New York City when a petty crime thrusts him into the company of a feisty 81-year-old African-American woman (Gibbs), who teaches him about life and love, and together they take a road trip back to their Georgia roots.

The film also stars Tessa Thompson ("For Colored Girls"), Lisa Winters and Ryan Spahn, who also penned the script, and is directed by Kristin Hanggi, a 2009 Tony Award nominee as Best Director for the Broadway musical "Rock of Ages." 

Marla Gibbs, famous for her dry wit, charmed locals during her work on the movie. She expressed gratitude in her letter for the Coletti’s “assistance on our little film and all your wonderful hospitality. I really feel a closer connection to Stone Mountain and all the beautiful people we met.”

Marla Gibbs can be seen on network television in a new series, “The First Family." George Coletti’s book, Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel, is available in bookstores and online.

Sunday, November 4, 2012



“Kingfish, Kingfish
Friend of the working man
Kingfish, Kingfish
The Kingfish gonna save this land.”
               From “The Kingfish,” by Randy Newman, in memory of Huey Long

By Doc Lawrence

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA—It was a weekend of living dangerously. No time to watch waistlines, drink moderately or tone done the college football partisanship. Here, in the heartland of American tailgating, autumn Saturday’s are reserved for revelry. This has been the custom since right after the Civil War: Sausage with strange names like boudin and andouille are roasted on the grill and served one way or another on French bread, in gumbo or in red beans accompanied by beer, wine or cocktails. Toss in some live Zydeco music, and after a day of feasting and partying, you are ready for a little football.

Down here where the cultures truly blend into a melting pot, laissez les bon temps rouler is the prevailing social norm, and as Ray Charles sang in his song paraphasing the Cajun proclamation, “it makes no difference if your young are old, just let the good time roll.” Ray described the parking lots near Tiger Stadium, a facility built under the auspices of “The Kingfish,” Louisiana Governor Huey Long during the Great Depression, and the grills were sizzling, bottles of good and delicious things were open and music combined with laughter plus some added smoke  filled the air. Happy teenagers and proud grandparents were omnipresnt and if anything prevailed it was the overiding joy of  special moments.

A time for controlled excess. No time for restraint. This is Saturday and there is a game yet to be played. All are welcome here and I couldn’t help but marvel that the fans of Alabama were embraced by LSU supporters. A flute of Champagne with Tasso served on a biscuit; An Oyster Po’ Boy with Abita beer. A French bread sandwich loaded with Columbus Salami ( a winner!)

How deep is your love?

Strolling while eating and drinking through the gameday soiree, names like Thibadeaux, LeBlanc, Hebert and Peychaud were as prevalent as Smith, Johnson and Williams would be in South Carolina. This land is home to the great Holly Clegg, one of the most gifted cooks on the television screen anywhere. Not far away is the community where Chef John Folse keeps a culture alive with remakable books that chronicle the recipes and cooking traditions of Louisiana. The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute is one of the fastest growing programs at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

Wine is a daily ritual for many LSU and Alabama fans. One stop at the Craig Broussard family tailgating enclave earned a few glasses of Inman Park Pinot Noir, a Russian River Valley release that found its French connections here near the Mississippi. It was the miracle catalyst to another signature Louisana dish with French ancestrey, grillades and grits.

The cultures here are multiple, reflecting much of America. Food in such abudance prepared in so many ways is a signpost, a key to origins. In the lots near Tiger Stadium, you need an emanuensus if you are noting for future study food origins. It’s  France, Italy, Spain, the Carribean, Mexico, Germany, Africa  Ireland, often fused into a very delicious Deep South style that in many ways influences American kitchens.

Tailgating has an important  place today. On this particular Saturday, there are so many dishes with so much variety that any fair minded observer would conclude that this is culinary heartland: The food of the people.

For about 10 hours, football took a back seat. The cooks in the parking lots made certain no one left hungry.

Enjoy all the fun at The Jack-2012:

Friday, November 2, 2012


Writers on Writers in the Conch Republic

During the years Tennessee Williams lived in Key West, he swam at South Beach every morning before sitting down to write. “I work everywhere,” Williams said of Key West, “but I work best here.”

By Doc Lawrence

KEY WEST, FL--An island of only five square miles, nearer to Havana than Miami, Key West has one of the most intriguing literary heritages of any place in America. Whether drawn by the climate or its famed “anything-goes atmosphere,” many of the greatest writers of the modern era have called Key West home.
Ernest Hemingway wrote To Have and Have Not from his house here on Whitehead Street. Elizabeth Bishop worked on North and South from her place near the corner of White and Southard; she later rented the home to Charles Olson, who wrote his first published poems here. Many of Wallace Stevens’s poems were influenced by his stays at the Casa Marina hotel in Key West, where he walked on the beach with Robert Frost and brawled with Hemingway. Tennessee Williams lived on Duncan Street and partied with Truman Capote, James Leo Herlihy, and Thomas McGuane. Richard Wilbur and James Merrill lived in old town just a few blocks from one another, and played a regular game of anagrams with John Hersey. And the list goes on: Ann Beattie, Judy Blume, Annie Dillard, James Gleick, and Robert Stone are just a handful of the writers who continue to make a home in Key West.

I plan to attend the 2013 Key West Literary Seminar in January and learn how much better writers than me do everything so well, a variation of sorts on the all-too-true adage that old dogs indeed can learn new tricks.
The stated mission of the Key West Literary Seminar is “to promote the understanding and discussion of important literary works and their authors; to recognize and support new voices in American literature; and to preserve and promote Key West’s literary heritage while providing resources that strengthen literary culture”
The programs are relatively small and intimate. Attendance is limited to about 375 people at the San Carlos Institute, one of Florida’s most beautiful and historic landmarks. Each writers’ workshop is limited to 12 participants in order to ensure individual attention; they take place at various locations throughout Key West’s “old town” neighborhood, never far from the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean, the library, and good places to eat and drink.

Past seminars have included notables like Dave Barry, Roy Blount, Jr., Blanche McCrary Boyd, Christopher Buckley, Billy Collins, Christopher Durang, Clyde Edgerton, Barbara Ehrenreich, Percival Everett, Carl Hiaasen, Alison Lurie, Lorrie Moore, Cathleen Schine, Lee Smith, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Al Young.

The 31st annual seminar is in January, an exploration of the world of literature through a particularly unifying theme, “Writers on Writers,”  investigating the rich and varied lives of those who have made this formidable craft their life while exploring the work of writing itself.

I’ll be there as an eager student, saving time. Of course, for walks, visits to places like the Hemingway home with time reserved for the great bars and restaurants.