Thursday, March 29, 2018

Dare 2 Pair-A Champagne Debut

~Doc Lawrence

The Distinguished "Cast" for the Dare2Pair Debut
It was a dress rehearsal with no script, costumes or tickets. Dare 2 Pair opened an ambitious food and wine program for select guests at Stone Mountain’s Historic Wells-Brown House and made some history. The aperitif was seemingly endless pours of expensive French Champagne in crystal flutes. Pairing all the bubbly with Virginia’s Hall’s spectacular amuse-bouche, a feather-light filo pastry wrapped around smoked salmon and caviar, harkened to days when elegance was the norm.

Dare 2 Pair, explained Ms. Hall, a popular food columnist and legendary cook and caterer, is “designed to be bold. Through this program, fresh local food and distinctive food styles are enjoyed with wines of the world. There are no rules beyond common sense. If our diverse wine choices taste great with the food, then we will serve them freely and let our diners arrive at their own opinion.”

Guests were greeted at the door by a staturesque butler offering Champagne. After relaxation in the antique furnished parlor, everyone took their seats in the dining room to begin a full evening of fine wine and gourmet dining adventures.

Virginia Hall’s kitchen wizardry and presentation skills would be the envy of many top Atlanta chefs. Her first course, blue cheese covered grapes and beautifully designed cheese flowers were followed by a stunning roasted red pepper soup with pesto rugulah. Approprite red and white wines were poured with Champagne always nearby.

The main course, an elegant tenderloin of pork,  was accompanied by Ms. Hall’s homemade plum port chutney, served alongside vinaigrette marinated Brussels sprouts and flaky Sweet Potato biscuits garnished with Honeysuckle honey. 

Still Wines served during dinner were Cynthiana, made with the grape of the Cherokee, from Three Sisters Vineyard in Dahlonega, Georgia, a food-friendly Chenin Blanc from California’s renowned  Dry Creek Vineyard, a Burgundian style Pinot Noir, produced by Oregon’s legendary King Estate. North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley was represented by a spectacular Viognier by RagApple Lassie Vineyards. Two Riesling’s from heralded Dr. Loosen received approval from those who had not experienced the dry, delicious expressions.

The evening’s piece de resistance, to no one’s surprise, was the heavenly Flourless Chocolate Cake with Creme Anglaise and fresh raspberries. This merited nothing less than a regal Port and two exquisite ones were poured, Dry Comal Creek from Texas and a Tawny Port, produced in Portugal by Sandeman.

Happy guests departed after observing that the dinner was a flawless example of haute cuisine and asking when the next dinner was scheduled?

Virginia's Piece de Resistance
Dare 2 Pair soon begins a regular season with an ongoing series of elegant wine dinners following the same format of Champagne, exceptional wines from the four corners, all enjoyed with Virginia Hall’s kitchen culinary magic. The next event is “Dinner with Thomas Jefferson.” Use your imagination.

“We are limiting the number of guests,” Ms. Hall said, “to keep this intimate and more participatory. An evening with our food and wine would make a valuable and very original gift any time of the year.”

Dare 2 Pair is dedicated to the vision of Champagne legend Lilly Bollinger. When to drink Champagne? Madame Bollinger’s response:

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. 
When I have company I consider it obligatory. 
I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. 
Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” 
Information and registration, Contact Virginia Hall:

The Wells-Brown House (circa 19th Century) is the headquarters of the highly respected Stone Mountain Historical Society and is located in Stone Mountain Village a few blocks from Stone Mountain Park which annually atttracts millions of visitors from thoughout the world. 

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