Friday, December 20, 2013



By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Few things remind me more of  special Christmas celebrations than egg nog. The drink, an essential part of the festivities, has quite a lineage and the fact that it is still popular affirms flavor as much as tradition.

I collected recipes for over a decade from historic figures like General Robert E. Lee and contemporary beverage experts, and found some common denominators. Brandy, rum, whiskey, eggs, milk, spices along with crystal cups and glasses are essentials.

Vajra Stratigos, the highly respected beverage director for Atlanta’s gourmet company, Fifth Group Restaurants presented me with his special egg nog recipe, “Lightning and Thunder,” a name that embodies his creative talents and zest for the good life.

“It’s a sweet spot for me,” Vajra said recently. “Growing up, I think egg nog made for some of my most memorable taste experiences over the holidays.”  Like so many celebrants, Vajra offers that he “remain[s] a glutton for the thick rich festive potion.” His recipe is aglow, a versatile and festive Atlanta original that “is really delicious, can be made ahead or a la minute and really fits the classic profile.”

Lightning and Thunder Nog

1t xxx sugar (or confectionary will work also)
1 oz heavy fresh cream
1 fresh egg yolk (pasteurized if you are worried)
2 oz Brandy or Cognac

.75 oz Flor de Cana 7 or 12 year aged rum
.50 oz St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
I small orange peel
Add egg, cream and sugar to the pint glass and shake hard to emulsify. Then add the dram, the rum and the brandy and shake again. Finally add ice to fill half the glass, cap and shake hard till the shaker is cold and frosty. Strain the contents into a stout tumbler or festive footed stem and garnish with a sprinkle of grated nutmeg and some orange zest. shake once more. Pour into a cocktail glass and finish by shaving a bit of fresh nutmeg and cinnamon on top.


Stone Mountain, Georgia's  Rusty Hamby, a brilliant schoolteacher and an expert on local Civil War history, generously provided this treasured recipe.

The Recipe
12 Eggs, Separated
12 Tbs, Sugar
7 Wineglasses of Brandy (approx. 5 ounces = 1 wineglass)
5 Wineglasses of Rum (or Bourbon)
2 -3 Quarts of Milk
1 Quart of Cream
Fresh Nutmeg
Beat egg whites till stiff. Beat yolks with sugar till sugar is dissolved (should not feel grainy when run between your fingers).Fold egg mixtures together. Pour in the brandy and rum, and stir. Let stand for 30 minutes to an hour. Add 2 quarts of milk and the cream. Taste – if too strong, then add the 3rd quart of milk, otherwise sprinkle with nutmeg, and let stand overnight on cool porch, or in refrigerator.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Football, Jazz, and Holiday Dining

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-You could enjoy food and cocktails before going to a football game here and suddenly change your mind, opting for a Broadway-quality play, a visit to a mighty aquarium, a tour of a magnificent museum or a few hours of ecstasy provided by the Atlanta Symphony. You would not have far to go here in Atlanta, the cultural epicenter of what many still call the “New South,” where sports like the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball reign. However,  the college football extravaganzas this time of year enjoy equal footing, playing before sold out stadiums.

This holiday season began with a double header: Georgia played Georgia Tech in one of the nation’s oldest college football rivalries followed by the SEC Championship game between Auburn and Missouri at the Georgia Dome. The holiday's are capped off with the Chic-Fil-A Bowl, always a sell-out.

For those who believe the holidays must include the gourmet experience, there are many restaurants and bars near these games. Many are exceptional.

Visiting Atlanta will be an empty experience without spending a little time on the “Gone With The Wind Trail,” an assemblage of sites that pay homage to Margaret Mitchell and the city’s grande dame, Scarlett O’Hara. The Margaret Mitchell House faces Peachtree Street close to Georgia Tech’s campus. A veteran bartender will make the legendary Scarlett O’Hara cocktail on request. Like the Old Fashioned, good cocktails never fade away.

The dining mainstays in Atlanta include the world’s largest hot dog purveyor, the venerable Varsity adjacent to Tech and its stadium. The Varsity is an institution and has been serving students, locals and visitors for more than a half century. The place rocks and if you look around, you might see Bill Clinton, Charles Barkley, Julia Roberts or Wynton Marsalis enjoying a chili dog with onion rings accompanied by a Coca-Cola, which, by the way, is headquartered just a few blocks up the street.

Between games, enjoy the sights, tastes and sounds of genuine holiday treasures. Don’t miss the Fabulous Fox Theatre where Elvis performed just before stardom and the Georgian Terrace Hotel across the street where the cast party for “Gone With The Wind” danced the night away in 1939. A few beautiful women say they’ve seen a man at the bar who looks a lot like Clark Gable.

Authentic Southern cuisine Atlanta-style is de rigueur at Mary Mac’s on Ponce de Leon near the Fox.  Not many restaurants in North America can claim His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a diner.

Cocktails? If ambience is important, the bar at Atlanta Grill in the Downtown Ritz- Carlton offers hand-crafted drinks served jazz..

The bar in the Atlanta Palm in Buckhead has always claimed the top spot. Plus, it’s next door to Lenox Square with the best holiday shopping experience this side of Bal Harbour.

Fine dining? Too many to list, but my favorites for years remain Restaurant Eugene in Midtown and Chef Joe Truex’s masterpiece, Watershed on Peachtree. Truex, a pure Southerner, was mentored by New York City legend Chef Daniel Boulud.

The lights of Christmas are omnipresent: Callanwolde near Emory University is ablaze with colors of the season while Stone Mountain Park has the lighted tree on top of the giant monolith. Stroll around the historic Stone Mountain Village where 150 years ago the “March to the Sea” began. See the holiday musical at Art Station Theatre.

Decatur, the impressive pedestrian friendly city adjacent to Atlanta features unforgettable dine around experiences with a rich mixture of diners representing in large part Atlanta’s acclaimed universities. The U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey is a Decatur resident.

Music is bedrock Atlanta. Theresa Hightower, the South’s top jazz vocalist entertains at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead across from Lenox Square. Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points regularly features top acts from Austin, Nashville and beyond and Decatur’s Eddie’s Attic long ago achieved exalted status as a music mecca. The Tabernacle, across the street from Ted Turner’s flagship, Ted’s Montana Grill, has big name acts and is a short walk from CNN and the Georgia Dome.

If you haven’t overdone it with football and tailgating, take in a performance of O.Henry’s Christmas classic “The Gifts of the Magi,” a stellar production at the Balzer Theatre. Founded by the incomparable actor/director Tom Key, The Balzer is emblematic of Atlanta’s rich arts tradition. And there’s the amazing Kris Kayser stealing stage thunder as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Alliance Theatre Company’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” Dickens’ timeless tale takes on new energy.

Welcome to Atlanta, the best place in the South for tailgating and shopping during the holidays. Enjoy Chef Lara Lyn Carter’s special All-Georgia recipes for our guests.

Aunt Pittypat’s Roasted Cornish Hens 

For the Hens:
6 Cornish Hens
1 Navel orange
1 Vidalia Onions
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Wash and pat dry the hens. Sprinkle the hens evenly with salt and pepper. Cut the orange and the onion into 6 sections and place one piece of each in the cavity of each hen. Roast the birds in a 425 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes. When the hens have cooked for 15 minutes, begin basting them with the glaze every 10 minutes. Remove the hens from the oven, baste them again and allow them to rest 10 minutes.
For the glaze
½ cup hot pepper jelly
½ cup sweet Georgia peach preserves
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 orange
Mix the ingredients together and heat over low heat until the jellies dissolve and all ingredients are mixed well. Divide the mixture in half. Use one half for basting and the other can be served alongside the hens

Georgia Holiday Casserole
4 cups of cooked basmati rice
2 tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic minced
1 Vidalia onion
10 oz. package of frozen spinach thawed and drained
2 eggs beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese shredded
1 cup Smoked Gruyere cheese shredded
In a skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Dice the onion and sauté the onion in the butter until transparent. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes. In a large bowl combine the rice, onion mixture, spinach, eggs, milk and cheeses together. Pour the casserole into a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Bake the casserole in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.

                                AND A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY SEASON!

Friday, November 29, 2013


Celebrating in Historic Stone Mountain Village

By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-The holiday celebrations began not long after Thanksgiving dinner was finished. Since my baby days in Atlanta, the historic and lovely village of nearby Stone Mountain has launched the holiday season with a parade complete with marching bands and a plump red-faced Santa riding on a well-crafter sleigh. This year’s edition topped them all, combining good late autumn weather with the joyful noise of excited children and the wonderful sounds of the season.

Georgia artist Olivia Thomason’s latest painting says it better visually than I can with words. Christmas here beside the state’s world famous mountain and popular park is inclusive. It’s all about fun and the joys of this special time of year showcased in a village that looks pretty much like it did in the 19th century. The prevailing spirit is cheer, good hopes and precious memories. We take time to join together in one extended effort before concluding another year.

On a clear night near the base of the mighty mountain, many say they can hear music coming from somewhere. A few report seeing angels above the mountain joining in the festivities.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Food, Wine and Football with The Kingfish

By Doc Lawrence

“Jambalaya, a-crawfish pie the file' gumbo
'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma chere amie-o
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou.”
                              Jambalaya by Hank Williams

BATON ROUGE, LA-Tiger stadium was made famous by Huey Long. As Louisiana’s governor, the “Kingfish,” as he was popularly known, put his beloved LSU Tigers in the national limelight of college football. His determination succeeded and even included his own musical talents to an LSU fight song. Baton Rouge is the epicenter of tailgating in America. Whatever tailgating was, is or will become has a connection to the feast on gameday at LSU. Food before kickoff? Finding any better would be more challenging than a manned flight to Mars. Wines, beer, cocktails? A warm smile from a stranger is rewarded something refreshing.

Huey Long was assasinated in the nearby state capitol, but his LSU legacy is as alive today as generations ago and that extends well-beyond football, embracing the festive lifestyle embodied by tailgating.

Not since baby days have I enjoyed Ramos Gin Fizz or a properly mixed Sazerac. Both are staples just down the road in New Orleans, the city that gave birth to jazz and the cocktail. Baton Rouge is an extension of the culinary traditions of the Big Easy, although the city has its own variations.

Any other place in college football will have food served at tailgating that has a connection of some degree to local preferences. Dishes are commonly made with local products. Here at LSU the food is mufalletos, oyster po’ boys and those staples of Louisiana’s culinary heritage, etouffée, gumbo and jambalaya.

A Cajun dish, étouffée is a typically served with seafood or chicken over rice. The main ingredient of an étouffée is seafood such as crawfish, shrimp, or crabmeat. Gumbo, another great Louisiana favorite, is a tailgating staple throughout the South, and it is arguably the most famous of all foods here, as much of a cultural symbol of Louisiana as jazz and the fleur-de-lis.  On this day, the varieties were countless, but still adhered to the Cajun maxim that true gumbo must only contain those creatures that run, swim, crawl, or fly.

More than a classic song by Hank Williams, jambalaya originated in southern Louisiana and the name is said to be a derogation of French words. Many insist that it as a Louisiana interpretation of paella, the casserole from Spain. On this day it was vintage Louisiana-delicious-and fit seamlessly with wines from France, Spain and California. One group of partygoers-decked out in LSU purple and gold-served up a fabulous jambalaya and poured Albarino, a delightful white wine from Villa San-Julitte. With each bite and sip, the flavors and aromas became as one.

Another experience that reinforced my bias favoring Baton-Rouge tailgating was the regional
Grillards and Grits
favorite, hearty but elegant grillardes served with genuine grits. This red meat staple, with roots in France, demanded a red wine with a little backbone, more specifically Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Old World and New World found common ground on gameday in Dixie.

To memorialize the Baton Rouge experience and honor everything here rooted in joie de vivre, enjoy Chef Lara Lyn Carter’s recipes:

Mimi’s Bayou Oyster Stew
      Chef Lara Lyn Carter
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup finely chopped sautéed sweet onion
1 cup cooked diced potatoes
1 pint fresh oysters
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 quart of half and half

Melt butter over low heat. Add the oysters with the juice, salt and pepper to the butter. Cook on low until the oyster’s edges begin to curl. Add the half and half, potato and onion to the oysters and heat thoroughly but do not boil. Remove from the heat and serve hot.

Lemon Pound Cake
1 cup butter softened
3 cups sugar
½ cup canola oil
5 eggs at room temperature
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (2 tbsp. juice)
½ tsp. salt
Three 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
Cream butter and add sugar oil and eggs one at a time. Add juice zest and salt. Mix in flour and milk slowly until blended well. Bake in a greased Bundt pan at 350 degrees for 1 hour 20 minutes.
                                        Langiappe: The Sazerac Cocktail

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


A War Eagle Celebration
By Doc Lawrence

“Oh I'll speak my Southern English
Just as natural as I please
I'm in the heart of Dixie,
Dixie's in the heart of me
And someday when I make it,
When love finds a way
Somewhere high on Lookout Mountain
I'll just smile with pride and say, that my
Home's in Alabama . . .”

            -By Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry

AUBURN, ALABAMA—Great songs, fascinating stories, raw visions and college sports blend here on football Saturdays with the culinary heritage of the Deep South. They call Auburn  “the loveliest city on the plains” and Auburn’s teams are sometimes named “Plainsmen.” But War Eagles and Tigers are more common. Take your pick. Local food, wines and cocktails on gameday here are not confined to a few choices. Hours before kickoff, countless displays, grills, tents and trailers make up a smorgasbord of Deep South delights.

Walking around the orange and blue-colored tents, you might be inspired to look for two Auburn sports greats, Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley. Jackson, a NFL and Major League Baseball star and Barkley, still going strong on television after a stellar career in the NBA and household words here.

On this day when Georgia’s Bulldoigs are football guests, the area outside the stadium was, as it has been for so many football Saturdays, a feast with few equals.. Forests, lakes and rivers surround the area and wild game is served right alongside usual dishes. Fried chicken and grilled quall, smoked wild duck gumbo or rabbit is not uncommon. Alabama catfish is a hot item with tailgaters. That’s part of the fascination of this Southern soiree: what you see is what you get where fun has no boundaries on gameday.

The Auburn campus is a very accessible, With I-85 close by, an easy drive from Atlanta or Montgomery, Alabama’s capital city. Accommodations, including Callaway Gardens, the fabled Georgia resort are plentiful.

The decorated tables signal that a perty has started. Cups and glasses have Auburn logos but the food is non-partisan: a rich selection of meats, fowl, fish, casseroles, homemade biscuits, cold cuts like the Southern staple celery stuffed with pimento cheese. Wines cover the spectrum of popular brands, Michael David produces a Chardonnay that waltzed with the lighter dishes,.

Writers make up a significant part of Auburn alumni including the great journalist and author Paul Hemphill. His biography of Hank Williams, “Lovesick Blues,” was praised in The New York Times by Garrison Keillor as one of the best literary works about the Country music giant. This is the college of best-selling novelist Anne River Siddons and Pulitzer Prize winner Cynthia Tucker.

Local restaurants are plentiful, juxtaposing simple and fancy. A favorite of residents and visitors is Pannie-George’s Kitchen where the food is fresh and delicious. To quote an old friend, if you leave here hungry, it’s not their fault.

Chili was omnipresent and an All American full flavored Old Vine Zinfandel from Dry Creek with its rustic structure, spicy piercing flavors pairs beautifully with this popular dish, dispelling the claims that only beer or sweet tea goes with chili.

Before toe meets leather cocktails are de rigueur and Curley Burnell, a retired high school football coach served up his “War Eagle Wiz,” that was a an old fashioned glass filled with Wild Turkey Forgiven, a blend of Bourbon and Rye over a few chunks of ice. Enjoying every sip recalled earlier days when living was uncomplicated joy.

 Auburn Venison Chili
          By Chef Lara Lyn Carter

1 lb. ground venison
1 sweet onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can kidney beans drained and rinsed
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 clove garlic minced
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
Brown the venison in a large skillet along with the onion and pepper. Add the tomatoes, beans, brown sugar, garlic, chili powder and cumin. Stir well and simmer the chili for 45 minutes.

Perdido Vineyards near Mobile and Pensacola produces several Muscadine wines that seem to gravitate to Chef Lara Lyn’s Chili. They are nearly perfect with the flavors and aromas from Chef Lara Lyn’s Auburn Venison Chili. Remember, local grown extends to wine as well. Give it a chance.

NOTE: Dinner with Frank Sinatra? It’s an evening at Jack Daniel’s hosted by the acclaimed whiskey maker, Jeff Arnett, Master Distiller for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Plus, highlights of the 25th Jack Daniel’s World Championship Barbecue Competition.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


                 BAMA’S FOOTBALL FEAST

By Doc Lawrence

“I never planned in my imagination, a situation so heavenly
A fairy land that no one else could enter
And in the center, just you and me, dear
My heart beat like a hammer, my arms wound around you tight
Ah, stars fell on Alabama last night.”

                      STARS FELL ON ALABAMA, performed by Jimmy Buffett

TUSCALOOSA, AL. The Black Warrior River runs near this fabled college town where everything seems to be connected with football. Just a few miles away in Bessemer is The Bright Star, one of the South’s most revered family-owned restaurants where the Greek-American cooking traditions of the Koikus family have for over a century kept the dinner plates full for hungry guests including University of Alabama coaching legends Bear Bryant and Nick Saban.

In football and tailgating, ‘Bama, as the team and its sports culture is popularly known, backs down to no one. A visit here is includes an opportunity to enjoy new food and drink expressions. Alabama was the birthplace of Hank Williams, Helen Keller and Nat King Cole. The university has a long list of distinguished alumni that includes Harper Lee who penned the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Winston Groom whose “Forrest Gump,” delighted millions and Kathryn Stockett, author of the best-selling book, “The Help.”.

Just outside town is the village of Northport where Kentuck, the Alabama arts festival has been held every October for over four decades. Walking these grounds on game day, you can feel the spirit of the great visionary artist Reverend Howard Finster, the clever whimsical paintings on found wood from outsider artist Jimmy Lee Sudduth and the painted Biblical interpretations by the deeply spiritual Myrtice West.

In addition to football, this day is all about Southern food, wonderful cocktails and wines from popular brands to not so common bottles. Sangria still remains in season and many of the recipes are family traditions.

A Tennessee couple, Don and Sybil Chandler, both ‘Bama fans, served a platter of divine homemade biscuits with thin sliced DeRamus country ham in the middle, topped with a wonderful craft mustard. The wines: so much to choose from; so little time. I had a glass of Riesling and another glass of Chambourcin. .

The tailgaters honored the cooking and entertaining traditions of Alabama with a cornucopia of grilled meats, smoked fowl and game. Few things taste better than venison chili or smoked wild duck. Wine pairings with such variety are nearly endless. Thankfully, there were ample bottles of organic Bonterra at hand.

Michter’s American Whiskey just appeared on retail shelves. The Kentucky Bourbon distiller has produced a delightful spirit that is a perfect finish for tailgaters lucky enough to enjoy Chef Lara Lyn’s  original recipe created for this auspicious occasion


                            Chef Lara Lyn Carter

Serves 6
For the Grits
1 cup stone ground grit (NOT INSTANT)
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. butter
4 oz. pepper jack cheese
1 cup flour
2 cups canola oil for frying
Bring the broth, salt, and butter to a boil. Stir in the grits and whisk while boiling for one minute. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and allow grits to cook for one hour. Stir grits occasionally and add water if needed to keep the grits from scorching. Add 4 ounces of pepper jack cheese and stir until cheese is melted into the grits. Pour grits into a 9x13 pan that has been lined with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator for 3 hours to chill until they are firm. Before frying, cut grits into 12 small cakes with a biscuit cutter or knife. Lightly flour the cake and fry for 3-4 minute per side until golden brown.
For the Gravy
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small sweet onion diced
1 clove garlic
28 oz. can of plum tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup dry red wine(Ponchartrain Cynthiana keeps everything Southern.)
½ cup heavy cream
In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil, oregano, parsley, sugar, red pepper, and wine. Mash the tomatoes with a fork to break them apart. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.
For the Steak
1 ½ cups milk
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. pepper
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
2 lbs. cubed steak
2 cups canola oil for frying
Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Whisk milk and egg together in a bowl. Place flour in a separate bowl. Dip the steaks in wet mixture and then into flour. Shake off any excess flour and fry over medium high heat for 3 minutes per side.
To Serve
Place 2 grits cakes and a piece of steak on a plate, spoon gravy over the top

Pairing a wine with this amazing dish is fun. For those who yearn for new taste adventures, try Ponchartrain Vineyard’s Cynthiana. It’s made in Louisiana with one of the South’s great grapes and compares with a high-end Syrah from France.

Monday, November 4, 2013



“You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a liar
If I was to say to you
Girl, we couldn’t get much higher
Come on baby, light my fire.”

                  -The Doors-

By Doc Lawrence

TALLAHASSEE, FL—The genesis of The Doors, rock music’s legendary band, could be here on FSU’s campus. Harold Pinter’s play, “Betrayal,” starring Daniel Craig (a/k/a James Bond) and directed by Mike Nichols is playing to sold out audiences on Broadway. In 1963, another Pinter play, “The Dumb Waiter,” was performed on the stage at Florida State’s Conradi Theater. One cast member was Jim Morrison, a student here who left North Florida for LA and started a musical wall of fire with The Doors.

While Jim Morrison was at FSU, Coach Bill Peterson launched another firestorm with a pro-style offense, built around Fred Belitnikoff and Steve Tensi that literally revolutionized college football. Since the days of Morrison and Peterson, FSU has continued to lead in the arts with renowned drama and music departments and an entertaining football team that, combined with local restaurants, the arts opportunities here and access to natural wonders makes a visit to Florida’s capital city memorable.

2013 looks like a special football season and a perfect time to introduce some advanced tailgating along with the attractions of the area. With the Gulf of Mexico just south of Tallahassee, tailgating showcases seafood and local fresh farm products. Tallahassee, a short drive to Thomasville in Georgia has the good fortune to have restaurants galore, with many on par with some of the best in much larger cities like Jacksonville, Atlanta and Orlando.

There are special foods in the area, as Deep South as any place along the Gulf Coast, and if you have  the nose of a truffle hound, you can uncover influences that harken to the early Spanish settlers almost 500years ago, some French settlers along with Native American and African American food and cooking traditions. More than one chef told me long ago that the great Southern staple Hush Puppies originated here. If you want red snapper, grouper, fresh shrimp, oysters, catfish, quail, smoked mullet dip (which is very delicious), the feast before kickoff at Doak Campbell Stadium is the place to roam.

Cypress Restaurant is owned by Tallahassee natives David and Elizabeth Gwynn and opened for business in April of 2000. David graduated from The Culinary Institute of America. David went on to work with superstar chef Dean Fearing at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas after graduation.
Cypress Restaurant's Elizabeth and David Gwynn

Avenue Eat and Drink just around the corner from the Stat
e Capitol remains a top place for gourmet food and fine wines. Backroads Bistro, across the street from Cyprus, is soaring in popularity, a testament to its roots along the coast of the Big Bend area.

Whether a time to celebrate or just the end of the week, the Bradfordville Blues Club really rocks with big name blues performers like the incomparable EG Kight. A visit here and you can almost hear Jim Morrison singing a Doors classice, “Roadhouse Blues.”

Just beyond the city limits is Jan Bradley Parker's wonderful country store where the sausage is homemade and the grits superior to any I’ve had in the country. It helps when everything is up close and personal and more than one tailgater was serving meats from Bradley’s.

Memories abound here. The late Jim Crews, longtime Atlanta resident and very active alum was a ferocious tailgater and booster. On a given gameday Saturday, Tom Nelson might be serving his acclaimed smoked salmon and on this particular day, Lee Corso, ESPN’s delightful co-host of "GameDay" is all over the place. Bruce Jones, Chef Lara Lyn Carter’s dad, is an FSU graduate in the same class as actor Bburt Reynolds and her scallops recipe is dedicated to him. Note that a bottle of Plantagenet Riesling from Western Australia pairs wonderfully this magnificent dish.

Scallops in Whiskey Cream Sauce
            Chef Lara Lyn Carter
6 slices of Benton’s bacon
1 sweet onion chopped
2 tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic minced
1 tbsp. flour
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
1 lb. scallops
1 lb. cooked linguine
Chop bacon into one inch pieces and cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat until done. Remove bacon from the skillet and drain on paper towels. Cook the onion in the bacon drippings until tender. Reduce the heat to medium and add butter and garlic to skillet cooking for one minute. Whisk in the flour and cook for one more minute. Add cream and Jack Daniel’s stirring until well blended. Add scallops to cream mixture and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes until the scallops are cooked through. Serve the sauce over linguine and sprinkle bacon over top.

Enjoy even more of North Florida:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Historic  25th Global Gathering this Weekend

By Doc Lawrence

LYNCHBURG, TN-It’s October in Dixie and that means the annual Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue. The best and most prestigious of them all is now celebrating 25 years of the global gathering of the champs from the U.S. and other countries. Here, Belgium meets Canada head on while Australia takes on Germany among others. Florida, Kentucky and Massachusetts compete with teams from Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. The list is very long and the accents are many.

Serving as a judge here on the most hallowed ground of America’s spirits industry is second to nothing. Other thrill-seekers jump off cliffs and parachute hoping to survive. Some run from bulls in a cheap imitation of Pamplona. My idea of a thrill is a rush with meaning: Jack Daniel’s with friends and good things to eat. Here in beautiful Lynchburg.

The evening before Saturday’s competition, I’ll be joining Jeff Arnett, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller and Buttermilk Road’s Chef Lisa Donavan at the historic Bethel House beside the landmark distillery for some Southern fare paired with Jack Daniel’s hot new product, Sinatra Select.

Frank Sinatra really enjoyed Jack Daniel's. Great whiskey has a long memory.

Jack Daniel’s has honored the man who was such a loyal fan. Sinatra Select at 90 proof come in a one-liter bottle and a gift box. The whiskey is made from barrels that are hand-selected by Arnett for, according to a Jack Daniel’s spokesperson, “a fuller flavor and darker color, then mingled with classic Old No. 7 to result in a drink with a smooth, bold character.”

Meet me at the Judge’s Pavilion this Saturday. I’ll introduce you to some of the legends in sports, radio and television, tourism, journalism, famous restaurants and friends from other nations who love this spectacular event.

NOTE: The Florida trip you’ll never forget:

Monday, October 21, 2013


Barbecue, Wine and Fun In South Carolina

By Steve Cannon and Doc Lawrence

“And he shook it like a chorus girl
And he shook it like a Harlem queen
He shook it like a midnight rambler,
Like you never seen.”

                     Gillian Welch- “Elvis Presley Blues”

CLEMSON, SC—The song was thumping on the satellite radio early in the morning, the end of a nice drive from Atlanta to Clemson. Tailgating on this perhaps the biggest football weekend here had me greeting FSU and Clemson fans along the way, leading to a guess that many lived in the Atlanta area.

The return to this college town, my second visit in two months, was even more opportune. The South Carolina Barbecue Trail is a designated series of restaurant stops that traces a major part of the state’s important culinary heritage. It has a magnetic pull that intensified on this tailgating football Saturday.

The South Carolina peach season is long gone but the fall leaf season just started and glimpses of emerging blazing colors of orange, garnet and gold added to the enjoyment of traveling along the byways. The picturesque towns include Anderson, a pleasant place that merits a stop for all visitors. The Palmetto state’s Barbecue Trail seems to begin here. One of the great restaurants includes Creekside Bar-be-Que in Anderson. The most visual barbecue business anywhere has to be Henry’s Hog Hauler, convincing proof that good barbecue travels well.

Creekside does barbecue old fashioned way. Kurt Wickiser learned his technique from the traditions of his great grandfather who, according to Kurt, loved to invite the whole town over to his house to eat. Treasured recipes have been passed down through the generations. Everything is slow cooked with hickory and pecan wood.

Tailgating Down South is open-ended, proudly embracing the old and the new. Barbecue is always changing, but the best still has connections to tradition. New dishes based on venerable but revised recipes emerge in the stadium parking lots during this time of the year. Thousands gather to eat and drink before kickoff this can often become a food journey like no other. Few leave hungry.

Crane Creek, the acclaimed vineyard near Young Harris, Georgia is an easy drive to Clemson and this day was made for its delightful Traminette A cross between a French American hybrid Seyval and Gewürztraminer, it’s medium bodied with zippy acidity, bright spice flavors and mouth watering minerality. Perfect for Chef Lara Lyn Carter’s tasty tailgating treasure for this day.
Chef Lara Lyn Carter

Upcountry Sweet Corn and Bacon Bruschetta
I6 slices French bread - slightly grilled
Sage butter (recipe follows)
4 ears sweet corn - kernels removed
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes - finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
16 slices bacon - cooked and crumbled
In a large skillet, melt 1 and 1/2 tbsp. of sage butter over medium-high heat. Add the corn to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cream, salt and pepper to the corn and cook for an additional 4 minutes stirring often. Spread the sage butter onto the grilled bread slices. Top the bread with a tbsp. of the corn and sprinkle with the bacon.
Sage Butter
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sage roughly chopped
1 tsp. coarse salt
Melt butter over medium heat until bubbly. Reduce heat and add sage. Allow sage and butter to simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove the butter from heat and stir in the salt. Allow the butter to cool slightly, remove the sage and pour into a small bowl.

Finish off the tailgating feast with Lecia Duke’s whiskey-filled chocolates. The Chocolate Diva’s precess is unique and helps make any Saturday gameday gathering loaded with memories of delicious food and wonderful people.

NOTE: Join Doc and barbecue enthusiasts from all over the world at the 25th annual Jack Daniel’s International Barbecue Competition in lovely Lynchburg, Tennessee this Friday and Saturday, October 25 and 26. It’s not only the most prestigious barbecue event on the planet but one of the most popular festivals that is truly family friendly. Doc will be in the judge’s tent and would love to say hello.
Steve will be at Crane Creek Vineyards this Saturday and many fans of the acclaimed winery will be present. It's a wonderful time to meet and greet. When there's a chill in the air, a glass of wine warms the body and soul.

Monday, October 14, 2013



By Doc Lawrence

BLACKSBURG, VA- The mountains are just approaching fall leaf season grandeur. The region is genuine heartland where some of the earliest pioneers settled, entertaining themselves with music and dance that gave birth to Bluegrass music traditions. Locals produce country ham, a culinary descendant of Native American pemmican that will give Italian prosciutto a run for taste excellence any day and the Virginia food enthusiasts claim that their state, not Georgia, first produced Brunswick Stew.

Today, the Panthers of Pittsburgh visited Virginia Tech’s Hokies at Lane Stadium and the food and beverages served at the tailgating soiree mirrored all the joy and optimism of the moment. Smoke, laughter and music attracts a hungry visitor and there is more than enough to keep the palate stimulated.

Hokies party passionately. The name is etched into my memories that fondly recall endless glasses of fine Virginia wine with grilled meats, chicken, duck and turkey. For the uninitiated, Virginia’s wineries produce heralded wines with Norton and Viognier garnering praise for decades.

Virginia Tech's lovely campus features buildings mostly built of “Hokie” stone in a style known as military gothic. The centerpiece of the campus is the Drill field, a large oval-shaped lawn surrounded by academic buildings on one side and dormitories on the other.

Nearby Smithfield Plantation is one of the first large farms established in Southwestern Virginia. The plantation house is now a museum owned by a non-profit organization and open every day, but check times. Blacksburg is a launch pad for touring Virginia’s stunning landscape and no trip here is complete without enjoying Marion, Abington, Roanoke and charming Saltville, where, if you are lucky, you’ll meet Virginia’s accomplished storyteller, Charlie Bill Totten, whose enthusiasm for his city makes visitors eager to return.

The cooking traditions of the Deep South often have ancestral connections to Virginia. Few dishes incorporate all the taste adventures of Southern recipes like this amazing duck creation from Lara Lyn Carter’s family favorites:

Barbecued Duck Breast with Mustard Sauce
                  By Chef Lara Lyn Carter
Four 8 oz. duck breast
Chef Lara Lyn Carter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter - melted
Place the duck breast in a 9x13 baking dish. Combine the soy sauce, lemon pepper and butter and pour over the breast. Allow the duck to marinate for 30 minutes. Grill the duck over low heat for 1 and 1/2 hours basting every 20 minutes with the marinade.

Tangy Mustard Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp. Worcestershire
Combine all ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often. Serve the sauce drizzled over the duck breast.

Enjoy this with Château Morrisette's Liberty Service Dog Red, a dry red wine blended from some of Virginia's finest grape varieties including Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wine pays tribute to service dogs and their dedication to enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. Bursting with deep flavors and aromas of blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, and plum,

Peanuts, ne of Virginia's signature crops, blend well with chocolate. And a perfect finish for tailgating in Blacksburg is this original chocolate created by Chocolate Diva Lecia Duke.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Peace Reigns at Emory University

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA. Compassion and understanding might work well in Washington according to the Dalai Lama who spoke to a packed house at Gwinnett Center just outside Atlanta where he advised the audience to focus on love and to be grateful for all that they have.

The Dalai Lama, enormously popular in the Atlanta region, returned as part of a continuing partnership between the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and highly influential Emory University.

The Dalai Lama holds the title of presidential distinguished professor at Emory, a position established in 2007 and has visited Emory's campus five times, lecturing, teaching and interacting with students.
"Secular ethics," was the focus of his presentation which he described as a system of shared principles that go beyond religious differences while still respecting and valuing the significance of religion in the lives of others.

His Holiness Brings in the Masses
The Dalai Lama’s participation in a series of lectures and panel discussions extends through much of the week. Emory University’s generosity in assuring public access to a global figure who exemplifies world and personal peace remains a remarkable cultural and spiritual milestone.

Atlanta was the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose church, Ebenezer Baptist near the Civil Right’s leader’s grave, is an active and influential congregation. The Carter Presidential Center and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library are both a short distance from Emory’s campus.
The Dalai Lama, who has dined at Mary Mac’s, a noted Atlanta restaurant, always seems right at home here in this progressive city, the unofficial spiritual and cultural capital of the Southeast.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Autumn Fun In Knoxville

Coach Johnny Majors
“Wish that I was on ole rocky top,
Down in the Tennessee hills.
Ain't no smoggy smoke on rocky top,
Ain't no telephone bills.”

  “Rocky Top” by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE—The university on the banks of the Tennessee River produced genuine sports legends like Johnny Majors and Peyton Manning. A respected institution of higher learning, the fans gather for home games in Neyland Stadium clad in bright orange just after finishing one of the South’s finest tailgating feasts. After all, Tennessee is home to tailgating essentials like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, George Dickel and Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Ham.

Few products anywhere are connected more  to culinary heritage.

Bluegrass music abounds and during football games refrains of “Rocky Top,” the Volunteer’s anthem penned by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant never cease..

Bluegrass in Downtown Knoxville
Knoxville is a modern city, a center for the arts that showcases some of the best restaurants this side of Nashville. The culture is quintessentially East Tennessee, a mixture of Appalachian and Deep South. New folks who move here for the high quality of life. Like most college towns, Knoxville has the luxury of an educated population making it an attractive place for relocation and retirement.

Roaming the tailgaters is only after touring Knoxville’s outdoor Farmer’s Market where on Saturday’s, the streets display vegetables, canned goods like jellies, jams and salsas, along with Tennessee sausages and artisan baked products. Barbecue is omnipresent with pork and chicken dominant.

These are wine-savvy tailgaters and finding a group serving Shannon Ridge Petite Sirah wasn’t surprising. The remarkable red wine paired beautifully with Chef Lara Lyn Carter’s Tennessee Bruchetta and smoked meats with homemade biscuits.

Bistro By The Tracks is just one of several top rated local gourmet dining destinations.
Executive Chef Christopher Stallard marries a wealth of regional and worldly culinary knowledge to create a menu that is distinctly original. The wine program is backed by one of the state’s top cellars offering an extensive wine list featuring carefully selected whites and reds from the acclaimed wineries

The Tennessee Theatre compares with Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theatre and you don’t want to miss a concert featuring the magnificent Wurlitzer organ.

Knoxville is a launching pad to Smoky Mountain adventures and is in proximity to the great fishing and water sports of TVA lakes. The area is rich in mountain heritage and the accommodations are first rate.

Benton’s Bacon Bruschetta 
      By Chef Laura Lyn Carter
I6 slices French bread - slightly grilled
Sage butter (recipe follows)
4 ears sweet corn - kernels removed
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes - finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
16 slices Benton's bacon - cooked and crumbled
Chef Lara Lyn Carter
In a large skillet, melt 1 and 1/2 tbsp. of sage butter over medium-high heat. Add the corn to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cream, salt and pepper to the corn and cook for an additional 4 minutes stirring often. Spread the sage butter onto the grilled bread slices. Top the bread with a tbsp. of the corn and sprinkle with the bacon.
Sage Butter
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sage roughly chopped
1 tsp. coarse salt
Melt butter over medium heat until bubbly. Reduce heat and add sage. Allow sage and butter to simmer f
or 3-4 minutes. Remove the butter from heat and stir in the salt. Allow the butter to cool slightly, remove the sage and pour into a small bowl.