5 foolproof football parties

Score big points on game day with any one of these five winning ideas.
by Anne Cain, MyRecipes.com Senior Food Editor

Even if you're not charging toward the goal line, you can still score big points with any one of these five winning party ideas. You'll probably get penalized for excess celebration, but, hey, it's the big game.

Related: Super Bowl Recipes

Party #1: Build a Bar
A food bar, that is. Instead of worrying about whether your friends are now vegetarian, lactose intolerant, doing low-carb or gluten-free, let everyone create their own individual dish by adding the topping of their choice.

  • Taco Bar: Prepare a couple of hot fillings such as ground beef and chicken, and set out a basket of taco shells along with a variety of toppings.
  • Hot Dog Bar: Grill the franks or brats, set out the buns, and let your guests top their dogs with sauerkraut, cheese, or chili. Make it interesting with a variety of gourmet mustards.
    Related: Crowd-Pleasing Hot Dogs
  • Potato Bar: Bake a batch of potatoes and wrap them in foil to keep them warm. Or, bake ahead of time and reheat in the microwave. Set out bowls of various toppings and let everyone make their own loaded potato. Topping suggestions include chili, barbecue chicken or pork, shredded cheese, chopped green onions, sautéed bell pepper and onions, chopped jalapeno pepper, salsa, chutney, bacon pieces, butter, and sour cream.

Party #2: Beer and Food Pairing

A beer and recipe-pairing party is perfect for a mixed crowd of those who want to watch the game and those who only want to watch the commercials. Those who don't care about the game can entertain themselves by experimenting with specific pairings. The football fanatics can just enjoy the beer and great eats. When pairing beer with food, match like with like-mild lagers and lighter ales with delicate and subtle foods, and full-flavored ales with robust recipes. Mexican, Thai, Indian and German dishes are all good partners for beer. Usually the best beer to enjoy with a dish is the one from the country where the recipe originated.
Related: Game-Day Wing Recipes

Party #3: Regional Play-Off
Who cares which team has the better players? Let's focus on which region has the better food. For example, set up a "Best of New Orleans" and "Best of Indianapolis" tasting menu. Pit one cuisine against the other, and see who comes out on top.

To pull it off, set up two tables and serve signature dishes on each table, covered with the team's colors, of course. Cheering on someone in the SEC? Barbecue is a must. Texas on your mind? Serve up chili and burgers. Get creative and let fans show their true colors by the spread on their plates.

Party #4: Progressive Dinner
Instead of moving to a different location for each course, stay in one place, but serve a different course during each quarter of the game. It's a great way to organize a menu as well as the prep work. For example, serve cocktails and a few munchies such as Make-Ahead Snack Mix and Chesapeake Bay Party Nuts during the first quarter and a salad in the second quarter, preferable a salad that you can make the day before. A basic coleslaw is easy and great for a crowd. Start an entrée such as Slow Cooker Barbecue Beef Sandwiches early in the day and you won't have to miss any of the game or the commercials. The meat will be ready just in time for the third quarter, and by the fourth quarter, everyone will be ready for dessert. We recommend Death by Caramel Bars for ardent football fans. If the game goes into Sudden Death, you're on your own. Coffee, perhaps?

Party #5: Souper Bowls

Instead of going the usual chips and dips route, have a real hearty meal by making a couple of big pots of chili or soup. We suggest offering at least two choices-perhaps one with meat and one without. Try All-American Chili, Full of Veggies Chili, or Tortilla Soup, all of which can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen. Set out bowls of topping and accompaniments such as oyster crackers, saltine crackers, tortilla chips, shredded cheese, chopped onion, sour cream, and yogurt. Serve the soup or chili in large coffee mugs if you don't have enough bowls.
Related: Casual Chili Party

Party Penalties:
Don't get penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct when you're hosting a football party. Here are some tips that keep you from getting benched.
  • Buy more beer than you think you'll need and keep it cold.
  • Stock up on extra chips and in case the game goes into overtime.
  • Let your friends contribute to the spread. There's no point in you doing all the work.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot food hot so that no ones goes home with a food bug.
  • Serve buffet-style and let guests use lap trays so that everyone can be in front of the television screen. That is, after all, the point of the party.
  • Have another room available for those who don't care about the score and just want to talk and eat. This will bring cheers from those who do want to pay attention to the game.
  • Rethink the idea of fondue if you've got a rowdy crowd. Sharp fondue forks and flames don't pair well with beer drinking.
  • Turn your party into an over-nighter if some of your guests over-imbibe when their team wins or loses. They'll thank you for it later.

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