Score a Touchdown with your Tailgate
by Cleo James
When you mix football and tailgating you get a result that seems to be a marriage made in heaven – where else can you fire up the grill on a crisp afternoon and be surrounded by thousands of other sports fans? Although tailgating seems like an easy outdoor cooking experience, there are definitely secrets and tips that you can add to your line-up of portable grills, coolers and games.
A successful tailgate combines fun, food and drinks. You want your tailgating parties to be the ones that people keep talking about and keep coming back to. If you follow the simple “F-F-D” plan, you are guaranteed to have people calling you and either asking when your next tailgate party is or if you’d be the host at their party! Here’s the outline of the “F-F-D” plan:
You want to engage your guests and friends with a way that they can celebrate being outside while also showing that they are sports fans. An all time favorite tailgate game is “500” – we’ve all either played it before or we’ve seen it played. All you need is a football and a group of people. One person is the “Quarterback” and throws the ball to the pack of people. Whoever catches the ball gets 100 points. First person to 500 points wins and is the next “Quaterback”. In this game, interference is encouraged and is what makes it fun! Another tailgate game is “Washer Toss”. Two 2×2 foot boxes are used and each has a 6” pipe placed in the center of the box. Boxes are placed about 15 feet apart and players take turns tossing three large washers at the boxes in hopes of landing one in the pipe. Players get 3 points for every washer in the pipe and 1 point for every washer in the box. First player to 21 points wins.
This is the focus of the tailgate – although everyone wants to have fun and enjoy being outside with friends and other sports fans, the truth is that they are there to eat! You don’t need to get too fancy with your menu and you don’t want to try something new. This is where you want to showcase what you can serve and do it very well. If you’re food isn’t good, the tailgate is a bust! Go with items that you know will be a homerun and master them while also giving them a sample of what you can do. This includes grilled sausages (variations could be Buffalo Chicken Sausages or Italian Sausages with Peppers and Onions) and hamburgers (variations could be Cajon Burgers or Blue Cheese Burgers). Do not underestimate the power of snacks and sides! Include chips, salsa, dips, cheese, chicken wings (grilled chicken wings are always a winner!) and chili. The important thing here is whatever you serve, make sure it is something that keeps them coming back!
Keep in mind that you’ll have people with all different expectations and requests – you can’t satisfy them all but you should aim to provide something for just about everyone. Beer seems to be the heavy favorite for tailgate parties which should always be available. Nothing seems to compare to an ice cold beer at a tailgate but don’t offer only one kind! Provide your “favorite” as the main selection and then have a stock of a local micro-brewery favorite. It also doesn’t hurt to have a six pack of N/A! Have a few bottles of wine available and make sure to have a supply of hard lemonade or other hard malt beverage. One cooler should be designated as a soda and water cooler where you should have a rainbow of soda cans along with bottles of water. One thing that always seems inevitable is the mixing of “FUN” and “DRINKS” where you can engage in quite a few different games that involve drinks!
Tailgating provides a perfect atmosphere for people to catch up with friends, enjoy great food and celebrate their favorite sports team. Food is the attraction for any tailgate but there is plenty of fun for everyone at a triumphant tailgate party. Keep in mind the “F-F-D” plan for your next tailgate and you are guaranteed to have people asking when you’ll be having you next pre-game party!