Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TAILGATING DOWN SOUTH

Hushpuppies From Florida’s Big Bend

By Doc Lawrence

TALLAHASSEE, FL- Much like biscuits, hushpuppies are an important part of food folklore. I’ve heard my share of stories with claims about where they came from and how they were named. For those not lucky enough to be from or live in the Deep South, hushpuppies are culinary delights with a base of good cornmeal, fried to a brown crust and often served alongside seafood. There’s no magic formula, but you’ll know the real thing at first bite.

Hushpuppies-the genuine ones- are delicious.

Tune in Chef Lara Lyn Carter's Show
Hushpuppies serve as more than accompaniments to entrees. Try them as appetizers, having some sauces and dips nearby to add even more adventure. Your own variation of remoulade, any number of salsas and dressings will work and the result is a conversation piece. Hushpuppies, well prepared and served hot are show stealers and will disappear quickly before a Saturday afternoon kickoff.

Beverages with Hushpuppies? Think like a Southerner. Bourbon or Tennessee whiskey-based cocktails are wonderful any time of year. Wines from Riesling to Viognier are wonderful choices. But because the best story about hushpuppy origins says they came out of the food culture around Tallahassee, why not open a bottle of chilled Blanc Du Bois, a white wine with Florida ancestry? Lakeridge Winery in Clermont and San Sebastian in St. Augustine and respected producers. The experience opens a new world of tastes.

As her TV viewers are well aware, Chef Lara Lyn Carter has the top hushpuppy recipe today, notable for the blend of appropriate ingredients while staying true to Southern food heritage. “I like the ingredients in my hushpuppy recipe,” she says, “and based on my experience at home and cooking for television, these are almost always the big hit each time they are served.”

 Legendary Hushpuppies
Chef Lara Lyn offered one bit of advice: “Try these hushpuppies with some Tupelo honey. They cannot be described, only enjoyed!”

Seminole Hush Puppies
         Chef Lara Lyn Carter
1 cup yellow cornmeal
¾ cup self-rising flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ cup sweet onion, finely chopped
½ cup sweet whole kernel corn
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup buttermilk
Canola oil for frying
Preheat your deep fryer to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and using a melon ball scoop, drop the hush puppies into the oil. Fry in batches for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.

The Renegade

     Doc Lawrence
4 parts Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon
I part cane sugar simple syrup
Dash of orange bitters
Serve over chunk ice in Old Fashion glass

NOTE: Nothing brings more joy to a home chef than an original book about Southern dishes and wines of the world. Southern Thymes Shared brings the magic of great recipes paired with wines of the world, plus it is a lovely production that looks great on a coffee table. Available as gifts for the holidays at Amazon.com.










Friday, September 26, 2014

STONE MOUNTAIN'S ART STATION SOARS



“TEA FOR THREE” Brings Back Lady Bird, Pat and Betty


By Doc Lawrence
Elaine Brumka as Pat Nixon

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA
-What would the political landscape be like if America’s future includes a First Husband in the White House? “It would be great fun,” says a laughing Elaine Bromka. An acclaimed actress who literally channels three fascinating women who occupied the hallowed position of First Lady, Ms. Bromka took the stage to perform as Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon and Betty Ford in Tea for Three at Art Station Theatre in the Historic Village of Stone Mountain.

An Emmy Award-winner, Ms. Bromka sparkles in this refreshingly witty portrait of three remarkable and formidable First Ladies. These uncommon women appear at a threshold moment of insight and hope near the end of their husband’s administration. This deeply touching, funny play reveals the personal cost of what Pat Nixon called "the hardest unpaid job in the world."

Weaving in the presidents, tumultuous social change and earth-shattering politics of the time in a way that appeals to both male and female audiences, Tea for Three has been critically acclaimed by The New York Times for its blend of humor and passion.

Energetic and cerebral, Elaine Bromka has achieved the impossible by almost becoming for nearly two hours the three very famous women. If there is an objective other than royally entertaining her audience, it is “letting everyone in the room walk in the shoes of these exceptional women,” Ms. Bromka says.

As Betty Ford
The inspiration for Tea for Three, Ms. Bromka revealed, came about when she starred opposite Rich Little in The Presidents, which she performed across the country and on PBS.  Called upon to impersonate eight First Ladies, she ended up spending months poring over videotapes of the women. Studying nuances of their body language and speech patterns to explore psychologically why they moved and spoke as they did, she became more and more drawn in by their personalities and the degree to which they had to suppress themselves while their husbands were president.

“And I wanted to explode myths,” says Ms. Bromka. “Pat was called ‘Plastic Pat’ in the press because she was always smiling. Look more closely at her eyes, though. There’s nothing plastic about her. You see the eyes of a private, watchful survivor.”

Ms. Brumka Portraying Lady Bird
Enjoying a rewarding career, Elaine Bromka has an impressive vitae. Earning an Emmy for her performance in Catch a Rainbow, Ms. Bromka has appeared on stage, film and television with credits that include The Sopranos, Sex & the City, Days of Our Lives, the Emmy Award–winning Playing for Time with Vanessa Redgrave and appeared on Broadway in The Rose Tattoo, I’m Not Rappaport and Macbeth. A member of the Actors Studio and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Smith College, she has also been on the faculty of Smith and of NYU's Steinhardt School, and has taught a variety of one-day acting workshops at over one hundred colleges and prep schools. 

One morning over coffee doesn’t even begin to allow enough time to explore the visionary personality of Elaine Brumka. Responsive and ebullient, she delights in sharing her insights into these First Ladies. “I remembered much,” she says, “from seeing them on television. I did extensive research for the play, reading as much as I could find.”

For those lucky enough to occupy a seat during Ms. Brumka’s performance, this is as close to being in the same room with three of the most intriguing First Ladies of modern times. Here are some of their most private thoughts, emotions, strengths all wrapped in perseverance and courage. “By walking in their shoes,” she says,  “we experience more than the impact of events and fate on these women. Men and women in the audience learn that the most powerful leaders on the planet were better people with their wives at their side.”

Tea for Three has a limited run at Art Station. Don’t miss Elaine Bromka’s spectacular performance. Ticket information: (770) 469.1105;www.artstation.org


Monday, September 22, 2014

FDR'S WARM SPRINGS



Georgia’s Healing Waters

By Doc Lawrence

FDR entertained at Dowdell's Knob
My great-grandmother, a daughter of the Civil War, sat in a rocker during her final years, kept warm by a nearby active fireplace. During the days spent with her, she never once spoke, silenced by the ravages of age as she lived well into her nineties. My enduring memory are the two framed images on the wall behind her: one of Jesus and the other of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The first visit to Warm Springs, Georgia was an introduction to FDR, a highlight of baby days: The gorgeous cars modified for driving with hand controls, the nice house where FDR died in 1945. But, it was a journey up Pine Mountain that still lingers. Dowdell’s Knob was one of Roosevelt’s favorite places to entertain. Local legend says he would have a picnic table set, give the go-ahead to start cooking on the stone grill and mix batches of martinis for guests.

The Little White House
The view is breathtaking.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt built the Little White House in 1932 while governor of New York. He first came to Warm Springs in 1924 hoping to find a cure for polio that had struck him. Swimming in the warm, buoyant spring waters brought him no miracle cure, but it did result in improvement.

FDR dominates everything in Warm Springs. The Civil Conservation Corps built roads, bridges and the recreational state park bearing his name. The research and rehabilitation center has his name and visitors flock to this small town, attracted by his legend. The critically acclaimed HBO film, “Warm Springs,” starring Kenneth Branaugh as FDR and Cynthia Nixon as Eleanor Roosevelt remains a good depiction of struggles with polio and how his days at what became known as “The Little White House,” were transformational for him and ultimately for America and the world.

The critically acclaimed movie
On April 10, 1945 President Roosevelt had his secret service men drive him to Pine Mountain’s Dowdell’s Knob, and leave him there in solitude. The rock outcropping overlooking Pine Mountain Valley’s 14,000 acres is located in the middle of FDR State Park, the largest state park in Georgia.

Roosevelt had picnicked on this spot with other polio victims and the rich and powerful.   This was also the place Roosevelt chose to savor Pine Mountain’s green beauty and meditate.

Two hours later, the president honked his horn for his Secret Service men to come back and take him home.  He died two days later of a cerebral hemorrhage.

While Warm Springs is an easy drive from Atlanta, it will always be like Norman Rockwell’s America. The charm, flavors and friendliness of a small town in the Deep South provide abundant hints about why FDR loved his time here.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

LUNCH WITH BOOKS AT THE BIG ROCK

ART STATION HOSTS SOUTHERN THYMES SHARED

By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA- Lunch down South is a ritual of friendship where conviviality is matched with good food. Few performing arts centers have lunch combined with book discussions and signing, but Art Station, the acclaimed theater literally sitting under the shadow majestic Stone Mountain near Atlanta, long ago defined itself as a cultural center where boldness is commonplace.
Susan Coletti (L),. David Thomas, Doc Lawrence and Pat Wheeler

On this late summer day, the crowd gathered to enjoy food prepared by two of  Stone Mountain’s civic and political leaders, Mayor Pat Wheeler and city council member Susan Coletti. Other than the great tastes and flavors of the chicken salad, fruit salad and macaroni and cheese, the added distinction was that each recipe came from Chef Lara Lyn Carter’s fascinating stories in the hit book, Southern Thymes Shared.

Art Station’s managing artistic director David Thomas took the stage to introduce the book and me, reading passages from Southern Thymes Shared that centered on family dining, food heritage and the culinary and wine legacy of Thomas Jefferson. “This book,” Thomas said, “is loaded with poetry and  is a work of art. The recipes and wines include great stories that honor the art of cooking for family and friends, demonstrating that wine has a prominent place on our dinner table that began at Monticello where America became more than a dream.”

The relaxed program encouraged dialogue and for a good hour while guests enjoyed lunch inside the comfortable theater, questions were posed about particular wines and the art of pairing. Dr. George Coletti, author of the Civil War novel, Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel (which is being considered for a Hollywood movie), asked which wines would pair with fried chicken livers and gizzards. “Riesling, dry or off-dry,” I replied, acknowledging the brilliance of the query while thinking about how delicious such a meal would be.
Art Station in Historic Stone Mountain

The afternoon included a book signing. Books were bought and signed for personal use at home and for holiday gift giving. The cover of Southern Thymes Shared is gloriously beautiful and as many critics have observed, the advanced aesthetics qualify it to rest on a favorite coffee table.

Lunch ended with a happy and satisfied audience. Everyone headed home or back to work carrying their copies of Southern Thymes Shared. David Thomas went back to work preparing for the Cabaret in a few days-always a sellout- while taking time to call the book publisher. “We sold out and need more books in a hurry. The holidays are just around the corner.”

“Lunch Time Series” is a popular monthly event at ART Station with a mission to create a fresh and stimulating lunchtime option for the extended community. Each “Series” presentation showcases an exciting performance, lecture, or art experience. Art Station serves over 50,000 patrons each year, earning an exalted status in the cultural community of Atlanta and throughout the Southeast. Founder David Thomas is a playwright and director whose works were featured in the Cultural Olympiad of the Winter Olympic Games for a National Tour in Norway and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in South Carolina plus many other prestigious venues. Art Station is in a magnificently refurbished trolley barn, once part of metropolitan Atlanta’s early transit system. It is on the National Register of Historic Places located in Historic Stone Mountain Village, adjacent to Stone Mountain Park that attracts over five million visitors annually.

Southern Thymes Shared is available at Amazon, Art Station, the gift shop at Monticello and bookstores everywhere.

Monday, August 25, 2014

SUMMER'S CEREBRAL CELEBRATION

 DECATUR BOOK FESTIVAL

BOOK ENTHUSIASTS GATHER IN DECATUR
 By Doc Lawrence


DECATUR, GA-Once a lovely town noted for a remarkable school system that actually educated students and the home of Agnes Scott College, it is today one of the South’s enviable centers of prosperity with acclaimed restaurants popping up almost weekly, busy city sidewalks, comfortable park benches, wine and gourmet kitchen stores and much more. Decatur is an urban showcase of excellence.

It’s also home of the annual Decatur Book Festival, an event that today proudly claims to be the largest independent book festival in the United States.

For three days beginning Friday August 29, readers throng to listen to author legends like Joyce Carol Oates who is launching her newest short story collection, Lovely, Dark, Deep at the festival keynote event at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER

The festival includes author forums at various locations with discussion topics including the Civil War (July through September 1864 saw the area under siege by the forces of General Sherman), food and wine, the farm-to table movement. Of course, everything is celebrated with a parade beginning at the beautiful Old Courthouse.

Authors and more authors dominate the festival. Thousands will meet Pat Conroy, the beloved novelist who maintains deep roots in Decatur and the Atlanta area. Others include Gail Sheehy, Dr. Louis Sullivan, Karen Abbott, Ron Rash, Lev Grossman, Michael Pitre and many others.

Decatur gives meaning to multiculturalism. The event, just like the city, is inclusive. It is a forum for discussions, debates and the introduction of new ideas. It is also one of the friendliest places anywhere.

MARY GAY'S DECATUR HOME
The festival crowds are different that those common to food and wine bashes: Family-friendly, a welcome absence of boisterousness, a comfort zone for three days when you have no hesitation to strike up a conversation with total strangers.

Decatur has a long history with books. Mary Gay’s classic Life in Dixie During the War is a first hand account of the sufferings 150 years ago during the siege and occupation of the area by General Sherman, and a favorite son, the great Roy Blount, Jr. began here before writing countless books that prove smart folks know how to inspire laughter.

No matter their age, those who read are after all, a special breed. Cerebral gatherings refresh the soul and stimulate the mind.

The Decatur Book Festival is a perfect way to ease into autumn.

More information: decaturbookfestival.com 

NOTE: Southern Thymes Shared now available at ART STATION adjacent to Stone Mountain Park.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

GEORGIA'S ART CELEBRATION

Painting by Missionary Mary Proctor
IT'S FOLK FEST 2014

By Doc Lawrence

NORCROSS, Ga-No better event any time of year. But during summer’s Dog Days, Folk Fest, the annual celebration showcasing over 100 galleries exhibiting the works of America’s self-taught artists in air conditioned comfort has little competition. It’s one of the proven ways to beat the heat, have fun with friends and family at a budget friendly price. Folk Fest, now celebrating 21 years and billed as the world’s largest indoor folk art show, has become one of the most popular events in the South.

Visitors to the Atlanta area this weekend can expect more joy from the colorful, family friendly paintings, wood carvings, face jugs and decorated found objects. Folk Fest often hooks adults and children with the magic that comes from talking to artists and gallery owners. It’s contagious, like a celebration loaded with joy.

Folk Fest provided thousands the opportunity to meet Reverend Howard Finster, the sage of Summerville, Georgia who painted according to God’s instructions. The great Myrtice West began painting scenes based on the Book of Revelations after her daughter was murdered. O. L. Samuels, once a prizefighter from rural South Georgia, said he could walk through the woods and certain sticks and fallen limbs would “talk," He took them home, carved images based on these messages with a pocketknife. Each artist has works in the Smithsonian and Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.

Many of the artists are from highly inaccessible parts of the rural South. Their art is inspired by spirits and an environment most would never experience. Homogenization of their culture hasn’t yet happened. Many, however, are on up in the years and their talents will drift away as they leave this planet. America and in particular the Deep South will be the lesser.

Collecting folk art is an adventure that can be a profitable. Those who purchased early works of notables like Ms. West and Reverend Finster own art that has appreciated exponentially in value.

Parking is free. Talented musicians perform crowd-pleasing blues.  Food and beverages are available. The facility is very comfortable and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything other than smiling faces.


FOLK FEST
North Atlanta Trade Center
1700 Jeurgens Ct. Norcross, Georgia (I-85 & Indian Trail Rd. Exit 101)

http://slotinfolkart.com 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

CABARET ROCKS AGAIN

Theresa Hightower Returns to Stone Mountain

By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-When she takes the stage, Stone Mountain shakes and rattles. Add some virtuoso piano styling and the nearby mighty granite monolith might turn into Jell-O. It’s Blues, Jazz and Broadway this Saturday night at Art Station’s Trolley Stop Cabaret.

Theresa Hightower is Georgia’s unofficial diva of song. Long thejazz club's main attraction in Atlanta’s Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, thousands enjoyed her interpretations of standards by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee, Aretha Franklin and other legends. Having the truly great pianist S. Renee Clark on stage makes the two-hour performance one of the most memorable evenings anywhere in the South.

On par with greats like Errol Garner, Gene Harris and Nina Simone, S. Renee Clark thrilled audiences with her gospel accompaniment and acting performance with Bernardine Mitchell in the acclaimed musical Mahalia! the story of Mahaila Jackson and her music that transformed much of America.

An evening at the Cabaret is about as near to the clubs and show bars in the French Quarter or downtown Savannah. as possible without being there.

The Cabaret is intimate, the stage elevated, the food and beverages delicious and the music is world class.

The fun starts Saturday around sunset. Parking is free and the audience primed with goodwill and joy. It’s the best entertainment bargain during the Dog Days of August.

Details: http://artstation.org