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From Toes in the Water to a Full on Splash

Wonder-full Life

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Over the past few years Zac Brown Band has emerged as one of the most exciting groups on the contemporary country music scene. Their recently released single, The Wind, is already ascending the country music charts, and the ground-breaking new album, Uncaged, is turning the heads of music critics everywhere. My Apricot Hill respects creative, talented groups breaking the mold with their unique style, and we think Zac Brown Band delivers.

“It’s important to be yourself,” said Brown, in an interview with Great American Country’s Headline Country back in 2009. “There’s a lot of people that re-image and repackage themselves and everything, but I don’t know how to do that.”

To say that Brown’s strategy of staying true to his roots has proven fruitful would be a grave understatement. The band’s infectious blend of reggae, bluegrass, traditional country and southern rock has had fans begging for more since the release of their debut single, Chicken Fried, in November 2008. The single topped the country charts at number one that same month.

It was the first time a debut single had reached number one since 2006, but ZBB, as they are affectionately called by their droves of loyal fans, didn’t stop there. To date they have consecutively recorded eight more number one singles. Since 2009, Zac Brown Band has earned more than 50 Grammy, ACM, AMA, CMA and CMT award nominations, winning the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2010.

The band consists of seven members, with the permanent addition of percussionist Daniel de los Reyes taking place in April of 2012. On violin and harmony vocals is Jimmy De Martini, whose ability to produce eloquent, classical melodies one minute, then notably driving bluegrass-inspired rhythms the next, gives the band much of its unique appeal. De Martini, along with Zac and bassist John Driskell Hopkins were the original members of the band. Guitarist Coy Bowels was next to join, followed by drummer Chris Fryar. In January of 2009 Clay Cook, former member of The Marshall Tucker Band, joined the project as high tenor vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.

Now that Zac and his band have experienced wide success by staying true to their musical roots and philosophy, he’s looking to share another one of his passions with his burgeoning fan base; that of gourmet southern cuisine.

Before Brown was the frontman for one of America’s most successful music groups, he and his father co-owned and operated a restaurant in the Lake Oconee area of Georgia. A developer eventually bought the restaurant, providing the band with the funds needed to purchase a tour bus. These days Zac and the crew are accompanied at each concert event by a large mobile kitchen, where Brown, with help from band chef Rusty Hamlin, prepares some of his signature dishes for a select group of fans at pre-concert “eat and greets.”

“I missed feeding people when I sold my restaurant,” he said, in an interview and cooking session with NBC’s TODAY Show. “So now, before each show, we sit down with 100 to 150 fans and feed them a gourmet southern meal.”

Some of Brown’s and Hamlin’s culinary creations include okra drizzled with saffron-chardonnay butter, pocket knife coleslaw, black eyed pea fritters and chocolate peanut butter biscuit pudding.

On October 20, 2012 the band is launching its second annual “Southern Ground: Music and Food Festival” at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina. Festival-goers will be treated to two days of southern-style music and cuisine. Tickets may be purchased at and all other major ticket outlets.

A few years ago Zac released his first book of recipes, the Southern Ground Cookbook. Here are a few examples of the kind of gourmet Southern dishes you'll find in this 2010 release.

Zac’s Campfire Chili

1. Brown together: 
1 cup diced white onion 
1 lb. beef-tenderloin tips, diced into 1/2-inch cubes 
2 lbs. ground bison (If unavailable, substitute ground beef.) 
1/2 lb. ground pork 
1 Tbsp olive oil 

2. Drain the grease. Then add the following: 
1 Tbsp masa flour 
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder 
1 14.5-oz. can organic beef stock 
2 14.5-oz. cans organic chicken stock 
1 8-oz. can organic tomato sauce 
1 4-oz. can mild diced green chilies 
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin 
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, 
chopped fine 
1 tsp black pepper 
3 Tbsp organic chili powder 

3. Simmer 1 hour. Then add: 
4 oz. organic tomato sauce 
4 Tbsp organic chili powder 
2 Tbsp mild chili powder 
2 Tbsp ground cumin 
1 tsp garlic powder 
1 tsp Tabasco 
1/2 Tbsp brown sugar 
2 15.5-oz. cans low-sodium pinto beans, drained 
2 15.5-oz. cans low-sodium kidney beans, drained 

4. Simmer 45 minutes and eat. 

Serves 8. Per serving: 600 calories, 18g fat, 110mg cholesterol, 870mg sodium, 56g carbs, 58g protein. 
Zac Brown Band Chef Rusty Hamlin’s Pocket Knife Coleslaw

      1 head Green Cabbage   
      1 large Green Bell Pepper
      8 stalks Green Onion
      2 ripe Tomatoes
      Slaw Dressing:
      2 cups Mayonnaise
      2 tablespoons Hot Horseradish
      2 tablespoons Yellow Mustard
      1 tablespoon White Sugar
      1/2 cup White Vinegar
      1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
      1/2 teaspoon fine Ground Black Pepper
      1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Dice all veggies to 1/4 inch dice. Add 1/2 of the slaw dressing and add more as needed. Save some of the diced tomatoes as garnish.

Baked Vidalia Onions with Morel Butter

        3 large Vidalia onion
        2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
        4 oz sliced morel mushrooms
        1 splash white wine
        3 sticks of butter at room temperature

       Preheat oven to 450
       Tightly wrap onions in two layers of foil
       Place on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven for 35 minutes

       Heat oil in a large skillet. Saute morels until cooked; add a splash of white wine.
       In a medium bowl, add butter and fold in cooked morels. Place butter onto waxed
       paper and form into a log. Wrap and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

       When onions are ready, use a pairing knife to cut a triangular hole at the top of the 
       onion. Place a pat of butter into each hole and serve. 

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