Even though the Super Bowl match up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers is more than a week away, this is the time to start planning your party. We’ve all heard the stories of the “super tailgaters” that show up at five in the morning and start grilling by ten; laugh at them if you want to but they never have an empty plate when the kick off happens.
Know Your Guest List: You need to know how many people will be attending your party. It’s always a good idea to cook more than what you might need, being caught short handed with burgers, hot dogs or chili is never a pretty scene. You might also want to have some specialty foods for people with food allergies. If there will be kids, make some smaller burgers for them and you can never go wrong with macaroni and cheese.
It’s All About The Snacks: When we go to tailgating events outside I never show up empty handed. Even if I grab a couple bags of chips or pretzels, someone will always find a need for them. Some of the best tailgating and party snacks include kettle chips (thick cut so they don’t break off in chip dip), popcorn, sourdough pretzels, pork rinds and sliced vegetables. Cupcakes are a lot better than making a huge cake; it cuts down on the mess and it’s a portable piece of goodness. Buy snacks now to avoid paying premium price for them next week.
Tapping The Keg: If you are going to serve beer or mixed drinks you need to have a bartender; no, they don’t have to wear a uniform but they will be able to keep track of how much someone has been drinking. As the host you are responsible for alcohol consumption; you don’t want a party to turn in to a wake. Ordering a keg from a beer distributor is a smart move but you will also need a tap (most places rent them for a small deposit), a place to keep it chilled and plastic cups to serve it in.
Damage Control: No matter how well-planned your party is, there are going to be accidents. Make sure you have carpet cleaner, plenty of paper towels and a good mop to clean up drink spills and food drops. Don’t skimp on the plates you are using to serve food on either; saving fifty cents on a pack of plates isn’t worth it when you will be spending time on your hands and knees trying to clean up a meatball hoagie mess.
The Big Picture: There are stores that rent wide screen televisions for events like the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup; most of them start in the $100.00 price range but you get it for a 72 hour period. Buy the insurance plan with it if you are going to rent a unit; it’s better to spend a little extra in case there is an accident with it and with all of the winter weather hazards you would be crazy to try and save a couple dollars when it could save you thousands if something happens before, during or after the party.
Festive Food: For parties with more than fifteen people, consider cooking in bulk and using the slow cooker your aunt gave you three years ago. Chili, ham barbeque, cheesy baked potatoes and lasagna are all strong contenders for “best tailgating food”. You can make and bake things a day or two ahead of time then reheat them. This cuts down on the action in the kitchen or if are taking things to other locations, it makes it easier to transport them cold then reheat them when you get there.
Skip The Premade: Buying large cold hoagies or vegetable trays will save you time but chances are the hoagies are going to have tasteless tomatoes, brown wilted lettuce and cold cuts that are simply nasty. For the price of a “five foot sub” you can buy all of the things needed for it for the same price. The bread won’t be soggy, the vegetables will be crisp and the meat and cheese will be fresh and sliced the way you want it. Likewise, vegetable trays that come with a container of dip can cost as much as $29.99. Do you have any idea the massive number of trays I can make with that money?