Saturday, December 31, 2016


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.
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.”
"My Southern Memories" at Art Station
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.
The planetarium, a celestial theater in the round, is one of the nations best. The museum displays the Apollo 6 Command Module.
Visit the grave of “Gone With The Wind” author Margaret Mitchell and walk through the amazing sculpture lined walkways and impressive grave monuments. Free.

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.
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.
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.
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.
Combine this with a walk through adjacent Piedmont Park. Esthetically stunning juxtaposition of natural beauty combined with amazing sculpture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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



Thursday, December 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


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 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.

Monday, December 5, 2016


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.