Tailgating...the BEST part of Football Season

I discovered tailgating later in life than most

I grew up in the heart of SEC football where bumper stickers stating "I bleed orange!" or "I cheer for Tennessee and whoever's playin' Bama!" are commonplace, but packing up the car to spend a day hanging out in the parking lot and going to a game wasn't an option for us.  As long as I've been alive, my dad has always bought cattle at the market on Saturdays, and on "good" days when the cattle are cheap, he's likely hauling cattle until the wee hours of the next morning. I suppose that such a schedule never allowed for tailgating and football games.  

When I left home for college, I chose a school without a particularly strong football program, so tailgating was not a part of my college life. I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after college, and while I was surrounded by Alabama and Auburn fans, I still never managed to go to a single football game there.

Somehow, against all odds, I discovered tailgating and college football here in Miami.
We'd lived in Miami for just over a year when my husband proposed that we buy season tickets to the University of Miami Hurricane football games with our friends Jef & Anthony. We were still acclimating to the city and despite my lack of enthusiasm for football, it occurred to me that this could be a great way to meet new people.  I agreed to the season tickets with an understanding that we would tailgate for some of the games, and that decision set us on a course for football Saturdays full of tailgating adventures.

I can't quite recall the details of us settling into a program of tailgates themed around the opposing teams, but somehow, that became our plan. Each week, one couple was responsible for food and the other for drinks and games. We agreed that the interpretation of the theme could be obvious or creative, and with that, we unlocked inspiration for some incredible dishes.  

We've had moonshine cocktails and pulled pork hash for North Carolina games, homemade buckeye candies for Ohio games, alligator ribs for last year's Florida game, and even Chicken Curry with basmati rice for a Florida State game.  Since embarking on this tailgating journey, we have discovered new ways to create meals over camp stoves, and we now know that most Publix stores sell dry ice, which means proper ice cubes for cocktails and homemade ice cream are options for any tailgate.  

This year, we've added a third couple to the tailgating mix, and we've agreed to move on from our opposing team-themed tailgates.  We're ready to broaden our ideas!  As a kickoff for the season, I hosted a tailgate planning party.  I limited the menu to dishes that could be served at a tailgate. I wanted to serve non-traditional tailgating food that incorporated tried and true tailgating elements, such as grilling on-site.

For a savory snack, I mixed dry-roasted peanuts, wasabi peas, and sriracha peas, and for a sweet snack, I mixed orange and green M&Ms with peanuts.  We snacked on those while Patrick & Stephanie made cocktails with muddled strawberries, basil, gin, ginger beer, balsamic vinegar, and rhubarb bitters.

For appetizers, I set up a station for guests to make fresh summer rolls. I showed them how to move the rice paper through warm water until it was pliable and then how to layer the ingredients and roll it.  For dinner, I created a "build your bahn mi" station. Because it's a dish that offers an opportunity to grill nem nuong (ground pork and garlic patties) on site and everything else can be made before the game and brought in a cooler, it's a perfect option for tailgating.  As an added bonus, it can be eaten with your hands.  I also served a cucumber ginger salad as a side dish.  

After dinner, Jef & Anthony taught the group a card game called Briscas.  I'm still not sure we all understand it, but we had fun trying to figure it out as we played!  For dessert, we had sundaes with homemade buttered popcorn ice cream, butterscotch sauce, and crushed Cracker Jacks.  Then, we planned this year's tailgating assignments for food, drinks, and games. If the tailgate planning is any indication, I am confident we will have a fantastic year of tailgates this season.

For many, football season is all about the games, the rivalries, and the wins. Those things are great, but for me, it's about friends enjoying a day together. Who knows how many games Miami will win this year? So far, they are undefeated, as are The Dolphins , but regardless of how the season shapes up,  I know we'll have winning tailgates!

 For the complete Hurricanes schedule you can go to: http://www.hurricanesports.com/