Monday, October 1, 2012



         Grass-fed Beef Burgers, Red Stag Cocktails, Coppola Red Wine 

By Doc Lawrence

ATHENS, GA—On this autumn afternoon deep in Dixie, the world was colored bright red. Red tents in the lots near the stadium shaded the cooks, servers and guests who were likewise in hues of shinny fire engines. A Saturday in Athens, Georgia’s “Classic City” is a romantic experience. The downtown just rocks and has many places to dine, many just across the street from the University of Georgia campus entrance.

This is the home of the legendary rock group, R.E.M. and the best fried chicken anywhere is the main attraction at Weaver D’s, the little café with a global fan base owned by Dexter Weaver, who catered for the group and was the inspiration for the album, “Automatic for the People.”

I feel the spirit of Lewis Grizzard when I visit Athens on a football game day. How many Georgia games against Tennessee, I wondered, did he witness? And I cannot count times I thoroughly enjoyed the gravely play-by-play radio announcing of Georgia football games by the great Larry Muson.

Nostalgia runs deep here in the tailgating areas where there’s good barbecue everywhere, plus fried catfish, slaw and potato salad made every which away, along with some of the finest wines and skillfully crafted cocktails anywhere in the South. College football is the magnet. Food and drink is the pre-game primer.

This is a day when burgers reign. One group was serving burgers made from Will Harris’ grass-fed beef produced at his heralded White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia. These were custom grilled and fit perfectly with a glass of Francis Copppola Diamond Red Blend, a wine that when poured looked Georgia Bulldog red.

Red Stag Bourbon has a high profile because of its association with music superstar Kid Rock. More than a few tailgaters were serving it.. The Bourbon is football fan friendly and mixes easily. One cocktail was made with high quality ginger ale, a stout pour of Red Stag and the juice of a half lime served over chunk ice in beautiful Old Fashioned cocktail glass.

The recipe of the day was the creation of Josh Butler the culinary specialist traveling with the Grammy Award winning Zac Brown Band. For years Josh was Florida’s top chef, cooking gourmet dinners for three Florida governors. Enjoy Josh’s original “Dog Island Grouper Burger with Florida Slaw” with a glass or two of Biltmore Century White wine, combining the best flavors of this great Georgia college town with the Gulf of Mexico and Asheville, North Carolina.

For those looking for excitement, here’s Josh’s recipe:

 In the Classic City, .Tailgating is more than celebrating winning. It is an art form.

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