With the football season starting Thursday night is time to get serious in preparation for game day (if you haven't already...the hardcore tailgaters have been planning for Thursday night for a while). A tailgate can make or break a game-day experience for me, so let's draw up a game plan.
Food is the offensive line of a tailgate. If it's good, it makes up for a lot of shortcomings, and if it's not, you're going to need a lot of booze to make it fun.
My menu changes with the weather. I'll go with brats and my signature burgers in the heat, ribs in the fall, and chili when the cold hits. I like most of my tailgate food to have a little kick to it, but not where its a distraction from the fun. A little warmth to get your attention, but a easy finish. I usually mix cayenne with brown sugar, oregano, black pepper, and a touch of sweet BBQ sauce to give my meats some flavor and juice.
As for snacks, I go store bought. Chips and dip are easy to open and throw away at a reasonable cost. However, I feel like this is where a tailgate could really get a Minnesota touch. Anyone out there have a lefse or lutefisk tailgate dish?
I don't get too fancy here either. Just like in a game, I'll take a sure thing over high risk, high reward decision making. To me a tailgate isn't the place to sample fancy brews. I know there is a lot of bourbon talk at TDG, but I'll stick with my Belgian wheats for warm weather tailgating. When it cools off I like to go with hard hot chocolate, water mixed, not milk, in this case. Milk can always be a bad choice.
Now we get to the skill positions! To be honest, this is where I've been most disappointed with tailgates at the U. I was out in California, where I hear they have it all. Let me tell you, those people have it figured out. Satellite feeds to multiple TVs, fully equipped smokers and charcoal grills, electricity hook ups at each tailgate spot, good music playing, and easy bathroom access. There's certainly nothing wrong with a simple truck bed open with a cooler and some drinks, but I have been to the mountaintop and I hope to recreate it one day at the U.
This is where the administration needs to finalize getting their act together. Open tailgate spots on the mall. I drive from Chicagoland for games, but if I had a reserved location next to Northrop, I would walk the cash to campus, buy a storage locker for my equipment and find a way to be there for every game. If you have been to campuses that have on-campus tailgating, you know what I am talking about. Something about centering tailgates on campus instead of its parking lots changes the game and creates a true collegiate atmosphere.
What would your tailgate look like? I personally volunteer to judge the best of TDG member tailgates this year. What's on your menue? Any Minnesotan specialties?