Monday, September 24, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

TALLAHASSEE—Driving into this lovely state capital city from the nearby Georgia border town of Thomasville always means a stop at Bradley’s Country Store. It’s a chance to see “Miss Jan,” more formally known as Jan Bradley Parker, and pick up some tailgating essentials like pork chops, homemade sausages, Mayhaw jelly and Tupelo honey. On a football weekend, Bradley’s becomes a Florida culinary adventure, bringing in customers who appreciate Miss Jan’s food store where grits are stone ground, the meat cured in a real smokehouse and the conversation is down home cheerful.

If you are lucky, you’ll run into celebrities here like legendary coach Bobby Bowden, a frequent customer.

The evening before the Clemson-Florida State game allows time for dinner at David and Elizabeth Gwynn’s Cypress restaurant, a showcase of impressive dishes reflecting the diversity of Florida’s harvest. Fresh seafood from nearby Panacea on the Gulf of Mexico is the norm, and you haven’t really lived until you devour their signature Oysters and Biscuits, a gourmet original.

Tallahassee’s regal Hotel Duval with a history that dates back to FSU’s earliest football days, is the perfect place to get in the mood for a night game. The day was free for drinks and light fare at the Duval’s Level 8 Lounge. The lagniappe is a stunning view the capital city.

On this first day of autumn, the lots outside Doak Campbell Stadium became a moveable feast. Gumbos galore, smoked mullet dip (a North Florida delicacy that deserves a place in tailgating), shrimp served in countless ways, plus authentic Southern-style chicken and of course barbecue pork were mere samplings.

The predominance of Jim Beam Bourbon-which includes Beam varieties like Red Stag- confirms the masses appeal of Bourbon.The tasty elixir is soaring in tailgating popularity. With fresh air, warm sunshine and friendly surroundings, legendary Bourbon has a prominent place.

Had a grilled Bulldozer lately? This is Sunshine State vernacular for the Florida lobster and few things taste better from the grill. Plump, smoky and buttery, this calls for wine with some complexity. One parking lot chef served my entourage  Bulldozer along with a glass or two of chilled  Château La Gatte Bordeaux Rosé. For a few priceless moments, Florida met France..

Next year Florida celebrates its 500th anniversary and the ancient Spanish Trace literally goes through the heart of Tallahassee. The trading route was the first by Europeans in America connecting St. Augustine with all of North Florida. Vestiges of the early civilization remain here in the food and wine traditions. The old wine cellar built centuries ago by Franciscan monks has been restored at Tallahassee’s Mission San Luis, confirming that the first wines brought into America came to Florida.

One of my favorite tailgating recipes is from Lara Lyn Carter, a rising star celebrity TV chef and a regular on the NBC affiliate WALB-TV in Albany, Georgia. Dedicated to her father, an FSU stalwart, it’s one of those dishes filled with flavor from the grill and perfect with a bottle of dry Dr. Loosen Riesling from the Mosel River Valley. Enjoy Lara Lyn’s tailgating recipe before kickoff:

In the Deep South, tailgating is more than a ritual, it’s a social umbrella that combines the exciting pageantry of college football with the great outdoor feast. The food is local. The wines, in the Jeffersonian tradition, are from all parts of the world, and the Jim Beam Bourbon is from Kentucky.

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