Home Turf Tailgate

Going into one of the biggest games of the football season, our tailgate deserved something fresh. I found myself at Home Depot on the Thursday before the game buying a ginormous strip of AstroTurf to create a unique table runner – the added turf was just the ticket for this tablescape.

I used a chalkboard we usually display in our kitchen (made using an old frame and some spray chalkboard paint) as a canvas for one of my favorite lines in the song “We Are the Boys of Old Florida.” The letters looked nice and bold using chalkboard pens.

Patterned craft paper went the distance to create not only the table’s flag banner but also some mini-flag cupcake topers. I found the “We are #1” toppers at Michael’s, and the mini SEC helmets (which come in a set of all SEC teams) were also a fun addition to the cupcake stand.

My approach to tailgating is no different from planning any other gathering. You must consider things like the guests attending, the number of guests, time of day and flow of the event. Knowing this would be one of the busiest games of the season and with a tailgating window around lunchtime, I opted for grab-n-go foods that didn’t require much fuss or prep for mingling guests.

On the menu:

  • Publix chicken fingers with a side of ranch dressing – manageable and delicious
  • Pepper jelly, cream cheese and Ritz crackers
  • Cucumber sandwiches made with white bread, cucumbers and chive/herbed cream cheese (Just smear a little cream cheese on one side of each slice of bread, add cucumber slices and you’re done!)
  • Seedless grapes
  • Orange-flavored cupcakes (box mix) with whipped frosting (I loved how the orange cake mix showed through the white cupcake liners.)

Added creature comforts such as mints and hand sanitizer help keep guests clean and minty fresh. I was inspired by She’s Kinda Crafty to decorate the pump dispenser – she outdid mine for sure!

We were excited to again use our customized tailgate cups and pom-pom drink stirrers, serving Bloody Marys and sweet tea vodka-lemonades to our family and friends.

Last but not least, my husband’s tailgate contribution may have outshined the whole spread. He brought and chilled the largest bottle of beer I have ever seen, nine liters of St. Feuillien Triple. As someone once said, “Win or lose, we’re here for the booze!” …and the football, friendship and fun! Have a great time tailgating this weekend, wherever you may be!

More tailgate tips:
Tailgate Tune-up
No Celebration Penalties Here!




Pepper Jelly Perfection

The results are in! Thirteen experts, some with as much as 40 years of tailgating experience, donated time and taste buds as panelists to select the perfect pepper jelly. I am pleased to announce the top three fan favorites and enjoyed serving the first-place winner with Ritz crackers and cream cheese during our first tailgate of the season:

1st: Braswell’s Savory Sweet Heat Hot Jalapeno JellyGrocery Store
2nd: Tomato Land Hot Pepper JellyTomato Land, Tallahassee, FL
3rd: Lyman Walker Groves Hot Pepper Jelly Roadside Store, Monticello, FL

Recap of the contenders and the pepper jelly party.

It was great to see some local jellies represented in the winner’s circle, but the results show the more widely recognized Braswell’s brand must be doing something right. It was hailed for its spicy-sweet balance along with the jelly’s “attractiveness.”

We sure had fun picking pepper jellies. I hope you find these results useful when entertaining in the future, and please continue to submit your favorite brand(s) for consideration in any additional challenges. A big thank you to all who participated!




The Perfect Pepper Jelly: A Heated Competition

One of my favorite snacks, especially during tailgate season, is pepper jelly with cream cheese and Ritz crackers. It’s a quickly prepped and easily addicting treat with a perfect balance of spicy-sweetness and creamy-crunchiness. There are quite a few delicious pepper jelly options out there, so I recruited a pepper jelly panel to help select the fan-favorite prior to football season.

The Contenders:

  1. Redfearn Pepper JellyProduct of Dixie, GA | Purchased at Tomato Land, Tallahassee, FL
  2. Tomato Land Hot Pepper JellyTomato Land, Tallahassee, FL
  3. Braswell’s Savory Sweet Heat Hot Jalapeno JellyGrocery Store
  4. Braswell’s Select Red Pepper Jelly World Market
  5. Lyman Walker Groves Hot Pepper JellyRoadside Store, Monticello, FL
  6. Palmalito Jalapeno Pepper Jelly Grocery Store

After assembling highly experienced tailgate experts through a Paperless Post invitation, I conducted a semi-scientific study. Each pepper jelly was rated by the panelists with a score between 1 and 10, 1 being less enjoyable and 10 being pepper jelly perfection (multiple jellies could receive the same score).

The table numbers from our wedding (Save yours! They come in handy!) made great jelly identifiers – hand-painted numbers were inserted into the ever-versatile Tolsby frames from IKEA. Some burlap fabric laid over a hat box gave the tablescape some height and created sort of a rustic-veggie-stand texture. Some quick paper dots in peppery colors added to the fun.

Now, before you get all riled up because your favorite pepper jelly was not included, I will say this may just be the preliminary round. If you have a suggested, must-try pepper jelly, please send in your suggestions!

So. Are you ready to learn which jelly reigned supreme? I know the suspense is killing the panelists in particular. You will just have to check back soon to find the winner posted in the Food & Beverage section!