Football. Parking Lots. Grilled food. Three unmistakable signs that a new season is here – tailgate season.
But things are changing. More people are tailgating at home. Those changes are being driven by economics, a desire to be with more friends and to extend the game day party.
Season ticket sales for professional sports have dropped more than 47 percent since 2005, according to a study from Tailgater Magazine. The research also found that in the last 10 years, the average ticket price for a professional football game has risen more than 50 percent and parking fees have doubled.
“We’re seeing that homeowners want to bring everyone over for the game, rather than go anywhere,” said Matt Hillebrand, principal of Don’s Appliances in Pittsburgh.
It’s a trend some are calling “homegating.”
Kick off with the grill
Food makes or breaks a homegate. Get the grill off the sidelines. So many times the grill is in a corner, but that takes the host out of the game.
“Keep the grill close to the action,” said Russ Faulk, grillmaster for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. “That way, the cook can talk with guests during the game.”
As for the menu, Faulk recommends individual-sized appetizers – like sliders and mini tacos.
Mix it up at halftime
Fire pits, smokers and pizza ovens make the party more interactive for guests, Hillebrand said.
Pizza ovens get your guests involved in the cooking, Faulk said. Some companies, such as Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, offer countertop versions.
When the weather gets cooler, fire pits offer a place to warm up while watching the game outdoors. They also create opportunities for more activities, like making s’mores.
Headed to overtime
Let’s not forget the reason for the homegate: the game.
Specialized TVs are made to stand up to the weather and keep the gang outdoors, simulating the stadium experience.
For a more budget-friendly option, tune in through wireless Bluetooth speakers that extend the call of the game to all corners of the yard.
For more ways to enhance the homegating experience, visit kalamazoogourmet.com.
1 red onion
extra virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
4 pretzel rolls, about 3 inches in diameter
1 pound (15 percent lean) ground beef
4 ounces Cambozola cheese, cut into chunks
4 cocktail skewers
Prepare the grill for direct grilling over high heat, about 700 F grill grate temperature.
Slice red onion into 3/4-inch thick slices. Oil both sides and season with salt. Reserve.
Slice pretzel rolls. On dessert plate, pour oil and dip cut sides of each roll to coat evenly. Season oiled side with salt. Reserve.
Form ground beef into patties 1-inch larger in diameter than rolls and about 3/4-inch thick. Recess center of patties so when burgers plump, they will turn out flat.
Brush each patty on all sides with olive oil and season with salt.
Grill onion slices until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from grill, break slices down into rings and reserve.
Grill beef patties, turning once, 3-4 minutes per side. Flip patties, adding large ring of onion to each patty. Add small ring or two of onion inside larger ring. Add cheese on top of onion.
While cheese is melting and bottom of patties are cooking, lightly grill rolls.
Gently remove burgers when done and transfer directly onto pretzel rolls. Skewer each burger.