Monday, October 15, 2012



Nashville Hot Chicken, Kilbeggan Irish Whisky, Vanderbilt, Jack Daniel’s, Las Moras  Malbec, Merle Haggard, Tennessee Travel

By Doc Lawrence

NASHVILLE. No wonder locals have a swagger in their walk. Downtown Nashville is as cool as a city gets outside New York. The Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, countless honky-tonks with live music and the spirit of a place moving forward dominates. Vanderbilt, a blue-chip university tailgates with a dedication to higher living and it’s not unusual to see a spread laid out on white tablecloth. Champagne is often served in flutes alongside dishes like Nashville Hot Chicken, a community staple that ranks with Miami’s Cuban sandwich, Louisiana’s oyster po’ boys or Tallahassee’s Grouper Burgers.

Hot chicken? The rage dish was conceived at Prince’s, a legendary Nashville restaurant where owners have shared their buttermilk bath cayenne pepper battered fried chicken with the world. The finished chicken is served on a slice of gently friedwhite bread and garnished with dill pickle chips.

My game day began with a visit to the Ryman and a stop at the magnificent Hermitage Hotel for cocktails and snacks at the luxurious Capital Grille bar. Here, folks talk college and NFL football, country and rock music and other sophisticated small talk. Perfect background for a Bloody Mary.

The historic and romantic Hermitage has a staff for the ages. The valet was a studio musician for a major recording company and a bellman sang and played in clubs on his days off.

Tailgating at Vandy can range from informal to elegant. Some things have a high society feel much like the Virginia experience at Charlottesville and Oxford, Mississippi on a football weekend. In this big city the conversation about food and drink is pretty interesting. I asked one tailgating group what wines they were pouring and how they selected them. The response would make a sommelier proud. “Lamb lollipops” Sandi Campbell instructed, “are ours are great grilled; and taste better with a beautifully balanced Malbec.” Her selection was Las Moras (2010) from Argentina. Ms. Campbell knows her lamb and wine.

Nashville is the epicenter of Tennessee whisky: it’s got that tailgating feel according to many enthusiasts and nothing is more closely associated with Nashville and the entire state than Jack Daniel’s. Meandering through the maize of pre-game partiers confirmed this but also provided a view of diversity. Nashville has a strong Irish heritage. I found to my delight that Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey is perfect with a slice of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Tennessee bacon with an orange juice chaser.

Nashville is core American, but it retains a Deep South accent and is a rising star in new culinary adventures. Tailgating fits the culture in Music City like a Hank Williams song in a Honky-Tonk.

                                  Nashville Hot Chicken Recipe

(Nashville’s legendary Brother Love believes this to be the recipe from Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Music City. Only they really know, but this is tasty and easy to make.)
The Paste (enough for one or two chicken breasts):
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp lard
3 tbsp cayenne
3 pinches sugar
3/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Other Ingredients:
Self-rising flour, chicken, white bread, and pickles
*All the seasoning is in the paste; dredge the chicken in plain self-rising flour. Fry it.
*Mix all of the ingredients for the paste (microwaving the lard for about 30 seconds will make this easier). Apply it evenly and liberally to the fried chicken using either a basting brush or your latex glove-protected hands. Note: Use about a teaspoonful of paste for each side of a chicken breast.
 *When you’ve covered the top half, flip it over onto a piece of white bread and add the pickles..

NOTE: This pairs well with a Jim Beam American Stillhouse Old Fashioned cocktail with Merle Haggard’s “Big City.” playing in the background..

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