Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Reflections & Recipes of Chef Judi-A Stocking Stuffer for Gourmets

~Doc Lawrence

Judi Gallagher will always be Chef Judi to me and those countless admirers who continue to enjoy her miraculous food and experience her contagious smiles. For those who live in the Sarasota area of Florida, you already know her as a regular star on ABC7 TV and publications that regularly feature her recipes and cooking insights. 

Blessed with an inscribed copy of Chef Judi’s new cookbook, Reflections & Recipes of Chef Judi, I plunged into a vicarious journey that began with her reminisces of early days in New England and her travels that led to the Sunshine State. If there is one overriding part of Chef Judi’s fascinating life, it is joie de vivre, that intangible attitude to make the best of each precious moment of life no matter the location or circumstance. 

The pages of Chef Judi’s book alternate between nostalgia, love of family, the benefits of cooking with fresh ingredients and an impressive display of originality.  Chef Judi reminds me of Julia Child: Equal measures of charm, talent, love of worthy things and height. Standing tall and lovely at six-foot-two,  as you watch Chef Judi cook and offer anecdotes on her live TV show, the only person who comes to mind is you-know-who.

Chef Judi says that her soul was healed with a love of food. Many, I suspect, might say the same thing. I found her poignant stories and delightful recipes reassuring: Good food, prepared with care and served with an abundance of love proves there is a higher life.

By the way, her recipes for Hummingbird Cake and Strawberries Romanoff are culinary treasures. 

Reflections & Recipes of Chef Judi is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You’ll want a copy for your kitchen library and some extra copies as gifts for friends who excel in home entertaining. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving Wines-A Southern Tradition

~Doc Lawrence

Everything is planned and ready to cook. The table is set and the room is elegant. Family and friends will gather for this genuinely All-American feast and one item is nagging at you.


The newspaper and magazine columns are overwhelming, recommending so many that you don’t know where to begin. A well-meaning friend advises you to pick up a few large jugs from the supermarket bottom shelf, a white, red and pink, but you aren’t interested in cheap anything on this special day.

There are strategies that work well. One is remembering that cheap isn’t a synonym for bargain. A cheap wine (and your guests will know it when they see or smell it) diminishes the ritual and hints bad things about your judgment. To be fair, some high profile wines fit into the unacceptable category, particularly that overpriced Beaujolais Nouveau. The late wine educator/importer Jim Sanders said that if you paid $10 dollars of a bottle of Nouveau, it was overpriced by nine.

The Beginning

Nothing says welcome like Champagne. There are real bargains but some substitutes are worthy. Ask your wine merchant about Cremant. Domestic sparkling wines like Gruet from New Mexico, Asheville’s Biltmore Estate and Georgia’s Wolf Mountain won’t break the bank and are delicious. Serve your bubbly in lovely crystal flutes. No plastic, ever! 

Amuse Bouche, fancy laugange for finger food, will be even more delicious as flutes are refilled, and the laughter and good cheer will increase, setting the stage for the big feast.

Dinner Wines

The multiplicity of dishes from salads, to soups, assorted vegetables, casseroles, and the obligatory turkey, dressing, giblet gravy shouldn’t be challenging regarding appropriate wines. Wise authorities emphasize variety: have different wines-whites and reds available, encourage guest to try different ones and gently assist them with suggestions.

A chilled dry Riesling is so compatible with almost everything. Choices are myriad: Napa, Washington State, Finger Lakes, Texas, Australia and Germany. 

Pinot Gris, a luxurious white wine and a top choice would be from Oregon-based King Estate. Be forewarned: this might steal the show so have several bottles handy.
Red wines are so delicious and the Thanksgiving table would be a little empty without them. Cru Beaujolais, a delicious group of wines from France are fail-safe candidates. Not to be confused with Nouveau, these are dry, brightly colored, totally food friendly with 10 different ones to choose from. Look for Morgon, Fleurie, or Saint-Amour. Good wine stores carry them. Serve slightly chilled. 

For our friends in the Deep South, a red wine staple Syrah from North Carolina’s RagApple Lassie will earn applause. Very drinkable, there’s a little bit of James Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind” in each sip. North Georgia’s Tiger Mountain Vineyards produces an incomporable Cynthiana, a fabulous dry red wine from the grape of the Cherokee. Most will never suspect that it is a local product.

Pinot Noir, perhaps more popular than ever, deserves inclusion and you can bet that many expect it. Aim a little high and find a bottle or two of J.Christopher 2015 Basalte from Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains.


After dinner wines include standby’s like Port, but should chocolate find its way into the menu, offer guests a glass of Madeira, one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorites. Magic will happen.

These are mere suggestions. With wines, flexibility is the key. No rules I’m aware of as long as everything is served with joy, good cheer and boundless love.


Friday, November 2, 2018

SAM BUSH'S REVIVAL-A Bluegrass Movie

~Doc Lawrence

NASHVILLE-There is only one Sam Bush, a son of Kentucky who found a light of inspiration from Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys and caught  fire from Bob Marley and The Wailers.  A self-described progressive hippie, Bush’s full story, Revival: The Sam Bush Story, just released digitally via Amazon, chronicles the life and career of the newgrass-creator, a musical iconoclast. Since its debut at the Nashville Film Festival in 2015, where it won the award for Best Music Documentary, the production continues to earn more awards.

The film opens with a poignant interview with Chris Thile commenting on the early pressure by bluegrass traditionalists who looked at him as the next Bill Monroe which Bush had the courage to say “No, I’m going to be the first Sam Bush.” In the film, noted musicians – from Alison Krauss to John Oates, from the Avett Brothers to Thile – say many of today’s biggest acts in bluegrass, newgrass, Americana and the jam-band scene owe huge a debt of gratitude to Bush.

A Bowling Green, Kentucky native, Bush began as a teen fiddler, a three-time national champion in the junior division of the National Oldtime Fiddler's Contest.  In the spring of 1970 Bush attended the Fiddlers Convention and was introduced to rock-inspired progressive bluegrass, a game changer for him.

Bush recalls when Roy Acuff offered him a spot in his band, he politely turned it down. He had discovered electrified alternatives to tradition in the Osborne Brothers and manifest destiny in The Dillards. 

Bush became well-known as a member of New Grass Revival playing bluegrass fests slotted in late-night sets for the “long-hairs and hippies.”  The group garnered the attention of Leon Russell who hired New Grass as his supporting act on a massive tour that put the band in front of tens of thousands.  The group issued five albums in their first seven years, and in 1979 became Russell’s backing band. 

A three-record contract with Capitol Records and a conscious turn to the country market took the Revival to new commercial heights.  Bush survived a life-threatening bout with cancer, while their celebrated chart-climbing singles earned Grammy nominations. At their zenith, the group called it quits.

Bush worked with Emmylou Harris’ Nash Ramblers followed by a stint with Lyle Lovett earning multiple awards. In 1995 he united with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, reigniting his penchant for improvisation. After a quarter-century of making music with New Grass Revival and collaborating with other bands, Sam Bush went solo. 

“I am free to try anything,” says Bush. “Looking back at the last 50 years of playing newgrass, with the elements of jazz improvisation and rock-&-roll, jamming, playing with New Grass Revival, Leon, and Emmylou; it’s a culmination of all of that.” 

The film is indeed a culmination of “all of that.”

Revival: The Sam Bush Story can be rented or purchased digitally via Amazon, with more networks to add the film in the coming year.