GOURMET HIGHWAY: A Jack Daniel’s Evening

By Doc Lawrence –

Doc Lawrence served as a judge for the world championship barbecue competition.

LYNCHBURG, TENNESSEE-Take two celebrity chefs, include a famous barbecue pitmaster and place them in a culinary event hosted by the world renowned Master Distiller for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and you have a remarkable gourmet experience. All of this came together on a historic evening in Lynchburg, the middle Tennessee town that has all the charm of a Norman Rockwell painting. We gathered at the ancient Bethel House just a few yards from the Jack Daniel’s Distillery to participate in a pairing of different expressions of the legendary whiskey with food prepared just for a select group of lucky media guests.

The amuse-bouche was a delicious debut of deviled eggs, a divine creation from Nashville Pitmaster Patrick Martin using his mom’s recipe. The mellowness of Jack Daniel’s blended into the exciting flavor components, balancing the subtle with the intense.

Lynne Tolley, the great-grand niece of Jack Daniel, uses the famous whiskey in many of her dishes.

We began with a progression of special dishes crafted by the trio just for this occasion which included Southern Bread Salad with Kale, Hoe Cakes with Pulled Pork, Creamed Greens, Organic Radish Salad with Ramps Dressing from Glen Leven Farm in Nashville and Candied Pork Belly, a remarkable tour de force from the grill featuring Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. And if you haven’t enjoyed hummus made with boiled peanuts, a wonderful new world awaits you.

Towards the end of the event, the legendary hostess and nationally admired cook Lynne Tolley arrived with her delicious Tennessee Chess Pie. No need to ask what magic elixir she included. Ms. Tolley is the great-grandniece of Jack Daniel and with her many popular cookbooks, a celebrity in her own right.

Jeff Arnett described the Jack Daniel’s expressions and the distinctive flavor that comes from American white oak barrel aging and the finishing process through sugar maple charcoal. Then he introduced the new offering from Jack Daniel’s, a crystal clear unaged rye whiskey, slated for retail sale in early 2013. We sampled some of the white liquor and noted the distinctive rye bite and crispness. Only the seventh master distiller in Jack Daniel’s 146-year history, Arnett said that the rye provides a “new and unique tasting experience,” adding that younger enthusiasts would foreseeably welcome the clear whiskey and stimulating rye taste.

Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett leads journalists through many different expressions of his globally popular whiskey.

Chef Tandy Wilson, who was recently nominated for the fourth consecutive year by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef Southeast for his culinary wizardry at Nashville’s City House, said that he grew up learning to cook from his Italian mother and Southern grandmother in a kitchen where he discovered that it didn’t matter whether you called the boiled ground corn grits or polenta.

Chef Tyler Brown of Nashville’s highly regarded Capitol Grille is recognized as one of the leaders in cultural sustainability – a movement that embraces new techniques but honors the region’s culinary roots. Capitol Grille in Nashville’s luxurious Hermitage Hotel has earned exalted status under Brown’s progressive vision.

Esteemed Pitmaster Patrick Martin’s impressive credentials include an appearance with NBC news anchor Lester Holt last summer on the Today show where he served his Red Neck Taco, made with beef brisket slow cooked for 14 hours. An effective emissary for Southern food, Martin recently prepared barbecue in Uruguay. “They loved it,” he revealed.

Tennessee’s acclaimed pitmaster Patrick Martin (C) prepared a historic tasting dinner with top Nashville chefs Tyler Brown (L) and Tandy Wilson.

The tasting was part of the festivities during the 2012 Jack Daniel’s World Championship Barbecue Invitational Competition. Now in the 24th year, the prestigious contest includes award-winning barbecue teams from throughout the U.S. and Canada plus many other countries including Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, England, Poland and Australia. A common thread connects all teams: An abiding belief in the goodness and usefulness of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Almost all team sauces incorporate it.

The significance of the evening wasn’t lost on the writers and television personality participants during a lovely fall evening. We assembled on hallowed grounds where Jack Daniel’s was created, sipping different styles of the fabled whiskey and being introduced to the distillery’s new rye while enjoying original dishes crafted by culinary legends whose food honored the taste traditions embedded in the world’s most popular whiskey.

Genuine American food prepared by Nashville masters served with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. A red, white and blue affair.


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