The Year of Georgia Music and the Artists Keeping it Flowing

2016 Georgia Travel Guide coverIt’s official: 2016 is the Year of Georgia Music. Governor Nathan Deal made the announcement at the State Capitol last Tuesday as he unveiled the cover of the annual Georgia Travel Guide, which features country superstar and Leesburg, Ga., native Luke Bryan.

The designation is a welcome acknowledgement of the $3.6 billion annual impact and 26,000 jobs music brings to the Georgia economy, but it’s nothing new — music has been part of Georgia’s lifeblood for decades. Its generational strength was in full display at a Travel Guide launch party, where entertainment included 17-year-old Marietta-born Zach Seabaugh, a recent semi-finalist on “The Voice.” Zach was followed on stage by Macon’s Robert Lee Coleman, the 75-year-old bluesman who played guitar in James Brown’s legendary band the JBs. The talent stretches throughout Georgia as well, as evidenced by the guide’s photo of notable musicians from every corner of the state.

It’s easy to rattle off the classic names (Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, R.E.M., Ma Rainey) but Georgia’s new guard earns plenty of acclaim as well, via the recent Grammy nominations. And it would hard to top the variety:

  • Cedartown’s Sam Hunt for Best New Artist and Best Country Album for his 2014 debut “Montevallo.”
  • Veteran Atlanta rockers Sevendust for Best Metal Performance on “Thank You.”
  • Christian rockers Third Day for Best Contemporary Christian Performance/Song for “Soul on Fire.”
  • Rounding it off, HBO’s documentary “Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown” is nominated for Best Music Film.

For another barometer of the latest Georgia sounds, check out the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll, an aggregation of nearly 500 critics’ best-of lists that provides a comprehensive snapshot of 2015 music. Macon native Mackenzie Scott, who records as Torres, finished an impressive #28 with her sophomore album “Sprinter.” Young Atlanta-based rappers Rae Sremmurd landed at #40 with their debut “SremmLife,” also topping Pazz & Jop’s “hipness” scale based on the poll’s own definition. Savannah’s Baroness crashed the party with their mid-December album “Purple,” rating a callout as one of the only metal bands to make this year’s chart — they also garnered as many votes as both Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez despite the late arrival.

Be sure to check out the new landing page. I’m particularly fond of the interactive “Today in Georgia Music” calendar, yet another example of the state’s deep, diverse musical roots. For example, February 1 is the birthday of OutKast’s Andre “Big Boi” Patton (Savannah, 1975). Oh, and 10 years earlier on that same date, James Brown recorded “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Not bad for a day’s work.

Start making plans today to discover many more local artists on your next trip to Georgia with your free copy of the 2016 Georgia Travel Guide.

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as

3 Bodacious Burgers You Must Try

I’m a burger lover, and these three always have a place at my table!

Burger at White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Ga.

Burger at White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Ga.

White Oak Pastures, Bluffton. I recently had the opportunity to eat my way through Georgia Grown’s Hwy 37. I ate a lot of delicious food (more on that in later posts), but the Farmer John Burger at White Oak Pastures’ dining hall was the best meal of the trip —and one of the very best burgers I’ve ever eaten. It was a huge grass-fed beef burger smothered in cheese, farm-raised bacon, micro greens from their own garden and an egg gathered from their own free range chickens.

Holman and Finch Burger in Atlanta.

Holman and Finch Burger in Atlanta.

Holman & Finch Public House, Atlanta. H&F is known for great food — especially “The Burger.” House ground beef burgers, cheese and H&F pickles all on a freshly baked bun makes this burger legendary. In the past, you could order it anytime during Sunday brunch, but during the rest of the week, the kitchen only served 24 burgers and only after 10 p.m. With H&F Burger newly opened in Ponce City Market, you can now get “The Burger” on the regular Holeman & Finch dinner menu every night of the week.

Sliders at Sly's Siders and Fries in Savannah

Sliders at Sly’s Siders and Fries in Savannah

Sly’s Sliders and Fries, Savannah. Sliders and hot dogs and hand-cut fries — Oh, my! The next time you’re in Savannah (and want a break from all of the awesome seafood you’ve been eating) give Sly’s a try. Their classic cheeseburger slider is a winner, and adding a fried egg on top just takes it to a higher level. Not feeling like a burger? Well, the menu also offers jerk chicken, falafel, and even brisket sliders. Since they’re mini, feel free to eat two or three!

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

5 of Georgia’s Best Sunrise and Sunset Views

Traveling and camping around Georgia, I’ve seen my fair share of gorgeous skies. These five destinations are the best places to experience twilight transformations.

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Sunrise on Cumberland Island. Photo by Candy Cook.

Sunrise on Cumberland Island. Photo by Candy Cook.

Magnificent ruins, wild horses, and miles of sandy beach make camping on Cumberland Island an unforgettable experience. In the afternoon, the day-use visitors ferry back to the mainland, leaving behind a limited number of overnight campers. There’s nothing like watching the sun rise over the Atlantic from the deserted beach on Cumberland Island.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Kayaking in the Okefenokee Swamp. GDEcD Photography

Kayaking in the Okefenokee Swamp. GDEcD Photography

The twilight hours are glorious in the Okefenokee Swamp. The glassy blackwater reflects pretty pinks and orange hues of the clouds above. Birds and frogs join voices with a chorus of crickets. In the evening, the sun makes way for the best view of stars in Georgia. In the mornings, carefully woven spider webs glisten with droplets of dew. It’s a magical time for visitors in the swamp.

Brasstown Bald

Sunset from Brasstown Bald

Sunset from Brasstown Bald. Photo by Candy Cook

When it comes to watching the sun set over the great state of Georgia, there is simply no comparison to this view. A visit to Brasstown Bald takes visitors to the highest summit in the state. As the sun rises and sets, the rolling silhouette of the Northeast Georgia mountains is a spectacular sight to behold.

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. GDEcD Photography

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. GDEcD Photography

A well-known location for hauntingly beautiful photos, Driftwood Beach is located on the northern end of Jekyll Island. The twisted, gnarled remains of island trees are especially beautiful as twilight colors scatter across the sky, creating an interesting play of light and shadow.

Panola Mountain State Park

Sunset from Panola Mountain State Park Photo from Facebook.

Sunset from Panola Mountain State Park. Photo from Facebook.

Panola Mountain is a strikingly beautiful experience any time of the day. Blanketed in a kaleidoscope of multicolored mosses, hikes around the summit are scheduled with a naturalist guide to ensure preservation. Occasionally, these hikes coincide with a view of the Atlanta skyline at sunset followed by a bonfire and s’mores.

candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

5 Georgia Meal Delivery Services to Try in the New Year

Garnish & Gather cook-at-home meal kits

Garnish & Gather offers gourmet meal kits full of ingredients from Georgia.

With the New Year comes the New Year’s resolutions. The most popular resolution is getting into better shape, with eating healthier coming a close second. These five Georgia-based meal delivery companies are ready to help you eat better by delivering healthy, nutritious and — equally important — delicious meals right to your door. Bon Appetit!

Garnish & Gather, Atlanta. Known for its “gourmet cook-at-home meal kits,” Garnish & Gather prides itself for using locally sourced food, ethically raised meats and sustainable seafood. Local chefs create recipes that are seasonal, gourmet, and quick and easy to prepare! They also offer the option of picking up your order from participating stores around greater Atlanta.

Fresh-N-Fit Cuisine, Cumming. Offering ready-to-eat meals, this employee-owned company uses professional chefs to develop their menus, as well as cook and package the meals. With a long list of available menus, being able to customize your menu is just icing on the cake. Did I say icing? I meant fresh fruit!

Instead of Flowers, Atlanta. Instead of Flowers delivers fresh gourmet meals for people on the go who love good food but may not have the time to prepare a gourmet meal at home. Because the meals are precooked, they only need reheating, which ensures that dinner is on the table in a flash. This is also a great gift for special occasions.

Nature’s Garden Express delivery, Atlanta. Although they don’t offer complete meals, Nature’s Garden Express delivers a wide array of locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. So, you get your choice of seasonal fruits and vegetables to help you round out your meals. They even offer a deep database of recipes to help motivate your cooking endeavors.

PeachDish meal boxes

PeachDish meal boxes feature Georgia-grown ingredients and recipes by local chefs.

PeachDish, Forest Park. For the foodie without a lot of time, PeachDish offers the best of both worlds: fresh delicious meals without having to do the shopping! Your meal box contains a recipe card and all of the locally sourced ingredients you need to prepare your meal of choice. By the way, the menus and recipes are created by some of Georgia’s finest chefs.

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

5 Fantastic Stocking Stuffers from Georgia

Christmas stockings on mantle

Photo courtesy

Looking for last-minute stocking stuffers? Well, check your list . . check it twice, and find out whose nice enough for one of these five fantastic stocking stuffers. This list represents some of the most delicious edible (and in some cases drinkable) gifts Georgia has to offer.

Sparkman's Cream Valley productsButter and Cream from Sparkman’s Cream Valley. I’ll admit, cream and butter are not the usual holiday stocking stuffers, but any cook that knows their way around a recipe will appreciate a quart of Sparkman’s rich cream or a pound of their sweet  butter. And, you’ll reap the tasty rewards of such a thoughtful gift.

Fruitland Augusta VodkaFruitland Augusta Peach Vodka. Augusta put our state on the map as “The Peach State” and lives up to that name even today with Fruitland Augusta’s Georgia Peach Vodka. It can boast as being the only peach flavored vodka made with REAL Georgia peaches. It’s also a wonderful addition to any holiday punch, hot toddy, or drizzled on top of your Christmas cake.

Savannah Bee Company Honey

Honey from Savannah Bee Company. Yes, they have a great line of home and body products, but I’m all about the honey, Honey. Savannah Bee Company has beautiful bottles of artisanal (fancy) honey, what they call their “every day” honey and even honey sticks, which are perfect for your cup of hot tea. Whichever you decide to stuff your stocking with will be a sweet gift.

Georgia pecansPecans from Atwell Pecan Company. Growing up, I always looked forward to the pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts that I got in my Christmas stocking; but this was before I knew that pralines existed! Atwell Pecan Company offers a HUGE selection of mixed nuts, divinity, chocolates and pralines made with Georgia pecans. I think I’ll put them in my stocking this year!

Richland RunRichland Rum from Richland Distilling Company. Did you know that rum was the South’s first spirit of choice — even before bourbon or whiskey? Why not stuff your stocking with a little history and a bottle of Richland Rum? With Georgia sugar cane and natural water from Georgia as its only two ingredients, you are definitely giving a taste of Georgia with this oak barreled rum.

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.