A football get-together calls for plenty of hearty food, whether you and your guests watch a regular-season game or post-season thriller. Rookie hosts and seasoned veterans can liven up the occasion with well-chosen food and drink that highlight team rivalries—and make preparations quick. From how you decorate to what you serve and how you clean up, plan ahead for an event that draws a cheer from your guests.
Decorating & Theme
The best decor for a football party draws on your favorite team's uniform colors. Misty DeFlitch, National Sales Manager for Ruth's Chris Steak House, recommends recreating as much of the at-the-game atmosphere as you can. "Tailgating at home can be just as fun as being amongst die-hard fans outside the stadium. The key is to bring all of the best elements into one, creating a football fantasy affair."
Even if your crowd includes fans of both teams in the game, you can extend a mix of colors throughout your decorations and even into the dominant colors of the foods you serve. If you know that some of your guests won't be as tuned in to the game action as the die-hard fans, however, set up an area where they can escape the cheers and nibble on fresh vegetable snacks from the temperature-controlled drawer of your refrigerator. Include a bookshelf sound system to offer them musical accompaniment, and even a spare TV on which to tune in a movie.
Watching the Game
If you've planned to upgrade the HDTV in your living room or family room to take advantage of a larger screen size, today's smart sets will fit right in to your party preparation. Add a home theater system to provide surround sound, and you're set for an afternoon or evening of great football action. Because these intelligent electronics can take advantage of your home network and Internet connection to deliver streaming content, you can pick up the game regardless of the broadcast source and switch to your favorite fan-oriented websites to see what others think of that stellar special-teams play in the third quarter.
Helen Mackey, Senior Director of Menu Strategy for Ruth's Chris Steak House, recommends tying your drinks into the theme of your party, pointing out that "no home tailgate is complete without creating two opposing spirited cocktails for your guests to cheer on." Use ingredients such as blueberries or cranberry juice to reproduce team colors. To please the nondrinkers among your guests, offer them a choice of flavorings they can add to fresh carbonated water served up on demand through the freezer door of your refrigerator.
Planning Menu Themes
Even if picking up carry-out food looks like an easy way to feed your crowd, especially for a party you planned at the last minute, Natashja Szortyka, The Quick Meal Queen, prefers the food she prepares herself. "If you are really strapped for time, there is nothing wrong with getting a little help from fast food or carry out, but they are usually hiding tons of extras that you don't need, like calories, fat and sodium. For that reason I prefer to make food myself. You know exactly what you are putting into things, can make the tastes you and your friends like, and it is less expensive."
DeFlitch agrees, noting that "colors and cultures can be woven into your theme, food and cocktails. If not everyone is rooting for the home team, then competition can be brought off-the-field and onto the plate." A refrigerator with a touch-screen control panel offers apps you can use to track your recipes and ingredients, along with wireless Internet access that simplifies online menu research.
Adding Menu Variety
Variety helps Szortyka's party menus suit a range of appetites, including unexpected guests. "I think you should have a good mix of hot and cold items as well as snacks and something more substantial. You never know who might be dropping by and what they might have eaten that day." She plans ahead as much as possible, saving time with quick and easy recipes. "I like to do a fresh veggie tray and will make a shape with the veggies. You can do something simple like a football, or the letters/logo of your favorite team, this brings some fun into it."
Your refrigerator's temperature-controlled drawer and flexible storage compartments that can switch from frozen to chilled hold prepared ingredients and food trays at the ready. DeFlitch points to slow-cooked soups and stews as great game-day food. For example, gumbo "can be prepared ahead of time and often tastes best a day after cooking." For perfect range-top cooking and easy cleanup, look to a smooth cooking surface or an induction cooktop, which uses magnetic energy to heat the food instead of its container. Even the microwave oven comes into play. DeFlitch says that "Fresh is always best; however, the microwave is a definite convenience for reheating your bowl of gumbo if the game gets in the way of your eating."
You want your home to look its best on the day of your football party, but if you knock yourself out with a top-to-bottom tidying worthy of your semiannual seasonal cleanup, you'll be a tired party host–and the aftermath of a party means you'll have to replay your efforts after your guests depart. A HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner makes quick work of crumbs in the carpet. Once you've loaded your large-capacity dishwasher with more glasses and plates than you thought you owned, its ultra-quiet operation keeps the kitchen quiet while you recuperate from all the fun.
Photo Credits: Kate Van Vleck/Demand Media
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