Pretty Southern

What does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century?

June 2012 archive

Rooftop Garden Atlanta

Ecco is growing fresh herbs, peppers, vegetables and more atop their Midtown establishment. Chef Craig Richards hails from Nebraska via Italy. After growing up in the Midwest with a mom cooking vegetables from a can, Richards gained a culinary education from Italian cooking masters to bring his seasoned palette to the South. A veteran of Fifth Group restaurants, after spending a few years at La Tavola as Executive Chef, Craig gained the role after Micah Willix left to try his hand at Latitude. Thanks to Chef Craig, Ecco’s garden is so neat. They’ve engineered a water system to collect moisture from the air-conditioning fans then funnel it into the planters. Peppers, basil, beans, tomatoes are all being grown on Ecco’s roof. With the help of its servers, staff and even patrons, Basil is by-far-and-above the most abundant crop. Chef Criag said they’re still having to get a lot of produce from the local farmers but Ecco uses its own homegrown basil and rosemary in all its recipes.

Ecco’s summer menu globally inspired cuisine with a strong emphasis on fresh, sustainable ingredients. And where is a better place to get the best produce the city has to offer than from the roof of its very building?

Start your summer supper with a Long Live the Queen made with fresh basil, gin, juice, and simple syrup. Keep Calm and Carry On indeed, your highness! This drink is like a Prince William & Kate Middleton romance. Then sample at least two appetizers. Y’all can’t go wrong with the grilled squid in olive puree topped with a sunny side egg and cilantro. It was so neat how the fried egg mingled with the charred flavor of the squid, and the olives were a great compliment. For a second starter, try the stuffed squash blossoms with mozzarella, anchovy and chili flakes in a basil emulsion topped with fried basil. While basil is delicious on its own, its even better when fried to a golden crisp. We had the opportunity to ask Chef Craig how he was able to keep the vegetables so green even after frying and he said he uses an extremely light batter, similar to a tempura, and flash fries the leaves. Oh dear sweet baby Jesus, this is how all basil should taste.

As for entrees: opt for the summer fresh catch. On this particular evening, Ecoo offered a wild, Alaskan salmon flown fresh into Atlanta. Then Chef Craig adds two additional seafood flavors via a fresh trout roe swimming in shrimp jus. The salmon was perfectly cooked, and the additional fishy flavors of trout and shrimp were a good touch. With a side of asparagus and a wedge of grilled lemon it was a great, light, healthy meal.

Also, taste a couple of glasses of wine (at least one pinot noir and something-else-red-you-can’t pronounce). For dessert – order a glass of Chenin Blanc. It will go great with any dessert on the menu. We like the homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream made with olive oil and sea salt. A little savory and sweet to end the night!

Ecco does as much to keep their ingredients in-house as possible. After his time at La Tavola, Chef Craig knows his dough and makes all their pastas fresh daily. Our favorite is the spaghetti al torchio, heirloom tomatoes, torpedo onions, anchovy, basil, pecorino using locally-grown produce (and of course basil from the roof) plus pecorino. A simple dish but so tasty: nothing beats fresh noodles with yummy veggies.
For that great crusty bread Ecco uses Holeman & Finch for their baked goods.

Chef Craig shared his secret to perfect pesto: chill the container you’ll use to prepare your pesto before blending. No nuts are needed. Just place your cup you’ll be using to blend the pesto in the freezer one hour before making the sauce and y’all will be good to go. Thanks to the advice of Chef Carig, here is our recipe for Pretty Southern Pesto recipe:

1 bunch fresh basil
1/8 cup EVOO (a little olive oil helps blend the pesto, add more depending on consistency)
1/4 cup parmesan or shaved pecorino
squeeze of lemon wedge
1 TBSP garlic
1 TBSP pine nuts
pinch of salt
few grinds of fresh cracked black pepper

Now that summer is here, Ecco is serving up the freshest fare courtesy of its new rooftop garden. Visit Ecco for your perfect summer date night. For more information, check out Ecco’s web site

Happy Father’s Day

It’s a great day to be a Daddy in the South. Here at, we wanted to say thank you to all the fathers, papas, pe-paws, dads, pappys, pa’s and men who lead by example for their children. One of our favorite daddy’s in literature is Captain Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind. It didn’t matter what nefarious life he’d lead before he and Scarlett had little Bonnie Blue Butler. This gentleman was willing to give his little girl everything her heart desired. Here are just a few of our favorite moments with dad over the years. Feel free to write yours below in our comments section.

Meeting Mama during fraternity rush; without which, none of us would be here today

Changing diapers…that sh*t must have stank!

Building, finding, buying the perfect Southern house to raise a family

Getting a puppy/kitten

Teaching the kids how to “shag” like they do in the Carolinas by dancing with Mom on that linoleum floor in the tiny kitchen

Coaching football, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, tee-ball, handball or any other sport

Allowing us to believe in the power our dreams

Building sand castles

Driving lessons. To this day, we can only parallel park because of our dad’s!

Thanks for the braces and giving us smiles that charm every soul

Moving us into the dorms our freshman year and multiple moves in-and-out-of apartments

Breakfast at Waffle House sitting at the counter

Game Day in Athens on any given Saturday

Putting more money in our checking accounts ”just because”

Teaching us how to garden, grill, cook, clean, all the things to make a house a home.

Dad’s – y’all are the best, thank you for always providing for us, and we love you so very much.


The cast of Dallas is back in the saddle. After two decades off the air, TNT is reviving the nighttime soap, which first ran from 1978 to 1991 on CBS. But the new Dallas isn’t a re-boot of the old: instead, it’s a continuation, with both the series’ original trifecta of feuding family members as well as the next generation — including their children.

Recently, stars Linda Gray, reprising her role as matriarch and former Miss Texas Sue Ellen, and Josh Henderson, who plays her son John Ross, met with journalists in Atlanta. They talked first hearing news of the show’s second life, initial audience reaction and finding old fans and new — and more.

Tell us about the dynamic now going back working with the principal characters. How has that changed over the years? Obviously a little bit of time has passed but did you get right back into it, or was it like, “Oh, I remember that. But now I can work around it better.”

Linda Gray: My character or—?

Both: for the character and for personal.

LG: Oh, OK. First of all we were rather stunned when we got that call because we had received a call two years prior, I’ll just kind of catch you up—two years prior before an actual script and they said, “Are you interested?” Now this was from Warner Bros. and we all three got the call and we all said, “Yes, we’d be interested.” And then we heard nothing for two years. So when we got his call we thought, I was skeptical. I said, “We got another call, we gotta wait another two years to hear this?” And so [they] followed the call with a lovely script which was also very exciting for us. We called each other again, we said, “OK, we read the script. What do you think?” OK, we like the script, we liked it very much. So we said yes, we would be not only interested but when do we get to shoot this thing? It’s great. So that was it. That’s what happened.

Getting back into the saddle, so to speak, was that a little bit edgy at first or did you just snap back into it once you got back into the working situation?

Well, I like to work from the inside out. And I knew Sue Ellen, but I didn’t know who she was 20 years later. So I really wanted, as a woman, to not be arrogant and not say, “I know her, I’ve played her many many years.” But I didn’t just want to come back to “Dallas” and say, “OK, I know how to play her.” I wanted to know who she was as a woman 20 years later. Where’s she been? She dragged John Ross to London. What is this woman like? What has she addressed he demons, or did she put them under a rug?”

I wanted to be the best Sue Ellen I could be this time around — not that she wasn’t before, but she was rather a victim, a reactor to things that J.R. was doing. And I felt that right now she would be a much different Sue Ellen. I felt that she would have addressed the demons and wrestled them to the ground, and still with her guilt, but I felt that she would be a different kind of woman.So I did a lot of research. I have a lot of friends, woman friends, that I talked to and I wanted her to be independent, powerful and I wanted her to try to be the best mother that she could be now that she wasn’t before. So he [John Ross] had to sort of be dragged along with that wrestling-down-to-the-ground-demons. I researched and found that there are more women CEOs in the state of Texas than there are any other state. I wanted her to be one of those women because she was the next Miss Texas so she was a native. And so I wanted her to be representing those women in Texas in a very powerful way. She has money, she has power. She’s back in Texas. She’s gonna have to run into J.R. along the line somewhere; she’s gonna have to deal with her very feisty, wonderfully aggressive son. So that’s the way I went — I met with the writer and said, “I have some ideas about Sue Ellen. I’d like to hear what you have in mind, here are my ideas — throw ‘em in a little mixer and find out what we come out with.” But I was very respectful of the fact that they were open to my ideas and very open to what we might have in common to have Sue Ellen come out smelling like a rose this time.

Josh, can you tell us a little bit about your audition process and what it’s like to be cast in such an iconic show?

Josh Henderson: Sure, yeah, y’know I had heard it was coming back and I heard it was really kind of gonna focus on J.R.’s son and Bobby’s son. As a young actor I was like, I have to audition for this. I’m from Dallas, Texas. I get the Texas thing and it was a big deal to my family. So I gotta audition for this. And I also knew they were going to see people from all over the country. Every young guy wanted this role, they really did. Then I went in and read for Cynthia Cidre, our executive producer and writer, and Patrick Rush, our casting director, and Cynthia didn’t tell me this ‘til we were shooting, but she said that by the second line out of my mouth, she knew that I was the guy. And as soon as I left, I got in my car, shut the door and screamed. Because I knew that I felt like I did a good job. But y’know, you never really know in the room. And then a half hour later my phone rang already saying, “We’re gonna test you for the role.”

It’s been 20 years now. How much of the new Dallas is the old Dallas tweaked and how much of it is just brand new ground?

LG: I keep quoting Patrick Duffy. He says it feels like year 14 for us and that’s how it feels. There wasn’t a glitch; there wasn’t an awkward like a dating thing, like you’re dating. There was no awkward moment and there still isn’t and we’ve shot 10 episodes. There was never an awkward moment. It flowed seamlessly from, as if 20 years had just been condensed and that’s a lovely feeling, a solid feeling, that confidence you feel that it’s right. It always felt right, in the original show, and now it feels right.

Will fans of the old show embrace the new show?

LG: I think so, because in Dallas last Thursday night we had a screening, our big premiere. And we showed the first two episodes, the pilot and the first show, and the audience was so responsive and receptive and they were with it. And you could hear them when J.R. would do something and you would hear them like [gasp] when some surprised would happen so the audience was engaged. And that’s what — we had never seen it; we’d seen it in Los Angeles but it was a rough cut and everyone had their agents and managers and it was a kind-of “Hollywood” screening. This was real people, real responses, real emotion attached.

JH: They were laughing out loud.

LG: Yes.

JH: They were crying.

LG: And then you’d hear [gasping] like that when they didn’t know something was going to happen. So for us, we don’t get to go into peoples’ living rooms and hear what their response is. But for us, especially the original — I don’t say the older people — the original cast, for us to feel that response in an audience of thousands was fantastic. We wanted to see every episode that way. Because you’re really, you’re engaged and there’s an infusion of energy in that room. So I feel that the older people will not be disappointed. Not at all.

JH: Yeah, it was almost as if even if people were coming in to y’know go, “OK, let’s see if this is even going to be close to the original,” or be skeptical — which we understand — it was almost as if, really quickly they threw that out the window and they were just enjoying the show. We had a screening in Houston two nights ago and it was a packed house and I snuck in, they didn’t know we were there, and I snuck in for the last—periodically, just as they were watching to maybe gauge reactions. And man, it was unbelievable. It wasn’t as if they were sitting there watching “The Hangover” or anything, laughing out loud, but they were just gasping and laughing out loud and really, y’know, J.R. would say something or as soon as [Sue Ellen] would roll up in the corvette, everyone would applaud. It’s really cool to see these people enjoying it. It’s not, it’s almost like they forget there in their minds to critique or judge.

They’re really just enjoying the show and I think that as long as they give us a shot and tune in, the original fans are going to be like, “Ah, this is ‘Dallas’ again. They’re back.” And the new fans — ‘cause my sister, I have two little sisters that weren’t even born when the show was off the air yet — they’re like, “This is really good TV.” Like, “Oh, we love Sue Ellen, oh, what is that?” and, “Oh, who sent the email?” It’s just at the end of the day what I think made the original “Dallas” so well-received and loved and adored around the world, we have all that in the new one. We have the three original legends — they’re still here. We couldn’t have done it without, you can’t do “Dallas” without them. And we have ‘em so we’re lucky as the new generation. And I think as long as people tune in they’re going to be completely satisfied.

Editor’s Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]Adam Carlson is a 20-something wrapping up his film and journalism degrees at the University of Georgia. He writes about the arts, culture and occasionally very long profiles about…cats. You can find his work here and here. Every day he’s Tweetin’.[/author_info] [/author]

Cathead Vodka

The Russians have got nothing on this new Southern vodka. Inspired by their Delta Blues roots, Cathead Vodka aims to support music interest groups via the sale of their delicious libation. In addition to Mississippi, the vodka is now available in Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia.

Cathead Vodka is the first legally distilled spirit in the state of Mississippi. The corn-based 80 proof alcohol is a six-times distilled and charcoal-filtered artisan vodka produced by Bottle Tree Beverage Company at their Gluckstadt, Miss. distillery. The name stems from a loose reference across the Mississippi Delta region for blues musicians – Cat Heads. As part of their common interest in preserving and protecting the cultural history of southern food, beverages, music and the arts, they established a partnership with Music Maker Relief Foundation (MMRF) where $1 from every bottle of Cathead Vodka sold will go directly to the non-profit organization.

Here in Atlanta, Cathead Vodka can be purchased at Green’s Package, Tower Package Little 5 Package, Sherlock’s, Tower East, Empire Package, Capital City Bottle Shop, Holiday Wine and Spirits, Mac’s Beer and Wine and Peachtree Road Liquor Store. Check out these recipes perfect for sipping on a hot summer night.

The Honey Bubble:
1 oz Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka
4 oz Brut champagne
2 fresh raspberries to garnish

Blues Cat:
3 oz Cathead Vodka
muddle 10-15 blue berries
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup (raw sugar)
5 basil leaves muddled
shake well, then strain

For more information, check out Cathead Vodka’s Web site, Like them on Facebook, or Follow them on Twitter. For product sales in Georgia, contact Savannah Distributing Company at 678.380.1212.

DALLAS Rides Again

The gang from Southfork returns on Wednesdays this summer. And Lord have mercy, Dallas has never been hotter. Beginning June 13, the drama continues with the Ewing clan as Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman reprise their roles as Sue Ellen, JR and Bobby. This time, their progeny are mixed up in the family’s oil business including a very grown up John Ross Jr., played by Josh Henderson, and the ever-steamy Jessee Metcalfe (re: the hot lawn boy who got it on with Eva Longoria’s Desperate Housewife) is Christopher, Bobby’s adopted son.

Also joining the cast is Jordana Brewster from Fast & The Furious notoriety as John Ross Jr.’s girlfriend and Christopher’s former fiancée. The plot thickens during the pilot episode when Christopher’s current fiancée, Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) shows up for her wedding at South Fork. Another Desperate Housewife is in the new ensemble, with the cool, collected Brenda Strong as Ann, Bobby’s wife.

We can’t tell y’all any more of the plot, but as we know from the original Dallas “Blood may be thicker than water, but oil is thicker than both.” And when oil is involved, things are going to get dirty. For more information, check out the show’s web site or follow Dallas on Twitter. We’ll be keeping up with all the episodes this season here on