Dining In: A Community That Tailgates Together Stays Together
By Karen Schulz
A tailgate is the ultimate portable potluck with friends. Tailgates happen year- round and come in all shapes and sizes. Whether at a sporting event, concert, or annual Christmas tree hunt, the tailgate is where anticipation builds, traditions grow, and there is at least one common thread to bond over — the band, the team, the season.
One of my favorite tailgates happened in the summer of 1989. I was with friends at Giants Stadium for a Grateful Dead concert. It was a beautiful blue-sky day, we were in my white Jeep, the top was down, and we were part of a legendary community of tailgaters. Grateful Dead music filled the air, hibachi grills sent off appetizing aromas of simple eats, like hot dogs and burgers, mixed with the signature scent of patchouli after a flowery girl selling bracelets with bells drifted by. Life was good, and the tailgate was as much a part of the show as Jerry Garcia.
Another unforgettable tailgate moment occurred several years ago while sitting on my friends Lisa and Paul’s stone wall enjoying their Rye/Harrison game party. It was clear from the get-go that they were pros. They even nailed the weather — crystal blue sky, slight chill in the air but the sun kept you warm, leaves seemed to be gently falling from the trees as if on cue as the Garnet flags waved atop Nugent Stadium. They had a band playing amazing music, a big tent covered all the morsels contributed by the guests, and Paul was grilling up a storm on a huge grill — chicken wings, sausages, and burgers — I definitely fell a little deeper in love with Rye that day and was grateful to be part of such a special community.
Today, two of my three kids attend SMU in Dallas, where they “boulevard” (Texas-sized tailgate) before home games — and they boulevard hard. Alumni and students all stake their claims on the beautiful tree-lined thoroughfare that bisects the campus. My friend, Etch, has been hosting a boulevard tailgate for twenty years, anchored by an old section of football turf with the SMU mascot as his “carpet”. The best Mexican restaurant in town caters Etch’s parties, and he teams up with a neighboring boulevarder who brings in a giant BBQ smoker on a trailer the size of a small train. Their food is always the best, and there is no shortage of margaritas and beer. Frankly, his tailgate parties are so much fun that I rarely want to leave to watch the football game. Even the kids leave their parties tents to say hi to Etch and mingle with alums.
And then there is our tiny annual Christmas tree hunt tailgate. For many years, we drove, with tailgate treats in tow, to Jones Farm with the Garland family and our tailgate treats in tow. It was the same menu every year. Hilary made her famous chocolate chip cookies and packed a thermos of tomato soup with cheese cubes to melt in the bottoms of each cup of soup. I was in charge of hot chocolate and making the Jerry’s run for chicken cutlet sandwiches, chips, and drinks. Nothing fancy or complicated, but the right amount of warmth after a cold trek through the woods looking for that perfect tree and hauling it back to the car.
Whether you call a caterer, pick up something at Jerry’s, or cook something yourself, what makes a tailgate special is that it adds legs to an already fun plan and provides a unique opportunity to connect and build a sense of community around a moment in time. Right down to the menu, a tailgate is a team effort, and it is always fun to see what people bring to the table.
The only rule when it comes to a tailgate menu is that it has to be easy to eat while standing up. And while there are certainly classic menu choices, at your next potluck tailgate, surprise your friends with something new like a tray of Bombay sliders with garlic curry sauce (a recipe given to me by Hilary).
Happy tailgating. Go Garnets!
<<Bombay Sliders with Garlic Curry Sauce>>
1 cup mayonnaise, divided
6¼ t. curry powder, divided
1½ T. plain yogurt
1½ T. ketchup
1 garlic clove, minced
2 lbs. ground turkey
6 T. chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup minced green onions
2 T. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 t. ground cumin
¾ t. hot chili powder or Hungarian hot paprika
1 t. kosher salt
1 T. olive oil
12 small dinner rolls, cut horizontally in half, lightly toasted
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, cut in ¼-inch slices
Mix ¾ cup mayonnaise, 2¼ teaspoons curry powder, yogurt, ketchup, and minced garlic in small bowl. Let stand at room temperature while preparing sliders.
Place turkey, next six ingredients, remaining ¼ cup mayonnaise, and 4 teaspoons curry powder in large bowl. Mix with fork or hands just until blended. (Do not overmix).
Divide mixture into 12 equal portions. Using wet hands, form into ½-inch thick patties.
Broil on a greased rimmed baking sheet, 3 minutes per side, or cook in batches in a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil, covered, 4 minutes per side. Or grill on medium-high, 3 minutes per side.
Place patties on bottom halves of rolls. Top each patty with sauce, onion, and cucumber.