Monday, March 12, 2018

Side by Side-Charity Basketball in Decatur

~Doc Lawrence

Volunteers Andrea Redmond (L) & Sheila Hortman

 They played a remarkable basketball game a few days ago on court located on the campus of Decatur High School, just down the street from the restaurants, taverns and shops along the beautiful Courthouse Square in this remarkable Renaissance city. One team was made mostly of health care workers, lawyers and others like your neighbors. Pitted against The Harlem Wizards, a modern counterpart of the fabled Harlem Globetrotters, they had no chance even before tip-off. But, those in wheelchairs, on crutches and needing assistance to even view the event won big.

Event supporter Kevin Panter with Olivia Thomason

This was a game for them and the thousands at home who suffer from brain injuries. Side by Side is their charity, dedicated to caregiving when insurance and government are unable. “Every dollar raised at this event,” according though Cindi Johnson, Side by Side’s executive director, “helps our members with brain injuries get the support long after medical care is finished but challenges remain.” The charity, she said, “offers a pathway to self-sufficiency for those whose lives were forever changed when their brains were damaged in a car crash, a construction job accident a random act of gun violence or even a stroke.”

Hope is embedded in this program with a goal of having a better family life, making new friends, living a productive life and being able to work again. Participants come to Side by Side’s Clubhouse in Stone Mountain Village to learn how to manage their challenges so they can be productive, contributing family and community members.

With more than 70 sponsors aligned with the support from the thousands of volunteer hours by members of  the Stone Mountain Woman’s Club and the Lilburn Woman’s Club, teamed with the community volunteers who planned and hosted the event, the results were commendable. 8 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to Side by Side’s scholarship fund, providing financial assistance to participate in programming to rebuild their lives after a devastating brain injury.

Goodness manifests in many forms. On this late winer evening on the campus of a heralded public high school, deep in a city lauded as a model of quality living with a widely admired diverse population, the fruits of the efforts by Side by Side were apparent. Laughter, friendly competition and camaraderie combined to produce benefits for a charity whose successful work was apparant on the countless smiling faces in the grandstands. 

Interested in joining, voluntering or sponsoring?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Perfect Arrangement-Love & Consequences

~Reviewed by Doc Lawrence

Two couples work for the State Department in Washington where the workplace environment is in sync with the extreme politics of the day. Congressmen are on the lookout in the State Department for spies, traitors and people they view as suspicious, which could be almost anyone. Termination is often summary and the consequences are fatal to a career. 

It’s not today but the so-called fabulous fifties, the McCarthy era of witch hunts where careers and reputations were under threat on a day-to-day basis.

Atlanta resident Topher Payne’s Perfect Arrangement takes us back to the era where the Red Scare spawned the outing of “deviants”  called the Lavender Scare. Throughout the scenes, clever lines manifest almost on demand and even in the danger zone of exposure, there’s room for some hilarious lines, a reminder that well-place humor is a way to fight back.

Love is a Perilous Journey                
Perfect Arrangement is set in comfortable Georgetown where two gay couples hold onto their government jobs at high personal risk. Living and working means keeping their love life from the prying eyes of almost everyone. The tension from fear raises its ugly head despite efforts to remain “normal” through a charade that begins to unravel.

Payne, an award winning playwright and Cabbagetown resident, journeys along the perilous road of love. The play asks if these perils are really worth the consequences of exposure. Comedy is juxtaposed with danger. Some scenes are lighthearted; others sad and suspenseful. But, you get the message: if given an environment that encourages suspicion and humiliation over merit, accomplishment, talent and decency, no person is safe. Tolerance is always under threat.

Tightly directed by Adam Koplan with stellar, flawless performances from a talented cast, Perfect Arrangement resonates along with the events of today. Tom Key, Theatrical Outfit’s founding artistic director instructs us about the way toward love. “Progress begins when we have the ears to hear another’s stories and we come to know that we all share the same story; that what we have in common is far greater than what divides us.”
Perfect Arrangement, by entertaining, tells a story that transcends our differences and in Mr. Key’s words, “until we are safe with one another, no one is safe.”

Through March 18.

Photos by Greg Mooney, courtesy of Theatrical Outfit

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fat Tuesday Dining-Grillades & Grits

                     Doc Lawrence

Here’s a Fat Tuesday entree courtesy of Emeril. Wildly popular in New Orleans, it has French origins and you won’t be disappointed serving it with hot French bread paired with a few bottles of Gevrey-Chambertin, a delicous Burgundy and one of Napolean’s favorites.

It's a Creole classic that will definitely make you feel as if you’re in New Orleans.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings


1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 pounds sliced beef top round, cut into roughly 3-inch pieces and then      pounded to 1/8-inch thickness
1/2 cup all- purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups small-diced onion
1 cup small-diced red bell pepper
1 cup small-diced celery
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
5 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled between your fingers
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crumbled between your fingers
1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves, crumbled between your fingers
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato
            1/2 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock or canned low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup chopped green onion, for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Combine the black pepper, cayenne, and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a small bowl and stir to blend. Season the pieces of beef evenly on both sides with the salt mixture. Place the flour in a shallow bowl or plastic bag and lightly dredge the beef in the flour, shaking to remove any excess.
In a large Dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is smoking hot, add the meat in batches and cook until browned on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining meat.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the butter to the pan. When the butter has melted, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery to the pan and cook, scraping the bottom and sides to loosen any browned bits, until the vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the bay leaves, dried herbs, and tomato and cook until the tomato begins to give up its liquid, about 4 minutes. Stir in the wine, stock, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Return the beef to the pan, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook until the grillades are fork-tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours. Remove the bay leaves.
Serve over the grits, garnished with the green onions and parsley.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Lara Lyn Carter's Super Bowl Recipes

~Doc Lawrence

Before toe meets leather Sunday, Americans gather for the big sports feast. Super Bowl food is notable for casual but tasty dishes, easy to enjoy and often connected to local preferences. Emmy Award winning chef Lara Lyn Carter mastered gameday dining long ago and share with our readers a few of her selection. 
Enjoy the game, load your plates with these great dishes and celebrate the blessings of friendship and family!
Olive Pecan Dip
 6 oz. sliced green olives
½ cup finely chopped pecans
¼. tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. minced garlic
5 tbsp. pecan oil
 Mix all ingredients together and chill for 30 minutes to allow time to
 soften the pecans. Place the mixture into a food processor or blender
 and pulse 5-6 times and serve. You can add or reduce the pepper to your taste.

Sloppy Joe’s
1 lb. ground beef
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped Vidalia onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. dry mustard
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 cup ketchup
Cook beef, onions and peppers in olive oil in a cast iron Dutch oven over medium high heat stirring often. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Serve over toasted rolls or a plate of fries.

Spicy Pimento Cheese Stuffed Burgers

2 lbs. ground round
4 large bakery style buns
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese grated
1/4 cup pepper jack cheese grated
1 tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Divide the beef into 4 equal portions and shape into a ball. Press a “well” or hole in the center of the ball. Combine all of the ingredients together for the pimento cheese. Divide the pimento cheese evenly and stuff the mixture into the hole of the burger. Form the burger to seal off the hole and keep the cheese mixture in the center. Gently pat the burger into patty form. Grill the burger over high heat to sear the burger and keep the cheese mixture from coming out. Cook the burgers evenly on both until desired doneness.

Cinnamon and Spice Chicken Wings
2 1/2 lbs. chicken wings - tips removed
2 tbsp. Georgia Olive Farm Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup of sweet onion diced
1 tbsp. salt
4 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. tomato paste
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the
salt, honey, cinnamon, and tomato paste, stirring well. Remove the skillet from
the heat and stir in the lime zest and juice. Allow the mixture to cool. Divide the
sauce in half. Place the wings in a large plastic bag. Pour one half of the sauce
over the wings. Marinate the wings for 6 - 8 hours or overnight. Reserve the
remainder of the sauce for cooking the wings.
Remove the wings from the marinade and arrange them on a greased baking
sheet. Place the wings in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Warm the remaini
ng sauce slightly. Remove the wings from the oven, drizzle them with the
Chef Lara Lyn Carter
remaining sauce and stir them to coat well. Return the wings to the oven for an additional 15 minutes and serve.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lady Day at Emerson's-Love, Pain & Gardenias

~Doc Lawrence

Terry Burrell as Lady Day
We who gather to honor the power and the glory of Dr. King’s triumphant march for racial justice will be denied the heartache and joy of a live performance by Billie Holiday. Lady Day, as she became known, died in a hospital where she was being treated for drug and alcohol abuse almost a decade before Dr. King’s murder. She was being guarded by a New York City policeman and at last breath had every reason to  believe that if she survived, a court appearance was inevitable.

The pain and anguish of this jazz icon is embedded in her music, songs that touch the heartstring and cry out . Weeks before her end, she took the stage at Emerson’s Bar on Philly’s south side, before an audience who witnessed one of Billie Holiday’s last solo performances. At 44, her days had dwindled but on this cold day in Atlanta, the stage at Theatrical Outfit brought her life and timeless music back for almost two hours in "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.”

Full of heart-melting numbers like “God Bless the Child,” “Strange Fruit,” and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” Billie’s songs held nothing back about her her loves and losses. Starring Atlanta’s own Terry Burrell, twelve songs seem like dozens more as the audience journeyed with Billie and the songs she performed with giants like Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Artie Shaw, Lester Young and others.

Lady Day, observes the production’s musical director S. Renee Clark, “was one of the greatest storytellers of jazz . . . bold enough to put politics in her work, with songs like Strange Fruit, when others of her era were not.” We can only imagine the psychic damage of racism and its cruel government sponsored segregation laws. Billie takes us on the road with one of her bands, Artie Shaw’s magnificent orchestra and searches for a restroom in Birmingham and a lunch in some other (any) city, to be reminded that normal behavior and the customary basic humanity are not available her. She’s way too dark.

Lady Day fights back, suffers humiliation, only to triumph in Carnegie Hall and find even that to be a prelude for prison, a place awaiting the despairing addict whose only victim is herself.

I once asked Wynton Marsalis after an appearance at Emory University how he defined the Blues. “It’s fighting back through song,” he replied, “a way of surviving by never giving in or surrendering.” That’s a pretty good description of Lady Day’s songs in Emerson. Terry Burrell, brilliantly channeling a Billie Holiday that fights back and never willingly gives in. She allows us to visit a troubled soul and has us singing along whether we want to or not. 

Lynching and love are juxtaposed with upbeat rhythms and heartache in a synthesis called  jazz, that rich multicultural American elixir. Entering this theater that once was the site of  a gourmet restaurant where Dr. King dined, begins a personal journey offering a “sacred risk,” according to artistic director Tom Key. Billie Holiday’s story is our own. How close we are to meeting our own tragic destiny. Whether addictions, loneliness, bad health or other forms of suffering, we are able to see hope, that powerful feeling that we may become a little more like her, a little more free and a little more blessed. 

Theatrical Outfit’s stage becomes a nightclub. Come a little early, order something from the bar, leave some cash in the jar, take a chair near the stage and enjoy the instrumentals led by William Knowles at the jazz piano. This will warm you up for Lady Day. You’ll know her by the white gardenias in her hair. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

A Gourmet State of Mind-Food & Wine Adventures

Combining over 50 years experience in cooking, uncorking, consulting and entertaining, two high-profile professionals Virginia Hall and Doc Lawrence launch their highly anticipated program in early February, “Just in time for Valentine’s Day,” said Ms. Hall. Dare to Pair is the name of this undertaking, a light-hearted but highly useful program all about the glory of the grape and the magical relationship it shares with gourmet delights from the kitchen.  
A Toast to Good Food & Fine Wine

Cookbook author, caterer, columnist, and home entertainer, Virginia Hall enjoys a solid reputation as a quick-witted, eloquent and established bright star in the gourmet world.  A popular public personality in Dekalb and Gwinnett counties, she has written for the local paper, “The Smoke Signal” for 30 years, produced four acclaimed cookbooks, conducted cooking classes and prepared tea and luncheons at a popular Stone Mountain Bed & Breakfast, the Stillwell House.

Doc Lawrence is a veteran journalist, published author, TV producer and enthusiastic wine  commentator. The late Jim Sanders, known as the “Father of Fine Wines in Atlanta,” taught Doc in his legendary Buckhead wine classes and entrusted him with his priceless wine course materials prior to his death. Doc’s popular wine column in Atlanta’s “Piedmont Review” magazine ran for 16 years and today he writes, broadcasts and lectures regularly throughout the country about wine, food, restaurants and elevated lifestyles.

“Dare to Pair,” says Ms. Hall, “Is much more than a food and wine course. We’ll have real food from my kitchen along with servings of Doc’s wine choices from his cellar, discuss what they are and why they are perfect to pair together.” She added that practical suggestions, like where to buy affordable “but never cheap” wines are part of the program along with highly useful advice about crystal stemware and many other dinner suggestions.

Fun and friendship, according to Doc Lawrence, is the backbone of this program. “We begin with Valentine’s Day, serving up some original and highly creative food for lovers with a surprise wine that says amour loud and clear. Who knows? Maybe we’ll finish up with a ‘Champagne jam.’”

Dare to Pair, also known as Dare2Pair, is signing up program participants for the February 2018 debut in Stone Mountain’s historic and beautiful Wells-Brown House “We’re keeping this intimate,” says Ms. Hall. “20 should be a comfortable group.” Plans are to have an occasional celebrity guest and a field trip to a Georgia winery. She pledged, “this is not a typical teacher-student type of course, but one of active participation, delightful food tastings and interesting wine pairings.  The course is sure to be filled with laughter, new friends and the chance for some real enlightenment. “
         RSVP-Contact Virginia Hall: