Monday, October 22, 2012



Virginia Tech, A Mano Primitivo, Grilled Feta Tenderloin, Sugarleaf Vineyards, Charlotte Russe, Marshall Tucker Band

By Doc Lawrence

CLEMSON, SC—Traveling down the Blue Ridge Mountains from Highlands, the nearby North Carolina resort town to Clemson is a visual adventure. The natural beauty is stunning with brilliant fall foliage equal to a Monet painting. Combined with the fresh air, the appetite is stimulated prompting a mighty thirst for an eye-opening drink and some tasty casual food. The destination was the tailgating area on Clemson University’s campus, a necessary step for a friendly traveler looking for nourishment.

It’s game day down south with Clemson facing Virginia Tech: Who needs football when there is great food, wines, cocktails and craft beer?


Clemson is not far from Spartanburg where the fabulous Marshall Tucker Band started and songs like their classic “Fire on the Mountain,” resonated this autumn day amid the smoke, laughter and never-ending good cheer. Although this is near the mountains and across the state from the Atlantic coast, the food served is connected to the Low Country food culture of the Palmetto state. She Crab soup warms the soul on a chilly fall day and when served, as Max Wheeler does, with an added jigger of good sherry, it is a contemporary but still regal dish reflecting its Charleston roots. No wine with this, just a well-constructed bloody mary with tomato juice made at a local farm and Southern vodka from Georgia’s 13th Colony Distillery.

The food was uniformly delicious, but one dish was a show stealer: Grilled thinly sliced tenderloin of beef filet with garlic and oregano and topped with flakes of Feta Cheese. The wine was a selection by an engineer, a Clemson grad, A Mano Primitivo (2010), a delight from the southeast of Italy made from the grape with DNA identical to California Zinfandel. The pairing was stunning.

Clemson is surrounded by trout streams and near mighty lakes like Hartwell. Smoked trout was everywhere and one Virginia Tech visitor shared her still warm trout with a glass of spectacular Petit Manseng   from Sugarleaf Vineyards, the acclaimed winery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Wine from the Promised Land is what the universe demands for trout, whether smoked or grilled.

The cooks, parking lot bartenders, revelers and fans who gathered were primarily Clemson loyalists decked out in electric orange, but there were some from Virginia Tech. Paul and Dottie Sammons live in the Washington, DC area and brought a Charlotte Russe with them, a dessert that my dear mother would make on special occasions. This was a collaborative effort, Dottie explained, “with our friends in Ashville who also have a sweet tooth on beautiful Saturdays.”

I had an ample serving accompanied by flutes of J Vineyards Russian River Valley Vintage Brut, a California sparkling wine.

Along the way, memories are made during the tailgating ritual. After doing this for many years, I have believe that these pre-game feasts display America at her best. Goodwill, joy and sharing dominate, even in the midst of often-heated rivalries. Mature folks love to cook, uncork, pour and share, even with a stranger from Atlanta whose football loyalties may well be different. The chance to make new friends is a blessing. A healthy appetite, a willingness to try new beverages and a mind that is open leads to new possibilities.

NOTE: This week is dedicated to  “The Jack,” the Jack Daniel’s 2012 International Barbecue Competition In Lynchburg, Tennessee. I’ll be there serving as a judge, making new friends and reuniting with so many participants from across America and other countries.

1 comment:

  1. We are overjoyed that our J Russian River Valley Vintage Brut was part of your “sparkling” memories made during your tailgating ritual, cheers!