Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tailgate Time

Can you believe it? Another football season is upon us! Whether you cheer for college, pro or any team sport that involves a ball of some sort, you have to admit that tailgating is a clutch part of any pre-game prep. The comradery, team spirit and general fun that comes along with an oversize tent, camping chairs and a set of corn hole boards is hard to beat on an early Saturday afternoon.

Regular readers here know that I don't pass up an opportunity to make a dish to share and get out there early with a beer (or mimosa!) in hand before the big Georgia Tech game. This year, our groups of friends have started to spread across campus enough that we are considering making a shift of our own. We haven't decided on an official tailgate location, but tailgating dreams are already formulating in my head.

Tailgating strategy is a must-have before you hit the road with your coolers. Serious tailgaters know that the best parties come with a bit of planning in advance. At Georgia Tech, for example, there is limited parking on campus, and so a central person often brings in the tents, chairs and tables while others park cars and walk to join the party. We take MARTA to the games, so our contributions are usually focused around food, beverages and decor. Our groups in the past have done a potluck-style tailgate, and an email chain gets the group thinking about what items they want to bring. Other groups/schools offer sponsored tents complete with catering packages. Centralized purchasing of the big meat and main dishes while participants contribute funds helps other groups stay focused.

I don't know if there's a right way or a best way, but I do know that I personally love to cook and contribute on my own. While a catered affair would be really easy, and for us especially, given our MARTA hike pre- and post-game, I love getting up early on a Saturday to throw a casserole in the oven, and to share it with my friends that afternoon. I usually keep the commute in mind when preparing a dish, and we can pack things into a cooler for transport with the best of them!

I heard from a gal pal that one of her groups does themed tailgates each week. Rather than just asking for the typical main dishes, sides and desserts, this group has focused their parties around a central theme, such as all things "white and gold" to match up with the GT colors. How fun!

We always end our tailgates in Peter's Parking deck!
Also, I swear I own more gold shirts than the one in
both of these photos, ha! 

Here are some ideas I think could be fun to try out one week at your next big tailgate. If anything, you will have some Pinterest-worthy photos to share once the spread is complete!

Betty-Inspired Football Tailgating Themes

Toe-Meets-Leather Luau: Make it a Hawaiian theme! Roast a pig or a pork loin and offer up DIY BBQ sandwiches with pineapple slices and buns for guests. Macadamia coconut bars would be a perfect dessert, and leis for all the guests will help separate your party from the one next door. Party City is stocked with easy luau decorations for the table. 

Touchdown Time: Usually tailgates have all of the food displayed out at once, and there's so much to choose from that some dishes can get overlooked. It could be fun (if you have the patience and time!) to debut one food item at a time throughout your tailgate, instead! Have a phone alarm ready to go off with your school's fight song every 15 minutes or so, and unwrap/uncover the next dish for guests to enjoy. Go to each new dish clockwise around the table.

Local Loves: Sure, schools in the South feature a lot of slow-cooked meat, but why not incorporate the local foodie favorites more prominantly? In Atlanta, that could mean chicken and waffles for a brunch tailgate, or cheese and smoked meats from a local butcher. If everyone is encouraged to shop locally, this could be a fun way to explore some of the local area's best produce and stores! Decorate with framed maps and photos of the area neighborhood and storefronts. 

Chip Explosion: I always joke that chips and dips are the most overdone thing at a tailgate. They are an easy option for guys, and if you run out of time to make something, anyone can throw together a quick dip from a spice packet. But what if everyone, for just one game, HAD to bring a homemade dip to go along with their chip (or other dipping item) of choice? I'm imagining loaded baked potato dip, buffalo chicken dip, seven-layer Mexi-dip, pimento cheese dip, cookies and cream dip ... pretty much enough dips to make a well-rounded meal! For decor, pick up some themed bowls in your team colors to give the table a unified feel.

What about you? Have you participated in any fun, themed tailgates? Share your ideas here!

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2 comments:

Deb said...

Yes, tailgating is such a favorite for a lot of us. We also have one central person bring the party tents. I really liked your idea of incorporating the local foodie favorites more prominently. Your ideas are awesome!

Katherine Malone said...

Deb - thanks chica! Let me know if you try any of them, and I hope to see you at one of the last few tailgates!