One year ago, happy newlyweds Brian and I went with a friend to the Montpelier Hunt Races near Charlottesville, Virginia and I met some other Fredericksburgers, two of whom have also been cooking for a living – Laurie (LB) and Shanti. We’ve become good friends over the year and, through a series of misadventures wound up celebrating the anniversary with a spot of our own at this year’s races… and by entering the tailgating contest.
This year’s tailgate contest theme was ‘Celebrating Southern’ and was judged by Chef Jason Alley of Comfort restaurant in Richmond, and soon to open Pasture in Charlottesville. We had no shortage of ideas of how to celebrate southern, so we came up with a big menu, vowed to edit it down, edited it, and then made everything anyway.
We went with an heirloom theme, using family made quilts as linens and for straw bale seating as well as heirloom fruits and veggies, heirloom recipes and some traditional dishes. We also ventured slightly with a southern style negimaki and pimento cheese bagel bombs.
The set up was chaos. It was our first time doing a tailgate, first time getting a space at Montpelier, our first time catering together and we had enough food to fill a banquet hall coming out of one truck onto one 6′ buffet table. Turns out we needed the buffet table, a 4′ and then a card table to hold all of our food.
But we finally got there… and fortunately the judging did not start at 10 am which was a possibility and only one hour after the gates opened! LB’s daughter designed the polished menu despite 30 late-breaking changes, and LB made an interesting salad dressing that is sweetened with confectioners’ sugar from a recipe in an historic VA cookbook. The lettuce was plucked from her garden that morning – what could be better than that you ask? Why, lettuce picked in the morning with croutons that are crusted in potato chips! It’s hard to do anything wrong with potato chips, but these fresh, buttery toasted croutons with Route 66 potato chip crumbs exalted the potato chip ever higher.
Miraculously, we even had time to sit and have an adult breakfast beverage for a moment. I say ‘we’ even though this is a photo of LB and her superstud husband Scott, because I have the hardest time getting myself actually into a picture. So anyway, I enjoyed some bubbles and clicked away, chronicling our impending glory : ) And aren’t the straw bales with quilts great seating?! so much more comfortable and better for a crowd than beach chairs.. albeit bulky and impractical for a horseless, waterfront dweller.
Then the judges came and we got them to eat almost all of our food, but they were a little overwhelmed (there were at least 20 teams in the contest), so they never got any of my grits flapjacks with bananas foster sauce. boo hoo. Oh well, after the fourth horse race the announcement came booming out of the speaker – we won!! So off we went to the Winners’ Circle to claim our glory and a photo op with Chef Jason.
In the very middle of the pic it’s me and Laurie. It’s only the silhouette of their backs in this picture, but Jason and his business partner were soaking up as much of Virginia’s finest fall sun and country air as they could on the rare Saturday excursion away from the restaurants.
We were soaking it all up too… that’s me on the right. Thanks for your photography Brian! mmmwah
And then we claimed our prize, which will be dinner and wine pairing for the three of us at either Comfort or Pasture. I’m behind the lady with the hat, in between Jason and the other judge.
And then it was time to actually tailgate… actual tailgate courtesy of my in-laws Peggy and Andy : )
oh, and there were horses and riders racing. Our tailgate spot had THE action. The horses turned the corner just before blowing by us as they headed for the finish line.
Then another tailgate judge came by…
She noted our glaring omission of carrots. Sorry baby. Have I told you how beautiful you are?
The day continued to dazzle and the orange fedora that served as our betting pot was donned after we got news of University of Tennessee football victory. Yay for another victory! I heart victory.
I could have stayed all night, but it was time to repack the pick ’em up truck, dole out bagel bombs to go, and go brag-post : ) Hey, we crushed it.