Woo Woo for football

The proper libations are crucial to a successful tailgate, be it at home or on the road. Anyone can buy a six-pack, but it takes a truly dedicated tailgater to open the bar. Jan Odgers of Raleigh, N.C. (a former Ms. Wuf for North Carolina State University, so she’s really a fan) and her husband, Ted, enjoyed a beverage in New Orleans so much that they nagged the recipe out of the bartender. They now serve it at every tailgate. It’s even the right color, if you’re an N.C. State fan.

Obligatory disclaimer here: Don’t be stupid and drink at the wrong time, in the wrong place and to the wrong amount. Check the rules for your tailgate location, and pick a designated driver.

Here’s the Odgers’ recipe for their tailgate treat, the Woo Woo: Into a large glass full of ice, pour 1  1/2 ounces peach schnapps, 1  1/2 ounces vodka and  3  1/2 ounces cranberry juice. Squeeze a lime wedge around the rim of the glass, then squeeze the wedge into your Woo Woo.

Food news roundup

Things that go bump in the kitchen are all over The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) today as it offers recipes for Halloween. The green-tentacled cupcake is particularly menacing. Read more here, if you dare. It’s in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, too, as is a discussion on making sustainable food affordable, here.

More spooky sweets are in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, along with the answer to a request for an authentic Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich. Look here, and Kentuckians will have to tell me if it’s the real thing.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wades into the ever-heated burger controversy here, which was revived by author Alton Brown’s declaration that the burgers at one Atlanta restaurant are the best in the nation.

It’s the battle of the bottles in the Boston Globe. See which $12-and-under wines have nothing to whine about here.

I thought murder mystery parties went out in the ’90s, but here they are again in The Washington Post. The draw in this case is having fun with the food. Read more here.

What are the worst beers in the world? Find out in the Houston Chronicle, here.

Headed South

The pit was dug, the fire department appeased, a row of old theater seats set up for the all-night pitmasters, the wood burned down to perfumed embers. All that remained on the night before the final feast of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual  symposium was to add the future centerpieces of the meal: Cow heads. Pit-cooked Barbacoa de Cabeza, if it sounds better to you.

The leap from Mexican barbacoa to the South’s beloved barbecue is but a small one, and that was the point of the Oxford, Ms. event. The symposium, “The Global South,” showed once again that the South is not an easily characterized mass of fried chicken and pecan pie. As a talk by Tom Hanchett, historian of the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, N.C., put it in his talk, we’re more of a salad bowl than a melting pot. Vietnamese fishermen in Louisiana, Chinese grocers in Arkansas, Southern food embraces it all while allowing each to keep their own identities.

But what y’all really want to know is: What did the beef taste like? (No brains, just lovely cheek meat.) It was the smoothest, most tender beef I’ve ever tasted. The shreds sat on top of corn tortillas with a drizzle of crema and an avocado-tomatillo sauce. It was so good, I almost didn’t mind missing the tequila tasting (the line was too long), but considering my past history with the beverage, maybe that was good. There were lighted candles on the tables.

During the weekend, I also traveled culinarily to Florida with lunch by Miami chef Michelle Bernstein, a one-woman salad bowl herself who blends Argentinian and Jewish ancestry. Her lunch menu ranged from fried chicken to Shrimp and Sweet Potato Ceviche, something I think of as being very Miami but with the curve ball of the Southern spud.

The real football battle

I’m surprised it took this long for the Food Network to latch onto a hugely popular thing like tailgating, but it finally has. And an indication of how big they think it is: The network is featuring its current fave host, the spikily coiffed Guy Fieri. The series, Tailgate Warriors, pits fans of two competing NFL teams against each other.

The first segment pitted top tailgaters for the Green Bay Packers against Seattle Seahawks fans. The next contest, Raiders vs. 49ers, was recorded in August. Check here for the rest of the schedule.

Even though desserts are not a big thing at most tailgates, the Food Network required the competitors to have one on their menus, showing a lack of appreciation for the free-form nature of most tailgates, in my opinion. Check it out and see what you think.

Food news roundup

I opened The News & Observer’s (Raleigh, N.C.) food section today with a shiver. The subject is livermush and liver pudding, two products made from hog liver. My mother fried that stuff until it was brick-hard, put it between mushy white bread slices with yellow mustard, and tried to tell me it was lunch. Even as a child, I doubted that. I won’t even try to describe how it smelled as she was cooking it. As the article points out, the food is a Southern tradition celebrated with not one but two festivals in North Carolina. On Saturday, the company booth distributed 56 pounds of livermush samples. How many of those samples ended up being spit into the trash, we don’t know. There’s no escape: The article is in the Charlotte Observer, too.

The awesomeness of the big-time tailgater is explored in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal. A group of Wake Forest University fans cook everything from smoked pork butt to smoked trout and 10 pounds of potato salad. Read how they do it here.

There’s a traditional tacos al pastor recipe in the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) here.

Food fans in Wilmington, N.C. are participating in the Susan G. Komen Bake for the Cure to raise breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbon cookies, anyone? Check it out in the Wilmington Star News, here.

If you’re heading for the mountains for some leaf-peeping, find out the latest about the active microbrewing scene in the Asheville, N.C. area with the Beer Guy blog in the Asheville Citizen-Times. Here, he’s talking about German-style hefeweizen.

The Washington Post features a sixth grader who loves to cook for her family. And that is so cool. Read about her here.

Man vs. squirrel

The furry rodents will not defeat me. I spent part of the lovely Sunday replacing my pots of lettuce. The originals vanished at the paws of squirrels. They didn’t just eat the lettuce, they dragged the whole plants off to their little nut lairs somewhere. Now, I have new red romaine and green leaf lettuce plants, and I want them to stay around.

Those who have read Beatrix Potter one too many times think squirrels are cute. A friend tried to persuade me to take a gentler, cooperative approach. Humph. This is war. Besides, there are plenty of pine cones in my yard – let ’em eat pine nuts.

I know from past experience with a bird feeder that squirrels will chew plastic to bits. I put wire around the pots. That ought to keep their hairy mitts off my future salad.

The snack bowl

Fans have two approaches to tailgating. One is to bring all the fixings to cook a big pre-game meal in the parking lot. The other goes for munchies, finger food that you can put out for hours of noshing.

The grazing approach has many advantages, one of which is that it can be easy on the head tailgater. Many appetizers can be made ahead of time, and offer a lot of variety. They can be hearty, and even include (gasp!) vegetables. Go beyond the simple chips-and-dip approach to make a good do-ahead meal of nibbles. Balance lighter fare, like tabouli and pita, with more substantial tummy-fillers, like chunky chicken salad, cold fried chicken or this high-flavor, low-effort cheese ball. Form it in the shape of a football! Have fun!

Nutty Blue Cheese Ball

From “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” by Debbie Moose

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Place cream cheese, blue cheese and Dijon mustard in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add chives and pulse just to blend in.

2. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface. Spread chopped walnuts in the center of the sheet. Place the cheese mixture on the walnuts and pull the plastic wrap around it, pressing and rolling to adhere the nuts. Twist the plastic wrap to seal and shape into a ball, or your preferred shape. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Serve with crackers.

Serves 6

Food news roundup

Oatmeal and sardines? Ick. Well, that combination would make me lose weight, and apparently it helped author and Food Network star Alton Brown lose 50 pounds. He’ll be at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Oct. 14, and there’s a Q&A with Brown in today’s News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

The book club I belong to (we call ourselves the MOB, which stands for “Minds On Books”)  is meeting tonight, and I know the hostess is thinking about one thing right now: The snacks. We’re not alone, according to a piece in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. Quote of the week: “We’re not so much a book club as a drinking club with a reading problem,” jokes Stephen Celestini, a member of an all-male book club, The Well-Formed Heads (from a line in Walker Percy’s “The Moviegoer”). Read the entire article here. It’s also in the N&O.

Using the same two pastas for every kind of sauce is like owning only two pairs of shoes: It works, but it doesn’t show off your outfits to their best advantage, and it’s no fun. The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal talks about a new book that instructs us on matching the right sauce to the right pasta shape. Read more here.

You know you’re still part of the South when you write an article on biscuits and have so much response that you have to do a follow-up. That’s in the Salisbury (N.C.) Post here, tales of biscuit love.

A chef canning his own fruits and vegetables? That’s what chef Sean Brock has to do to stick to his pledge to use only Southern-sourced ingredients at his soon-to-open restaurant, Husk, in Charleston, S.C. Find out more about this intriguing idea in the Charleston Post and Courier, here.

If anyone can make a Chinese-Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas work, it’s renowned chef Jose Andres. Guacamole with fried wontons, anyone? Read about it in The New York Times, here.

Pod people

NPR often has fascinating food items, but they’re scattered among yammering about what killed the dinosaurs, who’s running for New York City sanitation director and the history of Bolivian boat builders. Now, the NPR web site has all the food-related podcasts organized and easy to find. Visit here and find out why there’s a kimchi crisis in South Korea. You can find some North Carolina-related stories at the local public radio affiliate, WUNC, here.

A stockpot full of food shows are now on Hulu, including Good Eats, Throwdown with Bobby Flay and Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie. Search here for “food” and start noshing.

Part of a wholesome breakfast

Nutella is a beautiful thing, no doubt. It’s catnip for adults. I put out a jar at a party once, accompanied by spoons, no nutella for breakfastcrackers or such. Guests clustered around it like drowning people who could be saved only by chocolate and hazelnut.

However, I have never viewed it as wholesome breakfast food. That’s why I fell out laughing at a TV commercial touting the spread as a good-for-you breakfast for kids. Jolly kiddies are getting ready for the day munching on what is stressed is whole-wheat bread, slathered inch-thick with Nutella. Mom is smiling, probably because she knows that when the sugar jolt hits, they’ll be in class and their teachers will have to deal with it.

The idea is on the Nutella label, too: “An example of a tasty yet balanced breakfast, a glass of skim milk, orange juice and Nutella on whole-wheat bread.” I suppose the idea is that whole wheat covers all sins. In case you were wondering, two tablespoons of the spread contains 21 grams of sugar and 11 grams of fat. Great for dessert or livening up a party, but for breakfast… As you all know, I’ve never been awarded a badge from the food police, nor do I seek one. But, come on, now.