When someone says tailgating, many people think of football games with traditional BBQ fixings. But tailgating can be done anywhere, anytime! From a polo match to a local park, a tailgate party is a fun way to enjoy fall.
To me, tailgating means a crisp day filled with food and friends. It’s a simple gathering that can be made special with a few little touches. When I lived in New York City I used to attend a fall tailgating party called “The Hunt,” where we would gather a group of friends and head out to the country with the best food we could find. The tailgating was legendary. There was everything from Rolls Royces with candelabras to Hondas with 5-foot subs! Any way you came, a great time was has by all.
So let’s get to our party: The invitation to a party sets the tone, so I like to put some effort into that. Fill a mini wicker basket with molasses cookies (store bought is okay!), organic apples or small maple candies. Then print up your invitations, roll them up with twine and add them to the baskets. It’s a super sweet way to make the invitation feel special and get everyone in the mood.
As a surprising twist to an outdoor party, I like to bring out my finest linen napkins, wine glasses and silverware. Put china dinnerware and cutlery in a great basket. Baskets of various shapes and sizes piled in the trunk of a car really make you feel like fall has arrived. Bring lots of soft , cozy blankets for casual napping in between activities. It’s the juxtaposition of fun and fancy that creates a great atmosphere.
I like to keep the food easy yet fabulous. With a full day outside, it’s nice to be able to nibble and casually snack. One of my favorite simple finger foods are spears of any kind. They’re simple to make, yet look elegant, travel well and can be made ahead of time. Combinations of fruits or vegetables are great, but one if my favorites is a combination of cherry tomato, cheese tortellini and mozzarella cheese that has been lightly marinated in a vinaigrette. Use a twig of rosemary as the skewer to add another great touch. It’s like Caprese salad on a stick! If there’s a chill in the air and you want to serve something warm, bring chicken chili with all the fixins and serve with some lovely cheddar cornbread. Bake the bread in muffin form so serving is easy.
You can make the chili in a crock pot the night before and then pour it into a large size thermos to keep it warm. You can get 48-ounce thermoses at L.L. Bean or any other camping supply store if you don’t already own one. Or, if you want to go all out, bring a cool, mod thermos for each of your guests that they can take home as a keepsake after the party. For dessert, bring individual organic apple pies as a hearty fall treat.
For the party itself, plan some activities. Schedule hikes and games so everyone can partake in the fun. Boules, bocce or lawn bowling are fun for all ages. Accompany the game with a crisp sauvignon blanc. Make a tartan sash for each team and when the competition gets heated try a halftime show with different party guests showing off their tartan sash. For the winning team, mount a victorious tartan flag to let all around know the winner.
While the party winds down, bundle up on a blanket and enjoy watching the weather turn. Take that last glass of wine and enjoy the sounds of friends and family having fun together on a crisp fall day. Happy Fall!
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