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: