Friday, May 4, 2018

Dinner With Mr. Jefferson

~Doc Lawrence

Dare 2 Pair Guests at the Stillwell House
STONE MOUNTAIN, GA- Jenny Hall, esteemed food columnist and kitchen magician, was in rare form on the evening inaugural of Dare 2 Pair, the intimate food and wine program with a bright future. A celebration of the food and wines inspired by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello included modern interpretaions of the third president’s dishes served alongside wines of the world ranging from Germany and France to Oregon and Georgia and many points in between.

It was planned to be just the way Jefferson entertained family, friends, dignitaries and often adversaries. Nothing builds bridges of understanding like a great dinner made from local ingredients served with wines chosen and poured with care. 

That spirit of openness and conviviality is an important part of Dare 2 Pair. Strangers become friends, neighbors have an opportunity to reach out to others, someone who loves fine dining and superb wines enjoyed in a vibrant environment but doesn’t care to dine alone, finds comfort and joy in our setting.

“No rules,” we all agreed. 

The 1820's Stillwell House
The 1820’s Stillwell House was perfect for the affair. A country inn, actually a highly regarded B&B, it is owned and managed by Mary and Ralph Stowall, whose restoration has been true to original materials and design. Located in Stone Mountain Historic Village, guests could feel the abundance of history, mirroring the menu crafted just for the occasion. 

Culinary Wizard Jenny Hall
Each dish, beginning with amuse-bouche to appetizer, soup, entree and dessert was prepared by über-gourmet Jenny Hall who interpreted some of the best recipes served by Jefferson at Monticello. Likewise, wines were numerous and greatly varied, another bit of Jefferson tradition. Unlike most restaurant wine dinners, pours were generous, beginning with the Champagne welcome, and wines from France, Germany, Australia, Oregon, California and Georgia were matched with dinner delights. Palates responded with joy.

Nothing was stilted or rigidly scripted. Guests enjoyed Jefferson lore ranging from his love of  Monticello’s garden products and his burning vision to establish America as a world leader in wine production. 

Champagne was Perrier-Joet and Veuve Clicquot, both NV Brut. Jenny’s Parmesan Wafers demanded ample flutes of quality bubbly.
The double-barreled appetizer was Jefferson Vermicelli and Cheese Pie accompanied by homemade Tomato Chutney along with Cream of Asparagus Soup with Jenny’s spectacular Cornbread triangles. Wines were King Estate Pinot Gris from the heralded Oregon winemaker and Georgia’s version of a French varietal, a terrific Petit , a wonderful white wine from heralded Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Rabun County.

Mary Stowell, sitting at the head of the banquet table observed, “you have to be here to really taste the magic in these combinations.”

The special recipe cornbread and soup accompanied by Pinot Gris became a reminder of the universality of wine represents. A New World wine based on an Old World grape interpreted through a food prism that harkened to a feast in early Virginia.

The main course featured another original, Chicken Orloff with Mushroom Rice Soubise Au Gratin, Green Pea Salad and glorious Petite Biscuits. This wide range of flavors and mysterious spices called for more than one wine. Indeed, the goal of Dare 2 Pair is to broaden the dining experience, never hesitating to offer multiple choices, recognizing that palates and preferences are designed by the universe to welcome variety. Gevrey-Chambertin, the red Burgundy favorite of Napoleon Bonaparte was poured in tandem with a magnificent 2015 Oregon Pinot Noir from King Estate.

It wasn’t a Waterloo moment-both were magncifcent-but it became a talking point, a matter of enlightenment for those who enjoy the lore of good wine. Legend has it that Bonaparte, on the eve of Waterloo, had one bottle too many of his favorite red wine, became sick in the saddle as the battle began and fell off his horse.

Our King Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir more than held its own as a well-balanced wonder of soft tannins and pleasant acicity. Guests ranked it equal to the French counterpart in both style and taste. 

No one fell on the floor.

Syrah from North Carolina’s esteemed RagApple Lassie, was also served with the entree. Each sip stimulated colloquy about this grape’s journey through the ages, which legend has it coming from the middle east and extending into France perhaps by the Romans and America through Jefferson’s influences. 

Adhering to the principle of no rules, a rare Red Slate Riesling from Germany’s Mosel proved refreshing and, like the fabulously accommodating Norton from Tiger Mountain, did not last long.

A pièce de résistance? Imagine a dessert with ingredients linked historically to a Monticello feast. The Fresh Walnut Fig Cake with  Browned Wildflower Honey Ice Cream served with chilled glasses of Mead, from Blue Haven Bee Company had to be fashioned by divine forces. The elixir of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable, Mead, another Georgia product, blended seamlessly with Jenny’s closing masterpiece. A late harvest Sticky Fingers Chardonnay, Australia and Sandeman Tawny Port from Portugal eased the affair to a gentle conclusion.

One item was missing from every dish. “No gluten!” Jenny announced.

The Stillwell House sits on a hill overlooking much of Stone Mountain and is a short walk from the entrance to Georgia’s most popular park which attracts over six million visitors annually. The area is a wildlife refuge with songbirds, wild geese, deer and rabbits sharing space with people. History abounds with several Native American trails, a monument near where General Sherman’s Civil War “March to the Sea,” began and the lovely village is populated with granite buildings that have an ancient feel.

Stillwell is “country comfortable,” beautifully furnished, with amenities comparable to the best in Asheville other popular getaways. 

The Stillwell House will soon be featured on The Gourmet Highway, a popular segment in Marilyn Ball’s hit show, “Speaking of Travel,” on iHeart Radio Network. 

Upcoming Dare 2 Pair dinners have more that a few provocative themes. Let your mind ponder “Biblical Wines, Modern Cuisine.” Big plans are in the works including appearances on TV news and shows.

For information about attending or gift certificates, contact Virginia Hall: or Doc Lawrence:

Down South Today along with The Gourmet Highway and Dare 2 Pair enthusiastically recommends the Stillwell House for quality lodging while visiting the Atlanta region. You’ll make new friends, eat well and enjoy the best of the South. Contact them: @stillwellhouseBB

1 comment:

  1. Doc, what a wonderful tale you have woven with your story about the Jeffersonian-inspired Dare 2 Pair dinner. I felt as if I were sitting beside you, enjoying each food presentation in turn with the spot-on fine beverage pairings that accompanied them. The only thing I missed during my virtual evening of grandeur was your personal warmth and the historical reflections I know you would have contributed to enlighten and entertain your dining companions. You are a master storyteller, and it warmed my heart to share Jenny Hall's sensational meal along with you and your joyful compatriots. Thank you for sharing this memorable evening with your readers.