Serenbe Style and Soul

with Marie Nygren

Monthly Archive: March 2010



March 2010





March 2010



Life at Mary Mac’s

Written by , Posted in "mary mac's", marie nygren

The Atlanta restaurant scene was not a big one in the sixties. Mary Mac’s was one of a handful of restaurants in the city. Most people were still eating at home or at their clubs(for the Buckhead and Ansley Park set.) But the 70’s certainly changed that.
Mother started to notice the pick up in business and expanded to the next store front in her building on Ponce de Leon. With that expansion, it gave the dining room 60 more seats. 

Then in 1972, Mother’s landlord called and offered to sell her the building. Thrilled with the possibility, she approached a local banker and daily customer for a loan. Imagine her reaction when he rejected her request because she was a woman! Not to be daunted by his refusal, she tried another banker and customer and received the same response.

With that, she approached her two sisters, Sara Spano and Merle Lott for a loan. Aunt Sara had inherited some money from a cousin and Aunt Merle had invested wisely in real estate and stocks. I can remember Mom making the drive to Columbus to pick up the check from Aunt Sara and thanking her for her support.

The 70’s also brought a whole new energy and customer base to Mary Mac’s. Because Atlanta and it’s leadership had handled the issues of the Civil Rights movement with such dignity and  respect(remember that Atlanta had no race riots unlike other southern cities) and were forward thinking on transportation issues, Atlanta appeared to be open to new possibilities and new kinds of residents.

Midtown Atlanta, where Mary Mac’s is located, became the hang out area for the hippie movement. Peachtree  and 10th was filled with kids from all over the south who left their small southern towns to move to the “groovy” big city. Store fronts that had become vacant due to the move to suburbia became filled  with head shops, poster stores and the like. 

I fondly remember a fringe vest and pocket book that Dad and Mom had made for me by one of the regular customers.

Yet though they had left small town mentality for big city openness, they still craved the soul food they had eaten all their lives. 

And unlike several other restaurants that did not want “those weirdos” in their establishments, Mother welcomed them into her dining room as she did Atlanta’s growing homosexual population. Like the hippies, young homosexuals from all over the south were moving to Midtown Atlanta to explore the  acceptance of alternative lifestyles that was prohibited in their small town.Like their hippie neighbors though, they too craved a taste of the south which Mother was happy to supply.

Mary Mac’s had to have been quite the sight with such an array of clientèle. Office workers, business executives, drag queens, psychedelic hippies and more. 

What a potpourri!

And it all worked because Mother and Dad truly welcomed all that came through the door. Their tolerance for people from all walks of life created such a vibrant energy in that restaurant. There were no pretenses, no judgements. It was all about creating a place for people to have good food with good company. And, I feel they succeeded beautifully with that plan.



March 2010



Weekends Away

Written by , Posted in "Lee Brothers" recipe, marie nygren, serenbe

Well, the last couple of weeks have been filled with travel for me. My oldest friend, Connie, celebrated her 50th birthday recently in Rehoboth Beach, Maryland with a group of girlfriends. I flew up on March 4 to Washington  so I could  put together my gift to Connie- preparing a Southern dinner for Connie and her girlfriends. On the special occasions of my loved one’s life, I always cook because for me on those occasions I want to gift from my heart and cooking for me is all about sharing one’s heart.

So on Friday morning, I headed to the local Whole Foods. I had some food ideas in mind but always leave the recipe box open to what might be available. I had planned a menu with Goat Cheese stuffed chicken breasts with Red Pepper Jelly. I had called ahead on this one to make sure Connie had a jar of jelly from Serenbe. The red pepper jelly we sell at the Inn is my favorite one to use for this recipe (my #1 requested chicken dish at the Farmhouse.) Knowing White Lily flour wasn’t  sold that far north, I had taken a ziploc bag of flour with me along with a bag of JennyJack grits (the ones we use at the Inn and Farmhouse) as I wanted her northern friends to have some of the taste of the south.

I had hoped for collards but none were to be found so I bought kale to be sauteed with caramelized onions. And parsnips with mint – I had read a recipe the day before from the new Lee brother’s cook book, Simple Fresh Southern, and wanted to give that a try. Then big surprise, there were Spring Vidalia onions! One of my very favorite southern spring veggies. I love to just simply roast them  with olive oil and salt and pepper. The spring Vidalias are in markets now and look like large scallions. They are the early shoot off the the vidalia onion bulb that sells later in the year. Absolutely delicious.

So with all our bags and groceries, the ladies packed up the various cars and we made the 3 hour drive to Rehoboth from Bethesda.One of Connie’s friends had been gracious to lend her beach house for the weekend. As we unpacked, you’d have thought we were staying for a week with all the food that kept coming in the kitchen – 2 coffee cakes (Connie’s favorite), more cakes, fruit, wine, snacks, etc.

Friday night we ate out at a local favorite for fish and chips and then karaoke, which I had never been to before. That was an experience!!  Saturday was a time for walks and coffee in town. The afternoon activity was a spa day- always a ladies favorite. Then back to the kitchen.

I started the onions caramelizing for the kale. I always get those going as I have written about before as they take at least an hour if not longer. And, I had brought one of Connie’s cast iron skillets from her house- the best way to cook them. Everyone joined in to help prep- peeling parsnips, tearing off kale, searing and stuffing chicken breasts, making Farmhouse biscuits, stirring the grits.

Several of the ladies had never had kale. I always love to introduce a new vegetable to people especially one that is so delicious and nutritious- one of the most nutritious you can eat. And combined with caramelized onions, it is one of my all time favorite vegetables. All the cooking was finished and we gathered round the stove to fill our plates with some new dishes for everyone to perhaps prepare at home.

It was great fun to spend time in the kitchen with all the ladies and bring a bit of the south to Connie’s birthday celebration.  



March 2010



Kevin’s Banana Pudding

Written by , Posted in banana pudding, Kevin Gillespie, Recipe Articles

There are no words to describe how delicious this recipe is…… Enjoy!

Warm Banana Pudding

  • 2 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk (whole)
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 8 egg yolks
  • box of Vanilla wafers
  • 10 ripe bananas
  • Meringue:
  • 8 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 10 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lightly beat yolks in a large size mixing bowl and set aside.

Whisk together in a large saucepan, the sugar, flour and salt. Slowly mix in milk and half and half, whisking constantly until pudding is thick. When thickened, add butter. Gradually add hot pudding  to yolks, whisking constantly. (If you have a standing mixer, it makes this part easier)
When pudding fully incorporated, add vanilla.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat whites, sugar and cream of tartar until peaks form. Then fold vanilla in.


In a 9×13 baking or casserole, make a layer of bananas, then wafers, then pudding. Repeat again.
Top with meringue and place in 350 oven  until meringue  browns.

Serve warm.



March 2010



My life in the ’60’s

Written by , Posted in "krispy kreme", "margaret lupo", "woodruff's bed and breakfast", marie nygren

When Mother bought Mary Mac’s in the early sixties, Ponce de Leon was already an eclectic and colorful mix of businesses and homes. It was an interesting area to explore- though  my exploring was limited to a block. Across the street was a laundry, nightclub and Landers Poultry. 

I was fascinated by Landers. When you walked in, the floor was covered with saw dust and chicken cages filled the left wall. The right side of the store was the counter where you could get eggs, every chicken part imaginable and butter. In the back was where they did the chicken processing. It was one of the few places left in the city where you could get fresh chickens butchered to order.

The next block was taken up by the original Krispy Kreme location in Atlanta  which is still in operation. My big treat was to get a nickel from Mom and walk across the street to get a chocolate covered doughnut topped with whipped creme and a cherry! In those days, I was allowed to go by myself at the age of 6. The ladies at the counter knew me and and would have my favorite doughnut ready for me if they saw me coming.

The most colorful neighbor though was Miss Bessy. She ran the local brothel which was located directly across the street at the corner of Ponce and Myrtle. The building still stands and is now Woodruff’s Bed and Breakfast. Several years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to go into the building. At that time, the call board for the girls was still in the downstairs office/foyer.

I do not remember Miss Bessy just Mom’s stories about Miss Bessy coming over for lunch during breaks to get a lunch for herself or the girls. And, the patrons having lunch themselves after their visits. Mom never shared names of the clientèle but it was always a who’s who of local and state officials and business men.

Mom always had a cordial relationship with Miss Bessy- no judgments. She said Miss Bessy was providing a service just as she was. Mom always had a welcoming atmosphere for all of Atlanta’s colorful characters. In her dining room, everyone had a place at her tables. It provided a great lesson for me in the years to come.



March 2010



Baked Chicken with Lemon Onion Butter Sauce and Greens

Written by , Posted in chicken recipes, marie nygren, Recipe Articles

Marie is out of town but gave me this wonderful recipe to put up for all of you. She featured it a couple of weeks ago at the Farmouse and it was my husband’s favorite chicken dish so far. We hope you enjoy it just as much!

~ Dana Widmer

6 chicken breasts- skin on
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
8 oz. unsalted butter
1 medium onion chopped fine
6 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tsp salt

2 bunches collards or 4 bunches kale
Olive oil

Prep collards by removing rib from either green and tearing into bite size pieces.
Wash, drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a pan. Add onions and cook on low heat until translucent. Add lemon juice.Season to taste with salt. Add couple dashes of Tabasco to taste.
Keep warm.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat small amount of olive oil in a skillet. Sear breasts 2 min on each side.
Place in a 375 oven and bake for 16- 20 min until done depending on thickness and weight of breast.
Keep warm.

In a larger pan or pot, heat oil and add greens. Stir greens in oil until tender. May add a little water and cover pot to steam them. Season with salt to taste.

To plate, place greens on plate or platter. Place chicken breast on top and spoon sauce over the chicken and greens.
Delicious served with corn pudding and jasmine rice.



March 2010



Our wonderful weekend with Kevin Gillespie

Written by , Posted in Kevin Gillespie, marie nygren, serenbe, Southern Chef Series

The 3rd class in the Serenbe Southern Chef Series just ended a few hours ago and was a huge success! Everyone that participated had a great time with Kevin Gillespie from Woodfire Grill. Kevin’s rock chef status was evident in all the delicious recipes he shared with the class.

One aspect of Kevin’s class that I loved was he gave no written instructions with his recipes. He wanted to talk and walk his students through the recipe so that they could understand the process and then make it their own. It was a great way to experience a class because everyone has their own way to cook and he wanted to empower them to do so.

His love of Southern food, inspired by his Granny, is infectious.

He cooked items he would make at home for himself- curry creamed winter squash with dill, braised pork shoulder with mustard,tomato braised collards to name a few. The biggest hit in the 2 day session was the warm banana pudding. It was the best pudding I have ever had and will share the recipe with you in a few days.

Kevin was such a delight in the kitchen. He still is amazed by all the attention he has garnered from the Top Chef show but it hasn’t gone to his head. He just loves Southern  food and all its richness. He is a wonderful ambassador for all that is southern.

He enticed his students with his much anticipated BBQ restaurant set to open next fall. The man loves pork and works magic with it. As with Woodfire, I am sure it will be packed with pork lovers.

I look forward to having him back next year for another class. More pictures and a special recipe will be posted in another day or two when I have a moment to write out the instructions for you since Kevin’s recipes are only ingredients.