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Contemporary approach to Southern cooking

From Correspondent Carolyn O'Neil

June 3, 1996


ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Serving Southern cuisine in a gracious style, the 1848 House in Marietta, Georgia, is decorated with elegant furnishings of the 1840's South.

But, step into the kitchen, and you'll find a contemporary approach to Southern cuisine.

Chef Lance Dean Velasquez, originally from Northern California, has taken to Southern ingredients with a passion. Georgia mountain trout are smoked and served in dishes like Arugula salad.

And he's even gotten a grip on grits.

"One of the reasons I came to the South was to experience a different culture -- as well as a different approach to cooking," says Velasquez.

Here's another of his interpretations of Southern cooking: potato gnocchi served with dandelion greens and tiny pearl onions.

A dish just as refined as the setting in which it's served.

The romantic images of the South -- from gracious, columned mansions to meals on an elegant table -- make the new cookbook "South the Beautiful" so beautiful.

"You know, one the greatest misconceptions about Southern food is that it's always fried and never healthy. But any great Southern cook knows that the heart of the meal is the vegetables -- freshly prepared and plenty of them."

There's no mistaking you've found the South when you take a meal at the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, Georgia. The plates are piled high with greens, corn and sweet potatoes. And it's a calorie splurge, but you've got to have fried green tomatoes.

So a taste of the South is still going strong, thanks to the efforts and experience of great Southern cooks who are preserving memories of meals from days gone by.

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