Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dr. King-Requiem for a Wine Taster

 By Doc Lawrence

It’s one of the most fascinating stories about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Imagine a chance meeting between a global champion of human rights, and a racist former governor of Georgia at a wine store near the state capital building in Atlanta. And all this during the heyday of segregation on the eve of the civil rights revolution. Add the presence of a Pulitzer-Prize winning newspaper editor and the host, a progressive, well-educated wine shop owner who would become the father of fine wines in the South.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walked into Sanders Wines to buy a good bottle of wine to celebrate his marriage anniversary dinner at home. Already there was former governor Marvin Griffin, a highly public adversary and outspoken critic of King and Ralph McGill, editor of The Atlanta Constitution (now AJC). Jim Sanders preserved the story in a copyrighted manuscript he gave me just prior to his death in 1999.

Sanders, who earned a Master’s in English from Emory University, had a small room in the rear of his wine shop where a select few would be invited to sit, talk, sip and eat, a tradition Sanders maintained without interruption until his death.

Dr. King would soon join in the wine enjoyment and conversation. After a glass or two of fine French Burgundy, tensions dissolved, replaced with good-humored storytelling.

Here is my radio broadcast and podcast based entirely on Sanders’ spellbinding manuscript, “Requiem for Three Wine Tasters” which you can enjoy:

Listen and feel the earth tremble.

Monday, February 20, 2017

What Would George Do?

A President’s Day Observance

By Doc Lawrence
It’s the perfect day to ponder the life and times of George Washington, the undisputed Father of America. A fascinating man: Soldier, gentleman, leader and whiskey maker. Your trip to Washington’s Mount Vernon home just outside the nation’s capital is culturally enriching. Tour and relive vicariously daily life at the farm and distillery. You can even purchase a bottle of George Washington Rye Whiskey for around $100 dollars, made, of course, in accordance with our first president’s formula.

Nan Marshall and Helen Broder’s What Would George Do? Advice from our Founding Father (Pelican Publishing 2013) is my trusted guide for daily behavior. Inspired by Washington’s use of 110 Rules and Decent Behavior copied during his school days from a Jesuit publication, the formidable mother-daughter pair of steel magnolias provided me with a reference when I need reminding (almost daily) of how to conduct myself and the respect others are due from me no matter the situation or circumstance.

This authors apply easy to use wisdom to common situations where guidance is often quite handy.

Several presidents have left a legacy of culture, daring and even a little romance. Those who have visited Monticello in Charlottesville learned that Jefferson was more than the author of the Declaration of Independence. Add farmer, college founder, entertainer and wine collector to his accomplishments. FDR’s favorite picnic location, Dowdell’s Knob on Georgia’s Pine Mountain has a spectacular view and it’s easy to visualize Roosevelt enjoying martinis and food which he regularly shared with friends. Each visit to the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach inspires a vision of an evening in Camelot admiring Jack and Jackie on the dance floor.

Today, I will uncork that bottle of Washington’s Rye Whiskey, pour a couple of jiggers in an Old Fashioned glass, and toast to our first president in gratitude for his devotion to good manners, love of country, excellent whiskey, generosity and dignity.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Judy Garland and Bette Midler On Stage-

Somewhere Over The Rose Sparkles

                                   Reviewed by Doc Lawrence

Music has the transcendent power to stimulate emotions. Love is more than a word when part of a song that is totally associated with a particularly accomplished singer. Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and Bette Midler’s “The Rose,” forever belong to them as extensions of their everlasting souls. Kathy Halenda’s performance of the show she created, Somewhere Over The Rose, at Stone Mountain’s heralded ART Station Theatre brings the timeless songs of these two legends to the stage and for two hours, Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” and Janis from “The Rose” were there in spirit, serenading a very receptive audience.

Somewhere Over the Rose is described as a celebration of the songs, styles and stories of these two incredible yet completely different American icons. Judy Garland, whose life and career was plagued with tragedy, is long gone while Bette Midler is, to say the least, still with us, outrageously entertaining and refreshingly unpredictable. Bejeweled Kathy Halenda, dressed in sequined costumes, asks the question: what could these two stars possibly have in common? Her answers include timeless songs propelled by her amazing mezzo voice, fascinating stories, similarities and a few coincidences that take you on a sophisticated and sassy adventure.

Opening with a Judy Garland classic, “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” from the movie “Listen, Darling” (1938), the lyrics introduce with a little irony, the singer/actress:

Never could carry a tune, never knew where to start
You came along when everything was wrong and put a song in my heart
Dear when you smiled at me, I heard a melody
It haunted me from the start
Something inside of me started a symphony
Zing! Went the strings of my heart.

 Bette Midler is seamlessly juxtaposed with Ms. Garland. To this day, Ms. Midler excels on the screen, belts out classic recordings like “From A Distance,” and leaves concert audiences breathless. There are heartless demons around both and in Ms. Garland’s case, they overwhelmed her at the tender age of 47. Midler, who eschews boundaries, has dealt with hers and remains as irreverent and gloriously independent as any superstar around today.

As the first verse of  “The Rose” began, there was a measurable sigh from the audience:

Its the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
Its the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
Its the one who won't be taking, who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live.

Many remember ART Station’s raucous production of Sophie Tucker: Last of the Red Hot Mama’s also starring Kathy Halenda. Somewhere Over The Rose is equally entertaining and more nostalgic. There are moments of hilarity, but the songs take us back to special memories indelibly fixed in American culture. To no one’s surprise, Patrick Hutchcison’s rich piano accompaniment is flawless.

Kathy Halenda took a moment during her performance to ask that we reflect an important message in “From a Distance,” a Bette Midler signature song: “God is watching us.” Indeed.

Continuing through February 22. 770-469-1105;

Monday, February 13, 2017

LOST IN THE COSMOS-The Last Self Help Seminar

Reviewed by Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Walker Percy remains one of the influential voices of Southern literature. One of his important books, Lost in the Cosmos was adapted for the stage by Tom Key and is now being performed at the amazing Balzer Theatre at Herren’s, home to Theatrical Outfit, which continues its mission of presenting the best stories from the South.

In partnership with Dad’s Garage Theatrical Company, Key’s adaptation, a consolidation of his strengths as a playwright, stays true to Percy, asking us to imagine earthlings transported to a faraway planet with intelligent life: Would they be accepted or banned as a threat to a more evolved universe?

To know Walker Percy’s works is to plunge into the adventure of existentialism, a literary and philosophical world commonly associated with the likes of Jean-Paul Satre and Simone de Beauvoir. Percy who spend a good deal of his youth in Athens, Georgia, has been described as a “Dixie Kierkegaard,” and until his death in 1990, was widely admired for the success of his novels that embodied one of the major tenants of existentialism as a driving concern for human freedom and the consequences that accompany efforts to attain it.

The last self-help seminar begins with the cast searching the audience for a subject. After elimination, one person is selected and the process begins. It takes a while to get on board, but the script is generally light hearted and liberally salted with bon mots and hilarity. The second half is a journey into the greater universe and a closer look at our planet; an exploration for a better society. Ultimately, there are two simple choices, but like all tomorrows, there are perceived risks.

Don’t we face choices almost daily that include unknowns? Are we to be cosigned to a status quo based on fear? Have we allowed current events to undermine our faith and self-confidence?

Ultimately, we will make choices and even the most insignificant may alter everything. A move from Atlanta to rural Tennessee is loaded with unknowns. Relocating to Mars with Elon Musk’s project to establish a colony would surely mean no return.

Tightly directed by Kevin Gillese, the performances are at times spellbinding. Bart Hansard as Derek, the seminar maestro, leads the tour de force. With cameo appearances from imaginary TV hosts and one mindless tweet from a buffoon, there’s more than enough to demonstrate how well humor and irony fit seamlessly into Southern storytelling. It’s part of the fabric that makes us so darn mysterious.

Running through February 26.

Images by Christopher Bartelski and BreeAnne Clowdus Photography. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Valentine's Day Chocolates

FREDERICKSBURG, Texas-- Located in this lovely town deep in the heart of Texas’ fabled Hill Country, Quintessential Chocolates is keeping pace with the Valentine’s Day gift demand for the handcrafted liquid center chocolates that have won accolades throughout North America. For the uninitiated, the company founded and operated by Lecia Duke remains the only chocolatiér in America to use the centuries-old process known as Liqueur Praliné.

The big question hovering over those who really embrace the meaning of Valentine’s Day is what to give a friend or lover that is original and coveys deep feelings of affection? Begin with red roses and Champagne. Add a gift box of hand crafted chocolates embraced in stunning packaging and you have it: A unique troika that symbolizes everlasting love.

Ordering is easy. Just go to the website pick out a romantic item and place your order. Tell them Doc sent you.  

Coming soon, The Chocolate Queen of Texas, a delicious biography. Fall 2017.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Michael David Winery Supports Wildlife Sanctuary

Michael David Winery, one of my favorites, donated $25,000 to PAWS (The Performing Animal Welfare Society) to bring awareness and education to this great organization.  As part of their marketing efforts, Michael David Winery has tied two of their more eye-catching labels, Freakshow and Petite Petit, to help promote the program nationally.                

"As animal lovers, it's a great opportunity to team up with PAWS and help them in their crusade to rescue and provide a voice for these animals that are treated unfairly.  Since our early years as a winery we have supported PAWS, and I'm glad to see that continue to this day," says winery spokesperson Melissa Phillips Stroud. For more than 30 years, PAWS has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue and provide humane sanctuary for retired or abandoned performing animals.  They provide these animals the space, natural habitat and quality of care which they deserve. 
"We have valued our long-standing community relationship with the Phillips family.  The generous support from Michael David Winery will be put to work immediately at our ARK 2000 caring for our rescued elephants, tigers, bears, and other animals," says Ed Stewart, PAWS co-founder and President.

Owned by brothers Michael and David Phillips, they have built their Lodi winery into one of the fastest growing wineries in the United States.  They pride themselves on their meticulous farming practices and sustainable wine grape growing, which result in superior quality in the bottle.

You’ll find their wines in countless restaurants and wine shops throughout the South. Never poured any bottle with their label that wasn’t terrific with good food.

                                                     By Doc Lawrence

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Chef Lara Lyn Carter's Superbowl Recipes-

 Dirty Bird Favorites & Hot Julio Cocktails

Houston is one of my favorite cities. A major arts center, international leader in advanced medical research and so friendly (as is all of Texas). There’s good food and fabulous music: Bob Wills is still the king.

It’s my birthday weekend and instead of being in Houston, I’m having family and friends over to celebrate the Atlanta  Falcons and their successful quest for the vaunted Lombardi Trophy.

We eat and drink in the spirit of the spectacle and grandeur. Sometime the game becomes a backdrop for fabulous food, spectacular cocktails and wonderful wines. This is the day Americans throw a big party.

Chef Lara Lyn Carter has been dubbed by Canadian media as “Georgia’s Golden Girl,” and she is also a devoted Falcons fan. Who else would I turn to for Superbowl food?

Matty Ice Gourmet Crab Dip

Chef Lara Lyn Carter

2 cups sweet onion chopped
½ cup red pepper chopped
½ cup green pepper chopped
2 cups of grated Swiss cheese
2 cups of mayonnaise
1 lb. lump crabmeat
1 tbsp. fresh limejuice
1 tsp. fresh dill chopped finely

Mix all of the ingredients together and pour into a buttered baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
I use Vidalia onions when they are available for this recipe. However, you may use any sweet onion available.

Jack Daniel’s Dirty Bird Baked Beans 

Chef Lara Lyn Carter

1 lb. dry kidney beans
1 sweet onion quartered
4 quarts of water divided
Soak beans in 2 quarts of water overnight. Drain beans and discard the water. In a large pot, cook beans and onion in 2 quarts of water over medium-high heat for 45 minutes. Remove beans from heat, cover and allow beans to rest for 30 minutes.
1/2 cup sorghum
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground clove
3 tbsp. Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sorghum, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, ginger, clove, and whiskey. Stir constantly until all of the ingredients have blended well and the sugar has dissolved. Pour beans with the water in a Dutch oven and pour sauce over beans and stir well. Cover beans and bake at 325 degrees for 3 hours.

Victory Shrimp Tacos & Spicy Slaw

           Chef Lara Lyn Carter
6 pounds of medium wild Georgia shrimp peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. olive oil2 tsp. salt
8 small soft flour tortillas
1 bag of premade slaw
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. garlic minced
1⁄2 cup chopped scallions
2 tbsp. Creole mustard
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon juice
Toss shrimp with olive oil and salt and pour on baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes until just done.
Combine mayonnaise, garlic, scallions, mustard, lemon zest and juice together. Pour over slaw and toss to combine.
Warm tortillas and fill with shrimp and slaw mixture. You can add hot sauce if you like. 


Stay tuned for the introduction of a signature libation, the Hot Julio. Serve with a napkin imprinted with the warning that some will  find this too hot to handle.

An array of white and red with the centerpiece selection the 2012 North by Northwest Syrah, a winning wine for the victorious Atlanta Falcons.