Friday, November 25, 2011

South Carolina City is a Culinary Destination

Euphoria: A Celebration of Food, Wine and Music in Greenville

By Lynne Brandon

Greenville, SC- Food, wine and music lovers get a sensory overload when Euphoria rolls into town every September. The four-day event showcases the best-of-the-best in an artistic smorgasbord that has something for every foodie, wine lover and music fan. The event was started in 2005 by award-winning singer/songwriter Edwin McCain who lives in Greenville, and restaurateur Carl Sobocinski, owner of the Soby’s, the five-restaurant group. Combining food, wine and music draws record crowds to the small city with a European-like downtown.

Euphoria is not just about eating, drinking and being merry. It is an event with a heart and funds the “Local Boys do Good” Foundation created to benefit local non-profit organizations. “We started this event for charity,” said Sobocinski. “It has evolved into tourism and put us on the map. People used to drive right through Greenville. Now, we are starting to be a weekend destination for folks from Atlanta and Charlotte.”

McCain noticed the change in the food scene when Soby’s opened and embraced the concept of music, food and wine as vehicles to raise money for needs in the community. The two have grown the event with the help of many volunteers who work tirelessly to bring in acclaimed chefs like Frank Stitt, Master Chef Whitney Miller, and famed wine experts for cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, and other events.

At the 2011 event, local chefs were showcased at the “Taste of the South” food event where Upstate culinary artists wowed all with masterful presentations at the Peace Center Amphitheatre. Regional fare from Soby’s, The Plaid Pelican, The Lazy Goat, and others served up shrimp and grits, seafood paella, pork and steak which pared well with regional rum and other drinks, beer and wine. Decadent desserts like carrot cake cupcakes with goat cheese icing from Stella’s ended the tasting on a sweet note. Afterward, diners enjoyed listening to the tunes of Edwin McCain, Maia Sharp and Will Hoke while lounging on the banks of the Reedy River under the stars.

Maia Sharp: Living Life on Her Terms

Fringe artist cuts a path with message lyrics

By Lynne Brandon

And, any time I think that I might drown in all this standard issue gray and I’m feeling small and pushed around, I close the door and draw the shades ---- I put on my red dress, I put my red dress. Can’t take my red dress away. I learned to grit my teeth and smile. Let’em think they’ve boxed me in. Inside I’m still the problem child that I always was, so I guess I win ---nah nah nah nah nah nah… - “Red Dress”

Greenville, SC- She’s cool and unassuming, and I am fairly certain that she lives life on her own terms. I heard her for the first time in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina. Maia Sharp was in the southern city for the annual Euphoria wine and food event that brought together all good things in life: exquisite Southern food by the nation’s top chefs and folksy-bluesy-southern rock music that stirs the soul and pulls on heartstrings. Sharp entertained the crowd solo with her powerful lyrics and at the side of friend and fellow musician Edwin McCain, Greenville’s hometown boy and co-founder of Euphoria. Sharp is the producer of McCain’s new album and co-wrote many of the songs on “Mercy Bound.” She wrote her first song at the age of five.

The Los Angeles native is California based but has the appearance of Nashville with jeans, t-shirt and boots. “If a drawl shows up now and then it's because I've spent so much time in Nashville, and around my grandmother in Bakersfield who never dropped her Oklahoma accent,” said Sharp.

Sharp’s soul stirring tunes bear a message: being true to self is the only path to take. Her words soothe those who have felt slighted or “less than” in life. Courage, conviction, loss and love are central characters. The busy woman took a few minutes to share what it’s like having a nontraditional career, working with Edwin McCain, and writing songs.

Lynne: Did you know early on you would follow a non-traditional path for a career?

Maia: I think I did. My father, Randy Sharp, is and has always been a singer/songwriter/musician/producer and my mother is a professor of anthropology and a photographer so non-traditional was par. Before I started playing saxophone I wanted to be the first woman to play major league baseball and they encouraged that as well. I'm very lucky to have a family that has no problem at all with non-traditional.

Lynne: Who have you written songs for?

Maia: I've had my songs recorded by the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Cher, Keb Mo, Lisa Loeb, Edwin and others but unless I'm writing with the artist him or herself I just write and think about who might want to record the song later. Sometimes the song ends up being right for me and I do it on one of my own albums. Or, sometimes it needs a different home or maybe it shows up on both. It’s different every time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Youngest Master Chef Puts New Twist on Old Favorites

Trailblazer in the Kitchen - Whitney Miller

Greenville, SC - At the age of 22, she was the youngest chef to win the coveted, Master Chef title on Fox TV’s season one. The diminutive Southern girl might appear to be a soft touch at first glance but Whitney Miller is tougher than she looks. And, determined.

The cooking bug bit early. By age 12, the young chef from Poplarville, Mississippi had cooked through an entire French cookbook. She mastered eclairs, tarts and other culinary treats that most are terrified to try, let alone alter, which she did. Soon, she was cooking for school functions, and even catered her own graduation party.

At 19, she was asked to cater her first wedding reception. Instead of being terrified she jumped at the challenge. “You have to be a risk taker, you can’t be afraid,” said Miller. The no holds barred chef has a special love for recreating vegetables using nontraditional methods. Creamed collard greens, carrot soufflé, cauliflower Mac’ n cheese are just some of her new twists on old favorites.

The wheels of destiny started turning during her senor year of college at Southern Mississippi when she saw auditions listed for Master Chef on a web site. With the clock ticking, Whitney went to work in the kitchen and turned out a roast celery root and cauliflower souffle topped by a roast with pan gravy and horseradish cream sauce. Within the month, a film crew was at her door. It was show time and Whitney proved fearless. With 50 other contestants she held her own in Los Angeles and endured the long days filled with auditions and cooking classes from 7 a.m. until often midnight. Until Master Chef, the young kitchen wizard had never fried an egg or cooked a breaded pork chop. She conquered both challenges.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Florida's Orange Vodka

by Doc Lawrence

LAKE ALFRED, FL-Many years ago, the University of Florida’s agricultural department developed a new white grape. It was named Blanc Du Bois in honor of Florida’s late 19th century wine pioneer Emile Dubois who produced heralded wines in his Tallahassee winery. Southern and elegant, the grape was created for vineyard cultivation to become very good wine, comparable to the vinifera of Europe and today is produced successfully in many states. Florida’s Lakeview Winery in Claremont, about 30 miles outside of Orlando, first produced it and wineries like acclaimed Ponchartrain in Louisiana have developed their own wines from it.

Since Florida produces wines, what about spirits? Good question with an interesting answer.

Florida is the now the home of the world’s first vodka you can almost squeeze, 4 Orange Vodka distilled exclusively from Florida-grown oranges. Crafted at Florida Distillers, the state’s first registered distillery, this orange-based vodka embodies the essence of the Sunshine state. Distilled from 100% oranges, 4 Orange is produced from four unique Florida orange varieties – Hamlin, Parson Brown, Temple and Valencia. One 750 ml bottle of this vodka contains approximately twenty Florida oranges. With its fresh citrus distillation base, 4 Orange took me on a “trip” to Florida’s grove stands. At 80-proof, it isn’t hot, and it has subtle hints of a sweet orange and tangy marmalade that I soon found to be a new experience in cocktails.

“The French have their grapes and fine wine, and now Florida has its first orange-distilled vodka,” said Chester Brandes, President of Imperial Brands Inc., the creator of 4 Orange Vodka. Brandes takes pride in this all-Florida spirit: “Each sip helps support Florida’s local economy and citrus growers.” The bottle design is elegantly tall and frosted, featuring a design depicting a Florida citrus grove and 4 oranges.

Each bottle is marked with an authentic “From Florida” logo that depicts the sun over land and water, the Florida Department of Agriculture’s imprimatur, authenticating that 4 Orange Vodka begins in Florida’s orange groves.


Because 4 Orange Vodka is the world's first vodka exclusively distilled from Florida oranges, it further establishes that the name Florida is actually a valuable brand. Distilled in Lake Alfred, Florida, it seems to owe its exceptional flavor and quality to ripe Florida oranges harvested from the rich and fertile Peace River basin located in the southwestern part of the Florida peninsula.

This vodka is created exclusively from four distinct varieties of Florida’s signature citrus: Hamlin oranges, Parson Brown oranges, Temple oranges and Valencia oranges. The Hamlin orange is sweet with little acidity and juice content is high. The Parson Brown orange is sweet, well flavored and juicy. The Temple orange has a uniquely spicy flavor. Typically, the Valencia orange has a very high juice content with outstanding color and good flavor. Valencia, a Florida staple, has a deep orange color. According to Bandes, these were selected for their unique flavor characteristics and pleasant citrus aroma.

Each bottle of 4 Orange Vodka contains the equivalent of 20 Florida oranges that are first processed into a citrus molasses, which is then used as the distillation base. 4 Orange Vodka is not orange flavored vodka; rather, it is an orange-based vodka that is distilled only from Florida oranges. Orange flavored vodkas are most commonly distilled from grain neutral spirits. 4 Orange is the only vodka product made from neutral 100% orange spirits.

4 Orange Vodka is now available throughout Florida and in other large markets like Atlanta and Nashville. The future? Think about how well Mexico’s Tequila distillers have marketed their wonderful spirits with the statement, “made from 100% pure blue agave.”

For thirsty Floridians who love to entertain, 4 Orange Vodka fits the growing trend of farm to table. It is totally local grown and produced.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


by Lynne Brandon

"The breezes taste of apple peel. The air is full of smells to feel - ripe fruit, old footballs, Burning brush, new books, erasers, chalk, and such. The bee, his hive, well-honeyed hum, And Mother cuts chrysanthemums. Like plates washed clean with suds, the days are polished with a morning haze." - John Updike

For those that bemoan the passing of summer and all its glories, fall is a tonic that goes down well. I am one such mourner of the putting away of flip-flops, shorts, vine-ripened tomato sandwiches, watermelons, and all that spells summer. The gentle breezes of September work soothing magic on those like me who will miss the mercury climbing high each day but acknowledge that cooling down is not a bad thing.

After all, from September we get apple pies, pumpkins, home made soup, and the wearing of leather jackets and boots. Those of us who love words on pages welcome the “back to school” feeling in the air for the adult learner. Paper is on sale and sharpened pencils stand at attention in Mason jars in the South. Bonfires, football games and the drinking of hot cider beckon. The world is truly my oyster in the fall when the shelled jewel of the sea makes a return to the table.

It’s not all bad to put the tanned foot in a leather boot, all covered up for awhile. It is nature’s course and so it shall be for now. Go with it and experience a new season of smells, sights, tastes, and sounds that spell the wonderful month of September.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Classic Tomato Sandwich

Simplicity at its Finest

by Lynne Brandon

The debate continues as to whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. Scientists say it is a fruit while cooks refer to the red juicy food as a vegetable. Either way it is a year around favorite that has its “day in the sun” during the summer months when production is peak of the juicy fruit. All during the year we eat tomato products: catsup, spaghetti sauce, tomato-based soups, bruschetta, gazpacho, and more, but it is only in the summer that the classic tomato sandwich is front and center in the South.

Purists agree that there is only one true, authentic way to eat this simple but delectable summer classic. You can fancy it up with cucumbers, onions and make a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) but the best way to eat the original tomato sandwich is with only the basics: tomatoes and bread.

Tomato sandwich ingredients:

Fresh white bread (whole wheat is healthier but it is not as good)

Duke’s mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

Slicing tomato – German Johnson, Beefsteak, or any ripe tomato

Slice only the amount of tomato that you can eat at the time. If possible, pick the tomato the day you want to eat the sandwich. Slather Duke’s on both sides of fresh, white bread. Slice tomatoes evenly. Salt and pepper tomato to taste, and place on bread. Slice bread diagonally. Stand over the kitchen sink and eat sandwich carefully so the tomato juice can drip down your arms into the sink. Or, wear a bib. You will need one.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom, Fun and the Fourth of July

Food and Family Mark Independence Day

by Lynne Brandon

Today should remind us all of the great freedoms we enjoy in the United States; something we take for granted but many other countries don’t have.

Independence Day is marked by family reunions, cook outs, parades, and of course, fireworks. It is a day of relaxation, seeing old friends, making new ones, hanging out at the pool and enjoying a day off from the office. Being outdoors is paramount on July 4. Sunny beaches and blue skies mark this day for many where coolers with iced down sodas and food show up across the South and our nation.

Whether at home or vacation, Americans remembers our independence each year with spirit, fun and with food at the center of its celebrations. Rarely are sophisticated foods on the menu; but the tried and true Southern favorites we expect on this holiday: baked beans, potato salad, barbecue, and the headliners, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill.

Garden fresh produce also find a place on the menu and the grill. Yellow squash, zucchini and corn are all great seared and charred with butter and seasonings. Everyone’s favorite vegetable, the tomato is the top accompaniment to burgers and green salads.

July 4th starts kicks off summer with the special holiday that sets the tone for a great summer of travel, relaxing with family and friends, and being thankful for the great life we enjoy. Most of all, today is a day for remembering how good we have in the best country in the world, the United States of America.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


One of a Kind Father

by Lynne Brandon

My father was born on August 6, 1932. He entered the world during the depression when times were tough. This rude start to life helped him to survive the cruelty in the Korean War as a young man of only 18. Later he became a conqueror on the football field when he became a high school football coach, the great passion of his life, aside from his wife and three girls.

He is still called "The Coach," and in Surry County he is referred to as "The Godfather of football," a label he laughed at but took, nonetheless. He coached many great all-star athletes in Florida and North Carolina during his long career, went to coaching clinics that Bobby Bowden attended, and was mentioned in Bear Bryant's book. It was always about the love of the sport and not money or fame. He turned down more lucrative, prestigious coaching positions to return home to Mt. Airy, NC, to care for ailing parents. He was a good son, and did the right thing.

The tall, imposing man with the soft heart of boy, and charismatic smile that always charmed, found his way in life by coaching, track, swimming, tennis, and basketball. But no sport, captured him like football and teaching young boys to do their best on the field. He was respected and kids thought he was cool. He didn't care then or now what people thought of him. He just did what he thought was right and stood up for principles. Sometimes he fared worse for stating his opinions but that was his way.

Dad is a still a voracious reader, and he opened the world of books to his daughters with our first library cards. He likes quirky, outrageous movies that make him laugh, good food, watching sporting events, and time spent with family. He inspires supreme loyalty in his faithful dog, Brutus, a Great Pyrenees, who follows his every step and rides shotgun on the back of his truck.

My father did everything with gusto in life and still has the same spunk and fire, even if toned done a bit. He still exercises, keeps up on current events, and enjoys life with my mother in the quiet countryside. He will be 79 this year and I hope that the best is still to come for the wonderful father I look up to and call, "dad."


A Gift for Our Great Guys

by Doc Lawrence

Dad is my hero and life mentor, a combat veteran who still despises war. He is a rock-solid citizen and family man who is dedicated to good things like food, friendship, fine wines, cocktails, and his country. He leads by example and has an open mind. Through him, I earned an education, received badly needed discipline, learned the importance of a work ethic and was instilled with the unyielding belief that love triumphs over evil.

I found a few gifts that should bring a smile, hoping that these inspire readers to remember our grand guys on Father’s Day.

If he’s a virtuoso at the outdoor grill he will enjoy his name on personalized barbecue tools and even a mug (from TempFork Thermometer is the grill master’s best friend and will digitally tell him when the delicious pork loin is done. The handsome stainless steel Grill Mill from William Bounds crushes peppercorns or sea salt rather than grinding them. When the weather isn’t cooperating, the George Foreman Control Temp Grill-Griddle with fat-reducing elements, two removable non-stick grilling plates and a griddle for whipping up eggs and bacon will keep Dad happy. It actually removes up to 42% of the fat from 80/20 ground chuck beef.

The Ninja Master Prep Professional is a revolutionary 6-blade device that allows Dad to evenly chop, mince, dice, blend and puree in seconds. Perfect for the home chef who believes in speed without sacrificing quality. Another kitchen helper is the Black & Decker Powerful Die-Cast Blender, a sleek design featuring 750-watts of power and digital controls. Gotta love the 1-oz. measuring cup. (At Target.)

Always well groomed, Dad is a snappy dresser who glows decked out in nice clothes. Monogrammed cufflinks (from is an elegant gift. For shaving and skin care, the Double Play Kit (from, or G for Men does wonders for the shaving experience. ( The high fashion Dad loves functional watches. Casio has the Edifice Black Label Collection black timepieces with slight color accents designed in a racecar motif. A rugged, stylish timepiece, Casio’s new Pathfinder PAW-5000-1 features self-charging, self-adjusting technology, tough solar power and Wavceptor Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping Technology, adjusting automatically for daylight savings or leap year.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Greenville Chefs Change the Culinary Landscape

Restaurants Offer New Twist on Old Favorites

Greenville, S.C. – Eating in Greenville used to involve visiting the local mom and pop joints or a chain restaurant that offered mediocre food. Now thanks to a new vision for the town, restaurants are chef owned and inspired, offering cuisine often found in larger cities. Three restaurants are serving up unique food experiences: a new gastropub, top shelf steak house and Mediterranean inspired eatery showcase the diversity of flavors that has put Greenville on the culinary map.

Nose Dive, a part of the Table 301 restaurant group, is one of the city’s newest food adventures in the gastropub category. At the hand of Executive Chef Rodney Freidank, also Corporate Chef at Soby’s, old favorites are being dressed up. Freidank was lured by the entrepreneurial vision of Carl Sobocinski and joined the Table 301 Group where he found his place in culinary heaven.

The creativity espoused by Nose Dive and the luxury of experimentation were balm to a cooking soul and magic started in the kitchen. “We get to create what we want; we are not held back,” said the long-time chef. “We make bratwurst from scratch, one of the restaurant group’s first hamburger, sandwiches with vine ripened tomatoes and a New England lobster roll, for starters.”

Freidank enjoys the total kitchen experience but admits to getting a special charge from braising meat. The self-described “big guy who likes to eat,” said, “I love to take a cut of meat and turn it into something beautifully delectable by searing it until golden brown and bringing out the flavor.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Greenville Cooking - New Styles of Traditional Dishes

Shaun Garcia – The Past Meets the Future

by Lynne Brandon

Greenville – S.C. As a small boy, Shaun Garcia thought working in a kitchen was boring. As a man he learned serving good food was about hospitality and taking care of people. Like many in the restaurant business, the Chef de Cuisine at Soby’s and The Loft at Soby’s, Shaun learned to cook from family. Shaun learned about the lost art of canning or “putting up,” at the hands of his great-grandmother and grandmother who pickled and preserved food in the great tradition of the South. He recalled asking his grandmother for advice with making pear preserves,” said Garcia. “She said she would be right over to show me. It couldn’t be described over the phone.” Now he ascribes to the same philosophy. “You have to experience food by smelling it, feeling it, tasting it and seeing it.”

Shaun breaks from tradition when it comes to sharing recipes. “It is the greatest compliment so I pass them on if someone asks,” said Garcia. I took him up on that, and he was happy to share the recipe for the creamiest, smoothest grits I have tasted.

The Southern chef is proud of his heritage and likes to cook up a little history lesson with his food. Bourbon is a celebrated libation in his sauces and was highlighted during Derby week in a mint julep BBQ sauce, Bourbon sauce for smoked shoulders, Bourbon Chocolate Cake and other recipes. “Bourbon shows America’s spirit at its best,” said Shaun. “Farmer’s grow and cut the corn and use oak barrels for storage. It has America all over it.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Friends at the Cove

Breaking Breaking Together Builds Community

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” - Virginia Woolf

Anderson, S.C. - "If I sound funny, it is because I am harvesting lettuce," said the voice at the other end of the phone. Katie Tillman is a multi-tasker and picked greens while she talked to me about her love of farming, friends and food.

When Tillman opened her restaurant in downtown Anderson, it was made up of a handful of “greasy spoon” joints and mom and pop establishments. Tillman worked in downtown development and saw the need for a new breed of eatery. When she couldn’t recruit what she was looking for, she decided to do it herself. She opened “Friends” with Valerie Lowe, and for 17 years it was a popular mainstay in downtown Anderson.

The renovation was done on shoe string budget. “When we opened, we did not have much money, we had to beg our contractor to allow us to do some of the work, as we could not afford to pay him,” said Tillman. “About 5 or 6 p.m. every night, friends began showing up to help us. They brought food, beer, other friends, and almost every night there were 15 to 20 folks working with us to get things done.” At this point it was clear to Tillman that the venture was about way more than food. She is quick to remind that the restaurant had the name "Friends" well before the popular television show.

During the “Friends” years, the two grew some of their own produce and inch by inch a garden turned into a 30-acre farm. All good things must come to and end and a few years ago the duo was ready for change. They sold the building downtown, built a mobile kitchen, and decided to cater from the farm.

Their longtime success story got the attention of the folks at Stone Creek Cove. Management asked Tillman and Lowe to run their restaurant, hence the new “Friends at the Cove,” located on beautiful Lake Hartwell. Signature entrees include Katie’s Crab Cakes made with fresh jumbo lump crab, Southern Style Shrimp and Grits and Cajun Duck Breast served with bleu cheese and mango chutney. Unique vegetable dishes such as Flash Fried Greens are popular.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Goats Galore

TLC Makes Champion Cheese

By Lynne Brandon

Anderson, S.C. Goats are used to being misunderstood but the misperceptions are changing. For one, goats don’t eat tin cans or smell bad, as a rule. And, they are friendly and like people. None are friendlier than the loveable four-legged creatures found on Split Creek Goat Farm in Anderson, South Carolina, home to 350 goats, most of which are of international descent.

Split Creek is the brainchild of Evin J. Evans and Patricia Bell, who started the business in 1985. Tucked into country back roads, the farm is dotted with log cabins, and a country store where goat dairy products are sold in a picturesque setting. Benches hewn out of logs litter the grounds for visitors and flowers abound creating a peaceful, harmonic place for animals and people to co-exist. The menagerie is not limited to goats but to chickens, a pig, cats, (one called Tripod since it is 3-legged) and dogs.

Dogs are next to highest hierarchy of importance at Split Creek where Border Collies herd the goats when needed and eight majestic white Great Pyrenees serve as guards against predators, namely coyotes. When not being milked, the goats are separated by gender and females according to milking production. Unlike many dairies, older does are not destroyed but are treated as respected seniors who have paid their dues. Instead, they are put out to pasture to enjoy the rest of their natural lives.

As for the main show, it is all about goats. And, award winning goats of all breeds: Golden Guernsey, Angora, Nubians and others fill the ranks. Color breeds like Alpine are de rigueur, and the only U.S. breed on the farm is the La Mancha. Quest, a champion Nubian, strutted her wares proudly on the day of my visit.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Happy Cow Creamery


By Lynne Brandon

Pelzer, S.C. - Happy cows produce more milk. It’s a fact validated by the Nobel Prize awarded to scientists at Newcastle University. It boils down to bovine psychology and that these hoofed creatures, in order to be productive and enjoy longevity, need care and attention much like humans. Tom Trantham, a denizen of Pelzer, a small community in Anderson County, near the border of South Carolina and Georgia, didn’t need a scientific study to know what motivated his cows at Happy Cow Creamery. Being with them, actually “listening” to his cows led to his success as one of the top producing dairies in the Palmetto State.

At one time, the now successful farmer wasn’t doing so well and business looked bleak. His Holsteins were plodding along, making milk, but day-to-day operations were suffering and Trantham was in danger of losing his business. Suddenly, one of the cows revolted.

“Tarzan the cow opened my gate and called a cow meeting,” said Trantham, who is still boyishly enthusiastic about his black and white cows. “Tarzan told ‘Noisy’ the cow that something had to be done to save Farmer Tom.” “Bang crash boom” was the way Trantham described the mutiny when to the farmer’s dismay all 86 cows crashed into the gated pasture. At the end of the day, the cow’s smelled better and miraculously started producing more milk. Soon there was an increase of 200 pounds and then 500 more pounds of milk than in previous production cycles.

Something was up with Trantham’s cows.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jean-Michel Cousteau at Guilford College

Oceanographer Continues Family Legacy

By Lynne Brandon

"People protect what they love"

Greensboro, N.C. - “At the age of seven I was pushed overboard into the ocean with a SCUBA tank on my back.” And, so began 90 minutes with Jean-Michel Cousteau, the world famous oceanographer and renowned environmentalist, educator, explorer and producer as he presented the last lecture of the 2011 Bryan Series season at this city’s highly-respected Guilford College.

The Cousteau name is synonymous with the ocean and conservation of all life within its waters. The eloquent Frenchman continues the legacy of his late father, Jacques Cousteau, while following his dream to be an underwater architect.

Like his father, Cousteau has traveled the world promoting the importance of protecting and preserving the earth’s waters. He founded Ocean Futures Society, a non-profit marine conservation and education organization in 1999 to honor his father’s profoundly influential work. The organization acts as a “voice for the ocean” by communicating the critical bond between people and the sea, and the importance of wise environmental policy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Paula Deen: From Food to Furniture

Culinary Queen Rules at Furniture Market

By Lynne Brandon

High Point, NC - They say when you hit rock bottom, it’s a good place because there ain’t no where else to go but up. I believe this to be true. So do millions of hard working women who have scraped, borrowed and begged to keep the basic necessities of life on the table and on their backs.

No one knows the meaning of hard times better than everyone’s favorite Southern cook, Paula Deen. Life was not always as rosy as it is now for the celebrity culinary queen who is enjoying a successful television show, cookbook royalties, multiple homes and a loving husband. Now, she is enjoying putting her touch on home furnishings with her comfortable and chic line at Universal Furniture.

Paula was recently in High Point, North Carolina, where she was holding court as only she can do, at the International Furniture Market meeting industry professionals and excited fans. This time the product was her furniture line and not food that she put her stamp on.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Good Times Roll in Queen City

"Laissez les bons temps rouler"

By Lynne Brandon and Doc Lawrence

Queen City Dining

CHARLOTTE, NC - It's where initiated locals, some calling themselves foodies use esoteric words like "nosh" to describe the ritual of eating. In other places, the vernacular might be "chowing down." But, this is Charlotte, a city with queen in its tourism promotions, where royalty uses words and phrases as it pleases. Elsewhere, to nosh might be yuppie-speak; here among Charlotte’s elite, this is the language of dining backed by divine right.

Commerce rules in Charlotte’s downtown where much of America’s banking calls home. Restaurants, as numerous and different as bank borrowers, beckon every palate. Carolina-style grits at “Zada Jane’s” are touted by critics, “Dish” serves up Southern deviled egg perched on the plate, “Intermezzo” has a Bruschetta variation, steaks at Sullivan’s give the best in Chicago a run, and great sushi is the star at Ru Sans and Nikko’s. Good drinks blend with the sights and sounds of a Southern city that makes a Herculean effort to satisfy all kinds of sensual desires.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Breaking News! It's All In The Newseum

By Lynne Brandon

WASHINGTON, DC- The hottest ticket in the nation’s capitol is the Newseum located in the heart of this politically charged city where media and news reign supreme. This is a museum, appropriately named and dedicated to the history of news. You need a ticket for this trip on media lane and it is worth every penny.

A favorite with school-aged children who were gathered in great masses during my visit, adults are equally fascinated with glimpses into history making events as well as the mediums that reported life-altering moments to the world. From the Gutenberg printing press to radio, early TV and up to contemporary phenomena like the Internet and social media, the Newseum traces all the steps that print, radio and broadcast journalists took along the path of news reporting.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Atlanta's Irish Hero

Father Thomas O'Reilly

By Doc Lawrence

Since childhood days, I’ve known about the incident. Every word is true and remains one of the most fascinating stories I know about the Civil War and St. Patrick’s Day.

This wasn’t about battlefield courage, a strategy that resulted in a monumental victory, or a stirring, inspirational speech. No, it was about how an Irish immigrant priest acting alone on behalf of God and innocent civilians, confronted a mighty warrior, faced impending execution squarely in the eye and peacefully won a victory that somehow escaped history books.

A native of County Cavan, Ireland, Thomas O’Reilly, appointed as pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, arrived in Atlanta in 1861. Atlanta was a strategic transportation center for the Confederacy, and in 1864, the Union army, commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman, held Atlanta under siege with intense artillery bombardment. During the horror of Sherman’s extended assault, Father O’Reilly ministered to the wounded and dying of both armies, along with civilian casualties.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ava Gardner Museum Turns 30

By Lynne Brandon

SMITHFIELD, NC-The Ava Gardner museum has been likened to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” for the long winding path that led to its final destination, and current home in Smithfield, North Carolina.

The museum is firmly established in the town’s bustling downtown but it was years in the making. The tribute to North Carolina’s beautiful movie star began more than 20 years ago with a private collection donated by the family of Dr. Tom Banks. Today after several locations, the museum’s final resting spot showcases a collection that begs to be seen: extraordinary costumes, movie posters and awards recalling Ava’s 50-year career as a Hollywood legend.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Williamsburg Winery

Glory of The Grape In Virginia

By Lynne Brandon

Wine is sunlight, held together by water" - Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Driving down the long dirt road, reminds of the scene in "Letter to Juliet" in which a car in the Italian countryside sashays down a similar dirt road surrounded by grape vines. Instead of Italy, I am driving toward Wessex Hundred, the local name for the 320-acre farm known by visitors as Williamsburg Winery (

Williamsburg Winery is styled to look like an old-world European village and home to award-winning Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, it is home to Virginia’s largest winery, no insignificant feat in a state with more than 190 highly-regarded wineries. Here the summers are warm, but not too hot, and winters are mild- all the ingredients for growing superior grapes to make outstanding wines.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Ava Gardner Museum Turns 30

By Lynne Brandon

SMITHFIELD, NC-The Ava Gardner museum has been likened to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” for the long winding path that led to its final destination, and current home in Smithfield, North Carolina.

The museum is firmly established in the town’s bustling downtown but it was years in the making. The tribute to North Carolina’s beautiful movie star began more than 20 years ago with a private collection donated by the family of Dr. Tom Banks. Today after several locations, the museum’s final resting spot showcases a collection that begs to be seen: extraordinary costumes, movie posters and awards recalling Ava’s 50-year career as a Hollywood legend.

View From the Willard

By Lynne Brandon

It stands majestically on Pennsylvania Avenue and dominates the landscape with its elegant stone facade imposing alongside some of America’s most historic monuments. Inside the iconic Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. words were coined, drinks first stirred and national treasures first written about. Every living president since Zachary Taylor has placed his mark on the palatial quarters as a guest or by attending a social event, leaving an imprimatur on this national treasure.

The imposing 12-story structure is connected to all that makes Washington tick with easy accessibility to the White House, Treasury, Newspaper Row, the Capitol and other significant monuments. When the hotel was revamped in 1925, it was considered Washington’s first skyscraper.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hillary Clinton Headlines State Department Reception for NCIV 50th Anniversary

by Lynne Brandon

Washington, DC - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke last week at the 2011 National Council for International Visitors (NCIV) national conference at the U.S. Department of State reception. Secretary Clinton was the key note speaker, following brief remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ann Stock.

The annual conference began on February 16, which was designated “Citizen Diplomacy Day” in recognition of the NCIV milestone. More than 600 people attended the opening black tie gala which was emceed by CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger. The conference concluded on February 19 with a luncheon hosted in the National Press Building, headlined by John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Other Florida

Treasures in Lakeland, Lake Wales and Winter Haven

By Doc Lawrence

Much of Florida is still off the beaten path. The museums, art galleries and architecture of Lakeland weren’t unknown to me. I knew something about Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectual wonders at Florida Southern College, this city’s crown jewel. Years ago, I adopted the aphorism that seeing is believing. When I walked into the first of Wright’s astonishing creations, the stunning college library, I thought how impossible it is to describe the grandeur in abstentia.

After checking in at the renowned Lakeland Terrace Hotel, I knew adventure was ahead. When the opulently appointed hotel opened in 1924, it was hailed as one of Florida's finest new year-round inns. Located in the heart of the downtown district, the hotel underwent a $13 million renovation in 1999 and was placed on the National Historic Register.

Every journey has a beginning and my first meaningful step was into Lakeland’s glorious Polk Museum of Art. A tour of the main galleries featuring renowned traveling exhibitions and the permanent pre-Columbian gallery and outdoor sculpture garden proved that this is one of the premier arts facilities in the Sunshine State. The nearby Polk Theatre, a beautifully restored historic vaudeville/movie palace shows films on weekends and features a live performing arts series each year.

My second day began with a visit to Lakeland Linder Airport and a tour of the Florida Air Museum and an introduction to Sun 'n Fun, best known for its April Fly-In, which attracts aviation enthusiasts from all over the country. The Museum at Sun 'n Fun is open year-round, displaying numerous aircraft including Henry Ford’s one-seat, single propeller airplane. Henry mistakenly believed his plane would follow a similar path to his popular Model T. There is also an impressive collection of aviation artifacts once belonging to Howard Hughes, including a flight suit likely worn by one of his glamorous companions. I wondered if it belonged to Katherine Hepburn?

Overlooking Lakeland’s Lake Mirror is Hollis Garden. Neoclassical in design and featuring more than 10,000 flowers and ornamental shrubs, it chronicles Florida history up to the modern era where horticulture is driven primarily by aesthetics. The nearby Explorations V Children's Museum, another fine example of why Lakeland is such a livable city. It consists of three floors of mind-stretching, kid-powered exhibits featuring art, science, literature, math, health, life skills and cultures from around the world.

Frank Lloyd Wright left an indelible mark on Florida Southern College. His legacy distinguishes the campus from all others. Construction of his " Child of the Sun" campus commenced in 1938 with the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel and concluded in 1958. Wright designed eighteen structures for the campus, and built twelve, representing the world's largest one-site grouping of his work. The Visitors Center is the permanent home for photographs, furniture, and drawings depicting Wright's relationship with the College.

The famed landmark Cypress Gardens, now known as Cypress Gardens Adventure Park, propelled Winter Haven as a tourist destination. Once, Ester Williams and her contemporaries performed here. New owner, Kent Buescher, who also owns Wild Adventures Theme Park in south Georgia, has revived Cypress Gardens while retaining the legendary Ski Show, botanical gardens and Southern Belles that helped make it famous, adding family fun rides, roller coasters and a new water park.

Winter Haven’s Ridge Art Association and Theatre Winter Haven share the Chain O’ Lakes Civic Center and are emblematic of the strongly rooted arts tradition in Central Florida. Theatre Winter Haven, called “one of the finest community theaters” by the Tampa Tribune offers eight full-scale productions annually, selling more than 30,000 seats.

The renowned Bok Sanctuary is one of Florida's original tourism venues known globally for a bell tower housing one of the world's great carillons. Located on the highest point on the Florida peninsula, Bok Tower Sanctuary is a national landmark that includes 128 acres of gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., also the landscape architect for Atlanta’s Druid Hills. The elevation and lush foliage are reminiscent of central Tibet, belying closeness to Orlando and Tampa.

The living is good in Lake Wales, home to the Lake Wales Arts Center. Housed in an old Spanish mission-style church building, this is a treasure trove of visual art and music, owned and operated by very progressive Lake Wales Arts Council. Nearby, the Lake Wales Museum and Cultural Center, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features permanent exhibits from Lake Wales' colorful history plus a train exhibit and a 1926 Caboose.

Another aviation-themed museum, The Fantasy of Flight near Polk City is home to the world's largest private collection of vintage aircraft, and several of the perfectly restored planes have been featured in motion pictures like “Flyboys.” Among the impressive collection is a Curtiss Jenny, a Ford Tri-Motor, a reproduction of the renowned Ryan “Spirit of St. Louis,” a German JU-52, a Japanese Zero, a Corsair F4U, a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-24 Liberator. Hot air balloon and biplane rides are popular offerings.


Breakfast at the world-renowned Chalet Suzanne, opened in 1931, is a step back in time. Located in Lake Wales, 30 rooms nestled on 70 acres caters to guests of all ages. The Texas Cattle Company in Lakeland features prime beef aged four to six weeks and has an impressive wine list with some real bargains like steak-friendly Malbec from Argentina.

Dining in Lakeland is a joy. The Terrace Grille in the Terrace Hotel has received national recognition featuring a gourmet menu equivalent to the finest restaurants in culinary centers like New Orleans with a wine cellar featuring an array of fine wines. The Grille and is rated as one of Central Florida's finest eateries.

These are just a few highlights from a region of Florida that is becoming more and more popular as a travel destination, which deserves a place in your vacation plans.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dr. Julianne Malveaux: Black Economic History

Leveling the playing field for African-Americans

By Lynne Brandon

As part of Black History Month, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, the 15th president of Bennett College for Women, spoke about her latest book, Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History, at the Greensboro Central Library and the role African-Americans have played in our economic history.

Dr. Malveaux’s columns appear regularly in USA Today, Black Issues in Higher Education, Ms. Magazine, Essence Magazine, and The Progressive. Her syndicated weekly column appears in more than twenty newspapers, including the Carolina Peacemaker. She is also a frequent commentator on CNN, BET, PBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC and C-SPAN.

Dr. Malveaux is also credited for being an architect for change at America’s oldest historically black women’s college since taking the helm of the educational institution in 2008.

Surviving and Thriving was a 20 year labor of love said Dr. Malveaux who explained that the book was also a “love note to African-Americans.” Surviving she added, “is the least we can do, but thriving is what we are called to do.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jeannette Walls-Surviving the Dumpster

Her Guilford College Lecture

By Lynne Brandon

Greensboro, NC - When the statuesque woman with a Julia Roberts-like figure strode across the stage it would be hard to believe that this glamorous, successful author ate out of trashcans as a child. Tall, dressed in black and wearing pearls, Jeanette Walls, lives an existence that is light years away from a childhood full of hard scrapple living, heartache and dumpster diving. A picture of success today, Walls delivered a message about following your dream. For her, the journey was propelled by perseverance and tenacity.

“I’m just a woman with a weird past,” said Walls, an optimist who downplays the tough times that she lived through. Appearing as part of Guilford College’s Bryan Series which has included recent experiences by Bill Clinton, Walls admitted to the packed-house audience the irony of talking about a past that once caused her shame. She came out of the closet, as she describes facing her past, when her husband, John Taylor, urged her to come clean about her life story, which by all accounts then was full of holes.

An unexpected event also prompted a look at the life she had carefully packed away. One night, dressed in designer duds in a taxi on her way to a celebrity function, the successful print and broadcast journalist, knew was living the “good life.” She noticed a homeless woman rooting around in a dumpster and as the taxi stopped at a light she noticed with horror that the woman was her own mother. Walls was so upset that she went back to her home on Park Avenue. She looked in the mirror knowing she couldn’t run anymore. “I thought I could divorce myself from the past, but you can’t” said Walls.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Outer Banks: Untouched by Time

By Lynne Brandon

The Outer Banks is considered by many to be the state’s crown jewel. In Currituck County you can find refuge from big city hustle and bustle: the only noise at night is the rolling thunder of waves against sand or, sometimes if you are lucky, the galloping sounds of wild horses. Unleashed, untouched, and untamed, it’s still predominately all nature at its best

My recent visit was a rediscovery of the beauty and history of the Outer Banks. No trip to the Outer Banks is complete without visiting the landmark that stands proudly in Corolla. The Currituck Beach Light Station ( in the town of Corolla (pronounced by natives as kuh-raw-luh) first made its presence known in the Outer Banks in 1875.

The Victorian style brick dwelling was left unpainted which distinguishes it from other Outer Bank lighthouses. It is the last lighthouse built in the state, and one of only a very few remaining lighthouses in North Carolina that permits visitors to walk to the top.

At first glance, the 214 steps to the top look daunting but with effort and determination, it is worth the climb, rewarded by a view from above, beholding the serene and priceless beauty of Corolla.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bill Clinton Glows at Guilford College

By Lynne Brandon

Greensboro, NC. – He is the only Democrat in the last six decades to serve two terms and today, Bill Clinton is more popular than ever. The former president is busier because of his global initiatives, appearances and speaking engagements that take him to the world’s four corners. Recently he took the time to stop by Greensboro, North Carolina to speak to a sold-out crowd of 4,000 as a part of the Guilford College Bryan Series. It was a perfect venue for the man who prizes education.

From the moment the charismatic Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas approached the stage the audience knew that the sizzle that got Clinton elected in 1992 is still there. The exuberant crowd rose to its feet in an all-out Southern welcome for the 42nd president. He remains a crowd-pleaser with few peers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Catdaddy Cocktails

Grassroots Spirits

By Doc Lawrence

“East-bound and down, loaded up and trucking. We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done!”
From “Smokey and the Bandit,” by Jerry Reed

NORTH WILKESBORO, NC--The fascination with alcoholic beverages is a Southern phenomenon with profound Florida connections, the stuff of songs, movies, NASCAR and some of the most colorful characters to grace the folklore landscape. It’s a gallery that includes actors Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason and Robert Mitchum along with racers Richard Petty, Fireball Roberts and the unbelievably colorful Junior Johnson. A proud one-time moonshine runner, NASCAR champion, Daytona racing legend and peerless raconteur, Johnson now has his own moonshine.

Except this batch is legal and doesn’t require delivery into states like Florida with a souped-up vehicle powered to run at near supersonic speed.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Deep South Gourmet


By Lynne Brandon

Pecan trees stand majestically along country roads and cotton fields are blurs of white as we speed along the quiet byways of Georgia. It is steamy hot but that is fitting and proper for Indian summer in the South. Outlaw Country is playing on Sirius XM radio and the Highwaymen get their turn at airplay. I am traveling to Albany for the first time and will leave with a new appreciation for Southwest Georgia and its amenities.

The Flint River runs through Albany and defines it, along with music legends, the civil rights movement, and now, great young chefs who are cooking up more than grits and greens.

The names from the past are still here; Ray Charles and the queen of Southern cooking, Paula Deen, both who spent time in this fair city and left an enduring legacy.

Aunt Fannie’s Checkered Apron was the first stop on the “Taste of Albany” culinary tour where I imbibed my senses with eggs, sausage and biscuits, and learned the true meaning of “gravy train.” In Albany, large flaky buttermilk biscuits dressed up in flowing white sausage gravy are de rigueur for breakfast and Aunt Fannie’s doesn’t disappoint. The small establishment is a popular early morning stop for locals and visitors. Hospitality comes with the territory for owner/minister, McKinley Drake, who spreads the gospel of good eating to young, old, black and white, and all who gather to break bread together around the table.

Restaurants using local produce are thriving and farm-to-the-fork cuisine is everywhere. Young chefs like Bo Henry and Stewart Campbell, co-owners of The Catch, as well as Harvest Moon where great pizza rules, are making their mark in this Southern culinary world. At The Catch, I experienced plump juicy oysters on the half-shell, fresh and BP free. Dinner was delicious and varied with choices like grouper laced with gorgonzola and bacon, and paired with a great domestic Riesling.

In the South, ‘cue is king. Riverfront BBQ in downtown Albany serves up generous portions with great flavor. The pork is smoked on premises and comes with a choice of sauces that will please any palate, including Bourbon infusion. Fresh vegetables compliment and the homemade lemonade is superb. For an afternoon pick-me-up at an old fashioned pharmacy complete with real live soda jerks, stop by Doc Hellinbel’s. They can fix what ails you and give you a root beer float to go.

A side trip to beautiful Thomasville, Georgia proved worth the one hour drive. The town, which hints of Norman Rockwell, is home to Pebble Hill Plantation, Sweet Grass Dairy, Jonah’s Fish and Grits, a 300 year old oak tree and more. Fried catfish is the star at Blackbeard’s for dinner where oysters and seafood are piled mile-high on plates in monstrous portions. Go hungry.

A heavenly experience waits at Pearly’s Famous Country Cooking where Pearly Gates is the real proprietor. Hungry patrons wrapped a line of cars around the drive-thru, and inside, the hustle was on for a breakfast fit for king. Biscuits and gravy reigned supreme, along with exceptional fresh sausage and even chess pie. The dynamic staff with high-wattage smiles delivers service with gusto. Don’t count calories at Pearly’s, just your blessings.

For a trip to the past, a stop at the iconic Jimmie’s Hot Dogs is in order. Knowing that Civil Right legends chowed on the small, but loaded dogs while discussing life changing historical events enhances the experience ten fold. And, no where but the original Maryland Fried Chicken in Albany gives you the opportunity to gaze at posters of rock gods such as the Rolling Stones and the Gregg Allman band while eating the southern delicacy known as fried chicken.

To walk lunch off, a trip to Still Pond Vineyards was recommended. The award winning winery has sixteen gold medals to its credit, and is a consistent winner with its popular muscadine varieties. White Oak Pastures owner, Will Harris was on hand with his organic beef that paired exceptionally well with the wines.

The last stop was one of sheer elegance at Henry Campbell’s, The Steakhouse. It is the only steak house in the area that offers dry-aged steaks and prime steaks. Filets are mouth watering and fork tender. The piece de resistance was the Crème Brulee, prepared for eating with a blow torch finale.

Albany and the surrounding area showcases it’s rich food heritage, and the culinary offerings are emblematic of the cuisine of the New South. Truly, there is something for every taste.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Panacea to Cedar Key

By Lynne Brandon

There is a part of Florida where time stands still. It is the place that sprung to life at the hands of writer Marjorie Kinan Rawlings who paid homage to Florida’s early frontier in “Cross Creek." It is the original Florida in the Big Bend region that sidles up to Florida’s Gulf Coast with off the beaten path towns like Panacea, Steinhatchee, Suwannee and Cedar Key.

Fresh seafood from the Gulf’s waters is what the region does best. An unassuming shack on Highway 98, in little Panacea, set the tone for some of the best seafood in these United States. Culinary greatness looms within the walls of Posey’s Seafood Steamroom & Oyster Bar, and in short order, seafood and shellfish danced across plates with a drum-like precision. Oysters on the half shelf, fried and smoked mullet, mullet roe, shrimp and more were consumed in short fashion. The highest mark goes to the delicately fried, lightly battered oysters that give “fresh” new meaning.

Catdaddy Cocktails

Grassroots Spirits

By Doc Lawrence

“East-bound and down, loaded up and trucking. We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done!”
From “Smokey and the Bandit,” by Jerry Reed

NORTH WILKESBORO, NC--The fascination with alcoholic beverages is a Southern phenomenon with profound Florida connections, the stuff of songs, movies, NASCAR and some of the most colorful characters to grace the folklore landscape. It’s a gallery that includes actors Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason and Robert Mitchum along with racers Richard Petty, Fireball Roberts and the unbelievably colorful Junior Johnson. A proud one-time moonshine runner, NASCAR champion, Daytona racing legend and peerless raconteur, Johnson now has his own moonshine.

Except this batch is legal and doesn’t require delivery into states like Florida with a souped-up vehicle powered to run at near supersonic speed.

Piedmont Distillers, Inc is a small distillery in Madison, North Carolina at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It produces handcrafted spirits in a small-batch copper pot still, the only "legal" distillery in the state and operates out of a century-old old train station.

Piedmont Distiller's first spirit is called Catdaddy which. according to the owners, “stir[s] your imagination [to] deliver the most unique and satisfying experience.” It draws on a private- batch recipe that contains ingredients not used in any other product. True to the history of moonshine, each batch is from an authentic copper pot still.


During last year’s edition of Tales of the Cocktail, I had Catdaddy served over ice and pronounced it as excellent. This is where cocktail enthusiasts from the world over met Junior. Johnson, who could teach the business world loads about entrepreneurship, sells country hams in his home in Wilkes County, North Carolina and has a big role in legal Carolina whiskey. Now a part owner of Piedmont Distillers, Johnson launched his moonshine called Midnight Moon currently distributed in 19 states.

Likewise, Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine is a unique spirits from Piedmont. Every batch is born in a copper still and is handcrafted in very small batches. Catdaddy is made from American corn and triple distilled. Joe Michalek, founder of Piedmont Distillers, won’t tell you what’s in it, but he will tell you the taste is a little sweet, with a hint of spice. “It’s fun to watch someone,” Michalek says, “try Catdaddy for the first time. The taste is familiar, but people can’t put their finger on it. All they know is that they like it.”

Junior Johnson developed his incredible driving skills and car building ingenuity while bootlegging his family’s moonshine and staying two steps ahead of the revenuers. Now 78, Johnson embodies the old and new moonshine culture. In the 1950’s he served 11 months in a federal penitentiary and was later pardoned by President Ronald Reagan who had a soft heart for American heroes. Later, he became one of the most successful drivers and team owners in racing history making him an easy choice as an inaugural inductee into NASCAR's Hall of Fame.

Junior Johnson prepares a solid southern breakfast for his family and anyone else who happens by every morning at his shop in North Wilkesboro. Sometimes you see the local sheriff, an old buddy from the racing days or a new friend who stopped by on their way through town. Not surprisingly, the Bloody Mary is Johnson’s favorite cocktail. The smoothness of his Midnight Moon, according to his legion of friends, makes it the perfect spirit for this classic cocktail.