The Edible Bracket 2011

Last year's winners of the MNCAAPG Best Bracket contest are back. This March Madness season, we will be documenting foods associated with the competing schools. Consider it March Madness, Top Chef Edition.

Syracuse Orange (Syracuse, NY): Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice

oj glasses 2

Syracuse University holds a dear, dear place in our hearts. Both Anna and Laura have parents who attended the university. Plus, new local NBA favorite, Carmelo Anthony, was a former Orange star.

After returning from Florida, the orange/citrus capital, we were feeling a little blue, a little less sunny, and so we fixed up these glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice.

oj oranges

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Princeton Tigers (Princeton, NJ): Pancakes

princeton pancakes

Several years ago, we took a trip to visit Guest Chef Jon during his brief sojourn in Princeton.  The trip’s main benefit was to convince us that Princeton is a boring town, and that Jon should move to NYC ASAP (which he promptly did the following semester).  But on this trip we also visited Princeton mainstay PJ’s Pancake House. 

We can’t really remember what the pancakes at PJ’s tasted like—they were probably pretty good—but what we do remember is that PJ’s is a restaurant that must have figured out pretty quickly that the internet was for real; after all, their website is (IHOP must be seriously jealous).

So in honor of Princeton’s (brief) trip to the Big Show, we cooked up some

princeton pancakes cooking

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Clemson University Tigers (Clemson, SC): Brown Rice

clemson rice

South Carolina is known for its rice.  There is even a Rice Museum in South Carolina. So for Clemson we made a big pot of brown rice.

In colonial times, South Carolina’s economy was largely based on rice farming, and South Carolina still produces quite a bit of rice.  Of course, rice-growing in South Carolina has a dark past—the colonialists who settled South Carolina didn’t know how to grow rice themselves, so they imported slaves who did, from the west coast of Africa, who were almost entirely responsible for growing and cultivating all the rice.

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University of West Virginia Mountaineers (Morgantown, WV): Golden Delicious Maple Syrup Apples

apples on pancakes

Golden Delicious apples are the state fruit of West Virginia because in 1891 the first Golden Delicious apple tree was discovered on L.L. Mullins’s farm in Clay County, WV.  Wikipedia has a really sweet little anecdote from L.L. Mullins’s son J.M., in which he talks about discovering an apple tree standing all alone in his dad’s field, and thinking to himself: “Now young feller, I’ll just leave you there.”  How cute is that?  Anyway, that “young feller” grew up into a big old apple tree, was later sold for $50, and is the ancestor of all golden delicious apple trees in the world.

So to represent the Mountaineers, we cooked up some Golden Delicious apples with butter, maple syrup and cinnamon and placed them on top of (Princetonian) pancakes.  The result was, as one might imagine, DELICIOUS.


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University of Florida Gators (Gainesville, FL): GATORade Cocktail

florida gatorade

To honor the University of Florida Gators, we did something straightforward, delicious, and alcoholic — Gatorade cocktails. Gatorade was INVENTED at University of Florida, hence the name and hence the super suitability of this drink to represent the Gators.

Here is a little history from

In early summer of 1965, a University of Florida assistant coach sat down with a team of university physicians and asked them to determine why so many of his players were being affected by heat and heat related illnesses.

The researchers — Dr. Robert Cade, Dr. Dana Shires, Dr. H. James Free and Dr. Alejandro de Quesada — soon discovered two key factors that were causing the Gator players to ‘wilt’: the fluids and electrolytes the players lost through sweat were not being replaced, and the large amounts of carbohydrates the players’ bodies used for energy were not being replenished.

The researchers then took their findings into the lab, and scientifically formulated a new, precisely balanced carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage that would adequately replace the key components lost by Gator players through sweating and exercise. They called their concoction ‘Gatorade’.

A little Fruit Punch Gatorade, a little Flor de Cana rum, and you have yourself a celebration in a glass. Kind of like what Florida would be for us cold-bound, Winter-exhausted, sun-starved New Yorkers. Laura enjoys it.

laura drinks florida gatorade

Louisville (Louisville, KY): Old Fashioned Cocktail

old fashioned

We learned, from Mark Kurlansky’s excellent book, The Food of a Younger Land, that old fashioneds—now popular in bars all over Brooklyn—actually originated in Louisville.  Kurlansky writes:

Originated by “Martin” (full name, Martin Cuneo), a bartender for the Pendennis Club of Louisville, Kentucky … [t]he old fashioned cocktail is really a development from what was known as an old fashioned toddy.  Certain patrons of the club, those gentlemen who knew exactly what they wanted in a drink, began to ask from time to time for certain additions to their toddy, such as a slice of orange, a cherry, etc.  Ultimately, the bartender, upon receiving an order for a toddy for Colonel Whosis, would know that the Colonel expected the drink to be fashioned in a certain manner.  Finally, in order to eliminate confusion in filling orders, the old fashioned cocktail was evolved to differ from the toddy.  The following recipe, furnished by Martin, the bartender, now retired, is the original (as far as Kentucky is concerned) old fashioned cocktail.


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UNC Tarheels (Chapel Hill, NC): Moravian Sugar Cake


We know we probably should have made barbecue for UNC.  But it’s cold in the Northeast, and there’s still snow in our backyard, so the idea of breaking out our smoker was not entirely appealing.  Lucky for us, the absence of vinegar-based BBQ on our bracket meant that we got a chance to make this delicious, potato(!)-based confection.

Moravian sugar cake has apparently been around for about 300 years—since the Moravians emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the United States, and particularly to North Carolina, in the eighteenth century.  This cake reminded us a little of Election Cake: simple ingredients and not too sweet. 

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University of Tennessee Vols (Knoxville, Tennessee): Nancy Drew Cocktail (for men, it’s called A Hardy Boy)

nancy drew drink cups

We’re avid 30 Rock watchers, and on the episode where Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy meets Edie Falco’s CC Cunningham, there is a wonderfully alcoholic University of Tennessee reference that we decided to use.

Jack tells the bartender: “I’ll have a white rum with diet ginger ale and a splash of lime.” CC sees what Jack’s ordered and says, “Wow. I never would have pegged you for a University of Tennessee sorority girl.” The bartender hands Jack the drink and says, “Here’s your Nancy Drew.” Jack responds, “For men, it’s called a Hardy Boy.”

Thus, we ventured into Greek drinking, but for a mere evening. And it was a delight. The Nancy Drew is a wonderful cocktail (Laura went back for seconds).

 nancy drew drinklaura with nancy drew

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St. John’s moves up 10 spots, jump to 15th in latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll 
15th in the Coaches’ Poll is the highest since March 13, 2000, when the Johnnies were No. 12. - @STJ_Basketball


St. John’s moves up 10 spots, jump to 15th in latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll

15th in the Coaches’ Poll is the highest since March 13, 2000, when the Johnnies were No. 12. - @STJ_Basketball