5 Tips for Creating an Awesome Tailgate

Tailgating TablescapeTailgating TablescapeAs summer winds down, football season begins to ramp up. College football rivalries are particularly intense - so why not take the pregame party just as seriously? Impress the opposing team with a tailgating tablescape that hardly looks as though it was meant for the stadium parking lot.

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Because tailgating requires traveling to the stadium, it's important to keep your party portable. These tablescape props are easy to carry and fit into your car, and many of them do double duty: for example, a woolen blanket makes a both festive tablecloth and a warm wrap for the game itself.

All you need to get started are a card table or the flat trunk of a car or truck. Transform the space by adding a covering - that woolen blanket or a big piece of brown butcher paper. Then, treat the space as you would a party buffet. Add decorations like pennant flags or seasonal flowers (or both) in your team's colors.

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Instead of sticking strictly to paper goods, incorporate real pieces - like baskets, cake stands, and wooden cutting boards - for a comfortable, upscale feel that won't require much more cleanup work. Paper plates are still the best option for ease of cleanup before racing off to watch the game.

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Serve fun finger foods - like whoopie pies, thermoses of soup or chili, biscuits, baked potatoes, and caramel corn - that will be OK sitting outside while you tailgate and in the car while you watch the game. Make them easy to eat and transport so that you can carry them into the stadium with you.

And don't forget something to drink! A galvanized metal tub filled with ice will keep soda, beer, and water cold, but if it's an early game, everyone will really be looking forward to a Bloody Mary bar. Set out the ingredients on a tray and let everyone help themselves.

Finger Foods

The food that you serve should be OK sitting outside while you tailgate and in the car while you watch the game. It's even better if they're easily portable, so that you can carry them into the stadium with you. A baked potato bar a good option because everyone can top their own warm potato with whatever they'd like. Fill out the spread with thermoses of soup or chili, and handheld snacks like caramel corn and whoopie pies.

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Ice Bucket

Keep beer and other drinks cold in a bucket filled with ice. Galvanized metal buckets are inexpensive and easy to clean.

Paper Goods

Paper goods like straws and treat bags in your team's colors will last all season and add real flair to your table.

Seasonal Details

Add an unexpected and thoughtful touch to the table by setting out seasonal flowers - like sunflowers and chrysanthemums - in your team's colors. Later in the season, pumpkins and squashes can take their place.

Bloody Mary Bar

Set out a tray with a pitcher of Bloody Marys and mix-ins to indulge everyone's favorite tailgating tradition.

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-Caroline Lange, The Daily Meal