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The Backyard Brawl: Almost Heaven: Hail to Pitt!

Whether you say "Let's Goooooo Mountaineers" or "Go Hoooome Mountaineers" or "Let's Go Pitt" or "Eat Sh*t Pitt", we can all agree on one thing, we are all thankful that The Backyard Brawl is a rivalry once again.

And what can I say, I ride both sides of the fence when it comes to these two teams.

Please don't make me choose. I can love them both, equally-- I do it with my children.

WVU is my alma mater. 30 years this year I graduated with a bachelor's degree in finance.

My family is divided. Dan and Enrico-- pure panthers. Ava and Sofia--strictly mountaineers.

My Dad played football at Pitt in the 1950s

I've been a season ticket holder at Pitt games since 2001.

My daughters are Mountaineers. So are my niece and nephew.

My best friend is embedded in Pitt Panther Football.

If I have to choose, I'm choosing both! Every time.

In the world of sports, rivalries add an electrifying dimension to the games we love. They evoke passion, loyalty, and a sense of belonging among fans. One such legendary rivalry that has captivated the hearts of sports enthusiasts for decades is the "Backyard Brawl." This intense rivalry centers around college football and has its roots in the enduring face-off between the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and the West Virginia University Mountaineers.

The Backyard Brawl traces its origins back to 1895 when these two neighboring institutions first clashed on the football field. Over the years, it has evolved into one of the fiercest and most storied rivalries in college sports. The name itself, "Backyard Brawl," conjures images of two neighbors going toe-to-toe in their own backyard, battling for supremacy and bragging rights.

Throughout the decades, the Backyard Brawl has witnessed its fair share of memorable moments and legendary players. Iconic plays, dramatic comebacks, and nail-biting finishes have become synonymous with this rivalry. Fans can recall specific moments that still give them goosebumps, like the "13-9" game in 2007 when the unranked Pitt Panthers upset the second-ranked Mountaineers, altering the course of the national championship race.

Or more recently, the 2022 meeting where it went down to the wire, a real barnburner. Still the most people ever at a sporting event at Acrisure Stadium (always Heinz Field to me) with 70,622 people in attendance (only second to Taylor Swift). Mountaineers were driving for a last-minute touchdown to end the game, when all of the sudden, MJ Devonshire, Pitt's defensive back, picks off the pass for a pick 6 into the Pitt student section endzone. Opinions vary, his taunting with a pointed finger, if you're a mountaineer fan, or as a Pitt fan, praising his 12th man, the Pitt student section for their help to bring the Panthers to victory.

The 106th meeting, this year, in Morgantown was somewhat of a revenge story. Mountaineers came out hungry, never even considering victory wasn't theirs. 17-6 doesn't seem very lopsided of a game, but the panthers had zero momentum in the hostile Milan Puskar Stadium. Cue Country Roads.

The Evolution of the Rivalry

Like all great rivalries, the Backyard Brawl has seen its ebbs and flows. In 2012, the rivalry was put on hold as West Virginia left the Big East Conference for the Big 12, temporarily ending the annual clash. However, in 2022, it was announced that the Backyard Brawl would make its return, rekindling the excitement and anticipation among fans of both schools. And boy, am I ever thankful the series is back!

Beyond Football

While football is the primary battleground for the Backyard Brawl, the rivalry extends beyond the gridiron. It seeps into other sports, including basketball and soccer, where Pitt and WVU compete fiercely. The intensity of the rivalry is not limited to the athletic arena; it's part of the fabric of these universities' identities.

The Backyard Brawl is more than just a college football rivalry; it's a tradition, a testament to the enduring spirit of competition, and a celebration of the passion that sports ignite in us. For over a century, this rivalry has brought joy, heartbreak, and unforgettable moments to fans on both sides of the fence. As we look forward to the renewed clashes between the Panthers and the Mountaineers, one thing is certain: the Backyard Brawl will continue to captivate and inspire sports enthusiasts for generations to come.

One of my love languages is food. This blog is a testament to my love of food and cooking and sharing it with the people that I love. If ever you got to eat food I've prepared, it includes all the ingredients in the recipe and LOVE. I pour myself into everything I make.

It brings me such joy to see someone enjoy the food I prepare. I enjoy talking about food. Send me a TikTok about food, and more likely than not, I'll be trying to make it.

Tell me your grandma made something for you as a kid and you miss it; those are challenge words to me to try to replicate that recipe. If only for a minute, when you sink your teeth into my interpretation, if you are whisked back in time to your childhood and fond memories of your family that my no longer be with us, and I can make you smile, that makes my day.

Which brings me to some of my most favorite things: Football tailgates and cooking.

It was no surprise that when I knew the Backyard Brawl would be back in Morgantown, WV in 2023, I would make a feast to bring my mountaineer and panther families together.

But what would I make?

I enlisted the help of my college roommate Anita to help with the menu. Her husband Jim is also a WVU grad, and their son Alec attends WVU as well. Plus, their Chesapeake Bay food scene, including Baltimore favorites like steamed peel and eat shrimp (check out my blog, "The Ocean is Calling: Peel 'n Eat Shrimp") and seasonal oysters (only in R months--- any month with the letter R in it-- SeptembeR through ApRil) along with traditional perineal favorites had to be on the menu.

What seems like a daunting task of preparing for the feast is easily done with the help of my always needed lists-- both shopping and to-do lists.

Let me explain...

Cooking Class with Carol

It's not every day my favorite two teams come together. And when able to host a tailgate on my alma mater soil, you best believe it calls for a celebration! And that's what we did.

Classics, like us, coming together.


Signature Drink: The Orange Crush: An Ocean City classic, brought to life in the West Ocean City staple Harborside Bar and Grill in 1995. It remains a signature, despite it being mimicked by bars up and down the East Coast. A kick-you-in-your-a$$-before-you-even-know-it concoction of freshly squeezed oranges, orange vodka, triple sec, and lemon-lime soda. Goes down smoothly and quickly. A must have for any brunch or darty (daytime party)!

Recipe: Orange Crush

  • 2 ounces orange vodka, preferably Smirnoff

  • 2 ounces triple sec, preferably La Quinta

  • juice of one orange, Valencia is preferrable.

  • lemon-lime soda, to top, preferably Sierra Mist

  1. Combine vodka and triple sec in a pint glass with ice.

  2. Fresh-squeezed orange juice directly into glass.

  3. Top with a splash of lemon-lime soda and drink immediately.

Pre-Dinner Snacks and Munchies:

Burgers and Dogs:

But not just any burgers and dogs.

The natural casing extra-long frankfurters were from Binkert's German Meat Products in Baltimore, MD. Binkert's is run by a strong German family that is dedicated to providing you nothing but the most authentic flavors and spices from Germany, as well as the best natural meat supply around. When you want freshly made German sausages, sauerkraut and spicy mustard, Binkert's German Meat Products is your place. (Btw, they ship!)

The fresh ground hamburger patties were from Greene's Family Butcher Shop

Nothing goes better with Binkert's frankfurters and Greene's patties than Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn crab chips.

Grilled Oysters

To say Jim loves oysters is an understatement. Growing up on the brackish Severn River in Severna Park, MD Jim's love for the Bay is innate. Family get togethers always involve a few things-- oysters, crabs, home brews and laughter.

It is a part of the fabric of most growing up in the Cheasepeke Bay area to cherish their seafood, their bay and their social life. It's a way of life, enjoying living.

Shucking fresh oysters is an art, grilling them a labor of love. Thankfully Jim loves to do both.

Jim and Anita taught me that eating a crab feast is an all-day affair. It's all about the food, but also about the camaraderie. Jim brought that love to the tailgate. Only thing he didn't bring were the blue crab! Maybe next tailgate?

He prepared fresh oysters from Maine and Prince Edward Island that he got from Conrad's Crab -- another Maryland favorite for the best and most fresh seafood around.

Grilled Oysters: Recipe

16 whole live oysters

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (or substitute with dashes of Tabasco)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make the sauce:

Heat a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. When hot, add the olive oil and the butter. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice, chili pepper flakes, salt, pepper and parsley. Turn off heat.

Shuck and grill the oysters:

If you are a shuckmeister: Shuck the oysters, spoon a little sauce in each oyster. Place oysters on a very hot, preheated grill, cover and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the edges of oysters curl slightly.

Devils on Horseback

Gracing the menu of Table 9 in Morgantown, WV are these delicious appetizers. Combining sweet and savory, the bacon wrapped dates are a perfect sample of getting your palate ready for food. The recipe for these delectable treats can be found on my blog "What's in a Name: Devils on Horseback".

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

Not your typical tailgate food, but then again, what is? I made the dressing ahead of time at home and transported it in the refrigerator where it would have kept for 3-5 days. I also made fresh, homemade croutons for the romaine lettuce salad. Both recipes and what to dos for the dressing and croutons can be found in the blog File it under Italian...or maybe Mexican food? Both? The "Fancy" Caesar Salad


1 loaf rustic Italian bread

2 T. unsalted butter, melted

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

2 t. salt

1/4 t. ground cayenne pepper

1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper


2 garlic cloves

4 anchovy fillets

1 t. salt

1 t. fresh ground pepper

1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 t. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 t. Dijon mustard

1 large egg yolk

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, graded, or 2 1/2 ounce shaved.

20 ounces romaine lettuce, outer leaves and tops discarded, inner leaves washed and dried.

Beef Tenderloin and Mashed Potatoes

The main dish took a little innovation. How do I cook a whole filet without an oven? The steamed shrimp were prepared on a 'low country boil' propane burner in a large 30-gallon stock pot. That was too tall. I needed another big pan to do the cooking, but not too big. I purchased a large 18" brasier at Penn Fixtures in Pittsburgh's Strip District.

Braisers are wide, heavy pans with high sides and lids that may have a knob or loop for gripping. Braisers feature looped handles for easy transport and sloped sides that can safely hold liquids and that prevent food from getting trapped in hard-to-reach corners.

The sides of a braiser are usually between two and three inches tall and the bottom may be a large circle or oval. A braiser pan is heavier and more substantial than the average pan but lighter than lidded cast-iron or ceramic pots.

Every home chef should have a braiser pan of their own because this piece of cookware is endlessly versatile and easy to use. Braisers are multipurpose, convenient pans that many cooks find themselves using every day. Here’s what sets them apart from other types of cookware and why you may want one in your kitchen.


whole beef tenderloin, trimmed of fat and connective tissue.

3-4 rosemary sprigs

1 stick, 8 tablespoons salted butter

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped.

salt and pepper

meat thermometer

Once the tenderloin has been trimmed of all excess fat and connective tissue, liberally salt and pepper the meat. Allow to seat at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before cooking. The even temperature of the meat will allow for more even cooking.

Heat the pan until smoking. Add tenderloin to pan and sear meat. DO NOT MOVE tenderloin until a crust has formed on the underside of the meat. Gently rotate searing all sides of the meat. This process could take 3-4 minutes on each side. Be patient; do not rush this process. Searing the meat locks in the juices and will yield you a moist piece of meat. Trust this process.

When all sides of the meat have been seared, turn the heat down. Add butter, garlic and rosemary to the pan. Bast with a spoon to cover the tenderloin with the butter and aromatic rosemary. At this point, cover the brasier and allowed the meat to cook through, checking on the doneness every 5 minutes.Pushing down on the meat, it should have some resistance. Bouncing back when you add pressure will tell you the doneness of the meat. For medium rare, it should feel like the flesh of the palm of your hand near your thumb.

(if cooking at home you can put protein in a 425 degree oven for 4 minutes, testing for doneness the same way.)

After 7-10 minutes of cooking in the brasier I checked the internal temperature of the meat. Once it read 120 degrees, I removed it from the heat and allowed it to rest covered for 15 minutes. This too, is a crucial part of the cooking process. Allowing the meat to rest will relax the meat and allow the juices that were seared into the meat (at the searing process) to retreat back to the meat yielding a juicier protein when sliced. DO NOT SKIP THIS PROCESS!

Once rested and sliced, I dressed the tenderloin with extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff) and Maldon Smoked Sea Salt and parsley.

Mashed Potato

I love mashed potatoes with everything. Any time of year. But they do pair so well with the tenderloin. Here is the blog about these delicious spuds. "Now Side, Baby, Side"

Yukon Gold mashed potatoes are creamy, buttery, and simple to prepare. This type of potato takes a little of the guess work out of making mashed potatoes. Your basic russet potato can become pasty and over cooked very quickly. So not to panic during the tailgate, I made these potatoes at home and transported them cooked. Once the meat was cooked and resting, i placed the pan of potatoes in the brasier, creating a water bath to reheat the potatoes. Water covered 1/2 way up the foil pan, I closed the lid and allowed to steam for 5 minutes, checking inside of potatoes with meat thermometer until about 95 degrees.


2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes washed and quartered.

4 cloves garlic

Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, warm

bouquet de garne, (rosemary, thyme, sage)

1 stick cold butter, cut into 9 pats.

Blog "Now Side, Baby Side" for complete instructions.


PS: Thank you everyone who showed up to any of the tailgate! Your presence was so appreciated and your kind words about the food-- priceless. It makes me so happy to see people enjoying food I prepare. You make my heart sing ( Almost heaven.....West Virginia!)

And, hey Dan-- To the victors, the spoils. Now change the positions of the flag, if only for a year!!

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