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Help - Dinner Club Theme- American Tailgate..Done Upscale

My dinner club theme has been decided. American Tail gate party. Ugh. Everyone in the group is Canadian except the fellow who picked the theme. I'm beginning to think that our Mr. USA member is trying to set up us for failure!

So stereo-typically I would think you would serve beer and hot dogs, but I need something waaaaaaaaaay more upscale for this crowd. The typical 'go to' dish is not what our dinner club group is about. We strive to try to introduce some new foods, or do a special 'take' on an old classic, or at least make the presentation super-cool.

To make matters much worse for me, I am designated to bring side dishes only!!! That means veggies, salad, starches and bread. I have no clue to where to begin to take this theme to another level! I hope my Chowfriends, particularly any american tail gaters will be able to shed some light on this. I would love to hear any suggestions you have, as long as they fall into Tailgate: veggies, salad, starches or bread.

Maybe that is Mission Impossible?!? Let's hear what you got US ChowPals!

thanks
TSAW

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    1. TSAW, we here are rabid tailgaters and do like to mix it up by serving things that are a bit more complex than just the old hot dogs and beer, although the beer or thermoses of mixed beverages are utterly neccessary to a Real Good Time Being Had By All - that is, if you're us. You certainly haven't got an impossible mission on your hands, so start by considering what kind of cooking facilities or implements will be available to you for on-site work. I'm assuming a decent-sized grill, yeah? What about grilling assorted marinated vegetables - thick slices of onion with tarragon, thick sliced tomatoes with basil, topped off with a drizzle of vinaigrette, asparagus, zucchini......beautiful and delicious laid on a platter with some grilled bread. You could do an upscale potato salad; instead of marinating in vin. before adding mayonnaise, try marinating the potatoes in a bit of white wine, then blending. You might consider bringing in some cultural staples: Baba ganoush, tabbouleh salads, hummous bi tahini, etc - don't know how much of that cooking you all eat there, but it's worth a shot.

      The nature of the tailgate is casual dining. You can certainly upgrade any plebeian ingredients that you use, but it sounds like since only one of your group is conversant with the tailgate party on a personal level, whatever you choose to do is going to be somewhat exotic. For desserts, you can grill fruits, stone fruits especially, and serve w/ a caramel or dulce de leche dip with it, along with cookies. One of my favorite pre-game desserts is an enormous bag (or two) of Mallomar cookies; nobody remembers them, but everybody loves them and it's kinda such a tacky thing to do that it's almost classy.

      Most important: with enough ice and coolers, you can do SO much of the prep. at home, and can transport just about anything in ziplocks to be assembled at the parking lot.

      Enjoy. If he IS setting you up, well hey, just meet the challenge and blow his natural mind.
      Finally - use the search function here to enter "tailgate." You'll be amazed.

      1. Some things I've made in the past at these type of events:

        Red, white & blue potato salad - use a mix of potatoes, red skin, white & blue Peruvian. You can mix however you want, and my secret ingredient is usually pickle brine poured on the potatoes while still hot. Gives it a lot of flavor.

        Orzo salad with roasted bell peppers, kalamata olives & feta

        If you can get good avocados, you might try grilling them lightly first, then making up a guacamole with them & some salsa, and get some red & blue tortilla chips

        Baked beans in a crock pot is super easy, can even use canned and dress them up with some chopped onion (cook it first before putting in slow cooker), chili powder & cumin, and yellow mustard.

        You can also do killer garlic bread - slice a large loaf of French or Italian bread in half lengthwise, spread with softened butter mixed with softened Boursin cheese. Wrap in foil and put on a hot grill.

        Macaroni salad is all American, you can dress it up by using a nice noodle shape like penne, and use chopped hb eggs and bacon, pickled red onions, baby spinach or arugula leaves & chopped parsley added at the end. Or add some sliced grape or cherry tomatoes to it, again, just before serving. Dress a garlicky ranch dressing, bottled is fine.

        You can also do cubed fresh fruit on skewers with a honeyed yogurt dipping sauce.

        I also really like Mama C's grilled veggie platter. Hope that helps!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Phurstluv

          Hey HEY, Phurstluv: on the bread tip? is it about a 50:50 ratio with the boursin? Sounds delicious and easy.
          Note to OP - part of the fun of the tailgate is in the casual feel of the event. Any food can be dressed up or down to fit your parameters......seriously, if your group was into pheasant under glass, that could be arranged, but in that context it sounds very awful to me. I love the idea of upscaling the casual vittles to fit the bill, but as I noted before, the theme is already exotic to your bunch, so the food probably will be too.

          1. re: mamachef

            Hi Mama C! Yes, I do about fifty fifty ratio. It is super easy, and hard to mess up, since Boursin is mostly butter anyway!! And you can always sprinkle with grated parm as well and broil it openfaced. It is delicious, and everyone will wonder how you made it so GOOOOD.

            1. re: Phurstluv

              Well then, I guess everybody WILL be wondering at our next tailgate, since I plan to do exactly this. And it can be "our" little secret. : )

        2. I kind of feel like the task here isn't to make really good tailgate food, but to make good food that makes one thing of tailgate. How about riffing off buffalo wings by making a buffalo salad: Mix diced celery, diced carrots, chickpeas, red onion and romaine lettuce with crumbed blue cheese and a vinaigrette using Frank's Red Hot to capture the buffalo flavor?

          2 Replies
          1. re: katecm

            I love your salad idea, but the OP does state that he wants to make really good, upscale tailgate food.

            1. re: katecm

              Katecm. Wanted to let you know I made your idea on the buffalo salad for some vegetarian friends. Called it 'buffalo wingless' salad. I cut the carrots and celery like tiny stix and roasted the chickpeas so they were a little crunchy. Big hit! Thanks Chowfriends for inspiration.

            2. TSAW How about a muffaletta sandwich or a variation thereof? From my experience, a round loaf works better than an oblong as far as slicing. The olive salad on a muffaletta is traditional, but I often use basil pesto on top and black olive tapenade on the bottom. Use a generous mix of good meats and cheeses (mortadella with the pistachios). Roasted red peppers are a bit slippery but delicious. Wrap, weight overnight in the fridge, slice when you get to the venue.

              If you don't want it meat-centric, use the roasted vegetable idea from the other posters and layer them like ratatouille in a bun. Cheese, of course, OO and/or pesto to moisten.