Football, Barbecue, Smiles and Fabulous Wines
"When Clemson players rub that rock and run down the hill, it’s the most exciting 25 seconds in college football."
Brent Musberger, ABC Sports
By Doc Lawrence
CLEMSON, SC--Only 70 miles as the crow flies separates this college town from Athens, Georgia, home to college football’s Bulldogs. The game was one of the most exciting in recent years, entertaining a national audience on television and a mass of folks seated in the stadium cloaked in orange. The inaugural for the 2013 college football tailgating season-a non-partisan visit- was all about flavors and aromas, the kind that abound in parking areas near the stadium where tailgating made the annual debut.
This Deep South tradition was born during the Civil War according to highly respected Southern culture expert Frank Spence, and no other gathering offers as much opportunity to learn about taste trends and beverage preferences. This grass roots experience defies focus group marketing strategies. Here, just before kick-off, home -grown recipes become wonderful dishes served under a bright laste summer sky. Beverages fall right into play. Just a few years ago, sweet tea, soft drinks and beer were the norm. Not now. Some truly elaborate sangrias, creative cocktails and very impressive wines are in abundance, along with spectacular non-alcoholic beverages like Reed’s Culture Club Kombucha.
Because this was a night game, the feast took on a leisurely pace. A glass of something cold gives a visitor a chance to chat and even make new friends. And arriving early allows time to visit restaurants and local watering holes, places where you might go in the future when the weather isn’t as perfect as it was on this last Saturday in August. Jeff Metz, the Athletic Superintendent for Aiken, South Carolina is one of many Clemson fans who swear they bleed orange. For those who arrive a day early, there is fine dining. Jeff’s recommends Calhoun Corners, Pixie & Bills or Blue Herron, and if you need a good watering hole, the ESSO Club, he says “is the most popular” Ice cream? Only one palace, “the ice cream made in Clemson at the Hendrix Center.”
|Rob Mondavi Has Deep South Connections|
My entourage was equipped for all the festivities, serving wines that pair almost perfectly with Chef Lara Lyn Carter’s shrimp and grits: The cheese-based grits dish needed something acidic and a great Rosé, chilled of course, worked. Rob Mondavi’s All-American family selection from his the Michael Mondavi Family Estate Wines offered the elegant and delicious Isabel Mondavi Deep Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon. This lovely, complex wine with captivating aromas of strawberry, cranberry and red apple had mouthwatering acidity and a juicy finish that made it ideal for pairing with a wide array of tailgating dishes beyond the shrimp and grits including a slow-roasted Boston Butt that became pulled pork barbecue.
Clemson is strategically located between Charleston, Charlotte and Atlanta, near the banks of Lake Hartwell and the gourmet restaurants of Highlands, the North Carolina resort of the rich and famous. Everything comes together on game day with a rich mixture of dishes and drinks notable for variety and high quality. I met more than one visiting home bartender and enjoyed cocktails made with everything from Jack Daniel’s or Wild Turkey to many new rye whiskey expressions that are taking on a life of their own. A personal preference remains Jack Daniel’s over chunks of ice with a splash of high quality ginger ale, and nothing approaches Reed’s Premium Ginger Brew as a mixer.
|Aromas Intoxicate Tailgaters|
Low Country cuisine is plentiful here ranking in popularity with omnipresent barbecue: pork and chicken.. The sauces are fascinating. Never dismiss mustard-based sauces. They are full flavored, minus all the sugared ones that too often drown the wood flavor of great meat and fowl. Make one yourself in advance using Coleman’s Mustard, an exceptional product from England with lots of subtle heat.
The weekend belonged to Clemson fans, a loyal following that keeps the local economy thriving this time of year. Like so much of today’s Deep South cuisine, diversity dominated. The big difference now from the tailgaters a decade ago is the growing presence of wine and so many different delicious dishes.
Football, food, cocktails and camaraderie combine for priceless memories. Today, the countryside hints of autumn. Notice the gradual change in hues of leaves as the foliage begins to look more orange.
|Chef Lara Lyn Carter|
Chef Lara Lyn Carter’s Shrimp and Grits
1 cup Gayla’s Grits (or other stone ground grits like Logan Turnpike)
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon pepper
8 ounces of Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill Cheese
1 large Vidalia onion chopped
2 tablespoons of Georgia Olive Farm Olive Oil
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 pound of large wild Georgia shrimp peeled and deveined
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 stick of butter melted
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
For the grits-
Bring the chicken broth, butter and pepper to a boil. Add the grits to the broth mixture and cook covered over low to medium heat for one hour stirring frequently. Add water ¼ of a cup at a time as needed during the cooking to keep the grits from sticking. During the last 15 minutes of cooking add the cheese to the grits and stir to allow it to dissolve into the grits. This part alone is creamy delicious comfort food.
For the Onions-
Place the olive oil in a skillet over low to medium heat and add the Vidalia Onion, salt, and sugar. Cook for 20 minutes until caramelized.
For the shrimp-
Spread the shrimp on a greased baking sheet. Melt the butter and mix in the garlic and rosemary. Pour the butter mixture over the shrimp and roast the shrimp in a 400-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
Ladle the grits into 4 large serving bowls and top equal portions of the onions. Place equal portions of the shrimp around the edges of the bowls.