This post comes to us courtesy of home entertaining and lifestyle blogger Jenny Steffens Hobick.
There couldn’t be a better time for me to dream about the perfect game day party. I happen to be boarding a plane, heading to my alma mater’s 100th homecoming celebration. For weeks I’ve been looking forward to getting together with friends, enjoying the cool, crisp weather, beautiful fall foliage and football fever of the Midwest.
Tailgating outside of the stadium will no doubt be a big part of our homecoming weekend. I am always excited to see the fun ideas that seasoned tailgaters come up with for their game day festivities. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for creating a memorable tailgate party.
Tips for Hosting a Great Game Day Party:
Selecting a game day menu
Many times when you go to a tailgate party, you’ll find most menus run the gamut — chips and salsa, barbecue, buffalo wings, chili, vegetables with onion dip, cookies, brownies and cake pops. While most of these sound great on their own, they can be a bit overwhelming when all are served at the same time.
I approach tailgate menus like any other occasion. I think about foods that are seasonally appropriate, will complement each other and will leave my guests satisfied. Think of each item as part of a whole and balance your menu with entrees, vegetables and sweets. If possible, avoid flavors that do not mix well together, like a spicy salsa and hot buffalo sauce. I recommend choosing one or the other — your guests’ stomachs will thank you! Also, make sure you tap into some of those fall favorites (maybe caramel apples or pumpkin spice cookies?) to make it feel like autumn has arrived.
How much food should I prepare?
Tailgates can be a little tricky when it comes to portioning, because you never know who will stop by (and bring their friends!). You definitely want to have enough, but you don’t want to have too much that has to be transported, set up and then packed back up to take home. As a caterer, I would always plan for 25% more guests than had confirmed. So, if you are expecting 20, plan for 25.
I also recommend bringing extra snacks that, if unopened, could be used another time. For example, I always traveled to catering events with an extra supply of gourmet crackers and nuts. In a pinch, they can be just enough to curb an appetite when served with a drink.
How do you keep hot things hot and cold things cold?
The short answer is, you don’t. I recommend selecting a majority of menu items that are best at room temperature, and serving only one or two high-maintenance foods that need to be kept hot or cold. For hot items like barbecued ribs, brats or burgers, a mini Weber-style grill can be a great tool for a small investment. When serving crudités and dip, place the platter on a bowl of ice to keep them fresh and crisp.
If you are a serious tailgater (or plan to become one), invest in a festive tent for your game day parties. Not only will it provide a great party area for your guests, it will also keep your food shaded and out of the elements.
Game Day Decor
It may be “football season” but it is also still fall. Bring along seasonal touches such as pumpkins and mums to liven your food display. If you can’t find a pumpkin that coordinates with your team colors (or your rival’s school color happens to be orange!), paint the outside of an entire pumpkin, then carve it. Tell everyone you grew the special pumpkin yourself – and watered it with team spirit. It will serve double duty, as it will look great on your front steps after the party is over.
There are more ways to incorporate your team colors into your table display than store-bought flags and stuffed mascots. I made a simple pennant banner to hang on the table by cutting out paper and fabric triangles, then gluing them to a ribbon. The banner looks great on our mantle for our game day watch parties, too.
Another great way to add your team colors to your table is to think outside of the plastic tablecloth. I like to use a plaid blanket or throw for a more rustic look. If you want to go really rustic, use a piece of burlap — surprisingly, it comes in a lot of different colors!
Baskets and boxes over plastic
Game day tailgates aren’t the time to be fussy and fancy, but you don’t have to sacrifice style. Heavy “real” ceramic or pottery platters look great at home, but can be a bit of a hassle to pack into the car successfully. I’ll do anything to avoid serving food out of plastic storage containers or on flimsy platters. Try displaying and serving your menu items in cloth napkin-covered baskets and boxes instead. They are lightweight and will not break on the way to your tailgating spot.
A great game day menu
Here’s a tried and true menu that’s always a big hit at my game day celebrations!
About the author: Jenny Steffens Hobick, a home entertaining and lifestyle blogger, makes entertaining accessible and enjoyable… for the hosts and guests. As a former caterer and party planner, Jenny shares her secrets to hosting casual and elegant parties. From table settings to recipes, her creative tips and resourceful methods inspire her readers to make Everyday Occasions special – whether it be a family style feast, elegant cocktail party or intimate dinner for two. Jenny believes that entertaining at its best is done often, with an effortless and easy style.