Monday, February 25, 2013


By Doc Lawrence
ATLANTA- My home town lost her best restaurant general manager in Willy Cellucci. From the day the Atlanta Palm opened its doors just in time for the 1996 Summer Olympics, he attracted customers to the finest bar in the region, a mixture of sports stars, movie idols, legendary musicians, local celebrities and interesting local.
Willy’s personality brought them in like a magnet.
After a long battle with cancer, the irrepressible Willy Cellucci departed this life and I count myself among those who are thankful for the good times together. I learned loads about how to treat people through his example. He was  always a gentleman.He remembered names, was even-handed and  adapted to any group of guests. Uniformly good-natured, Willy knew baseball, wines, what made a good cocktail, the best from the day’s menu, and would share a tasteful anecdote that occasionally made my columns more entertaining..
Special memories include Willy’s Tequila dinner, pairing the chef’s gourmet selections with an array of anejo, blanco and reposado Tequila, an introduction of what is now commonplace with Scotch, Bourbon, Rum and othe spirits. During  lunch with Christine Born, one of the most gifted editors I’ve ever worked for, Willy joined us and explained why the cocktails at the Palm were superior. “We give you a great cocktail,” he said. “Big chunks ice that melt slowly, always with a very generous pour. I want you to come back.”
Willy was the Palm’s unofficial Sommilier and once took me on a tour of his reserve wine cellar. His knowledge of each bottle was staggering and the stories he shared about how they found their way to a celebrity’s dinner table was the stuff of a New Orleans restaurateur.
If you’re a real Dodger fan, Willy observed, “you bleed Dodger blue.” He enthralled customers with his baseball lore, always plugging his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Atlanta Palm set the standard for excellence in Buckhead and beyond. Sure, much of this is because the restaurant is exceptional to begin with. But Willy’s  special touch, which came as natural to him as his big smile, added to the enjoyment.

Friday, February 22, 2013



By Doc Lawrence


MIAMI BEACH-It’s the quintessential national, star-studded, four-day destination event totally devoted to showcasing the talents of the world’s most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities.  The South Beach Wine & Food Festival has raised approximately $17 million for Florida International University while evolving into one of America’s most prestigious gourmet gatherings. With more than 50 events over 4 days showcasing 200 renowned chefs, culinary personalities and high-profile culinary star plus more than 150 wineries and spirits producers the festival has come a long way since it began as a one-day event.

There could be no better celebrity to launch this year’s food and wine extravaganza than Paula Deen who was the host and emcee of a star-studded inaugural event at a legendary South Beach landmark. It was barbecue night with the effervescent Paula at the controls leading to the award of the “King of Barbecue.”

The festival kickoff party not only featured Ms. Deen but also her two sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen. The event was Moët Hennessy's “The Q.” Over 40 of the top barbecue chefs from across the country served their chicken, ribs, brisket and pork butts with appropriate side dishes paired with cocktails. A sold out international affair, the gala took place directly on the sands of South Beach behind the legendary Delano Hotel underneath the white tents that are now ubiquitous with this culinary, wine and spirits annual spring break.

Georgia’s pride and joy, Paula Deen is known globally as the reigning queen of Southern Cuisine, a well-earned distinction developed through a succession of her cookbooks, a magazine and her Food Network show Paula’s Home Cooking along with her incredibly popular restaurant The Lady & Sons in Savannah.  Eldest son Jamie recently premiered his show Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen on Food Network while younger son Bobby stars on Cooking Channel’s newest hit show Not My Mama's Meal.

This was just the beginning. I couldn’t help recall the late Jackie Gleason’s shout out that began each of his network TV shows that originated here in Miami Beach: “And away we go!”

Monday, February 18, 2013


Florida Grapefruit League Baseball in Melbourne, Jupiter, Port St. Lucie, Port Charlotte, Lakeland, Kissimmee, Sarasota, Tampa, Clearwater, Dunedin, Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Viera, Lake Buena Vista

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."     Bart Giamatti

By Doc Lawrence

 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla-It’s an annual pilgramge that became a case of careless love. Baseball is in my DNA. When the grass is cut on Florida’s playing fields and the cracking sounds from bats and laughter of children fill the air, daily living seems much better.

Florida’s Grapefruit League also known as Major League Baseball’s Florida Spring Training is already underway with the first games set this week. For those who aren’t fanatics (and I’m really in that group), traveling to different ballparks in Florida cities opens up a world of adventure: food, fishing, wines, cocktails, fine art and folk art, hiking, canoing and the opportunity to make new friends.


Florida’s amazing diversity of geography, people, culture and heritage leads to all kinds of pleasure. Dining can range from Florida Cracker cooking popularized by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ classic book, “Cross Creek Cookery,” to oyster and seafood shacks, country cooking and barbecue to some of America’s finest restaurants. Over 500 years ago Florida received the first wines from Eurpoe brought in by Spanish settlers. In the 20th Century, Ernest Hemingway popularized rum drinks while Jimmy Buffet made the Margarita synonmous with Key West and South Florida lifestylres.

It was players like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Tommy Lasorda, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax  and Ty Cobb who helped bring fans into the Sunshine State. Today, teams and players  attract new generations of fans back into these nooks and crannies of Florida. Baseball this time of year is a powerful touriism generator.
Join the journey where baseball opens up endless culinary and cultural adventures. We’ll warm up the days with a fried grouper sandwich, some smoked mullett dip, and then on successive days enjoy fried catfish, raw oysters, and shrimp galore, taking time to order genuine Florida beef, pork and poultry and farm fresh vegetables. You’ll be amazed at the wines available here as well as some of the outstanding wineries. Florida even has its own wine grape, literally born here at a university with the cooperation of a major vineyard.

Everything begins at the headquaters of the Atlanta Braves here in Disney World. There are so many excellent restaurants in the Orlando/Orange County area and I’ll find a cozy French café. But only after the conclusion of the Braves spring opener against the New York Yankees. And, I have bass fishing scheduled the next morning.

We’ll do our best to visit each city that is part of the 2013 Florida Grapefruit League season, highlighting good food, drinks and fun during this 125th anniversary of Major League Baseball spring training in Florida. 

NOTE: One evening long ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. unexpectedly joined three men to share fine wines from France. One was an avowed enemy. Here’s the fascinating story:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013



“Wine comes in at the mouth and love comes in at the eye; That's all we shall know for truth, Before we grow old and die.”
                          -William Butler Yeats-

By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-Valentine’s Day in the South is a magnified celebration when wine is included with a romantic dinner or combined with roses and chocolates as a gift. Let’s face it: Southerners enjoy the delights of love with wine. Rhett Butler, our legendary ladies man, risked his life smuggling in scarce bottles of Champagne. A lover’s toast requires a glass of bubbly. Down here, this is a hallowed tradition.

If Champagne is a little tough on the budget, there are alternatives. Alluring and refreshing,  Sofia Rosé from Francis Ford Coppola Winery, has the proper combinations-taste, bubbles, color, beautiful bottle-all at an amazing price of $20.00. It’s easy to find at any good retail wine shop, while still retaining the charm of being off the beaten path. Highly recommended.

The red wine for Valentine’s is the one with the perfect name: Saint-Amour. This Cru Beaujolais from Burgundy is truly delicious, food-friendly and also reasonably priced. Locating it might be a daunting task. However, any wine merchant should have it under many labels. Obviously, it is a hot item each February 14.

The late Jim Sanders first tasted Saint-Amour after WW II in France and developed his own cuvee under his J Sanders label and it is still sold at Sherlock’s wine stores in the Atlanta region. Owner Doug Bryant tells me he sells almost every bottle for Valentine’s Day.

Whether Saint-Amour, a sparkling wine or regal Champagne, the glory of the grape belongs in the celebration of love.

Why wait for Valentine’s Day? A well-chosen wine with romance in mind opens the stairway to heaven. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Atlanta’s High Museum of Art-

Passion, Politics, and Painting IN ATLANTA

By Doc Lawrence

Courtesy of High Museum of Art
ATLANTA-This exciting city is often called the “Capital of the New South” and it’s hard not to agree. With major league sports, fine restaurants, great universities, one of the country’s oldest operas, plus an exploding music scene, the cultural center remains the Woodruff Arts Center, home of the heralded Atlanta Symphony, the Alliance Theatre and the High Museum of Art. With “Frida & Diego” opening this week, the High anticipates another blockbuster exhibition.

Few artists have captured the public's imagination like Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) and her husband, the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957). The myths that surrounded them during their lifetime arose not only from their significant body of work, but also from their active participation in the historical happenings around them.

Frida & Diego positions the artists' work within the political and artistic contexts of their time. Their art speaks of a fierce loyalty to and pride in Mexico, the ideals of the 1910 Mexican Revolution and their commitment to the conditions of the common man.

The exhibition features more than 75 works primarily drawn from the collection of Mexico's Dolores Olmedo as well as the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art.

The High Museum of Art is the only U.S. venue for this exhibition, which is accompanied by an impressive full-color catalogue. The exhibition premiered at the Art Gallery of Ontario in the Fall of 2012.

Key paintings by Frida Kahlo featured in the exhibition include:
Hospital Henry Ford (Henry Ford Hospital), 1932
Autorretrato con Monos (Self-Portrait with Monkeys), 1943
La Columna Rota (The Broken Column), 1944
El Abrazo de Amor de el Universo, La Tierra (México), Diego, yo y el Señor Xólotl (The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Diego, Me and Señor Xólotl), 1949
Key works by Diego Rivera featured in the exhibition include:
Autorretrato (Self-Portrait), 1930
La Canoa Enflorada (The Flowered Canoe), 1931
Vendedora de Alcatraces (Calla Lily Vendor), 1943
El Joven de la Estilografica (Portrait of Best Maugard), 1914

The exhibition runs through May 12, 2013. Ticket information:

NOTE: Enjoy the tropical breezes and exceptional cuisine of Key West, a prelude to a visit to the 2013 South Beach Wine and Food Festival:

Thursday, February 7, 2013



By Doc Lawrence

Chefs Celebrate A Successful 2012 Festival

MIAMI BEACH—Few places combine gourmet lifestyles with a never-ending race in the fast lane like this high energy, very exciting city. I’ll come here at the drop of a hat never needing a business reason. Pleasure is the cardinal principle here, and how you find it is up to you. Food, wine, cocktails, jazz, celebrities, are intermingled with some of the world’s great art galleries and performing arts centers. Great restaurants seem to outnumber the mediocre, a warning that this is not a good place for gimmicks or empty hype.

Yes, money talks here, but there are ways to enjoy much of the good life without emulating Donald Trump. One is the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, a global event that transcends almost all the others. I’ve been attending and writing about Sobe’s events here since it began and from the inception, Sobe (locals call it that) has “winner” stamped on its future.

This is a scouting trip which allows time to visit old friends and familiar places like the Fontainebleau, a luxury hotel that always set the bar high. Elvis and the Rat Pack performed here and it hasn’t lost any of that magic touch. The Foundry has doors and windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and the jazz at Van Dyke Café harkens to Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Art Basel is more than an annual event The world's premier international art show for modern and contemporary works features nearly 300 leading galleries from North America making Miami Beach one of the fine art centers on the planet.

It’s time for lunch-oceanside, of course. The only challenge isn’t excellence, it is being torn between so many places and having so little time to enjoy them all. Monty’s has wonderful food, a view like no other and is a place where you might run into Hollywood celebrities or sinister smugglers. That’s part of the charm of South Beach.

Sobe starts soon. Look for more than a few stories.

Enjoy the delights of Key West. The story is a tour of the island and some highlights of the Key West Literary Seminar.