Monday, November 12, 2012


Champagne, Grilled Shrimp & Tequila-
                 A Football Afternoon in Alabama

"My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done, such as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
                           James Bond; played by Sean Connery in “Goldfinger.”

By Doc Lawrence

TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA-Alabama gave the world Tallulah Bankhead, Hank Williams, Nat King Cole and my dear mother. My great-great grandfather died in this state as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. Returning is spiritual renewal.

This glorious Saturday started with a nice walk along the Black Warrior River where Kentuck, Alabama’s great outdoor folk art extravaganza was held last month. The night before was one of the most memorable dinners in recent years at The Bright Star, perhaps the most popular of all Alabama restaurants. Located in nearby Bessemer, Jimmy Koikos carries on a family tradition of more than a century serving Greek/Deep South food. My choices were Shrimp Remoulade followed by their incredibly delicious Snapper cooked Greek style with a side of pickled beets. Wine selection was St. Francis (Sonoma County) Chardonnay.

Tuscaloosa is Southern heartland: Football, a great university, home to barbecue’s heralded Dreamland and one of the livelier places anywhere on an autumn Saturday. This was a day for a monumental football game with a reunion that caught national attention. “The Junction Boys,” 21 of them from Bear Bryant’s teams of the 1950’s at Texas A & M were here to celebrate their common thread with Alabama (both colleges are part of Bryant’s footfall coaching legacy) and they were treated as heroes.
Strolling the grounds near the stadium with a hangdog thirsty look will, I found, attract sympathy and relief. Alabama tailgaters are famously friendly and before long, here was a flute of chilled Laurent-Perrier Champagne-the real thing-in my right hand courtesy of a nice family from Birmingham. Adding more enjoyment, they tossed in bacon-wrapped just grilled shrimp we consumed as they were transferred still sizzling from the coals to plates. I had seen the latest 007 movie and James Bond always triggers a need for bubbly.

You pay homage to the University of Alabama’s impressive list of accomplished alums: Begin with Harper Lee. Her “To Kill A Mockingbird,” remains a global favorite and in some ways Kathryn Stockett (“The Help”) has followed in Ms. Lee’s footsteps. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black gave meaning to the Bill of Rights and was a champion of fairness and equality under the Constitution. Then, there is “Broadway Joe” Namath, the swashbuckling quarterback who literally made Americans crazy for football.

‘Bama grads Nell and Tim Nations are retired, living in a Central Florida resort town. These are seasoned tailgaters who, according to Tim, “came into this kind of weekend fun later in life when the kids left home.” On this day, we had pre-game laughs and shared stories propelled by some of the most amazing tequila cocktails this side of Guadalajara .The spread was like a picnic catered by the Ritz Paris: Pate, artisan cheeses, fork-tender tournedos of beef, poached salmon. Wine? Inman Family Pinot Noir, a spectacular selection from the heart of California’s Russian River Valley. Recognizing that Champagne has been a Deep South favorite since the Civil War, bottles were opened and poured. On a lovely fall afternoon in Tuscaloosa, their Champagne was served att the proper temperature.

Down South, we honor tradition.

NOTE: The Jack Daniel’s Gourmet tasting dinner was on a magic Tennessee evening beside the historic distillery:


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