Hosting the Ultimate Backyard Tailgate Party

For many people across the nation, the season of Fall is synonymous with football season. And although we don’t always agree on which team to cheer for, we can typically agree that gathering with friends and family is one of the best aspects of the football-watching experience. Whether your next backyard tailgating party is in preparation for your son’s high school game, or whether it’s a viewing party for your local college or pro team, take your tailgating game to the next level with these backyard tailgating tips.

Setting the Scene

To efficiently host gatherings throughout football season, some upfront planning and organization will go a long way. Set aside a “party box” where you can keep all of your tailgating supplies in one place. That way, you’re not recreating the wheel each week. And since you’ll be getting a lot of use out of everything, splurge on higher quality decorations and color-coordinated serving bowls, trays and utensils. You’ll end up saving money in the long run versus buying throw-away items for each event. Also, go ahead and string festive lighting around the yard that will work just as well for holiday gatherings as it will for tailgating, and you’ll be ahead of the game come December.

Feeding the Masses

Tailgate parties have a tendency to grow…after all, the more the merrier. The best meal plan is one that incorporates a lot of small bites that go a long way. Light the pit, and prepare to keep it going. Brats, of course, are always a good choice. You can also grill a variety of sausages and serve them sliced on a platter with an assortment of dipping sauces. Gilled pizza and sliders are also typical tailgating hits. Consider setting up a  make-your-own slider bar, which can add to the festive atmosphere. To feed large groups, racks of BBQ ribs or smoked brisket work really well and can be partially cooked ahead of time to shorten game-day grill time.

Game-Day Drinks

Let’s face it, beer is the standard beverage of choice in most tailgating scenarios, but to take your tailgating up a notch, have a little fun with your selections. For example, have everyone bring their favorite six-pack of micro-brewed beer and setup a tasting table. And since game day is all about competition, get a contest going that allows everyone to vote on their favorite. For the non-beer drinkers, Southern Living offers some fun game-day cocktail recipes in quantities that will keep your guests sipping through all four quarters.

Pre-Game Activities

The best tailgate parties include lots of entertaining backyard activities like cornhole and washer pitching games, giant jenga, or a good old-fashioned game of horseshoes. If you have an outdoor fireplace or a fire pit, set up a s’mores bar where everyone can roast marshmallows and make fun and interesting s’mores with ingredients like cookies, ginger snaps, Nutella, peanut butter cups and, of course, graham crackers and chocolate.

Seating Arrangements

For larger parties, you may want to consider investing in an outdoor projection screen. Or, you can setup up multiple viewing areas with the help of multiple TVs and a cable splitter.  One way to create more viewing space around a single TV or screen is to arrange stadium-style seating by placing chairs in rows according to chair height, with bar stools in the rear row. An additional row can be created in the front by placing pillows on the ground for the kids.

NEXT WEEK:  Come back to the blog next week for the latest trends in outdoor living design using retaining and garden walls.

Quick and Easy Backyard Fiesta

iStock_000023365878_MediumCinco de Mayo is on a Thursday this year, which may make you inclined to think that it will be a little hard to pull together a fabulous celebratory backyard bash. After all, it’s been a crazy week with a mile-long to-do list, plus all of those end-of-school-year activities. All the more reason to take a deep breath and relax with a mid-week margarita!

Here is a list of some easy tips for pulling off a casual backyard Cinco de Mayo fiesta like a pro — with nothing more than a quick trip to the grocery store and a peek inside the back of your hall closet.

Decorations

Ok, so you’re the type of person who typically likes to channel your inner Martha Stewart when it comes to preparing for a party. Well, it’s doubtful you’ll have time to make your own paper maché piñata in time, so it’s time to get creative with existing supplies. Unless, of course, you happen to have an old piñata in the back of your closet, in which case, dig it out!  For other decorations, think in terms of earthy textures: wooden items, wool blankets, burlap sacks left over from the 4th of July sack race (which make excellent table drapes)…you get the idea. Fruits and vegetables also make festive table decorations — for example, a glass bowl or trifle dish filled with limes, avocados, or tomatoes.

Menu

When planning your menu, think dishes with minimal prep. A slow cooker and a packet of taco seasoning can come in handy for making “crock pot chicken fajitas” or “pulled pork tacos”. Another idea is to turn meal prep into a party activity by making Mexican pizzas on the grill. For a quick-and-easy “homemade” salsa recipe, throw a large jar of cheap salsa, a can of mild Rotel, and some fresh cilantro into a food processor. Spice it up with a little cumin and garlic powder, then puree everything together. It looks and tastes like restaurant quality, and they’ll think you whipped it up from scratch.

Beverages

Of course, let’s not forget the best part of Cinco de Mayo celebrations! Obviously, you will add Mexican beer to the grocery list. But for a perfect pitcher of homemade “top shelf” margaritas on the rocks, forget the bottled mixes — instead buy frozen limeade. Mix the limeade per directions, replacing one can of water with gold tequila. Add a healthy splash of orange liqueur (like Triple Sec), salt the glass rims, and you’re good to go. If you want to add a pitcher of mojitos, use rum instead of tequila, and grab some mint from the garden for muddling in each glass as you serve it. If you want to get really fancy, muddle in some strawberries, too. For kid-friendly versions, just make the limeade per package instructions, using water only, then garnish with salt (or mint/strawberries) and lime.

Now…make a quick grocery run, and get ready to enjoy your fiesta!