Serenbe Style and Soul

with Marie Nygren




March 2014



Cooking Chicken for Paul Hawken

Written by , Posted in marie nygren, Miscellaneous, Recipe Articles, serenbe

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Years ago, when the Serenbe community was still a dream, the first person Steve and I told about it was our dear friend Ray Anderson. Ray was the founder of Interface Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of commercial modular floor coverings, and one of the first CEOs in the world to make corporate sustainability his mission. When we told Ray our plan, he said: “You’re crazy, you have to do this and I’m going to do everything I can do help you.”

Ray connected us with so many people who helped inform and shape our vision, and one of them was Paul Hawken, an environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, author and one of the world’s foremost leaders on sustainability. Paul wrote The Ecology of Commerce; Growing A Business; Natural Capitalism; and Blessed Unrest: How The Largest Movement in the World Came Into Being And Why No One Saw It Coming. Paul has affected world change with his books, and when he speaks I’m so taken with his passion for the environment.

So when he called and asked me to get a group of influential women together who could potentially become investors in a new hair color product he was working on, I said yes. It was my way of repaying the favor Ray had done for us all those years ago.

Paul stayed at Serenbe for three days. One night he presented his product and the next day he was spoke at our first Creative Changemaker Series. But on that first night, we had a private dinner for him with the members of Steve’s Biophilic Institute group. I found whole chickens from a farm in South Georgia at Fern’s Market, roasted them and served them with the feet and everything.

Fresh chickens vary, but this free-range and scratch fed, which means it was lean and very delicate, not big and moist like chickens you might find in the grocery store. I served it with sautéed cabbage and roasted okra on the side.

Before he left, Paul said, “Marie’s, as long as you’re cooking, I’ll come back anytime.”

Roasted Whole Chicken
  • 1 whole chicken
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh lemon

Rub the chicken all over with olive oil, salt and pepper. Take whole sprigs of fresh thyme and put it into the cavity of the bird and under the skin of its breast.

Roast it at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until fork tender. When it’s done, let the meat rest a bit and squeeze fresh lemon juice all over it before cutting into small pieces and serving.



December 2012



Making the Holidays Jolly

Written by , Posted in Elite Fitness, serenbe

For some, it may seem like folly to try to make the season jolly.  Isn’t that the irony of this most wonderful time of the year?  Here’s what I do to keep stress under control throughout the holidays and, really, year round.
I love to work out and make an effort to do so first thing in the morning.  My current favorite workout regime involves the bootcamp classes at Elite Fitness here in Serenbe.

Another way I keep stress at bay is walking our dog Pudge.  Because Pudge needs his daily exercise, I’m only too happy to head out on the paths in Serenbe with him.  Sometimes our destination is the barn and corral to visit the farm animals.  Other times, we meander down wooded paths, and still other forays send us along Serenbe’s streets.  No matter the route or destination, it’s calming to get out in nature and fill my senses.

One of my favorite ways to decompress during the holidays is to sit and gaze at the lights on our fresh Christmas tree while sipping a cup of tea and listening to classical music.

Photo courtesy of Greg Newington, Newington Gallery

As you might imagine, the holidays are a particularly busy time for those of us working in the hospitality industry, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Fitting in time to socialize with our own friends and families can be a challenge, yet we’re always able to carve out time to participate in holiday festivities, too.

May you take care of yourselves and practice your own healthy 
stress relievers so you may enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.



November 2012



Farmhouse and Serenbe Happenings

Written by , Posted in Fern's Market, marie nygren, serenbe, Serenbe Farmhouse, Serenbe Playhouse, Serenbe Stables

This Weekend’s Dinner Menu at The Farmhouse

November 29 – December 1
Dinner served 6pm – 9pm

Farmhouse garden lettuces with Farmhouse garden radishes, bleu cheese, and herb vinaigrette – or – sweet potato soup with candied pecans


Stuffed chicken breast with Serenbe Farms cauliflower puree, Farmhouse garden swiss chard, and bacon – or – baked pork chops with Serenbe Farms cabbage, granny smith apples, Georgia peanuts, and apple cider jus

Apple turnovers with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce– or –
chocolate sticky toffee pudding
Visit the Farmhouse on line to make your reservation.
Come early and enjoy 2-for-1 happy hour from 4pm to 6pm.

There are many festive events in Serenbe, and you’re invited to participate:

  • Santa comes to Serenbe December 1, 8, and 15 for family (or individual) photos.  To ensure your special time with Santa, reservations are required and accepted by the Inn at Serenbe, 770 463 2610. 
  • Serenbe Playhouse’s holiday production, A Diva’s Christmas, will be held at the Hil in Serenbe on December 1 and in various venues throughout metro Atlanta during the month of December.  Visit Serenbe Playhouse on line for dates, times, and locations and to purchase tickets.
  • Purchase fresh Christmas trees, garland, and wreaths at Fern’sMarket on December 1 and 8.
  • Serenbe’s merchants offer wonderful goods and services. Fill your shopping needs in Serenbe. 
  • Find unique gifts from area artisans at the Holiday Bazaar in the Serenbe Stables December 14-16 (Dec 14, 3-7 pm; Dec 15 and 16, 11 am – 5 pm).
  • Unwind and enjoy a delicious meal at one of our eateries: The Farmhouse, the Hil, and the Blue Eyed Daisy Bakeshop.




April 2010



Pimento Cheese for a party!

Written by , Posted in pimento cheese, Recipe Articles, serenbe

Steve and I had an afternoon wine and cheese party this past weekend at our house to welcome our new residents to Serenbe. In the last 6 months, we have had over 20 new residents move in. It is always great to have new energy on the streets.

“I think nothing is better than Pimento Cheese for a nibble to go along with homemade lemonade and wine. I serve Pimento cheese as one of the rotating cheeses we serve at tea time in the afternoon at the Inn. And do people love it!!”

Pimento cheese is one of those quintessential Southern dishes served at parties. Every southern cookbook has a recipe.

I like mine with a little kick so we add cayenne and Tabasco to the mix. Of course feel free to add more or less depending on your taste. And always be sure to serve it with crackers and celery.

Pimento Cheese

  • 3 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced pimento
  • 1 oz. cream cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayennes
  • 1/4 teaspoon tabasco
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mixed well with hands until cream cheese is incorporated into mixture.



April 2010



Dad inspired my love for Farmer’s Markets

Written by , Posted in "mary mac's", serenbe

                          Mom and Dad

Since I have been reminiscing about my childhood at Mary Mac’s on the blog, some folks have asked about my father and the role he played at Mary Mac’s. Mother was certainly the heart and soul of the place but my father was like the backbone. He tended to the maintenance issues and closed the restaurant each night so that Mom could leave at 8pm to get home to tell us good night. But one of his duties he loved most was buying the produce.

                               Dad and me!
Harvey, my Dad, had been in the wholesale produce business for years in Atlanta. That was how he met my mother. He made a sales call to Mom’s first restaurant, Margaret’s Tray Shop, in the mid fifties. He obviously did a great sales job as they married in 1956.

One of his businesses was called Lupo’s Produce and his motto was “If it is in town, I have it. If it is in the world, I’ll get it.” Dad was never to be outdone.

Dad had closed his produce business in the early 60’s and went to work for a food wholesaler. When that job ended, he joined Mother at the restaurant. He loved to tell people that his salary was ” a new Cadillac every year, a closet full of clothes and sleeping privileges.” Needless to say, Dad was quite a character.

So when he joined Mom, it was a natural for him to be in charge of produce buying as he knew all the businesses down on “row.” That was what the area was called at the State Farmer’s Market because all the big produce businesses were all in big buildings in a row. He had his favorites that he called on- Cerniglia Brothers, Collins, Sonny’s and Sutherland’s are some of the ones I remember.

Dad had bought a used van and would drive down twice a week to get all the fresh vegetables for Mary Mac’s. He said it was to save money but I really think it was so he could visit all his buddies on row.

In the summers, I would go with Dad to market sometimes. It still is one of my fondest memories of time spent with Dad. I loved to ride in the van with him and hear stories about his time on row. But mostly, I just loved to hang out with my dad. I would get to go into all the big walk ins (REALLY big refrigerators) for all the produce. There is a distinct smell to a produce walk in. I can not describe it but when I go into my walk in at the Farmhouse there is a faint whiff of it  (obviously my walk ins aren’t that big!) and I am carried back to those times with Dad.

Then we’d drive down to the sheds at market. These are the places open to the public and in those days where the farmers from all over Georgia would bring their crops to sell. We would drive up and down the rows looking for items Dad didn’t get from wholesalers. Once he had found an item and a price he liked, we would get out to inspect the produce.
It is from Dad that I learned how to tell a fresh tomato from a hothouse one (look at where it was attached to the vine and look for ripening marks) and the best way to pick a ripe watermelon in season (it should have a yellow belly which means it was allowed to ripen on the vine.) Dad would only buy produce in its season so Mary Mac’s never had tomatoes in the winter and such. He prided himself on buying the best produce he could for the restaurant.

I still love to go to Farmer’s Markets. My family knows that when we go on vacation and there is a market that I will be there first thing to look all the bounty those area farmers have brought in. And just like Dad taught me, I’ll turn over watermelons and look for the rings on a tomato.



April 2010



Serenbe in Bloom

Written by , Posted in "margaret lupo" "marie nygren", serenbe

Haven’t you just loved the spring light the last few days in the Atlanta area?  It is my favorite time of year with the spring flowers starting to show their beautiful blooms. 

I see more Serenbe residents out for morning and afternoon walks to soak in the lovely sunshine and be among the daffodils, quince and forsythia. Neighbors and guests sitting at the sidewalk tables in front of the Daisy having a latte or ice tea and visiting. It still makes me smile to see all this and realize it is all happening in the middle of the woods in what use to be our “backyard.”

Serenbe will be a bustling place this weekend. There is an Easter egg hunt at the Serenbe stables. I love seeing all the precious little ones running around looking for bright colored eggs and the joy on their faces when they find a treasure. 

And, the Farmhouse is having Easter lunch with ham, fried chicken and the first of the spring asparagus. I look forward to seeing all the Easter outfits and bonnets. Maybe I can wear mine the next week as I’ll be in the kitchen all day. Easter is busy day for the Farmhouse as we usually serve 200 people for lunch. Lots of fried chicken!!

Even my dog Pudge is enjoying the sunshine.



March 2010





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



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.



February 2010



Kevin in Serenbe!

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

Well, you know you have a hot commodity when friends call and ask: 

“Mind if I stop by next Sunday?”  

Especially friends you didn’t know you have.

It isn’t me they want to see  they just want to meet Kevin. That would be Kevin Gillespie of Top Chef fame and local Celebrity Chef at Woodfire Grill. He starts cooking at Serenbe on Feb.28 and I am very excited about having this amazing young man in my kitchen. Next week, stay tuned for one of Kevin’s special recipes from the weekend.