Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Paranormal Events In Georgia

Stone Mountain Ghost Sightings 

By Doc Lawrence

The Ghost Herd
STONE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA –As warned by a neighbor, I heard the awesome thunder from the herd of horses late one night.  These noises and sightings are just part of the lore that permeates so much of the historic village of Stone Mountain. Are these ghost horses part of the cavalry from General Sherman’s invading army in 1864? Or, earlier visitors like Spanish Conquistadors? While I may never know the answers, take it to the bank that I’m not the only one who hears the roar. Some claim to have seen
the horses.

We celebrate the paranormal in my little town just outside Atlanta.

 For the 31st consecutive year, ART Station will produce A Tour of Southern Ghosts, the “spooktacular” story-telling festival hosted by Stone Mountain Park. Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening between October 11-30, Stone Mountain Park’s Historic Square is the setting for this unique event that celebrates the delightful Southern tradition of telling incredible stories about ghosts, spirits, phantoms, specters, ghouls and other apparitions.

A Tour of Southern Ghosts is the perfect family outing for a lovely fall evening - right in time to get in the mood for Halloween,” says David Thomas, President and Artistic Director of ART Station. “Join us at this bewitching time of the year for a ghost tour that features fun and spooky ghost stories from the Antebellum South that are suitable for all ages. Along the lantern-lit paths of one of the South’s most authentic – and spookiest! – plantations, you’ll meet six professional storytellers (alternating nightly) who will share their ‘real Southern’ ghost stories. It makes for a great Atlanta family tradition – and it is only here that you will experience the real Southern Boo Y’all!”
This year’s “A Tour of Southern Ghosts” features stories that run the gamut of the “ghost story” tradition.  The stories range from the “so scary” to the “that’s really funny” type of ghost story.  Come out to “A Tour of Southern Ghosts” and hear the antics of our favorite friends (ghosts) during this bewitching season of the year.  This years cast includes: Fracena Byrd, David Hirt, Linda Hoffman, Will Johnston, Nancy Knight, Holly McClure, Nancy Riggs, Lester Thomas, Anthony Vinson, Tracy Walker and Jeanne Wesson.

A Tour of Southern Ghosts takes place between 7-9PM on Thursday and Sunday evenings, and from 7-9:30PM on Fridays and Saturdays.     

Screams from the Mountain
A Tour of Southern Ghosts is produced by ART Station, a contemporary arts center in Historic Stone Mountain Village adjacent to Stone Mountain Park.  Founded in 1986, ART Station provides cultural and educational opportunities to the entire community, focusing its programming on quality works of southern arts and artists.

For additional information: (770) 469-1105 or visit

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Searching For Barbecue

Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse

                     Sauces with a Bit of Whiskey

By Doc Lawrence

The Smokehouse Rib Dinner
MONTEAGLE, TN- For most Atlanta travelers, the most direct road to Nashville goes through the mountaintop town of historic Monteagle, home of the University of the South and Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse, one of the great centers of Southern cooking and cultural heritage. The Smokehouse also produces some very delicious barbecue sauces.

Positioned along the old Dixie Highway that begins in Chicago and extends to Miami, it has served as a clarion, spreading the gospel of taste and flavors of this part of Tennessee.

The ingredients are listed on the label and they are the usual ones except for the revelation of a least a dollop of whiskey. Which style-Tennessee whiskey or Kentucky Bourbon- you’ll never know, but I take them at their word that it’s inside the bottle.

The Smokehouse is also home to The Louvin Brothers Museum. For the uninitiated, Charlie and Ira Louvin popularized close harmony singing in country music and according to Bob Dylan, Garrison Keillor, are the singing ancestors of The Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel.

The Louvin Brothers
The Smokehouse has been a regular stop for me over the past 20 years. The restaurant serves good barbecue and has live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

Predictably, the sauces are produced in quantity and you can purchase them online. The flavor seems to have survived the trend to industrialized production, the bane of most of the barbecue sauces that line the retail store shelves.

It’s a testament to the authenticity of the family-owned Smokehouse that they have remained much like they were on that December day I first stopped there in the middle of a snowstorm.

The hot coffee and barbecue pork plate rejuvenated a weary traveler. To supply my cupboard at home, I purchased several bottles of barbecue sauces, a ritual I repeat regularly. They are served when family and friends come over to celebrate important holidays.

There are many handcrafted barbecue sauces and rubs that deserve recognition. I’m looking for them.

Share your discoveries with me:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tailgating Down South Preview

Ready for the Football Season Feast 

By Doc Lawrence

Cheerleaders & Tailgaters
It is a hallowed culinary ritual down here, inextricably tied to college and NFL football. Tailgating is core heritage, vital bedrock, and a supersized, high-octane picnic as Deep South as grits with red-eye gravy. Many wonder where it began. Frank Spence, a former top Atlanta Falcons executive and a respected student of Southern customs believes that the 1861 “Great Skeedadle” and the law of unintended consequences launched the first tailgating party. A native of Nashville, Spence was referring to the Union Army retreat after the first battle of Manassas. “Accompanied by beautiful women, Congressmen set up colorful tents for a fancy hillside picnic to view the assumed destruction of General Lee’s rookie army.
Jack: A Tailgating Essential

Unaware of the looming disaster, party wagons-forerunners of today’s caterers- arrived loaded with picnic baskets filled with fancy food, and cases of expensive French Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. Reacting to the sudden bad turn of events, lawmakers and their ladies fled back to Washington’s fortified safety, abandoning the delicious goodies. Exhausted Southern soldiers removed the food and wine from the rear of the wagons and celebrated, going home after the war to share the amazing memories with others.” Thus, claims the ebullient Mr. Spence, “tailgatin’ was born.”

New Orleans denizen and radio show host Tim McNally once told me that “no one tailgates like LSU. On game day, Cajuns and rednecks meet Creoles and urban dwellers. They consume countless bottles of very fine wine, Abita beer and Budweiser, accompanied by cochon de lait, jambalaya, oysters, hot sausage, crab dip and all the rest of the unique flavors of Louisiana. It’s bon appetite y’all.”

Great Food is Everywhere
In Dixie, college football reigns beginning Labor Day weekend. Nirvana is game day and on consecutive Saturdays, an outpouring of tremendous joie de vivre and spirit can be found in many places with huge parking lots with tents, grills and music. Happy people surrounded by aromas of barbeque and grilled food; pots of simmering gumbo plus fried fish, shrimp and oysters. Bottles of wine are uncorked until just before toe meets leather.
We’ll kick off Tailgating Down South in Orlando for the long anticipated game between Ole Miss and Florida State. We’ll have ample evidence that you can party down with Mickey Mouse no matter who is your favorite team. Like all other reasons before, we are looking for creative dishes-no hot dogs or burgers- and beverages that provide a lift to the great food. For those who like a libation, we’ll feature several memorable bottles of Rosé while the weather is warm. By Halloween, you'll taste some great reds: Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel named Earthquake.

Whether it’s Louisville, Gainesville, Tallahassee, Baton Rouge, Knoxville, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Oxford, Clemson or other college towns, count on serious tailgating every game day. Don’t overlook cocktails: Bourbon tastes wonderful on a Saturday and Jack Daniel’s is liquid Americana. Victory calls for Champagne, the greatest celebratory beverage of them all. Keep a bottle on ice and a few flutes for those magic post-game moments.

Wine in America began at Virginia’s Monticello. Almost a century later, tailgating first appeared a short distance away near Washington. Great cooks and chef’s like Lara Lyn Carter can produce a tailgatin’ feast to satisfy the best weekend gourmets. Everything this time of year comes together as a noble Southern tradition. 
NOTE: Send photos of your own party and share those delicious recipes. You'll always get full credit:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Atlanta Dining with Mozart

Dinner and a Diva: It's Don Giovanni

By Doc Lawrence

Mozart's opera Don Giovanni is this month’s feature presentation for Dinner and a Diva, one of the most creative gourmet offerings this side of the French Quarter. Produced by the Capital City Opera Company, Atlanta’s pride and joy of accessible classical music, the performances are at two highly regarded restaurants, Petite Augerge in Toco Hills near the Emory campus and Sugo in John’s Creek.

The cast includes soprano Elizabeth Claxton singing the role of Donna Anna/Zerlina with soprano Jessica Dennison performing Donna Elvira, along with tenor Khary Wilson as Don Ottavio joined by baritone Brian Bonin as Don Giovanni. The other voices are baritone Timothy Marshall as Leporello and bass-baritone Chris Connelly as  Commendatore.
Capitol City Opera's music director Catherine Giel will be the accompanist. 

You’ll need to make reservations and why not bring a friend. Dining is a celebration of friendship and when Mozart is added, something special is in the air. By the way, Mozart's Don Giovanni currently occupies 10th place on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide. 

Tuesday, August 16
Petite Auberge in Toco Hills
(404) 634-6268

Thursday, August 25
Sugo in Johns Creek
(770) 817-8000

Monday, August 8, 2016

Papa's Pilar Rum

Ready For Tailgating?

By Doc Lawrence

Tailgating season down here is synonymous with college football, a ritual combining sports with food and beverages. While whiskey and in particular Bourbon are hot items today, other distilled spirits are very popular and retain their connections with the masses. Rum is one of these.
Papa's Rum & Coca-Cola

Ernest Hemingway contributed mightily to the exalted place rum has in our culture. With Delta Airlines set to launch direct flights daily to Havana (including my home in Atlanta), rum based cocktails will predictably appear on menus.

I was introduced to one in particular labeled Papa’s Pilar Rum. Named after Hemingway’s fishing cruiser (which was named after the Gypsy fighter in For Whom the Bell Tolls), I enjoyed the dark version. However there is a light rum under the same name.

Papa Aboard the Pilar
I found the rum to be near perfect as a Cuba Libre, basically rum and Coca-Cola with lime juice. The subtle cinnamon, anise, vanilla, caramel, citrus and brown sugar components blend seamlessly with the Atlanta-born soft drink. For added authenticity, use Key limes.

Papa’s Pilar Rum is approved by Hemingway’s estate and is a blend of rums from the United States, Caribbean and Central America, aged in bourbon and port wine barrels and finished in sherry casks. The bottle is distinctive and the ornate bottle cap is something I will keep.

For tailgating, Papa’s Pilar Rum will become a centerpiece of conversation. It makes a mighty fine Daiquiri and Mojito as well.

Mr. Hemingway would be proud.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

M Five Seven Two

Fine Dining & Wonderful Wines Near Emory

                        A Doc Lawrence Bright Star Restaurant

“Each time I lift my fork, a thousand recollections of things past filter through my mind.”
                                 ~Craig Claiborne, Southern Cooking

Heirloom Tomato Salad
TUCKER, GA-Look far and wide for another restaurant offering 40 fine wines by the glass. With not a single pedestrian bottle in their cellar, M Five Seven Two (or M 572) faces historic Main Street in downtown Tucker, a place reminiscent of a romantic rural city. Like its neighbor Decatur, Tucker has a venerable railroad terminal and the community is actually older than Atlanta.

For Southerners, whether New York Times food critics or those who have outlived mothers whose cooking was the highlight of every Sunday afternoon, certain distinctive flavors and aromas bring back treasured memories. Somewhere in these memories is part of the charm of dining at Five Seven Two.

Headed by executive chef Jon Allen, a homegrown kitchen maestro who matriculated in Kevin Rathbun’s acclaimed restaurants on Krog Street, Five Seven Two is on par with some of the popular dining spots in Decatur, Buckhead and Brookhaven. For those living in the extended Emory/CDC community, this restaurant is just as close as Decatur, but oh so much more accessible with free and abundant parking.

Hand Crafted Cocktails
Cocktails serve as both an aperitif and a reward for surviving traffic. The hand crafted cocktail list is extensive and I opted for their interpretation of the Old Fashioned made with revered Four Roses Bourbon.

Joined by the noted Atlanta restaurant critic Malika Bowling, the menu introduction became a tour de force guided by Chef Jon Allen that began with pickled fried green tomatoes-crusty and not greasy- accompanied with a Little Moo cheese dip. The okra was cut lengthwise, breaded and flash fried. The heirloom tomato salad could have been an entrée. Roasted duck meatballs followed along with Colorado lamb porterhouse chops served with herbed pesto.

The impressive wine by the glass offering encourages paring adventure, something not always available in area restaurants. The red burgundy-100 percent Pinot Noir from France-proved to be a good choice. Other options include a wide range of adventurous wines: a Tannat from Uruguay, a Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon from Israel, dry Furmint from Hungary, Albarino, a white from Spain that is really taking off with diners, plus impressive wines from Oregon, Washington, Germany and Italy.

Having such a wide selection by the glass shows confidence in the clientele.

The pièce de résistance was a signature entrée, delicately prepared fresh trout from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina served over Parmesan cheese grits. For this dish, local is the operative word: The grits are from heralded Logan Turnpike gristmill just off the Appalachian Trail in Blairsville, Georgia. “It’s our most popular item,” Allen said.

Muscadet, the wonderful white wine from the Loire Valley region of France, magnified the trout’s freshness. Light and dry with apple and mineral flavors, it was, of course, available by the glass.
Breaded Okra Spears

Sides of vegetables reflect in-season local crops. For example, the butter beans were lightly flavored, tasting like something from a residential kitchen.

Desserts are adjusted almost monthly. For Dog Days dining, the selection was either beignets, made with duck fat, cayenne and sugar, lemon icebox pie or a chocolate surprise. The beignets were light as balsa wood.

Five Seven Two blends seamlessly into Tucker’s heritage. The building’s provenance mirrors the city’s history. The menu suggests an optimistic future. The food is genuinely local.

The restaurant is destined for more success which should inspire more restaurants to open. Tucker deserves this.  (470) 395.9635

Monday, August 1, 2016

Marine Corps Vet Serves Authentic Southern Food

Meet James Paige & his Collard Green Café 


          Legendary Lunch in Tucker, Smoke Rise and Stone Mountain Park 

By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-James Paige serves a meal that takes customers back to an earlier time when food had flavor. Much of his talent with vegetables, meats, poultry and desserts is part of his heritage and early career.

The former Marine Corps cook honed his skills while on active duty in San Diego. “I learned food service-preparation and management- in the Marines,” he told me, “and I knew what I wanted to do with my life from then on.”

"The best Pork Chops In Georgia," says Mr. Paige.
Paige, a soft-spoken man grew up in Savannah, a center of great southern cooking, and serves customers six days a week at his intimate café that offers a full view of mighty Stone Mountain.

I’m no stranger to Collard Green’s food. Back in 1998, I regularly dined there with the great Southern food finder, Frank Spence when the café was located in Toco Hills beside the Emory University campus. Spence, a retired top executive with the Atlanta Falcons and one of Georgia’s most trusted guides to good local dining said that Collard Green understood the importance of authentic seasoning. “Vegetables,” according to him, “lose something when tradition is tossed out. Our parents and ancestors knew how to prepare beans, peas, okra, barbecue and cornbread that satisfied. That’s exactly what Mr. Paige accomplishes today.”

This week, Paige informed me, he was serving legendary peach cobbler. My grandchildren fondly remember this dessert along with his fried chicken from their days at Druid Hills High School. Precious memories are made during lunch.

Collard Green Café is about two blocks off the Stone Mountain Freeway (Hugh Howell Road exit), literally minutes from Tucker, Smoke Rise and Stone Mountain Park. I never eat at the horrible franchise junk food outlets dotting the area and pray that James Paige and his delightful restaurant will open someday real soon near my home in Stone Mountain Historic Village.

Marine Corps Veteran Paige was featured in the AJC
High School, College and NFL football kicks off this month. Tailgating-one of their specialties- takes on new meaning when you load up with good eats at Collard Green Café. Tell James Doc sent you!

Collard Green Café is located at 1535 Lilburn-Stone Mountain Road at the intersection with Hugh Howell Road. (770) 879-1113. Take-out also available. 11-6, Monday through Saturday. The prices are the lowest in the region. The food is fresh and the conversation is free.