We owe a big thanks to Domino magazine, who recently featured a dinner party we co-hosted with our friends Helen Ballard and Bradley Odom at Bradley's shop Dixon Rye in Atlanta. Chef Zach Meloy cooked us an amazing meal, the overall event a collaboration with apparel brand Kit + Ace who brought along cheeky "Real Talk" cards to inspire conversation. We had a fabulous night!
Many thanks to our creative friends and guests Ginny Branch, Sally Benedict, Mary Logan Bikoff, Elizabeth White, Joshua Charles, Carolyn Malone, and Sarah Dorio for attending. You can see the full feature (and many more pretty pictures!) on domino.com.
Words: Jess Graves | Photos: Caroline Fontenot
The band's founding couple throw open the doors of their Atlanta area home for an intimate interview and live session.
It wasn't long before waltzing into Jason and Lauren Morrow's Georgia home that we were offered a whiskey.
And then another whiskey, just a hair past noon. Why not? "I knew I liked you guys." Jason says. The couple are the founding members of The Whiskey Gentry (named for a line in Hunter S. Thompson's "Decadent and Depraved"), an Atlanta-based country/folk band enjoying a steady ascension on their own terms."We don't need to be rock stars." Jason says. "We're happy sustaining ourselves as musicians, just playing music, hopefully selling out shows, and producing great records."
Their home, a happy collection of tour memorabilia, family heirlooms and the stray thrift store victory, is inhabited by two more members of the TWG family; their golden retrievers Jack and Toby. Toby is sage, strong and steady - he keeps the boundless, bouncing Jack in check as he darts from person to person. But Jack always has one eye on Toby, watching him for direction, silently making sure what he's doing is right. The dog's dynamic isn't unlike that of their human parents. Lauren is still and sweet, but quietly possessive of the formidable, sensible strength that so many Southern women are born with. She's the perfect foil to her animated husband, who busies himself fiddling on the guitar, wrestling with Jack and skateboarding on their back yard ramp, which yes, he built himself. He cracks, "My fifteen year old self would be very proud of my house."
"We met at trivia night at [Atlanta bar] The Local." Lauren laughs at the memory. "We won. I remember one of the questions was, 'What 90's band covered Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson? And I knew it was The Lemonheads. Jason was surprised I knew that. He kind of raised his eyebrow at me like 'hey girl, what do you know about The Lemonheads?' We spent the whole night dancing, then made out in the bathroom." She laughs again. "Real classy."
"We were in separate bands then." Jason says. "I kept telling her that we should start [a band] together, but she wasn't having it at first. Then we went to see Old Crow Medicine Show play in Chattanooga, and that kind of changed things. We looked at each other and thought, 'we can do this', so we formed The Whiskey Gentry pretty soon after. Six months later, we were opening for Old Crow at [Papa Joe's festival] Banjobque."
“It was a face I’d seen a thousand times at every Derby I’d ever been to. I saw it, in my head, as the mask of the whiskey gentry–a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams and a terminal identity crisis…” – Hunter S. Thompson
As we wander through their house, Lauren points out a needlepoint tapestry framed in the kitchen. "This was actually the cover for our most recent album, 'Holly Grove'." I squint at it. Sure enough, I recognize the little house in the woods that serves as the focal point for the cover. "That reminds me," I laugh, thinking of the album's title track, "what the hell possessed you to write a song about two little boys who die in the woods?"
She smiles slyly and gives me a little shrug. "I was listening to a lot of 'This American Life' on NPR." "Morbid." I interrupt, laughing again."Yeah, a lot of the time, yeah!" She says. "There was this story on there called 'The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar', about a little boy who goes missing in a swamp in Louisiana. He's found months later with this creepy, wandering handyman in Mississippi. That got me rolling on the lyrics."
The band's sound dwells most generally under the country category, but to stifle them with that label isn't fair. Lauren's voice, as thoroughly Americana as any of her folk counterparts, rings as clear as a bell through the basement recording studio we're posted up in. There's some honky-tonk in their DNA, a wink at bluegrass, but there's also some pissed off garage punk. They write their own songs. Jason's never missed a day in the studio, resting comfortably nearby their producer, John Keane (REM, Indigo Girls), all hands on-deck. They don't need gimmicks, tricks or a lot of takes. They don't need you to think they look or sound shiny. They just want to catch you tapping your toe.
Tour The Band's Home:
VIDEO: The Love List Presents
The Whiskey Gentry At Home
Words: Jess Graves | Photos: Caroline Fontenot
Atlanta barman Jeff Banks pulls inspiration from his time inside the circle for a bourbon punch worthy of Kentucky's biggest party. Plus, five more Derby-inspired libations and a playlist for your adult celebrations with our friends at Town & Country magazine.
"Thousands of raving, stumbling drunks, getting angrier and angrier as they lose more and more money. By midafternoon they’ll be guzzling mint juleps with both hands and vomitting on each other between races. The whole place will be jammed with bodies, shoulder to shoulder. It’s hard to move around. The aisles will be slick with vomit; people falling down and grabbing at your legs to keep from being stomped. Drunks pissing on themselves in the betting lines. Dropping handfuls of money and fighting to stoop over and pick it up.” - Hunter S. Thompson, "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved"
To anyone that's been, the Kentucky Derby's refined reputation is at best, a very beautiful facade. The peacocking, pageantry, jockeys and juleps are all very lovely, but in truth, it wears on into a loud, bawdy, drunken and debaucherous party; one folks dress up real nice and put on fancy hats for. "I've seen things there I've never seen anywhere" barman Jeff Banks muses from behind the brass and Thonet-laden bar at The Luminary, Atlanta's hip brasserie run by Top Chef alum Eli Kirshtein. "Drugs out in the open, people just losing their minds." His eyes twinkle. "It's a pretty good time."
"I'm not a 'sports guy', but I love the Derby. I've had the honor to work inside the circle a few times making drinks. I came up with a punch, nothing is worse when you’re having a party and making guests’ drinks every few minutes - especially when you drink like I do." - Jeff Banks
· 1 bottle of Woodford Reserve Kentucky bourbon
· 2 liters of fresh brewed tea
· 1/2 cup sugar
· 15 Lemons
· 15 Sprigs of mint
Peel the lemons (avoiding as much of the pith as possible). Place the peels into the punch bowl with the sugar. Pick the leaves of 10 sprigs of mint and place into the punch bowl with the lemon peel. Brew tea directly into punch bowl with lemon peel, sugar, mint and lemon juice and mix well. Juice the peeled lemon into the punch bowl. Allow mixture to cool then add ice and bourbon. Serve over ice, garnished with mint.
Can we interest you in another?
Words: Ashlyn Stallings | Photos: Olivia Rae James | Illustrations: Maggie Mathews
Mini Hay, the next generation of storied King Street jeweler Croghan's Jewel Box, carries on her century-old family tradition by boldly gilding one of the South's most ubiquitous pests in the heart of gentile Charleston.
Charleston near-about paints a good mood on us all,
with the peninsula’s treasure trove of shops and restaurants, and enough architecture that you think the elegant city deserves to brag a smidge louder about that (but she’s just so dadgum polite). Not to mention, there’s that romantic Confederate jasmine scent lilting down every street offering well-appointed forgiveness for the havoc pollen season wrought.
Next time you’re in town, take note of a single-house on King Street reigning along the famed thoroughfare: Croghan’s Jewel Box. The century-old jewelry store is an institution, and family-owned for four generations. Jewelry maker Mini Hay’s great grandfather beget his family a grand inheritance to carry on, and Mini’s grandmother, mom, aunt, and sister have all done their part to deliver. After studying art at Clemson and an internship with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mini now saddles-up to her workbench in the store, where she crafts the company’s line of Goldbug jewelry.
1. How on earth did the cockroach become elevated to this level? Any jitters or nerves with putting a line of bug jewelry out?
Well, I don’t usually have ideas before I start – I’d just want earrings or a cuff to wear to whatever I was going to that night, and get working. After Clemson, I was interning at the Met’s jewelry manufacturing department. But I tend to get a little homesick, so that lasted a summer! Back home in Charleston at Croghan’s, Mom expressed she wanted something representative of Charleston. ‘There are already sweetgrass baskets, palm trees on everything … And not a crab, either,’ she said. So, I’m in the house mom grew up in, this old home downtown, and ha, it’s the South, so there are some cockroaches around … so, I decided to just make one: Just make one and see if people like it. It sold instantly that day. And that Christmas, I’d wear the Goldbugs to deb parties – and then get 6 calls the next day from whomever saw it on me! I didn’t study jewelry making – I was a sculpture major at Clemson. I thought ‘You know, I like it, I’ll try it. And if no one else likes them, I’ll have a cool pair of earrings.’
2. What’s next on your docket?
The Goldbugs have been out about 14 months. Of course, I want to move on and dream up what’s next, but everyone is telling me to slow down, ha. Things pick up speed, word is getting out about the bugs, and I need to keep working on them for now! I would like to see them engraved – like an old pressed ring. I’m doing some fine jewelry too, and working with a 3D printer to make these cluster earrings with materials like turquoise, coral, and topaz.”
3. Young women in the Charleston art community are on everyone's lips right now, like CofC alumni magazine cover girl Lulie Wallace, Raven Roxanne, and Teil Duncan. Tell us about that from your vantage point.
I think it’s so cool what they’ve done. You know it just all of sudden happened where people were paying attention to Charleston. The bloggers here have really helped, too: they promote Charleston and the arts so well. My mom and I wanted to get on board, and the local Visitors Bureau had this weekend for bloggers, and we hosted an event here at Croghan’s on the portico and stuff. We gave them each a pair of Goldbugs, which ended up being great for us because they’d post pictures of them. The Goldbugs seem to be such a conversation starter.
4. What’s the best part of the creative process for you?
So, I have the Goldbugs casted, and when I get the bugs back – it’s so fun – I get to just arrange them on myself, like my wrist or neck is this blank canvas. I’ll play with it, and curve all the wings around, or even bend some … I just try things, and if it doesn’t work, I can hide it in my workbench and never see it again!”
5. You’ve got so much family history in the single-house story. What’s one of your favorite memories?
Ha, I wish we had more photos – I guess we’re too busy enjoying life for pictures! One of the best is when I was, I don’t know, maybe two years old, and I’m looking out the door. I’d wrap Christmas gifts in the back when I was really little, and we’d get so busy. Mom would be like, ‘Come out here! We need some help!’ I so disliked it, that I chose to work for my dad’s tire company before the jewelry store! It just seemed nerve-wrecking to answer questions on the floor about jewelry with people all day. Finally, she roped me in working one weekend. I loved it. You know, you’re part of people’s lives on the happiest occasions – marriages, new babies, christenings ... I don’t want miss a day of that.
Mini Hay's Goldbug by Mini line is available on Taigan.com
Words: Katherine Michalak | Photos: Caroline Fontenot
The American Dream is alive and well behind the kitchen doors of Atlanta Chef Archna Becker's Bhojanic restaurants, where a booming refugee community has quietly thrived for nearly a decade.
New Oxford American Dictionary:
refugee |ˌrefyo͝oˈjē, ˈrefyo͝oˌjē| (noun)
a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster
ORIGIN late 17th cent.: from French réfugié ‘gone in search of refuge,’ past participle of (se) réfugier, from refuge (see refuge)
Refugee - The word itself throbs with negative connotation, harkening a sense of strife and despair, along with visions of war-torn nations, political unrest, and the proverbial huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It’s a term conjuring images of foreign lands flickering from newscasts or award-winning performances in dramatic films. I, for one, recall anecdotal tidbits of ancestral history shared at family reunions, school projects about Ellis Island, and descriptive blurbs on countless museum exhibit plaques … I identify only from distant reference, not from personal experience.
Yet, the etymology of refugee, stemming from a French gerund, echoes a sentiment far more familiar... a path we each navigate at some point in our lives . ‘Gone in search of refuge’. Seeking safety and shelter. Finding a place to rest, to breathe, to settle the soul, to nourish the body and regain balance. Hoping to find someone else at that refuge, an ally offering guidance and support to our exhausted bodies depleted by struggle.
A few years ago,
Executive Chef Archna Becker found herself struggling to staff her successful Bhojanic restaurants with capable employees. Sitting across the table from me at her Lenox location, Archna speaks quickly and definitively. Always on the move, with one hand on her phone and an ear toward the kitchen, Archna lifts up a palm gesturing emphatically, “We didn’t know what to do to get the right people in here to work. The people that were applying either didn’t have any papers or didn’t know anything about the food.” She’s committed to hiring employees with a connection to the culture of her cuisine in order to maintain authenticity. Continually packed tables at her restaurants indicate her approach hits a target.
As the business grew, Archna kept hitting these same staffing obstacles, increasingly stressed over the search for qualified workers ready for the challenge of a bustling kitchen simmering with her traditional North Indian recipes. “Then one day someone over at IRC [in Clarkston] called saying they had 2 sisters looking for jobs, all their papers processed, and they didn’t know where to start looking. I said ‘Send them over!’ That’s how we started hiring from the refugee community. I helped them, they saved me!”
About 30 years ago, the federal government tapped Clarkston, Georgia as one of the ideal spots for refugee resettlement and the DeKalb County town has played gracious host ever since. Thousands of eager families arrive in Clarkston, embracing freedom and building their future with the aid of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), designated state programming and dozens of private organizations such as the International Refugee Committee (IRC). Diversity thrives in this community devoted to new beginnings.
One of Bhojanic’s early IRC hires, Rachna, exemplifies the spirit of the resettlement program. Formerly in Nepal, Rachna lived in refugee camp awaiting international relief. Her journey brought her to Clarkston, and in 2009 she interviewed with Archna. Now, six years later, she manages the kitchen of the Lenox location while her husband manages the kitchen of Bhojanic’s Decatur restaurant. They own their home and cars, and their children flourish in local schools. They’ve each established fulfilling careers and anticipate successful futures for their family -- the American Dream in glorious technicolor.
Currently, Bhojanic employees over 2 dozen refugees, guiding them through a rigorous training process, helping them learn English and facilitating the transition into American society in a way that still allows them to celebrate their own culture. “We throw parties and organize employee events. This has become a family, our family. My husband and I recently attended an employee wedding -- a big family wedding that the whole community came together, participating. Everyone there knew us. Everyone!”
Archna views her efforts as a means of honoring her heritage and maintaining a link to tradition,
as well as celebrating America’s vast opportunities. As a young girl, she came to this country with her parents when they decided to leave India; while the circumstances of her arrival were quite different than those in an ORR program, she relates to the assimilation process. Archna encourages more business-owners to build similar relationships, “It’s definitely an investment in the training, but the risk/reward ratio of that… the ROI… makes it totally worth it. It’s incredibly rewarding. Some employees stay with us and some have moved on to open their own businesses. This community is filled with kind, family-oriented, dedicated, educated, hard-working people… This is what this country is about. If I can be a conduit for that energy, of course I will!”