If you’re feeling like fall is quickly becoming a tailgating fail, we’ve got you covered. Not only is "homegating" one of the best ways to enjoy the game safely while socially distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our experts say there are actually some advantages to this trendy way to celebrate all things football.
“My favorite thing about homegating is that it’s easier than tailgating,” says founder of Hungry Fan Daina Falk. “I have all the conveniences of home to help me prepare my game day spread and I can keep my drinks hot or cold as needed.”
Here, eight ways to make your homegate the next best thing to a tailgate:
COOK UP SOME STADIUM FAVES
If you’re missing typical stadium fare, DIY it at home by grilling hotdogs and hamburgers and you can even amp up a pretzel platter by creating a pretzel wall. “You can cover some with cinnamon or icing and others with mustard and relish,” says Brian Worley, creative director and owner of B. Worley Productions, a special events firm in Atlanta. “They’re a great savory base for all sorts of toppings.” Tip: The Oktoberfest Party Pack from Eastern Provisions, an artisanal soft pretzel company, will arrive to your door ready to pop right in the oven.
ADD TEAM SPIRIT TO YOUR LOADED NACHO PLATTER
Loaded nachos are an ideal homegating starter because they’re versatile, easy to make, and quick to prepare, says Amy Desrosiers, who blogs at Sizzling Eats. Give them an extra game day boost with paper goods, appetizer picks and bowls sporting the team logo. As for Desrosiers’ secret to the best loaded nachos: Layering. “I use fresh herbs, bold toppings and multiple varieties of hand grated cheeses,” she says. “There’s nothing that melts better than freshly grated cheeses because they don’t contain the binding agent pre-packaged cheeses contain.” Another tip? You can build your nacho platter with basics from Stonewall Kitchen’s Ready-to-Snack gift basket.
MAKE AN EPIC CHEESE BOARD
Always a fan favorite, a cheese board should evoke variety, Falk says. “You’ve got to have an array of textures, colors and a sliding scale of creaminess and stinky-ness,” she says. “I prefer to offer five cheeses and I like to mix them up with some goat, some cow, some sheep, some mild, some strong, some creamy, some harder.” The extras are just as important. “Creamy cheeses spread well on crackers while harder cheeses are often nicely accented by toppings such as honey or jam.” Finish off your plate with a crunchy, sweet grape or a chewier dried apricot.
GET FESTIVE WITH DESSERT
There are few better ways to salute your team than with themed desserts—in your team’s colors, of course. “The colors at Mississippi State, my alma mater, are maroon and white so I like to make mini red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting,” says Ann Taylor Pittman, a food writer. “If I’m feeling especially festive, I’ll bake the cake in a sheet pan and cut out football-shaped pieces. I’ll sandwich two footballs around that cream cheese frosting and then pipe the football laces on top.”
We’ll just go ahead and say it: This cake sounds like the best way to kick off any homegating gathering.
One way to make your homegating event super-special is to personalize items. “Whether this means ordering personalized football jerseys or embossed cups, this will add pizzazz,” says Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy’s trends expert. “This takes it up a notch and will add to the celebration.”
SHOP YOUR CLOSET FOR DECORATIVE ITEMS
You’d be surprised at how many items you have in your house that will transform a blah afternoon around the TV into something really creative. “Once you dig into the back of a closet, cupboard or pantry, you may find everything from pennants or tickets from games you’ve gone to that can add to your tabletop décor, says Worley.
A really fun way to take your intimate homegating gathering to the next level: source old pieces from decades past. “You’re reviving these pieces from seasons past and offering great conversation starters, too,” Isom Johnson says. “Source vintage beer steins and old-school pennants to create a unique look to your event.”
FIND NEW WAYS TO STAY ON-THEME
Not only is a lot of cutlery sustainable, but you can wrap those knives, forks and spoons in your team colors, suggests Isom Johnson. “You can do the same for bunting,” she says: “My dad is a Lions fan so I know he’d love it if I hung up a banner with Lions spelled out.” Other option for super-fans: a football serving tray that’s personalized with the name of your family’s favorite team in each end zone.