Top Shelf Tailgating

Step Up Your Game On Game Day With Upscale Accoutrements And Recipes That Extend Far Beyond Burgers And Brats

David Uhrin

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As fall fills the air, leaves blissfully transform, and pumpkin-flavored everything hits the shelves, we’ve got our minds on one thing: football season—and, more specifically, tailgating. While we love loading up the truck with all the fundamental Bs (burgers, brats, buns, beer), we dare you to step up your game this year with upscale options, in both food and presentation, for a tailgating experience that’s sure to be a winner.


Game Décor

Set the tone for your tailgate. Achieve this by displaying team colors in everything from tablecloths to serving trays, napkins and props.

Serve in style. Don’t be afraid to break out your decorative dishes and pretty platters. We like to mix and match materials for added interest: rustic elements like wooden chargers, slate serving boards and bamboo trays pair nicely with tiered glass stands and ceramic platters.

Elevate your food. Aside from the types of dishes, the food itself can be heightened in varying levels by using picnic baskets, wooden crates, bricks or tiered platters.


Fan Food

Sliders, Virginia Beach Barbecue, Malbon Bros.

Sliders: While burgers and hot dogs are typical tailgating fare, nothing says Virginia quite like barbecue. Make your own, or, for added ease, pick some up from your local barbecue joint. We scored our barbecue, coleslaw and sauce from Malbon Bros. in Virginia Beach.


Vegetable Kebabs for Top Shelf Tailgating

Kebabs: Fire up the grill for these colorful kebabs, featuring an assortment of veggies. We used red onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, squash, purple potatoes and pineapple. Add other fall favorites like sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, and marinate with your favorite glaze.


Spicy House-Smoked BBQ Wings

Spicy House-Smoked BBQ Wings: 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. Get the recipe on the next page.


Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters: Looking to majorly enhance your affair? Oysters are a pearl of a dish at any Coastal Virginia event and certainly add a sophisticated flair to tailgating fun. Serve them raw, roasted or Rockefeller for one shell of a gameday display.


Bacon Bleu-Crab Dip, Chesapeake Bay Seasoning

Bacon Bleu-Crab Dip: 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. Get the recipe on the next page.


Sweet Potato Hummus with Walnuts

Sweet Potato Hummus: 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. Get the recipe on the next page.


Cupcakes, Twisted Sisters Sugar Shack

Cupcakes: Don’t forget a sweet treat for your spirited guests. Miniature cupcakes take on added appeal when frosted with your team’s colors. Make and take, or pick them up from a local bakery. We got these dainty delights from Twisted Sisters Sugar Shack in Virginia Beach.


Super Charged Snacks, Gardetto's, pumpkin seeds, spiced pepitas

Super-Charged Snacks: Along with sliders, sides and spreads, include a few nibbles, such as Gardetto’s, almonds or spiced pepitas (pumpkin seeds). They don’t require much effort, but they do provide a boost of energy to keep fans fired up.


Tailgating Spirits, Beer, Wine

We’ve Got Spirits—Yes, We do

A terrific tailgating setup requires a well-stocked bar, so set up your drink station with a selection of irresistible imbibes. Don’t forget garnishes, glasses (red Solo cups are so last season), cocktail napkins and, most importantly, non-alcoholic drinks and plenty of water to keep tailgaters hydrated and give them plenty of options.

Beer: We’re all familiar with our good ole friends Bud and Coors. But, in the spirit of rooting for the home team, use this opportunity to root for some Virginia-made brews. Bring a couple growlers, invite your guests to do the same, and hop on the craft beer bandwagon.

Wine: Make your vino Virginia as well, and aim to bring a selection of red and white, as well as rosé and sparkling (you’ll need something to toast with when your team wins, after all).

Spirits: Nothing says team spirit quite like cocktails from the commonwealth. Include a variety of liquors and mixers, or keep it simple by creating a signature cocktail. For our tailgate, we made invigorating batches of Big Blue Mules (get the recipe on the next page).

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