Planning the perfect tailgate party


Football and food are two great things that go great together.

Tailgating gives you the best of both worlds, but how can you pump up your party? Chef Pete Loren, the Director of Culinary Development at Nino Salvaggio, gave us a play-by-play on how to have the plan the perfect tailgate.

The first rule in the tailgate play book, "Keep it simple. A lot of people try to impress. This isn't the time to try and impress you friends with all your gourmet recipes," the chef advised.

Perfect Tailgate Takes Planning

Chef Pete Loren shared his secrets with Ruth to the Rescue for the perfect tailgate and his suggestions are easy for anyone to follow.

*Determine what resources you are going to bring to the game. "Are you going to have a grill with you? Are you going to have all cold food? Are you going to have people that will assist you with your cooking? You have to think about that 'cause that might limit you to not be able to do hot food at all. It might limit you to having certain equipment you have to bring with you," said Chef Pete Loren, the Director of Culinary Development at Nino Salvaggio.

*Consider having a theme for your tailgate. For example, try incorporating the team's colors into your party, have fun with the team mascots, or serves dishes based on the cities where the teams are based.

*Know your audience! What type of foods will your guests enjoy? Chef Pete Loren reminded us that you can never go wrong with some traditional items like fried chicken and ribs.

*Include lighter fare. On the other hand, some guests may be looking for something lighter, vegan, or gluten-free these days. If you truly know your audience, try to offer a dish or two that caters to dietary limitations.

*Establish a budget. You budget is going to dictate the kind of food you will have at your party and it can help prevent overspending when you hit the grocery store.

*Make a list for all of the items you will need to pull your tailgate together in advance. There will be items you can pull together in advance, and there will be others you need to buy at the last minute so they're fresh for the party. Creating two separate list along those lines can really help you focus your preparation.

Convenience and Good Taste!

According to our expert chef, a tailgate is a good time to create snacks that can be easily carried and enjoyed without a plate or silverware.

Chef Pete Loren showed us several items that are great finger foods: wraps, chicken fingers, smalls cups of antipasto, and a new spin on potato skins.

"Check this out. These are small potato boats. With again, Italian sausage and peppers. They can be eaten right out of your hand," said Loren as he showed off the creative, delicious dish.

What About the Drinks?

The chef also whipped up an easy-to-eat dessert with apple pie filling poured into a cup, which is perfect for fall. They're an easy to enjoy treat for people of all ages, and you can add something extra for your adult guests.

"If you want to make it an adult shooter, you can put some apple Schnapps on top of it and you can have something that's really kind of fun, but of course that's up to you," Loren told Ruth to the Rescue with a laugh.

Speaking of adult beverages, Ryan Alessio, host of "Inside Tailgating," introduced us to the Coolest Cooler which happens to have a vital tool that attaches to it.

"We got a blender on this thing. Works for your. So if you're making drinks, there you go right there."

The tricked out cooler is battery-operated and comes with a bottle opener, USB port, Wi-Fi and a Bluetooth speaker. Aside from the Coolest Cooler, Alessio had another piece of advice that could prevent trouble your tailgate. All the perks don't come cheap, according to the product website the Coolest Cooler retails for $485.

"Remember to bring your wet wipes, anti-bacterial stuff," said Alessio. "Because I see a lot of people who cook and eat with the same type of things (utensils) here."

He points out cleanliness is key and it's very important to keep raw meat separate from other foods during meal preparation. It's something many tailgaters might not think about in their pre-planning.

"So, make sure you're clean when you do it, because you don't want to get sick at half-time and have to run out," said Alessio.

Tips You Did Not See on Television

Ruth to the Rescue also caught up with Chef Jozef McDiarmid, the Executive Chef of Nino Salvaggio in Troy. He offered other tips to have a great tailgate party. If you don't have time to make food for your tailgate, Nino Salvaggio is full of different types of dips.

"Years ago all you had was spinach and dill dip, we have over 36 different types of dips here. Including salsas that we make," said Chef McDiarmid.

In addition to prepared dips, stores like Nino Salvaggio, carry a huge selection of pre-made party food like meatballs and chicken wings that you can come in, grab, and go. Chef McDiarmid showed off the wide selection of treats at the Troy store, "Grilled kabobs are a great item, along with pulled pork -- we have sausage and peppers."

Points For Presentation

And, when it comes to presentation, Chef Pete Loren says there are some quick tricks to making your tailgate pleasing to the eye, as well as the palate.

"Everything on a flat table looks so unattractive," said Loren. He suggests serving food on different levels, maybe cover milk crates or boxes with a table cloth. "Put things in the back a little higher, things toward your waist a little lower so everyone can reach and grab what they want."

Also, he suggests you pull out any colorful serving bowls and platters. "People like things on decorative platters... bowls that you've tucked away in the fridge or back in the cupboards you never use. Now is the time to pull them out and do something fun with them."

How Can You Protect Your Food?

Chef McDiarmid reminded us that there will be some uninvited pesky guests that will try to come to your tailgate; bees. So how can we keep them away?

"If you put a fan up, it will blow the bees away. They will not come towards the food and your guests will be a lot happier," said McDiarmid.

Keep all of these tips in mind next time you plan a tailgate and it will surely be a crowd pleaser.




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