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.

How to Smoke Barbecue Brisket

(photo courtesy Southern Living magazine)

Brisket is a lean cut of beef that presents a way to inexpensively feed a crowd, making it an ideal choice for tailgating season. Because it is a tough cut of meat, it requires extended cooking (about 6 hours) — which is perfect for an all-day tailgating session. You can also do some precooking in an oven, if you need to reduce the amount of grill time. For perfect brisket every time, follow these steps.

Step 1: Trimming the meat

Buy a brisket between 10 and 12 pounds. If possible, have the butcher trim off any excess fat. If not, trim it yourself. Leave any marbling that is within the muscle itself. Marbling will add flavor and moisture to the meat. But there’s typically a patch of fat that runs the length of one side of the cut, and you’ll want to remove that.

Step 2: the marinade

Marinade your brisket overnight in your favorite marinade. If you don’t have a favorite, try a simple marinade of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and red wine, topped with a liberal coating of garlic powder and onion powder. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

Step 3: The smoke

Select your favorite wood (this blogger prefers cherry), and soak the chunks in water prior to cooking. The key is to cook the brisket over indirect heat. Never put your meat directly over the coals. Keep the temperature of the pit around 225 degrees for about 6 hours. Aim for an internal meat temp of 195 degrees. Try to avoid unnecessarily opening the lid while it’s cooking, or you’ll cause the temperature to fluctuate too much.

Step 4: Enjoy!

Let the finished meat rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. For that typical sliced brisket look, slice on the bias in the direction of the muscle grain. Have some barbecue sauce ready, for those who like to dip. To make your brisket feed more people, serve with slider buns.

NEXT WEEK:  Now that you have part of the menu planned, come back to the blog next week for ideas on hosting the ultimate backyard tailgate party.

Fireside Memories & S’mores Recipes

Last month, we reached out to our audience and asked them to share their fireside memories and favorite s’mores recipes with us as part of our National S’mores Day Fire Pit Giveway. We had an incredible response and received nearly 1,500 stories and over 600 recipes from all across the nation. It’s clear that spending time with loved ones around a fire is a heartwarming activity for people from all walks of life. Below are some of our favorite submissions. For more stories and recipes, be sure to visit the Outdoor Living by Belgard Facebook page, where we’ll be sharing more of these throughout the month.

Fireside Memories

The only time we got with my dad when we were children was camping. Being around the campfire making s’mores and telling stories was the best because we got a sweet treat, and we got my dad’s undivided attention finally. And mine were always the gooiest!   – Douglasville, GA

Sitting around a fire is one of the few great things I can still remember about my childhood with my grandparents.   -Algonquin, IL

I remember the kids being little and me running around to make sure they didn’t poke anyone or create little fireballs. Kids, now adults, still have fun making fireside s’mores, and I STILL run around trying to make sure they don’t poke each other and create little fireballs!  -Reston, VA

We made s’mores with my grandson on a makeshift fire pit just before my husband was diagnosed with cancer. My grandson’s response was so amazing. He was three.  It was really special to have that first experience with him.  -Trinity, FL

Every year we have a family reunion at our home. Family members fly in from all around the United States for a one-week event where we have a few nights of cookouts in our backyard. And s’mores are part of that on our homemade fire pit.    -North Oaks, MN

My first s’mores experience was when I was nine years old. I was camping with friends and was introduced by my friend’s family. I’ll never forget the incredible taste and experience. It is something that I plan to one day pass on to my children as well.   -Joliet, IL

My favorite memory is making s’mores around the campfire as a Camp Fire Girl, fifty years ago. S’mores have been the best campfire treat for a long long time. So glad they get a special day each year. Now that’s getting your just desserts.  -Pleasant Valley, OR

Our family was in the backyard, around our store-bought fire pit, making s’mores. Our youngest son decided he had enough and told us that he was “going home.” In his mind, we were on a grand adventure, even though we were just in our backyard.   -Jacksonville, FL

S’mores Recipes

A lot of folks suggested augmenting a classic s’more by trading out the milk chocolate bar for other candy bars: Andes® mints, peanut butter cups, Heath® bars, Mr. Goodbar®, et cetera — all of which sound delicious! But here were some recipes that had a little extra creativity.

This is a Trader Joe’s s’more! Take a large marshmallow, carve a small hole and put in these items from Trader Joe’s (whatever amount fits): choc chunks, dried blueberries, dried coconut chips. After toasting that, put between two graham crackers or lemon shortbread cookies.    -Cumberland, ME

This is an adult s’mores recipe that I created and is amazing: Grand Marnier® marshmallows, milk chocolate bar, waffle cookies. The combination makes wonderful s’mores that are not overly sweet.     -N.Mandelke,  Los Gatos, CA

Vanilla graham crackers, chocolate, peanut butter and marshmallow. -Cary, IL

We line up four vanilla wafers on a plate, add a small Heath® bar and two toasted marshmallows. We then top it with four more vanilla wafers and press down. Delish!!  –T. Karnowski, Andover, MN

Shortbread cookies, dark chocolate squares, raspberries and marshmallows!  -Grandville, MI

We like to make s’mores cones — Ingredients: Sugar cones, mini marshmallows, crumbled graham crackers, chocolate chips. Directions: fill cones with remainder of ingredients to the top. Wrap in foil and lay on grate above coals for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool.  -S. Miller, Homer, LA

Our favorite way to make s’mores is with chewy ginger cookies instead of graham crackers. Two chewy ginger cookies (homemade or store bought) with a little Nutella® then add a toasted marshmallow. A delicious classic with a little extra ginger twist.  -Ventura, CA

Enjoy!

Next week’s blog: Come back to the blog next week to learn about using columns as an accent in outdoor living design.

Grilled Watermelon and Shrimp Skewers

With watermelon season coming to a close, it seems only fitting to put some melon on the grill for one last hurrah on Labor Day. Grilling watermelon adds a smokey note to the fruit and gives it a slightly meaty texture that matches well with shrimp. This also gives you an opportunity to utilize any fresh herbs you’ve grown this summer. Cooking this dish only takes a couple of minutes, which makes it the perfect appetizer. Before you get started, you’ll need twelve 12-inch metal skewers or eighteen 8-inch skewers. If you use bamboo, be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes prior to using them, which will keep them from igniting on the grill.

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (for marinade), plus 1 ½ Tbsp (for brushing)
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 3 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint (marinade), plus ¼ cup torn mint leaves (garnish)
  • ½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. red chile flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 lb. jumbo peeled and deveined shrimp (21-26 per pound), thawed if frozen
  • ½ small seedless watermelon (about 2 lbs.), cut into 1″ cubes
directions

Step 1:  In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup oil, the lime zest and juice, chopped mint, thyme, chile flakes, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour half into a small bowl and set aside to use as a drizzle later.

Step 2: Add shrimp to remaining marinade mixture in medium bowl and chill, covered, about 1 hour.

Step 3: Heat grill to very high (550º to 650º).

Step 4: Thread watermelon cubes onto half of the skewers so that pieces lie flat. Brush both sides with remaining 1 ½ Tbsp oil. Thread shrimp onto the remaining skewers, piercing each through its top and bottom to form a C (so shrimp lies flat).

Step 5: Grill watermelon on one side only until grill marks appear (about 1 minute). Transfer to a platter. Grill shrimp, turning once, just until pink (1.5 to 2 minutes total). Transfer to the platter.

Step 6: Drizzle plated skewers with reserved marinade and sprinkle with the torn mint.

Recipe/photo courtesy Time Inc. (photo: Iain Bagwell)

In Honor of National S’mores Day, We’re Giving Away a Belgard Fire Pit!

Today is National S’mores Day, so get ready for some ooey, gooey, chocolatey goodness. In honor of this delectable treat, we picked today to kick off our contest to win a fabulous Belgard Fire Pit!

Fire pits have become one of the fastest growing trends in outdoor living design, and with good reason. They appeal to people of all ages and instantly become everyone’s favorite gathering spot. Fire pits have the magical ability to break down generational barriers as everyone gathers around the flames, sharing remembrances while creating new ones. It just so happens that many of those memories include roasting marshmallows, which is why we chose to celebrate National S’mores Day with a fire pit giveaway.

As part of the fire pit giveaway contest, we’re collecting s’mores recipes and fireside memories from people around the nation to share with our blog readers. We all know the classic s’mores recipe of a roasted marshmallow sandwiched with milk chocolate and graham crackers, but maybe your family has come up with a new twist — like using Andes mint chocolates or peppermint bark. If you’ve tried a fun variation, we’d love to hear about it. We’d also love to share some of those fireside memories that make gathering around a fire such a meaningful pastime.

The contest ends August 31, so click the link below to enter today!

Enter Now for Your Chance to Win!

 

Coming up next week:

Come back next week to get a sneak peek at the outdoor living spaces of the 2017 Coastal Living Idea House in Newport, Rhode Island.

Tips for Planning the ‘Phased’ Project

Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to build your dream outdoor living space all at once. When building one phase at a time, proper upfront planning can save time, money and headaches.

Tip #1:  Choose a qualified design/build contractor

A large outdoor living build-out is an important investment in your home. Don’t trust that investment to just anyone. With a smaller job, an installation contractor is fine, but in order to properly plan a job that will be built in phases, you’ll need someone with design skills. For more information, read our Tips for Choosing a Hardscape Contractor blog.

Tip #2:  Design your complete dream outdoor space upfront

You can always scale it back, but it can be much less costly to design something that is never built than to retrofit a space later. This is especially true if future footings or underground utilities will be required. Many contractors will charge a fee for the design, but often credit that back to you when the work is done. For a realistic vision of how your dream space would look in your backyard, Belgard Authorized Contractors can utilize the Belgard Design Studio to import architectural plans or photos of your home to create 3-D renderings of their outdoor living designs that include furniture placement and potential landscaping. Fly-through animation will allow you to virtually walk through the design so you can truly get a feel for how you would live in that space. This can help you catch potential issues with the layout prior to construction.

Sample Belgard Design Studio 3-D rendering of an outdoor living area that could be built out in phases.

Tip#3:  Preplan for future phases

When you’re planning an outdoor living space, think of what you would plan for an indoor living space. Think lighting, music, televisions, cooking needs, and gas or electric appliances. Consider your local climate and think about ways of keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Running utilities all at once, including those that you won’t need until later, can be a huge cost savings in the end.  And if you plan to install heavy elements in a later phase, such as a pavilion or an outdoor fireplace, be sure to plan where any footings will be needed and install them prior to laying any hardscapes in those areas.

Tip #4:  Consider your lifestyle

When planning out the phases, discuss your lifestyle with your contractor so that you can plan the phases that will work best with your budget and how you would like to live in the space. A typical scenario would be to install the flat surfaces first, then build up, then embellish. For example, if a design includes a patio with an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace, and seat walls, the phases of the plan may look like this:  1) patio  2) kitchen  3) fireplace  4) seat walls, lighting, and sound.  However, depending upon your lifestyle, you may want to rearrange the order of the phases or build in sections instead.

Tip #5:  Look for opportunities to reduce the number of phases

Construction economies can be achieved by building in fewer phases. Many Belgard Authorized Contractors offer the Belgard Preferred Payment program, which can help you build more at one time and spread the cost out over several months with same-as-cash financing options for loan amounts up to $55,000 that can include labor, materials, furniture, appliance, landscaping and more.

Coming up next week:

National S’mores Day is Thursday, August 10. Come back to the Outdoor Living Blog next week to learn how you can submit your favorite s’mores memory or recipe for a chance to win a Belgard fire pit!