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Jax heads to sweet home Alabama to meet up with SpringHouse's Chef Rob McDaniel, an Auburn alum who teaches her how to forage not only for ingredients, but inspiration. They also stop by Back Forty Brewing to meet fellow alum Jason Wilson for a special ingredient to add to the rustic gameday goat stew.
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- Hey, I'm Jax and this is the Grill Iron. I'm on a journey across the country to find the best culinary trailblazers to step into our taste-made kitchen at the Hyundai Field House and redefine the art of tailgating. While the teams fight it out on the gridiron, our chefs turn up the heat on the Grill Iron. I'm in the loveliest little village on the plains, Auburn, Alabama. It's orange and blue as far as the eye can see and the ground shakes with the sound of the War Eagle. - Let's go, yeah! - War Eagle! - Whoo! We have a very happy grill today because behind it is a four-time James Beard nominee, a man of the land who can transport you to rustic Alabama terrain with just one bite. - [Rob] I really pull from my southern roots and the way that my grandmothers cooked. I have very fond food memories of growing up and going to their homes and I try to resurrect those when I cook. If we can get into the emotional side of people through food, I feel like we've accomplished something. I'm Rob McDaniel, Executive Chef of Spring House on Lake Martin in Alexander City, Alabama. What I do for a living is something that, you always think about what you're gonna put on a plate. There's a connection to the land and there's even more a connection through that through the restaurant. Going to the grocery store is different for me than it is probably most people because I pick things up, I smell them, I feel them. And I do that the same when I'm in the woods. A ton of stuff around here that we go and forage, it's kind of like our pantry, but those times that I get to be out, I'm not really thinking about work, it's more clearing my mind and then be stewards of the land and use as local as often as possible. I went to Auburn, graduated in 2002. It has the name the loveliest little village on the plains for a reason. It is very lovely and the people are very pleasant. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. It's more than football. It's just the Auburn spirit, it's a family and it's a spirit that we all feel when we're together and it's just very special. When I step into the Grill Iron, I'm gonna bring the spirit of the Auburn Tigers, War Damn Eagle. ♫ One, two, three, four. - [Rob] Hey, man, what's going on? Good to see ya. - Good to see you too. - Absolutely. - [Rob] This is Jason, we're buddies from Auburn and he's got this awesome brewery. - [Jax] Ah, you guys go way back. - Welcome to Back Forty Beer Company. Rob kinda got sucked into the world of food and I ended up in the beer industry and so we've been friends ever since. So, I hear you guys are working on some dishes for the tailgate this weekend. - Yeah, we're looking for some GameDay beer. - Well, you came to the right place, we've got plenty to choose from. - Awesome, let's go check it out. - Alright, let's go check it out. - The guy with the beer. Follow the guy with the beer. - [Jason] So watch your step, guys, this is the Back Forty tank farm. - AKA heaven, what is back forty? - Back Forty is an old agricultural term that refers to the 40 acres furthest from the barn, hardest to maintain, hardest to irrigate. And so when we started eight years ago, at the time there were no bottling breweries in Alabama and most people thought that there was a lack of culture or a lack of appetite for craft beer in the Deep South. So, fast forward eight years later and now there's 34 licensed breweries in the state of Alabama, so we've come a long way. - [Jax] I love this part of the country 'cause for both of you, I come here, and I see what you do on the plate and what you do with beer and it's like very farm-to-table, and you go, "It's not farm-to-table, it's just how you do it." - Yeah, it's pretty funny to Southerners because we've been living that way for a long time. You produce tomatoes, your neighbor grows corn and you meet at the crossroads and trade the extra that you have for the extra they have and everybody sustains and everybody survives, and that's what it's about. - [Jax] Yeah, well speaking of trades, I know there's a delicious one happening here. - [Rob] Hoping we can taste some beer, get your thought on it, bounce some ideas back and forth and maybe come up with a home run. - I like that cream ale. - All these beers are delicious, but I think for what we're looking for we want something that's got a little bit more oomph to it. - [Jax] What you think? - A little darker beer, maybe. - Alright, I think I got a good idea where your heads at, being the first cold snap of the year. This is the Trade Day Cuban Coffee Stout, we brew it with Cuban coffee, you're gonna get the same chocolaty notes you get off of a good smoked meat over the grill. - Cheers. - I think that's exactly what we're looking for. - Through here? - Mmm-hmm. - Like into the forest. I can't remember the last time I was around this many trees. - [Rob] I love coming out here and have a real connection to the place, which also helps me get inspired with food. We forage several things from the woods, and so we incorporated that into the menu. You can think and you don't have all the other world problems around you. - [Jax] You get your best menus on days you come here? - [Rob] For sure, well the restaurant is very much, it was built to feel like it was part of this place. I feel like I'm part of this place. Everything is here for a reason, and a tree falls, if it doesn't need to move, we're not gonna move it. It says there, very abstract, kind of like the food that I like to do and I feel like I've got this connection and I try to put that on the plate so people can feel that connection also. - Yeah, quite literally, a taste of place. - Yeah, for sure. - Let's go see what we can get? - [Rob] Let's do it. Let's do this tree over here, I think. Most of the time when we forage for these we'll come and we'll pick up around the ground first and the ones that have fallen, that if the animals haven't gotten to yet, and then we'll come up to the tree and give it a good shake and the ones that are ripe, that are still hanging on will drop and we'll pick those up. So, do you want to give the tree a shake? - Yes, get all my rage out on this persimmon tree. Nothing. I need your help. - [Rob] There they go. - [Jax] This is so different than what I know as persimmons. Mmm. It's like a sweet pumpkin, really sweet. What are you gonna do with those? - I don't know, I'm gonna figure it out tonight. - You better, you've go an alma mater to impress. - [Rob] I do. - [Jax] I think this is my first proper forage. I don't know, whenever I'm out on the water or in the forest, I'm like, this is one of those days when I'm doing it right. This is when I'm actually living and I feel like, for you, this is your every day. We have beer, we have GameDay goat and we have this guy, this fantastical chef and Auburn alum, what ya makin' for us? - Well, we got a good cool day today, I'm thinking we gonna make some stew. - Looks good, I don't know that I've had goat stew. - We got this awesome goat from Marble Creek Farms, which is in Sylacauga, Alabama, and we're gonna take some Georgia olive oil, oil it up. We're gonna get this ready to go on the grill. - [Jax] Get this goat on the grill. - [Rob] So we got a good hot grill here, we're gonna throw this on. - [Jax] Sizzle, sizzle. Why'd you go with goat? I feel like that's a unique tailgate choice. - It totally is, it's a delicious meat and we love to do things that are underutilized, here we are. - Like to keep it rustic on game day. - That's it. - How many people do you think are cooking goat at today's tailgate? - I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, zero. - You'd put money on that? - [Rob] Yeah. - [Jax] This is the first cold day, so stew is perfect. - [Rob] Yeah it is, it's awesome. So we're gonna go ahead and cut our goat up. - Yeah. - And we're gonna go to the cast iron. Get a good cast iron nice and hot, little olive oil, and then we're gonna sweat our onions and garlic. We're gonna add our goat to this. - [Jax] Oh my god, this smells like heaven and it's about to smell better. I've got these beautiful beers from Back Forty. - [Rob] I love the flavor of the Cuban Coffee Stout, it goes really good with the root vegetables. Root vegetables are nice and sweet, a little bitter from the coffee flavor from the beer, it's gonna be amazing. Dump 'em in. - Alright, here we go. Chocolaty beer. - [Rob] All the flavors get in there and start to do a happy dance. - [Jax] Plus you're keeping it all in the Auburn family. - [Rob] All in the family. Let's add our root vegetables. So, we've got our regular sweet potatoes, we've got our rutabaga, white sweet potato, and then we'll let this guy do its thing and reduce and then we're gonna add our dandelion greens at the last minute, toast our bread, and we're ready to put it in a bowl and eat it up. - [Jax] I like it. - [Rob] And the persimmons we got. - [Jax] Oh yeah, can't forget those. Oh, yeah. - [Rob] And then we can go ahead and put a scoop in. - [Jax] It's time to eat, time to warm my belly. Mmm, oh my god. - [Rob] It's good, isn't it? - [Jax] It's like a memory that I've never actually had, but it just feels like home. - [Rob] That's the ultimate compliment, it makes you feel so good. - [Jax] But that's what you do, you just take what's around you and you make it rustic, warm your belly goodness, that somehow feels like everywhere I need to be right now. - [Rob] Awesome. - I am hooked. - [Rob] Thank you. - Straight up hooked. Can't stop, won't stop. Burn the roof of my mouth good. Hey, hey, everybody. Welcome to the Grill Iron at the Hyundai Field House. We have Chef Rob McDaniels from Spring House, we have Jason from Back Forty Beer Company, and of course we have Ronnie Brown. Auburn alum! I must say all three of these lovely gentlemen, Auburn alum. - [Crowd] Waaaaar Eagle! Hey! Whoo! - It's time to eat. - It's very good. - That's incredible. Great flavor. - Delicious. - Very good. - Mmm. - Really good. - [Spectator] It's warm, it kinda warms my soul a little bit, it reminds me of what my grandmother used to do, so this is, this is Alabama delicious, that's what it is. - Real good. - Waaaaaar Eagle, Yeah! - [Jax] I'm packing up another memory and moving along. On my journey to find the folks who are reviving this country's love of slow living and slow food. Up next, a city that always speaks to my spirit: Austin, Texas.