Let’s tour the final four

Final FourLast weekend, the NCAA Men’s basketball Final Four was narrowed down from 64 teams to, well, the final four teams. As many people know, the colleges are the University of Florida in Gainesville, University of Wisconsin in Madison, University of Connecticut in Storrs, and the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

We thought it might be interesting to take a brief look at the food culture within each of these states and some of the favorite recipes of their residents. Let’s begin with Florida. Believe it or not, there’s a widespread food movement called Florribean, which was influenced by Florida’s vast melting-pot of immigrants from throughout the world, but mostly from the Caribbean. The features of Florribean cooking lend itself heavily to fresh ingredients, very complex uses of spices, an emphasis on seafood and poultry, with a healthy dose of fruits and citrus juices. One of the main staples in Florida cooking is the always delicious Florida Key Lime Pie, and here’s an easy recipe that can be enjoyed by your entire family: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/classic-key-lime-pie/.

Now, let’s move northwest to Wisconsin which is certainly known for it’s dairy products, plethora of cheeses and potatoes and other vegetables. In fact, did you know that Wisconsin is a major producer of potatoes and vegetables in the country? Wisconsin’s food “pathways” are attributed to a strong and vibrant buy local economy steeped in a tradition of diverse agriculture, varying climate extremes, contrasting topography, and a rich tapestry of ethnic traditions. One of Wisconsin’s most favorite, enduring and endearing recipes is for Baked Potato Soup; here’s a recipe from our own archives that’s easy to make and very tasty: http://eatwisconsinpotatoes.com/rbook/recipe/view/3226.

As we travel east to Connecticut, we find that this state’s food culture was influenced early on, as were most New England states, by English cooking traditions. Connecticut does have an active agriculture community that grows many vegetables and fruits including berries, melons, radishes, lettuce and cucumbers. Seafood has always played a significant role in the Connecticut food movement. But here’s what’s really interesting. Most food historians believe that the hamburger was first conceived in New Haven, Connecticut at a place called Louis’ Lunch, a tiny restaurant established in 1895. And if you don’t believe us, click here for the history of this quaint New Haven destination spot: http://www.louislunch.com/history.php.

Scooting back over to Kentucky, this state actually has edible state symbols, which include milk, blackberries, spotted bass and the gray squirrel. More or less, Kentucky follows the southern food movement with popular recipes for, what else fried chicken, chicken fried steak, hushpuppies and grits. But there are plenty of other popular foods like fried green tomatoes, sautéed okra and some of the best barbeque in the world. But perhaps the most famous true-Kentucky dish of all is the renowned “Hot Brown” created at the legendary Brown Hotel in Louisville. Here’s the recipe, right from the Brown Hotel itself: http://www.brownhotel.com/dining-hot-brown.htm.

So gear-up for the Final Four with a hamburger, a “hot brown”, some baked potato soup and a slice of key lime pie to celebrate the festivities, but probably not all at once.

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