Become Queen (or King) of Your Next Tailgate

October 13, 2013 Chili, Entertaining, Grilling

It's time, sports fans. 'Tis the season to tailgate in a big, tasty way! It just might be the most fun you can have on a crisp fall day, but you've got to come to the field with a game plan. I plan on a thirsty crew. I plan to fill them with hearty fare that will last four quarters, 18 holes or an entire track and field meet. And — for the love of lawn chairs — I always plan to really represent our team. Before the first player has even tied his laces, fire up your party with my strategic tips for feeding the fellow faithful.

Know Your Venue The trickiest part about tailgating is the location. Once you arrive, you are there to stay without any other options. So, start planning with a working knowledge of what equipment (grill?) and amenities (electricity/outlets?) will be available to you at the site. Pack all of your tools the night before you head out and don't be afraid to delegate responsibilities. Divvy up the beverage, yard game and seating duties to other folks in your group. You focus on the most important piece — the food.

Fire up your party with my strategic tips for feeding the fellow faithful.

Keep It Simple Hot dogs, burgers, chips and wings are tailgating staples. Stick with a menu you could serve in your sleep, make in advance and that is easy to transport. This applies to more than just the standard tailgating fare. Baked beans, corn on the cob and fresh watermelon are also crowd pleasers, even if there's a wrinkle in the venue or the weather.

Play With the Details With a simple menu, there's plenty of room for fun in the details. Offer flavorful, interesting hot dog and burger toppings liked sliced sriracha peppers, pickled vegetables, chili or pork rinds. Make that famous bean dip recipe with black or red beans instead of pintos. Smear herbed butter onto barbecue sandwich buns or chipotle mayo onto grilled corn. Mix crumbled breakfast sausage, mustard and brown sugar into a crock of baked beans. Sprinkle watermelon wedges with salt and sugar.

Be Prepared for Anything Have dessert on deck for a win or a loss. Either way, a sweet ending is just what your crew will crave. Make some unique chocolate bars, offer a platter of crowd-pleasing cupcakes decorated with color-coordinated candies or order sugar cookies cut out like gold medals from your neighborhood bakery.

And then, when the tailgate has officially wrapped, be prepared to see yourself in all the game highlights. MVP, king, queen — no matter the title, with just a little bit of strategy, you can count on being crowned!