University of Virginia: The Cavaliers

Appetizer:  Hot Virginia Dip
Main:  Ham & Biscuits with Apple Butter
Dessert:  Peanut Pie
Cocktail:  Whiskey Sour

Jefferson also influenced the grounds of the university when he designed the Academical Village, a large green space surrounded by ten pavilions and housing where students and professors would live side-by-side. Each year, only 54 seniors are selected to live in these rooms on The Lawn.  The Rotunda, at the north end, is a half-height/width version of the Roman Pantheon.  Many universities would copy the Jeffersonian style of the University of Virginia. It’s no wonder that UVA—along with Jefferson’s home, Monticello—has been named a World Heritage Site, and is often referred to as one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States.

In 1888, UVA adopted orange and blue as their school colors, but the Cavalier mascot (think Three Musketeer) didn’t arrive until the mid-1920s, after The Cavalier Song won a contest in the college newspaper for a new school fight song. Though UVA’s mascot Cavman has had many iterations, including pirate and Yosemite Sam-lookalike versions, today he sports some muscles and a neatly trimmed mustache and beard (often called a Van Dyke).

Growing up, we occasionally had a dish for dinner called creamed chipped beef on toast, something my dad ate while in the Marines.  Our appetizer for UVA, Hot Virginia Dip, uses the same main protein—dried beef—as that Marine staple.  These are the only two recipes I know of that use dried beef, so I was curious to try the dip version, as many Virginians claim Hot Virginia Dip is a regular appetizer during the holidays. The dip has an airy texture from the cream cheese and is topped with crunchy, toasted pecans. Since the flavor is so mild, it’s best on top of a cracker with some flavor of its own.

Sometimes a simple buffet is best so people can choose the foods they want, so Ham & Biscuits with Apple Butter are certainly an easy option. Frozen biscuits and deli ham made this a snap to pull together.  Toppings can vary depending on whether you want savory or sweet. We chose apple butter, but you could also put out a variety of choices: cheeses, mustards, lettuce, tomato, pickles, or jams.

Virginia peanuts are the largest in size of the four peanut types grown in the U.S., and also the variety sold in bags by the millions at ballparks across the country. They’re also the star of Peanut Pie at the Virginia Diner in Wakefield, VA, which has been serving its famous dessert since 1929.  Mine could have used a few more minutes baking time (already reflected in my baking instructions), but the edges tasted just like a PayDay candy bar!

The Whiskey Sour has to be one of the most popular whiskey cocktails in the U.S.  We chose it for UVA because the first batch of whiskey distilled in America reportedly was made in Virginia. (Here’s more information about Virginia’s whiskey claim for those who would argue Kentucky is its true birthplace.)

Also seen in enemy territory
With Thomas Jefferson’s ties to the University of Virginia, a trip to his nearby (15 minutes by car) Monticello is a must. House, garden and grounds tours are available, as is a hiking trail and a cafe.

Although it was one of Thomas Jefferson’s dreams that his Monticello home be surrounded by lush vineyards, it did not happen in his lifetime. With a pest problem, war, and statewide prohibition, it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the area gained fame for its wine.  Today, the Monticello Wine Trail boasts 33 vineyards within a 25-mile radius of Charlottesville.

More Virginia cocktails

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