Step Up Your Game on Game Day with Upscale Accoutrements and Recipes That Extend Far Beyond Burgers and Brats
It’s that time of year again—the smell of charred meat wafting through the air, the raucous crowds cheering on their favorite team, the temperatures slightly beginning to cool off. Then, as the clock strikes noon, you take a sip of your first socially acceptable day drink to kick off the unofficial start to fall: The parking lot tailgate.
Read on for recipes, tips and more to step up your game this year and take your tailgate over the top.
Spicy House-Smoked BBQ Wings
Recipe by Anne Leonard
There are regular wings, and then there are these wow-inducing wings that are sprinkled with a dry rub, fried, doused in a combination of three sauces, slow-smoked and garnished with toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions.
Time: About 25 minutes total
Yield: A dozen wings
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/3 cup Peter’s Beach Barbecue Sauce
1/3 cup Tommy Bahama’s Blackberry
1/4 cup A. Smith Bowman Barrel-Aged Bourbon Hot Sauce
1 dozen chicken wings, pat very dry
with paper towels
1/2 cup canola oil for frying
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp scallions, chopped
Mix all ingredients for the dry rub into a small bowl and season both sides of the wings.
In a separate bowl, combine and mix the three sauces. Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a toaster oven for about 2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them since they can burn quickly. Once lightly toasted, remove and set aside. Create a packet of wood chips. Lay out a piece of foil and place a large handful of chips in the center. Fold foil over on each side to seal in chips. Place wood chip packet in the center of the grill and turn on low heat.
Heat the canola oil in a pan on medium high heat until sizzling. Lay seasoned wings in a single layer in the pan (you may have to cook it in two batches). Fry for 3 minutes on each side or until browned and crispy.
Remove fried wings from oil and place in a sealable container. Pour in the sauce, seal the container, and shake to evenly distribute the sauce. Place wings in grill in indirect heat. Allow to grill for 8–10 minutes. Remove from grill, and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions to your liking.
You can also add more sauce on top after grilling if you prefer your wings extra saucy.
Sweet Potato Hummus
Recipe by Anne Leonard
Instead of playing up sweet potatoes’ earthiness with sugar, here, they’re accentuated with the tell-tale ingredients of hummus—tahini, chickpeas and garlic. But to raise the stakes, there’s a smidgen of smoked paprika, a dash of toasted walnuts and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for that extra bit of heat.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Yield: about 3 cups
1 large sweet potato, cooked and peeled
1/3 cup tahini paste
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
A generous dash of salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
A small handful of toasted walnuts
Pita bread, toasted and cut into triangles
Place all ingredients into a food processor, except for the walnuts and toasted pita bread.
Blend ingredients in processor until smooth and fluffy. You may have to stop and stir hummus with a spatula a few times to even it out. Place sweet potato hummus in a deep-dish bowl of your choosing, and drizzle olive oil as well as a light sprinkle of paprika and pepper flakes over top if you prefer.
Top with toasted walnuts. Serve hummus warm or cold with the toasted pita bread.
Bacon Bleu-Crab Dip
Recipe by Anne Leonard
This voluptuous crab dip boasts all the good stuff: bleu cheese, cream cheese, Chesapeake Bay seasoning and bacon, along with succulent blue crab, for a Virginia-centric dip that’s promised to please.
Total Time: about 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings
1 cup crumbled bleu cheese
2/3 cup cream cheese, softened
3 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Splash white wine
12 oz. blue crab meat (freshly picked or canned)
2 thick-cut pieces of bacon, diced
1 tbsp Chesapeake Bay Seasoning (or Old Bay),
plus more to garnish
Crackers or toasted baguette slices to serve
Preheat oven to 350. Mix bleu cheese, cream cheese and minced garlic in a bowl. Add lemon juice, white wine and crabmeat to bowl; then mix well.
In a separate bowl, toss the bacon with the Chesapeake Bay Seasoning. In a frying pan on medium heat, fry bacon until crispy for about 6 minutes, flipping throughout the time. Remove bacon from the pan and blot with paper towels to remove excess oil. Add bacon to crab mixture.
Transfer crab dip to an oven-safe baking dish. Sprinkle Chesapeake Bay Seasoning over top. Bake for 25 minutes until slightly toasted on top. Serve immediately with crackers or toasted baguette slices.
Big Blue Mules
Yield: Approximately 16 drinks
Prep: 1 week for blueberry infused vodka; 2 minutes for mixing
2 pounds fresh blueberries, plus more for garnish
750 ml bottle of vodka
Ginger Beer (Q Drinks Spectacular Ginger Beer is super spicy and not too sweet, just how we like it)
Mint leaves for garnish
A week before game day, make blueberry-infused vodka. Add blueberries and vodka to a large container, and let set at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, until ready to use. Strain and discard blueberries.
In a Mule mug, add ice, and pour in 1 oz. blueberry-infused vodka. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lime, and top with ginger beer, Garnish with fresh blueberries, a lime slice and fresh mint.
Brown Sugar & Herb Rubbed Ribs
Recipe by Avenue Foods and Catering
1 tsp pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp onion flakes
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp rosemary
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp coarse ground pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 cups brown sugar
Mix all ingredients in blender then coat both sides of ribs. Pat the mixture into the ribs. Bake at 250 degrees for at least 4 hours or until meat pulls from bone. You can always bump up the temperature if you need ribs to cook faster.
These can be cooked the day ahead, wrapped in foil and reheated the next day for a tailgate. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes then put in a cooler to keep warm until you are ready to serve. Enjoy!
Magnolia Foods Chorizo Black Bean Dip
1 pound ground chorizo, browned
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. salsa (any kind)
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, rinsed
8 oz. shredded cheese, cheddar
or Monterrey Jack
Green onions, finely diced
Sauté diced onions and garlic in olive oil, add cream cheese and cooked chorizo (don’t walk away—keep stirring). Cream cheese should be smooth
and no lumps, add black beans, salsa and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving dish, top with diced green onions for garnish.
Serve warm with tortilla chips.
Five Ways to Take Your Tailgate Over the Top
by RACHEL DALTON
While everyone seems to have ideas on how to make their tailgate the best, we talked with a few local experts about ways to make your space the place everyone wants to be.
1. Plan ahead. Never was an awesome, monumental tailgate thrown together the night before. No way. An over-the-top tailgate requires precision, attention to detail, and planning. Send invitations (yes, you read that right) about a month ahead of time. Fall is a busy time for everyone so whether it’s a casual text or an Evite, people need to get this date on their calendar.
2. Gather the right equipment. Depending on the menu, there may be a need for some special pieces of equipment at your party. Make sure you’ve assigned who will bring a grill and a portable burner to your tailgate, Cissa Willman from Avenue Foods suggests.
Someone in the group should also provide tents for shade and protection from the elements. Other overlooked items include: fans, extra coolers, large/lidded plastic containers for bringing back used dishes, ice, plates, flatware, cups, aluminum foil, trash bags and bottle or wine openers.
3. Expand your menu. Skip the burgers and hotdogs this year and try Cissa’s suggestion of grilling quesadillas, sausages, pork tenderloin, kabobs, marinated flat iron steaks and custom pizzas.
You don’t have to bring a grill to be creative. Cissa says keep it simple with items that don’t necessarily have to be hot and can be easily transported in on ice. Some of her favorites are seared Ahi tuna, chicken salad, smoked salmon, assorted gourmet sandwiches and oysters.
If you don’t have the time or energy to prep your own spread, Adi McCauley of Magnolia Foods suggests many mouth-watering options from their catering menu such as their black bean & chorizo dip, sandwiches, appetizer platters, potato salad, pasta salad, quinoa, and chopped vegetable salad… you will be able to satisfy the pickiest palate in your crowd! Magnolia will package up any items for easy travel and provide a heat source with disposable chaffing racks, pans and fuel so all you have to do is chow down.
Round out every savory menu with a little sweet. Both Adi and Cissa say bars of any kind travel well; raspberry, lemon, brownies, Derby bars from Magnolia or cookies from Avenue Foods appeal to all ages at your party.
4. Stock a wide variety of drinks. Make sure to have plenty of water on hand. (Tip: freeze bottles the night before so they will stay cold and help keep other items cold.) Also include sparkling water, sodas and juice for your designated drivers, younger tailgaters and those who aren’t imbibing.
For the folks who do like to have a celebratory drink, you can’t go wrong with a great Bloody Mary. May we recommend the Texas Beach Bloody Mary mix made in Richmond and sold at Magnolia foods. One of the only vegan mixes on the market, it pairs well with vodka, ice and a large celery stalk. Another local option is T.C. Trotter’s Moose Mix, sold at Moose’s Café and other local businesses such as Pints O’ Plenty in Forest. It has a kick but is not too spicy, and the best part is this mix never waters down. To take things over the top, offer a Bloody Mary bar with accoutrements such as fresh horseradish, hot sauces, spiced shrimp, olives, pickled veggies and bacon. Mix it up with vodkas too, by offering citrus, spicy or any flavors you think will entertain your family and friends.
Aside from the Bloody Marys, choose an assortment of wine and beer, liquor and mixers. Adi suggests ordering a keg of local beer from Magnolia to add to the fun.
5. Create a game-winning atmosphere. Set the tone for a memorable day by providing a few activities such as a football to throw, corn hole boards, horseshoes and ladder toss.
Large helium balloons at your table are festive and help your friends find you in the crowd. To stand out from the crowd, Cissa tells me they always make sure to have the table decorated in their team colors. “Flowers or candles can fancy it up… flags are great as well!” she says.
Check your team schedules, invite your pals, and reach out to your favorite local Lynchburg caterers to help with the heavy lifting. Tag us in pictures from your over-the-top tailgates this fall with the hashtag #lynchburglivingtailgate.