Saturday, December 31, 2016

CHAMPAGNE MAGIC FOR THE NEW YEAR



By Doc Lawrence

The New Year begs to be introduced with flutes of Champagne. The tradition is integral to that magic celebratory moment of ringing out the old and ringing in the new.

In the South, Champagne enjoyment recalls special moments in history and folklore, notably Captain Rhett Butler’s daring runs through the Union blockade during the Civil War to bring Champagne to Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans. Ever the clever entrepreneur, Butler assured his safety by sharing his bottled cargo with generals and politicians (and their consorts), with no regard to allegiance.

The choices for New Year’s bubbly are vast. Personally, I opt for the sentimental Laurent-Perrier Rosé, pricey, but who cares on this one evening? There are many other sparkling wines available and if you prefer something from the good old USA, the selections are huge. California and New York state keep the wine shop shelves stocked and one I recommend is from New Mexico: Gruet, highly-regarded and fairly priced. You’ll experience no difficulty in locating it.

There are outstanding sparkling wines from Southern vineyards. Wolf Mountain from Georgia is beautifully constructed as is Biltmore Estate from the Asheville, NC winery.

Let’s not linger. With only a few hours left to shop, we’ll head out to the market and find a bottle or two. No need to wait until the midnight hour, though. Festive Champagne and other quality sparkling wines pair with almost all food and make an impressive aperitif.

Every calendar transition involves the mystery of the unknown. We hope for the best. Some are good at making resolutions. The best ones will be so profound that the Blue Ridge Mountains will tremble.

May your New Year bring good health, more friends, dreams galore and a trove of pleasant surprises. Champagne, by the way, is the preferred beverage for dreamers.



Monday, December 26, 2016

Welcome Huskies & Crimson Tide-Enjoying Atlanta's Chic-fil-A Peach Bowl Weekend

 By Doc Lawrence

Responding to many requests from excited college football fans coming to Atlanta, my hometown, I selected a few sites here that should elevate the experience and save a bunch of money during the holiday football weekend. These are all easily accessible, some are even free and all are suitable for anyone.
More than anything, they represent a good measure of the magic that makes Atlanta the South’s renaissance city, a center for the arts and culture.
STONE MOUNTAIN
A stand-alone wonder and great urban park drawing over 7 million visitors annually, features a winter snow experience. Climbing the mountain is worth the effort. The Historic Village of Stone Mountain showcases Art Station, one of Georgia’s cultural gems. Don’t miss artist Olivia Thomason’s spectacular exhibition “My Southern Memories.” www.artstation.org
"My Southern Memories" at Art Station
KING CENTER
Dr. Martin Luther King’s grave and memorial is a short distance from Ebenezer Baptist Church where the Nobel Laureate preached the gospel of peace. www.thekingcenter.org
FERNBANK SCIENCE CENTER
The planetarium, a celestial theater in the round, is one of the nations best. The museum displays the Apollo 6 Command Module. www.fernbank.edu
OAKLAND CEMETERY
Visit the grave of “Gone With The Wind” author Margaret Mitchell and walk through the amazing sculpture lined walkways and impressive grave monuments. Free. www.oaklandcemetery.com
 
THE FABULOUS FOX THEATRE

Elvis, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, countless Broadway shows performed on this stage, the centerpiece of one of the finest movie palaces and architectural achievements in North America. www.foxtheatre.org
HIGH MUSEUM OF ART
Each visit confirms why Atlanta is a national arts center. A spectacular building with a Rodin sculpture out front facing fabled Peachtree Street houses special collections and blockbuster exhibitions. www.high.org
COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
Well, you’re in Atlanta for football and a tour here will enrich the experience. Memories of everything from Pop Warner to Bear Bryant, Jim Thorpe to Deion Sanders, brilliantly curated. www.cfbhall.com
NATIONAL CENTER FOR HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS
Atlanta, home of Dr. King, John Lewis, Andrew Young and many others who paved the way for the Civil Rights movement, forging critical alliances with leaders like Jimmy Carter and Atlanta’s Ivan Allen Jr. One of the areas top attractions. www.civilandhumanrights.org
 
ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDEN.
Combine this with a walk through adjacent Piedmont Park. Esthetically stunning juxtaposition of natural beauty combined with amazing sculpture. www.atlantabg.org
THE CARTER PRESIDENTIAL CENTER
A library, fabulous bookstore and gift shop with mementoes connected to the nations 41st president and Georgia’s native son. It’s sometimes possible to bump into Mr. Carter who, even at 92, remains very active. www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov
Tip: If you visit here, go down the street and relax with beer and hot dogs at landmark Manuel’s Tavern. A genuine Atlanta experience.
ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER
One of the country’s best. Collections, exhibitions, guided tours and grounds that feature historic preservations like the Tullie Smith Farm and a lovely architectural wonder, the Swan House. www.atlantahistorycenter.com
MICHAEL C. CARLOS MUSEUM
On the campus of Emory University, this  beautiful facility is home to one of the great collections of Egyptian mummies. Other exhibitions compliment Emory’s internationally acclaimed academic missions. Located in Atlanta’s Druid Hills neighborhood, home of the “Driving Miss Daisy” home. www.carlos.emory.edu
DINING  
The Varsity and Mary Mac’s Tea Room are bedrock institutions. Best bet for enjoying Atlanta’s vast restaurant offerings is to buy a copy of Malika Bowling’s “Culinary Atlanta,” the best guide available to restaurants from Southern dining to the exotic cuisine of the Buford Highway corridor. You’ll save money and increase you odds of having a memorable experience. Available at Amazon. 
 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Egg Nog-A Holiday Essential


By Doc Lawrence

Few delicious things remind me more of special Christmas and Holiday celebrations than egg nog. An essential part of the festivities, it has quite a lineage and no gathering is really complete without it. 

My collection of egg nog recipes includes the masterpiece served by General Robert E. Lee, provided and authenticated by my friend and neighbor Rusty Hamby, an educator and historian. It reflects common ingredients of brandy, rum, whiskey, eggs, milk, and spices and always tastes better when served in fine crystal cups.

 GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE’S EGG NOG
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.


WISHING YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY HOLIDAYS


                                        Doc



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Oyster Stew & Wine for Christmas Eve-A Tradition



By Doc Lawrence

“We’re having oyster stew tonight,” my mother announced one cold Christmas Eve during my baby days in Atlanta. I saw the pint containers loaded with shucked morsels floating in a gray thick liquid and dreaded the moment this would become my dinner recalling Jonathan Swift’s warning that bravery was required for the first bite of this strange looking bivalve. Fear quickly disappeared as I courageously tasted the first spoonful of the hot broth, a preliminary step before actually eating my first oyster.

My life changing experience has been repeated many times on the night before Christmas, expanding to include wines. Early on I discovered that many observed this culinary tradition, confirming that my dear mother knew what she was doing in preparing this concoction as well as continuing a custom.

The recipe is simple, whether you use one of Emeril’s or those from other cooks. Pairing wines is another matter. Opinions are varied and personal preferences should always be honored, but there are some wines in my experience that have generally won praise when served with oysters and a few have brought me great pleasure.
 
Chablis, the great white wine from Burgundy, works to perfection, but tends to be pricey. (J.Sanders Cru Chablis is delicious.) There are other wines, though, that merit serving for the Christmas Eve oyster experience. Oregon Pinot Gris generally goes well with anything from the sea. King Estate Domaine Pinot Gris (2015), an Oregon delight, makes an excellent companion with your favorite oyster stew recipe.

Lara Lyn Carter, Georgia’s Emmy winning chef, provided this recipe, which came from her grandmother. It is close to what my mother served long ago.

Mimi’s Oyster Stew
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.


Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays





Thursday, December 15, 2016

BOOK GIFTS-PAPA UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE




By Doc Lawrence

A half century ago, Ernest Hemingway took his life. His friend and biographer A. E. Hotchner spent many of the final days with the author and is responsible for much of the post-mortem literature including editing and naming of A Moveable Feast.
 
Book make good Christmas gifts, and Hemingway in Love: His Own Story (St. Martin’s Press 2015) should qualify a worthy stocking stuffer. It’s compact, masterfully edited, honest and interesting. Few had the access that Hemingway allowed to Hotchner, himself an author of seventeen books and co-founder with Paul Newman of Newman’s Own Foods.

Hemingway in Love is a remembrance of the author’s agony brought on by being in love with two women. There’s no need for a spoiler alert: Hotchner validates that Hadley, Hemingway’s first wife, remained the love of his life.

There are no real surprises except for one that made the mountain near me tremble. During his final years while he was suffering from depression, many close to Hemingway believed that his complaining of being followed and harassed by the FBI was produced by paranoia. After Hemingway’s death, Hotchner obtained a file from the FBI on Hemingway, a man never associated with crime or unpatriotic behavior. It confirmed mindless wiretaps and surveillance of one of America’s literary giants.
 
Hemingway in Love is properly titled. It is a look back at decisions alternating between good feelings and regrets brilliantly juxtaposed much like the Nobel Laureate perfected in novels and short stories. It is devoid of self-pity without a hint of misogyny and refreshing with unbridled honesty.

Read this and you might be inspired to give it to someone who loves literature. It may inspire you or the recipient to spend the winter in Key West or Havana to walk in Hemingway’s footsteps. Maybe have a  Papa Doble at the end of the day.

Hemingway's Paris: A Writer's City in Words and Images

by Robert Wheeler, (Yucca Publishing 2015)

Listen to Frank Sinatra’s unsurpassed interpretation of Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris,” while you read and behold this masterpiece, Hemingway’s Paris. Spectacular black and white photographs of the City of Lights along with Robert Wheeler’s nostalgic prose. Walk along with Hemingway and his first wife Hadley, across the bridges. View the Café’s and sidewalk tables, the stairwells of apartments, back alleys, old boats by the river, galleries, parks and much more and before long you’ll wish you were there.

This is a stunning photographic tribute to the Paris of Hemingway’s literature, notably A Moveable Feast, all through the lens of a skilled contemporary artist, a gift that will appeal to your inner Hemingway.

Let’s meet soon at the Paris Ritz. We’ll each enjoy one of Hemingway’s favorite cocktails, the Montgomery Martini (a ratio of 15 parts gin to 1 part Vermouth.) and share stories about F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Aver Gardner and Gertrude Stein.

 


Monday, December 12, 2016

"My Southern Memories"-Art Station Debut



By Doc Lawrence

Mayor Pat Wheeler (L) and David Thomas Welcome Olivia
Stone Mountain, GA-They came from nearby homes and as far away as Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee to enjoy the celebration of Art Station’s new exhibition, “My Southern Memories,” and honor the artist, Olivia Thomason. For over three hours, the packed house viewed 25 new paintings by the artists while enjoying platters of holiday-themed gourmet delights and fine Champagne. Journalist Dick Funderburke commented that “these are really extraordinary paintings and a tribute to Olivia’s talent. I am impressed by the commitment of this gallery to display them so impressively.”

Art Station garners regular praise as an arts center that includes not only the gallery but also an acclaimed theatrical company with a full season of performances. For almost three decades, audiences have enjoyed musicals, dramas, comedy and premieres. The holiday production is Plaid Tidings, the popular musical, followed in January by Hollywood actor Bill Oberst, Jr.’s portrayal of the beloved Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard. In addition, there is the facility’s Trolley Stop Cabaret scheduled to present jazz and blues stylist, the incredible Theresa Hightower.

Shall We Gather at the River
All of these productions take place while Ms. Thomason’s exhibition continues, spanning the December holiday season and most of January.

Among the dignitaries attending the Champagne opening party was Stone Mountain Mayor Pat Wheeler, several members of the city council and prominent government officials plus Dekalb’s own Frank Spence, a retired top executive with the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Braves. A friend and fan of Ms. Thomason, Spence said that “Olivia is one of my favorite artists anywhere,” adding that her paintings “take me back in my happiest childhood days with family and friends who loved gathering together at home and in church.”
Christmas in the Valley

Notable paintings by Olivia Thomason include U.S. Poet Laureate Carl Sandburg’s home “Connemara" in Flat Rock, North Carolina, New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty and “Angels over Atlanta,” a tribute to the 1995 Atlanta Braves World Series Championship.

“My Southern Memories” can be viewed during gallery hours daily, on weekends and before and after performances of Plaid Tidings.
Family Fun

More information is available at www.artstation.org and (770) 469.1105.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Plaid Tidings


Art Station’s Holiday Musical 
                             
Reviewed by Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA-What the world needs this time of year are tidings of comfort and joy. And the Art Station Theatre, one of Georgia’s priceless cultural gems delivers with Plaid Tidings, the seasonal sequel to the phenomenally successful revue Forever Plaid. During two hours of song and dance, the foursome, Smudge, Jinks, Frankie and Sparky, take the holiday audience on a journey designed, they announce, to “make America plaid again.”

There was a time when vocal quartets literally dominated American popular music. This version is more Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons than the Four Aces, both gifted and enormously popular, but different because of the former’s falsetto harmonies which the guys of Plaid Tidings do thanks in part to the presence of two gifted tenors. One, Tony Hays (Jinks), performs solo shows on the high seas with several luxury cruise lines and has starred at Trolley Stop Cabaret.

Those old enough to remember the halcyon days of live black and white TV shows like Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason, Sid Caesar, Perry Como, and Nat King Cole will find the songs and skits familiar and nostalgic. Children, too, will be spellbound by the harmonies, rhythms, slapstick, costumes and omnipresent goodwill. For those in between, everything may depend on appreciation of American popular music and the enormous cultural contributions of vaudeville and musical theater.

If you were entertained by Memphis, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Smokey Joe’s Café and Million Dollar Quartet and find yourself wiping away a tear when I’ll be home for Christmas, fills the air, then Plaid Tidings will put you into the spirit of the season.

Human voices are wonderful instruments and these stage stars deliver every note and verse seamlessly. Patrick Hutchison’s light-fingered piano accompaniment and musical direction powers the songs, adding those Americana touches that connect generations. The dancing is fun with bits of good humor, topped by a transformation of the Plaids to a Nineties boy band for "'Twuz tha Nite B4 Xmas."

Plaid Tidings, like real Champagne or homemade eggnog promises nothing less that satisfaction: A cup of holiday cheer is delivered, overflowing with comfort and joy.

NOTE: Art Station includes one of the region's top art galleries. Just opened: "My Southern Memories," 25 new paintings by Olivia Thomason.  
www.artstation.org






Monday, December 5, 2016

ATLANTA-WHERE TO DINE?


By Doc Lawrence

Once in a blue moon I discover a useful and reliable tool that helps with restaurant selections. Regularly pummeled by dining propaganda, I learned long ago to ignore useless recommendations that uniformly make claims that put my wallet at risk should I follow them.

Culinary Atlanta, Malika Bowling’s brilliant guide to the best restaurants in the expanded Atlanta region is credible, current and oh, so useful. Several hundred dining destinations are covered ranging from internationally acclaimed gourmet shrines to neighborhood breakfast spots, barbecue joints and good bars with pub food.

Ms. Bowling, a veteran Atlanta food critic, adroitly accomplishes something few writers would dare: The Buford Highway corridor. This crown jewel of dining adventure unique to Georgia presents the authentic cuisine of Korea, Malaysia, El Salvador, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Peru, India, Columbia, Cuba and dozens of other countries. While I’ve journeyed through the menu of many of these over the years, Culinary Atlanta mercifully directs me, navigating a once difficult path through the magic of expert summaries and solid contact information. This is a genuine accomplishment, showcasing one of the most unique dining experiences in the Southeast. Bravo!

Be assured that Malika Bowling writes about what she has actually experienced. The opinions and conclusions are her own, based entirely on her first hand experience. That’s a Herculean task, qualifying this an essential book for those who enjoy dining out but are wary of just dropping in to eat in strange places, fearful of the expensive nightmare of bad food, minuscule portions, high prices and horrible service.

Malika Bowling
There are genuine advantages when we make informed choices and there’s an added bonus with this book: The author doesn’t avoid examining restaurant wine and cocktail offerings, subjects that are vital in selecting where we want to invest our time and money.

Malka Bowling is honest and fair. A veteran of the Atlanta area food scene, she writes straightforward critiques, eschewing hyperbole. A trusted and wonderful friend, I long ago concluded that she has few peers as a food and restaurant writer/reviewer here in Georgia or elsewhere.

This is the perfect gift for those living in the Atlanta region. Those lucky to receive it will use it regularly. Culinary Atlanta merits inclusion by area CVB’s and state tourism officials in those media kits and visitor gift bags.

This will be one of my Christmas gifts to family and friends.

Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! is easily purchased through Amazon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

THANKSGIVING WINES

ATLANTA-The great feast that launches the holiday season showcases many aromas and tastes, a great part of what makes Thanksgiving dinner truly American. Wines have a big place in this dining equation, and, there’s no reason for unusual expense or risky experimentation.

The best way to assure satisfaction with your wine choices is to offer variety. That way, there is a suitable selection for everyone and you have successfully covered all preferences that can reasonably be anticipated.

Here are some recommendations.

RIESLING
One of the most versatile white wines produced from the noble grape. Forget the “too sweet” myth: Riesling can be bone dry or gently sweet. Look to Germany, Washington State or New York’s Finger Lakes for worthy bottles.

SPARKLING WINE
This can be anything from Champagne to domestic sparkling wine. They are all over the wine stores this time of year. Aim cheap and someone is going to feel terrible the next day. Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, Cremant from France or even a wonderful bottle of Gruet from New Mexico will be well-received by everyone. And what would make a better aperitif, anyway?

BEAUJOLAIS
Not that overpriced Nouveau party wine that floods the market each holiday season, but the real thing. Perhaps our most versatile all-purpose red wine, everything on the dinner table will likely pair very well with this. Look for Beaujolais Villages, or even better, one of the Cru Beaujolais like Brouilly, Morgon, Fleurie or Moulin-à-Vent.
For those in the Atlanta region, the best bear the J.Sanders label, carried exclusively by Sherlock’s in Marietta, Buckhead and Decatur. Jim Sanders was Georgia’s first and most important wine retailer and his legacy remains in each bottle bearing his name.

Beaujolais is readily available at Whole Foods and retail wine stores everywhere and it’s always affordable..
 
ROSÉ
Whether from Provence, Napa or Oregon, Rosé deserves to be served for Thanksgiving.. Margerum Riviera Rosé or Acrobat Rosé burst with flavor and aromas, balanced with moderate alcohol. Food friendliness is a given.

Having these opened and ready to pour according to what guests prefer is a festive alternative to offering a jug of weird red and white wine. For just a little more, you enhance the quality of the feast, making this a memorable Thanksgiving

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Dinner With Chef Lara Lyn Carter


Wine Pairings, Too!

By Doc Lawrence

Georgia's Golden Girl.
ATLANTA-It’s our noble American holiday, a celebration of family, friends and life centered on dinner table delights. Thanksgiving brings out the best in us. It’s our homecoming complete with food that whenever possible comes from our farms, prepared with new recipes and recollections of our mother’s cooking, dinners they more often than not prepared based on tradition and some heaven-inspired intuition.

Crowned by Canadian media with the appropriate title “Georgia’s Golden Girl,” and fresh from her whirlwind TV tour of Canada, Chef Lara Lyn Carter shares some of her original Thanksgiving recipes that will add even more magic to the big feast.

Wines have a hallowed place for Thanksgiving dinner. These should be American wines, which Lara Lyn and I paired in advance so you’ll have some guidance when you go shopping. Nothing extravagant; nothing cheap. Just delicious.

BOURBON BRINED TURKEY

For the Turkey

1 fresh turkey
4 tbsp. butter at room temperature
FOR THE BRINE
2 quarts water
1-cup bourbon
1-cup sugar
6 peppercorns
6 whole cloves
Peeled zest and juice of 1 large orange
2 lemons cut in half
8 Earl Grey tea bags
Unwrap the turkey, remove all of the giblets and rinse the turkey under cold water. Pat the turkey dry. Fill a large stockpot with all of the brining ingredients and bring to a boil. Allow the brine to simmer for 15 minutes. Add 4 quarts of cold water to the brine and allow it to cool completely. Submerge the turkey in the brine and cover. Refrigerate overnight. Remove the turkey from the brine; rinse and pat dry. Rub the butter on the skin of the turkey. Roast the turkey in a 350-degree oven for approximately 15 minutes per pound or until internal meat thermometer reads 165 degrees when placed in the thigh.


                                                            PEAR AND PECAN SALAD
5 pears halved and cored
½ cup toasted pecans toasted
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese

 Vinaigrette

1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. maple syrup
Roast pears in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes to soften. Whisk vinegars oils and syrup together. Arrange pears on bed of arugula lettuces and drizzle with vinaigrette.
Sprinkle with toasted pecans and blue cheese.






PUMPKIN PECAN CARAMEL CAKE
 For the Cake
2 cups canned pumpkin
3 cups sugar
1-cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground clove
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans
 Mix oil and sugar until blended, add eggs one at a time.  Add the pumpkin to creamed mixture.  Sift together the flour, spices, soda, baking powder and salt and add it to the creamed mixture.  Stir in the pecans.  Pour batter into a tube pan that has been lightly sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray and the bottom of the pan lined with waxed paper.  Bake the cake in a preheated oven @ 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let the cake cool in the pan.

For the Icing
1 stick of butter
1 cup of dark brown sugar
¼ cup milk
1-¾ cups powdered sugar

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sugar and bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Add the milk and stir until it returns to boiling.  Remove the mixture from heat and let cool.  When mixture has cooled, add the powdered sugar and beat until mixture is creamy.  Spread icing on top of cake and let it drip down the side of the cake. 
 

WINES

Miracles from Oregon. 2014 King Estate Pinot Noir should be opened, ready to pour alongside Acrobat Pinot Gris (2014) and to round everything out, a bottle of Rosé of Pinot Noir. These allow guests to make choices and no matter their preference, each glass will be delicious, drawing a few enthusiastic approvals. Why not encourage them to enjoy all three?

Monday, November 14, 2016

REVIEW-JOHN GRISHAM TAKES ON A CORRUPT JUDGE


By Doc Lawrence

He’s published 30 novels since A Time To Kill in 1989 and still churns out thrillers that don’t shy away from institutionalized injustice and unfairness in the criminal justice system. The Whistler (Doubleday 2016) is set in the Big Bend and Panhandle of Florida with a spellbinding saga of a hopelessly corrupt, high-rolling Florida judge who has been living off bribes from an organized crime syndicate that literally purchased her in order to take over the gambling operations of a casino on an Indian reservation.
 
Along with the crooked judge, the tribe’s poor but innocent members have prospered. A tribal leader has been framed in a bogus murder trial presided over by her honor and is awaiting execution at Florida’s infamous Raiford Penitentiary in rural Starke. Two good people, Lacy and Hugo work for a state commission charged with exposing bad apple judges. A complaint is filed against this party-girl judge that they, unaware of the perils that await them, investigate.

Grisham, who has a very sophisticated palate, takes readers on the chase for justice with stops for fresh Florida seafood-very plentiful in the area-with wines like Sancerre from the Loire Valley of France that pair very well with legendary Apalachicola Oysters.

There is a murder and a budding love story. A key witness goes missing. But Grisham, true to all his previous works, doesn’t need to fluff a good plot with gratuitous bedroom scenes. Although the barriers seem at times insurmountable, determined well-intentioned people seeking justice provide thrills that only a strong heart can handle.

The Whistler displays quite a bit of knowledge about locale. Florida State University and Tallahassee have a role along with a mythical Indian tribe that reminds me of one actually in the Panhandle, the Muscogee, a bona fide tribe recognized by the U.S. Department of Interior. The highlighted cities on the Gulf Coast confirm that Grisham has done some traveling and feasting in the area.

John Grisham is not only a top-selling author but also an effective social critic. A lawyer himself, he understands the unconscionable harm of a broken criminal justice system and throughout his career has refused to let big money in towers of power off the hook.

The Whistler makes you anxious to read his next book. Evildoers hiding under black robes beware. Sinister power brokers plotting nefarious schemes high above a major city should tremble.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook



By Doc Lawrence

NEW ORLEANS-“Just had the best damn collard greens in my life,” he told me while getting a sidewalk shoeshine in front of the Cabildo beside New Orleans famous landmark, Jackson Square. Bill Owens, a sports broadcaster for FSU, knew his way around restaurants and never one to ignore a recommendation, I revisited Buster Holmes Restaurant on Burgundy, a street close enough to walk over for lunch. Red beans and rice, corn bread, a beer and high-energy juke box music.

While Buster Holmes Restaurant closed its door many years ago, delicious memories remain. My personal loss was lessened after learning later that there was a cookbook produced by Buster. The first, in 1980, was followed by three editions; the most recent, The Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook-New Orleans Handmade Cookin’ (Jackson Square Press, Gretna, La. 2016) includes an introduction by Poppy Tooker.

My memories are as rich as Buster’s roux. The first venture was before racial segregation ended.  I came to town with an R.O.T.C drill team to march in a Mardi Gras parade and had a free place to stay at Tulane and a little spending cash. My first strip shows, walking into bars that sold me booze at age 17 and actually meeting girls from other countries thrilled an innocent kid from Atlanta, but the fun was yet to come.

My first visit to Buster Holmes Restaurant introduced me to red beans and rice and Jax beer. Like Louis Armstrong, Woody Allen, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Irma Thomas, Ray Charles, Harry Connick, Jr., Pete Fountain and a legion of regular diners, you learned this was food that couldn’t be easily duplicated at home. .

Food writing and cookbooks have deep roots in this country and African-Americans for too long have been shortchanged. Their cooking contributions are bedrock. I am overjoyed to find Buster’s cookbook, an affirmation of all that his diners loved.

If you are fascinated by unfiltered core recipes with names like roast suckling pig, egg jambalaya, bull head gravy, Manny’s spoon bread and perfect country fried chicken, and if you find that food and cooking origins enrich your own cooking and eating experience, you need this book.

Much like the no-frills restaurant, Buster Holmes is a modest publication, devoid of color, heavy enameled paper or a fancy cover. Like so many culinary treasures (church fundraiser cookbooks come to mind), the pages sparkle with authenticity. And, because I’ve not only enjoyed some of these dishes at Buster’s but also tried them at home, I’m overjoyed to say that the thrill is there in every bite.

The Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook is an American original, an heirloom. Like jazz and the blues, here’s an essential part of our heritage. What a wonderful holiday gift for a cook.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Dr. Ruth Dazzles


Art Station's Triumphant Season Opener

By Doc Lawrence
 
STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-Audiences will remember Judy Leavell as the steel magnolia in Art Station’s acclaimed production of Mama Makes up Her Mind. Her return to this stage in Becoming Dr. Ruth, An Unexpected Journey, portraying America’s most popular sex educator, is a resounding testament to the power and majesty of live theater.

Everyone knows Dr. Ruth Westheimer – from her career as a pioneering radio and television sex therapist. Few, however, know the incredible journey that preceded it. From fleeing the Nazis in the Kindertransport to Switzerland, to joining the Haganah in Jerusalem as a sniper, to her struggle to succeed as a single mother newly arrived in America, Mark St. Germain deftly illuminates this remarkable woman’s untold story. Becoming Dr. Ruth is filled with the humor, honesty, and life-affirming spirit of Karola Ruth Siegel, the girl who became “Dr. Ruth,” America’s most famous sex therapist. Many recall Dr. Ruth Westheimer as America’s grandmotherly sex therapist.
Becoming Dr. Ruth also recounts her sobering and heroic life even before her 1980s fame, when she was a German Jewish refugee and Holocaust survivor during World War II, and then a gun-toting Israeli pioneer.

Dr. Ruth is revealed as a practical woman deeply steeped in wit and hard-earned wisdom, with strength of character that allowed her to survive and triumph over unconscionable loss to craft a career that through humor and wisdom brought happiness to millions of fans.

Fairly described as a comedy, Dr. Ruth pricks the soul and conscious, reminding the audience that once civilized Germany embraced a monster who early on sent SS goon squads to collect Jews including Ruth’s father.

There are moments of rollicking humor juxtaposed with tenderness and sadness. Life has such swings and Ms. Leavell, brilliantly directed by David Thomas, interprets everything flawlessly. Her version of Dr. Ruth is very near to the Dr. Ruth millions saw with Johnny Carson and David Letterman

Go see Dr. Ruth. It’s your opportunity to master the highly useful “Westheimer Maneuver.”

Runs through Nov. 20. www.artstation.org; (770) 469.1105

Thursday, November 3, 2016

EMMY WINNER LARA LYN CARTER HEADS TO CANADA

Golden Girl's Media Cooking Tour

Toronto-It’s not just the peaches that the State of Georgia is known for, but Emmy-award winning TV host and Chef Lara Lyn Carter. Known as Georgia’s Golden Girl, this sweet and savory, and sophisticated, Southern Chef is Georgia’s go-to authority for all things southern cookin’. For one week this month-November14th-19th-she’ll be sharing some of her southern specialties with Canadians as she embarks on her first and very historic Canadian Media Tour.
Lara Lyn with Guy Fieri at South Beach

Bringing Southern elegance and charm to the modern kitchen, Chef Lara Lyn will be sharing her unique recipes, marrying good ole southern cooking with wine, whiskey and bourbon pairings. Just don’t ask her to serve anything in a mason jar!

On the heels of receiving her first Emmy-award this spring for her syndicated television show Thyme For Sharing, and riding the success of her popular cookbook, Southern Thymes Shared, Lara Lyn’s Canadian visit will be just in time for fall’s cool temperatures; she’ll be sharing her favorite comfort foods to warm your belly while teaching how folks down South create a welcoming atmosphere for friends and family. They call it southern charm for a reason.

Taking a break from entertaining dignitaries, and demonstrating her cooking secrets from coast to coast at food and wine festivals—including the Telluride Wine and Food Festival in Colorado and the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Miami—Chef Lara Lyn will be showcasing her culinary skills live on Toronto’s #1 Breakfast Show, Breakfast Television; on CTV’s News at Noon in Kitchener-Waterloo; and on CP24’s Breakfast Show. She will also be hosting a 30-minute Facebook LIVE segment with Diply—the #1 Viral video platform, then recording some new foodie videos for their Delicious by Diply series. More media appearances will be announced.

Some of the southern-style contemporary meals she’ll be creating are: Blue cheese and Fig Cheesecake, Bourbon Chocolate Bread Pudding , Cornbread Salad, Grilled Catfish with Sweet and Spicy Tartar Sauce, Southern Pear and Pecan Salad, Pimento Cheese grits, Bacon Brittle, Whiskey Bites, Southern Tiramisu (an Italian-Southern Fusion) and of course, the traditional favorite Shrimp and Grits.

Chef Lara Lyn’s passion for cooking and the use of sustainable, local products has led her to guest teach local culinary students and to launch a recipe development competition using local products for the culinary students at the request of the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

More Information: Rania Walker, rania@frontdoorpr.com. (416) 258.8953

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tailgating Down South: The Year of Grilling Dangerously Part IV


 Dog Island Grouper Burgers

By Doc Lawrence

Chef Joshua Butler
TALLAHASSEE-Legend has it that this city gave birth to hushpuppies, that fried cornmeal delicacy that accompanies seafood in the Deep South. Florida's capital city is built on rolling hills, with nearby plantations like Ted Turner's Avalon and majestic Pebble Hill. . The Gulf of Mexico is but a few mile south and Wakulla Springs still fascinates visitors with its crystal pure water and Hollywood connections beginning with the first Tarzan movies.

Old South. charm is omnipresent. The living is easy, the locals are friendly and generous and if you look for certain things, the diverse culinary heritage manifests: Native American, African-American, Spanish, Cracker, French all blended in food so truly American.

Dog Island Grouper Butler
The masses gathered here on a lovely autumn Saturday for football. I came for the food and good things to drink. Walking the parking lots outside Doak Campbell Stadium is a tour de force of everything imaginable with meat, fowl and seafood. Fresh, flavorful oysters are abundant. Barbecue has deep roots in the region. Game is standard tailgating fare. Grills, tents and table literally sit on the 500 year-old Spanish Trace, the first and oldest trading road in the New World connecting St. Augustine with New Orleans.  A brief visit to nearby Mission San Luis-a fully restored archeological marvel confirms wine cellars where Conquistadors and monks brought wines from Spain, the antecedents of Riojo we drink today.

There are recipe treasures galore here. The area is rich in muscadines, mayhaw, Pindo Palms, swamp cabbage and St. Augustine’s Datil peppers, a cultural treasue that finds its way into fiery sauces that do wonders for everything from Bloody Mary’s to gumbo.

Chef Joshua Butler got his start here preparing original wonders for three Florida governors. After cooking for presidents and first ladies, Hollywood stars and members of royal families, he relocated in Atlanta and worked stints with movie mogul Tyler Perry and country rocker Zac Brown. Joshua's tailgating recipes are new interpretations of Southern classics.

DOG ISLAND GROUPER BURGER

                Chef Joshua Butler
 1-pound fresh Florida grouper fillet, rough chopped
1/2 pound fresh Florida peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 tsp Whole grain mustard
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 Whole grain, freshly baked buns
Florida Slaw, see recipe.
Tallahassee Tartar Sauce, see recipe
Add the shrimp to a food processor and pulse until it forms a paste. Roughly chop the
grouper into pieces the size of a dime.
In a large bowl, combine the chopped Grouper, Shrimp paste, salt, pepper, onion, bell
pepper, breadcrumbs, egg, mustard, and mayonnaise and fold gently to distribute the
ingredients evenly. Divide the meat into four equal sections. Shape each portion into a
patty. Cover the patties with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Cook the burgers for
4 minutes per side or until the internal temperature reaches 150°F. Place the cooked
burgers on top of the whole grain rolls, then top with Florida slaw and Tartar
sauce.

TALLAHASSEE TARTAR SAUCE
            Chef Joshua Butler
1-cup low fat mayonnaise
1 cup Greek style yogurt
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup fresh basil, leaves picked off of stems
1 cup fresh cilantro, leaves picked off of stems
1-cup fresh Mexican tarragon, leaves picked off the stem
1 cup fresh baby spinach, stems removed
1 teaspoon capers, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon chopped cornichon or dill pickle
1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste

In a food processor or blender, add the fresh herbs, spinach and lemon juice, then
puree. Add the mayo and yogurt and puree to incorporate the herbs. Pour this mixture
into a bowl and fold in the remaining ingredients. Season with salt, pepper, and
cayenne. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

FLORIDA SLAW
   Chef Joshua Butler
1/2 head Napa style cabbage
2 carrots peeled and grated
1 small sweet onion, sliced
2 pink grapefruits, sectioned
2 tangerines, peeled and sectioned
2 tablespoons key lime juice
4 teaspoons raw Florida sugar
4 teaspoons Greek style yogurt
1-tablespoon fruity olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place the vegetables in a mixing bowl and toss with olive oil. With a serrated knife, peel
the grapefruits and tangerines and cut out the segments removing the white pith. Cut the
sections into bite size pieces then add to the cabbage mixture. Mix the lime juice and the
sugar together until dissolved. Add the Yogurt and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

WINE 

King Estate 2015 Pinot Gris from Oregon's acclaimed Willamette Valley scores big with Chef Butler's blend of flavors and textures. This is a wine that satisfies like it was specially crafted for sophisticated tailgating in any part of the country.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tennessee Smoke


 JACK DANIEL’S INTERNATIONAL BARBECUE COMPETITION
                                
By Doc Lawrence

LYNCHBURG, TN- “This is the Master’s of barbecue,” observes Gary Prater, the renowned Tennessee restaurateur and fellow judge at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Barbecue. His comparison to golf’s most prestigious competition was on point. Here, beside the historic Jack Daniel’s Distillery, teams from across the country and around the world will light the coals and fan the flames going head to head in an intense battle of smoking, seasoning and searing.
There’s only one Grand Champion and the winning team claims a fat check and a priceless trophy, barbecue’s counterpart to golf’s Green Jacket.

On this Tennessee Saturday, the 28th year of this event, 96 teams of champions the world over will gather in Jack Daniel's Hollow beside the renowned distillery to compete for big cash prizes based on barbecue excellence. For the past decade I have served as a judge at the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tennessee alongside some of the biggest names in food, spirits, music and media to determine the planet’s best of the best barbecue.

You get a taste of Lynchburg, see the international teams parade and enjoy some of the finest barbecue in the world. Award-winning teams from around the planet compete for the coveted title of Grand Champion in seven categories: chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder/butts, beef brisket, desserts and sauce.

The experience affirms that barbecue is America’s most popular food style, solid bedrock of our culinary heritage. The reasons are apparent. Barbecue requires only food grown and produced here. It has venerable roots and while there have been changes (grills come to mind), the finished dish remains pretty much unchanged.

Taste preferences vary from geographical region, but not as much as one might imagine. The constant is slow cooked meat or fowl and the smoke that waffles from hardwood or good charcoal.

“The Jack,” as the competition is called, forbids gas grills. Natural preparation is the rule.

CELEBRITY

Famous Dave Anderson, restaurateur and the creator of the acclaimed sauces and condiments found on supermarket shelves coast to coast, is one of the unchallenged kings of barbecue. He also serves as one of the judges for “The Jack.” Modest and soft-spoken, Dave is a model for entrepreneurial success. The founder of the Famous Dave’s restaurant chain, Anderson is a Ojibwe and Choctaw Indian and former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior. Famous Dave regularly travels the country speaking and is the author of several award-winning books. To him,  “The Jack” represents the best of America  “combining competition with a celebration of barbecue, our signature food.”

Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett brings pizzazz to his fabled Tennessee whiskey and the barbecue event. It was Arnett who was instrumental in the highly successful commemorative Frank Sinatra limited edition of Jack Daniel’s. Through Arnett, I learned that Sinatra so loved this Tennessee product that a bottle of Jack was placed in his casket. It’s a long journey and a fellow can get mighty thirsty.

The charismatic Arnett is only the seventh Master Distiller in Jack Daniel’s storied history.
Dinner this Saturday at Cortner Mill Restaurant, an early 1800’s grist mill beside the mighty Duck River in Normandy, Tennessee, will be emblematic of Tennessee’s evolving gourmet culinary culture. David Hazelwood’s romantic restaurant hosts wine dinners with as much flair and imagination usually confined to big cities like Atlanta.

Jack Daniel’s, the top selling American whiskey in the world, goes down smoothly served any way you like and is forever part of barbecue enjoyment.

Come to Lynchburg. Meet me at the Judges Pavilion and I’ll treat you to some unforgettable barbecue.