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Michael Symon Interview

Posted by Brandon On October - 24 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

So in my last post I mentioned that as part of our review of the Knob Creek whiskey products we had the opportunity to bounce a few questions off of celebrity chef, Michael Symon.  So without further adieu here it is:symonbrats

Tailgating Ideas: I see in your bio you’re from Cleveland.  Are you a Cleveland sports fan, or do you find yourself supporting other clubs?

Michael Symon: Cleveland, all day, everyday. Period. End of conversation.

Tailgating Ideas:  Are you able to tailgate very often?

Michael Symon: I definitely enjoy tailgating with my buddies at the game, but more often than not, I enjoy the game at home with friends and family. While I may not tailgate in a parking lot that often anymore, I definitely like to have my own tailgate at home where I grill some great meats, like wings or rib eye, with easy rubs and marinades made with Knob Creek Bourbon, which really brings out the smoky flavors from the grill.

Tailgating Ideas: What are your favorite foods to prepare for tailgating?

Michael Symon: I like to make simple, yet delicious, recipes that you can prepare right on the grill – no fuss or mess in the kitchen. Cleveland has a huge Eastern European influence, so I enjoy cooking up some bratwurst and sausages in a spicy jalapeño and Knob Creek Bourbon sauce, or I’ll grill some great Korean BBQ-style wings with a Knob Creek Bourbon glaze.

Tailgating Ideas: Do you make changes to your menu based on the weather?  If so what do you like to prepare for hot weather vs. cold weather?

Michael Symon: I’m one of those guys who will never let weather deter him from the grill – if I have to shovel a path from my house to the grill during winter, I’ll do it! I like to bring some of the flavors of the season to my recipes when I cook. For example, if I’m grilling in the summer, I’ll use citrus and fresh herbs in my marinades, along with some Knob Creek Bourbon, to create a fresh marinade that can stand up to the heat of the grill. In the winter, I like to add ingredients that enhance the smoky flavors of the grill, like smoked paprika and coriander, and the spicy flavors of Knob Creek Rye, which combine to really enhance the big full flavor of Knob Creek bourbon.

Tailgating Ideas: What is the most creative food item you’ve seen thus far at a tailgate?

Michael Symon: I think some of the more creative recipes at tailgates right now involve the grill in every aspect, even when it comes to your drink. One of the big grilling trends right now is to add grilled ingredients to your cocktail. For me, I like to add grilled peaches or other fruit to my Knob Creek cocktail. The flavors from the grill really enhance the big, full flavor of Knob Creek Bourbon, and when combined with citrus and sugar, it really makes for a refreshing cocktail that pairs perfectly with whatever meat you might be grilling at your tailgate.

Tailgating Ideas: In one of the videos for Knob Creek you mentioned KISS, or Keep it Simple Symon.  What are simple things that the average tailgater/cook can do to make their life a little easier?

Michael Symon: I think one of the easiest things you can do is to prep your meat ahead of time. Make a brine using Knob Creek Bourbon, some vinegar, a little honey and some fresh herbs and spices, and let your meat marinate in it over night, so once you’re at the game, all you have to do is take it out and grill it.

You can do the same with dry rubs and sauces – make them ahead of time so all of the flavors have a chance to marinate. These recipes are simple and easy to make, but are packed with big, full flavor.

Tailgating Ideas: What are key things to remember when prepping food before heading out to the parking lot?

Michael Symon: I would say to keep in mind how many people you are cooking for, and to do as much as you can before you get to the parking lot, so all you really have to do is throw your food on the grill and serve. Half the fun of tailgating is getting to hang out with your buddies, so do as much of the work as you can beforehand so you can really enjoy yourself. Make your sauces ahead of time, and put a dry rub or brine on your meats the night before, so all you have to do when you get to the parking lot is grill up your food and enjoy yourself.

Tailgating Ideas: Are there any foods that come to mind that should not be prepped beforehand, and that should only be done on site?

Michael Symon: If you’re using fresh fruits or vegetables, I would try to prepare them when you get to your tailgate, or cut them up right before you leave. Since those foods are so fresh, they will start to oxidize and turn brown once they’re out for too long, so prepping those right before you plan to eat them ensures they have as much flavor as the meat you’re cooking up.

Tailgating Ideas: Many tailgaters find themselves using slightly smaller grills that are more easily transported.  What advice do you have for cooking on a smaller grill surface?

Michael Symon: Using a smaller surface can sometimes be a blessing in disguise; it means you have more food coming off the grill throughout the day in smaller batches. To cook on the smaller surface, I make sure not to put too much of the meat on there at one time, so that it all has a chance to cook evenly and absorb the big, full flavor of that Knob Creek Bourbon marinade I like to use. Make sure you keep an eye on the food while it cooks, since it may cook a little

Tailgating Ideas: There’s always a big debate over charcoal vs. gas.  What is your take on the subject?

Michael Symon: Gas and charcoal both have their benefits when it comes to grilling, but I personally like to use a charcoal grill more often than not. I sometimes like to use the indirect heat method of grilling, building up smoked apple wood chips on one side of the grill and then place your meat on the other side and let the heat and smoke come together to make a really flavorful and tender piece of meat.

Tailgating Ideas: Beyond a grill do you think that there are any other cooking apparatuses that a tailgater should try to have on hand?

Michael Symon: Obviously I’m a big fan of grilling, but I also will sometimes use a smoker to smoke the meat before hand, since it makes it tender and packed with great flavor. Its great to slow cook richer meats like a short rib or pork chop.

Tailgating Ideas: Since we got in touch with you due to Knob Creek, let’s talk beverages.  What does a Chef like to sip on when cooking for a crowd?

Michael Symon: I know a lot of people choose to drink beer at a tailgate, but for me, it’s all about a Knob Creek Bourbon cocktail. I always like to enjoy a bourbon cocktail when I’m watching the game. One of my favorites that I like to make at tailgates is the Knob Creek Smoke and Char, which combines grilled peaches, fresh basil, citrus and simple syrup, along with Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon, which creates a delicious cocktail that incorporates the flavors of the grill and pairs nicely with the meat that you’re grilling.

Tailgating Ideas: When creating a cocktail what sorts of flavors would be better suited for Knob Creek Bourbon?  How about the rye?

Michael Symon: Knob Creek Rye is one of my favorite expressions to use when mixing up bourbon cocktails, because the high rye content and spicy flavor can really stand up to the other ingredients in the cocktail. One of my favorite cocktails to make with Knob Creek Rye is the Knob Creek Ginger Twist. It combines Knob Creek Rye, some fresh lemon juice, bitters, Elderflower Liqueur and ginger beer to create a really refreshing cocktail that is both tart and a little spicy.

Tailgating Ideas: Are there any cocktail recipes that are easily scaled up for let’s say a pitcher size quantity?

Michael Symon: The Knob Creek Smoke and Char and the Knob Creek Ginger Twist can both easily be made in large quantities, though I wouldn’t recommend adding ice until you pour in each individual glass, so the ice doesn’t water down the bourbon.

Tailgating Ideas: Last question, which of your Knob Creek recipes (one food, one drink) would you be most excited to find at a tailgate party?

Michael Symon: I think I’d be most excited to see my pork meatballs on skewers recipe. They’re a crowd favorite and so easy to make ahead of time and throughout the day. They taste so fresh with the herbs and fresh lime juice combined with Knob Creek Rye, which mix together to create a sauce that is full of the big, full flavor that Knob Creek Bourbon is known for.

For a cocktail, I’d be happy to see tailgaters mixing up cocktails that incorporate flavors from the grill. Like I said, the Knob Creek Smoke and Char is the perfect cocktail companion to the grill, because it incorporates ingredients straight from the grill.

For more information on Knob Creek and it’s products you can visit their site at www.KnobCreek.com.

 

Tailgating with Johnsonville

Posted by Dave On October - 22 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Johnsonville Logo Small
If you have been reading this tailgating blog for any length of time, you know that we we here at Tailgating Ideas love Johnsonville Sausages. Bonus points to you as a reader if you recognize that Brandon is usually the one to blog about Johnsonville and tailgating. We thought we would mix it up a bit and I would pinch hit for Brandon and do a review of tailgating with Johnsonville.

The beauty of the three meal tailgate, you know, breakfast, lunch and dinner all in the parking lot, is rare and magical. Much like a beautiful unicorn gently drinking from a meadow stream, the three meal tailgate is one to behold and cherish but is also elusive. With that in mind, Johnsonville has you covered no matter if you tailgate for just a few hours or all day.

Johnsonville Fully Cooked Breakfast SausageStarting off with the most important meal of the day, we brought two kinds of breakfast sausage from Johnsonville to the parking lot. We picked up some Johnsonville Fully Cooked Breakfast Sausages and the Johnsonville Original Breakfast Sausages. The Johnsonville Fully Cooked Sausages are just that, fully cooked. You could eat them right out of the package if you wanted to. We chose to warm them up on the grill a little bit before serving.

The directions on the package indicate that you can warm them up in the microwave, four at a time for about 30 seconds, and they will be perfectly warmed up and taste just like you took them out of the pan or off the grill. We couldn’t help ourselves and tried a few Johnsonville Fully Cooked Breakfast Sausages at home in the microwave before taking them out to the parking lot. Warming them in the microwave was super convenient and they tasted fantastic. For those tailgaters that have an RV, I would highly suggest grabbing a few packages of the fully cooked versions for your next tailgate that includes a morning meal.

Johnsonville Original Breakfast Sausage

We then moved onto the Johnsonville Original Breakfast Sausages. These we placed directly on the grill and cooked them as if they were smaller and thinner hot dogs. Most people like to fry breakfast sausages in a pan, but when out tailgating, your grill will suffice just fine. Just make sure to grill the sausages lengthwise going across the grill grates and you won’t lose any to a firey death below the grill grates.

These sausages once grilled to perfection were also excellent. Tasted just like the sausages you remember from growing up and the flavor was outstanding. Comfort food at its finest right there in a parking lot. We coupled our breakfast sausages with some scrambled eggs prepared on the Sizzle-Q right on the grill and we were having breakfast while tailgating before we even set up the TV to catch the early NFL games.

Unfortunately, the game we attended was an afternoon kick off so we didn’t get to have a three meal tailgate. A two meal tailgate will have to do as a suitable replacement. The lunch menu was more Johnsonville. This time it was the Johnsonville Bacon and Cheddar Grillers.

JOHNSONVILLE SAUSAGE, LLC CHEDDAR CHEESE AND BACON

If you are unfamiliar with Johnsonville Grillers, I would highly encourage you to read Brandon’s review of the Bacon and Cheddar Grillers and the Mushroom and Swiss Grillers. If you skip those previous reviews, basically Johnsonville Grillers are Johnsonville’s famous brats recipe in the shape of a burger. And with the Grillers, they not only fit nicely on a hamburger bun, but they include additional flavors that would normally be considered a topping.

We went with the bacon and cheddar grillers because, come on, how can you go wrong with either bacon or cheddar? Combine the two into that famous Johnsonville taste, and you have a tailgating goldmine.

The Grillers were, as you might expect, excellent in all ways. Blame it on my German heritage and upbringing, but whenever I have a brat, it needs to be accompanied by either some brown mustard and/or sauerkraut. Or both. At this past tailgate, I went with both.

Sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard can sometimes overpower the flavor of the meat so you need to understand the right portion in order to not let one flavor dominate all the others. We built the perfect Griller and with the very first bite, we could taste the cheddar and bacon coming through. Although coming up with bacon and cheddar to infuse into a burger patty filled with bratwurst borders on genius, we are thankful that someone at Johnsonville came up with it.

All in all, the Johnsonville tailgate was a huge success. The only detractor was that we didn’t have enough time before kick off to enjoy the Johnsonvilles all day and for three meals. After tailgating all day with this grub, we are going to declare the Johnsonville Fully Cooked Breakfast Sausages, the Johnsonville Original Breakfast Sausages and the Johnsonville Bacon and Cheddar Grillers, all “Tailgate Approved”.

To learn more about Johnsonville products, you can visit their website at www.johnsonville.com.  They also have a pretty active social media presence on Twitter @JvilleGrilling and on Facebook.

LSU kids playing beer pong

Posted by Dave On October - 21 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

LSU kids playing a game of "beer pong" while tailgating

Little LSU fans playing what appears to be a game of beer pong while tailgating in Baton Rouge. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Crisp Twitter @elizabethcrisp


We know that in the SEC, or all over the college football landscape, indoctrinating the next generation into the traditions and the culture of your favorite college football team is the main reason for having kids. So why would it be any surprise that this group of young tailgaters appear to be playing a game of beer pong at an LSU tailgate? Maybe because the oldest one in the photo looks to be about 11 years old.

After a closer look, it appears that the two bottles of water and the Sprite are the ones being used for the refills. But at first glance, it looks to be a bit jarring. But that’s how they do it down in Baton Rouge.

Video: Thom Shepherd – Beer Pong Anthem

Posted by Dave On October - 21 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Knob Creek Whiskey Recipes/Review

Posted by Brandon On October - 18 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Bourbon. For fans of this particular spirit just seeing the word probably already has you thinking about that aroma. It’s my favorite distilled product because whatever it ends up in just seems better. Pecan pie is good on its own. Throw some bourbon into it and it gets even better. Grilled lemonade is pretty great all by itself. Throw some bourbon in and it becomes your new favorite cocktail. Pretty awesome stuff. Bourbon. For fans of this particular spirit just seeing the word probably already has you thinking about that aroma. It’s my favorite distilled product because whatever it ends up in just seems better. Pecan pie is good on its own. Throw some bourbon into it and it gets even better. Grilled lemonade is pretty great all by itself. Throw some bourbon in and it becomes your new favorite cocktail. Pretty awesome stuff.

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(Disclaimer: We did receive sample bottles of Knob Creek Bourbon and Rye Whiskey. The fact these samples were provided to us free of charge in no way influenced our opinion of the product nor did it impact our ability to test and review the product fairly and objectively.)symonburger

Recently I was contacted about Knob Creek whiskey and some recipes they had developed in conjunction with Chef Michael Symon. They offered up some samples to test a few out and I was happy to give them a whirl. All of the recipes seemed quite appealing, what else would you expect from a big name chef, so I decided to make life a little easier on myself and try just two to start with.  I felt like they, and the whiskey, would give me enough info that I could make a call on all of them. First I tried the Burger With Knob Creek® Caramelized Onions, Gruyere & Horseradish. The video they made for this recipe is here; I really had doubts that the onions would pick up any of that bourbon flavor but much like the things I mentioned above, they only got better. They were super simple to make and would be easy to incorporate into a tailgate party. If burgers frequently find their way onto your menus give these a chance.

I also took the opportunity to try the Bratwurst & Kielbasa in a Knob Creek Rye Jalapeño Beer Broth recipe. Rye whiskey is a spicier so it is really at home with strong flavors like jalapeno and red onion. You would not believe the smell that this recipe puts out. The brats that came out of it were super juicy, a great reason to use a bath/broth, and picked up a little of that flavor. The only thing I thought could be better on the recipe was the measurements, they don’t match what Chef Symon does in the video(he used a whole bottle of beer), and even more specifically the addition of the water to bring the total volume of the liquid up.  For what it’s worth, and I’m going rogue on this one, if you try this recipe I think grilling the sausage before hand might give you a little nicer end product.   It’s a technique that I’ve learned from my work with Johnsonville recipes.  I don’t have real scientific evidence to back it up, but I theorize that the sausage develops very small cracks in the casing when cooking and those cracks would allow some of that super tasty broth liquid inside the sausage while it soaks.

symonbratsDue to time and stomach, I was just plain stuffed, constraints I did not try the other recipes sent to me, but they sound just as good or better and every bit as applicable in the parking lot. They were the Grilled Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey Pork Meatballs on Skewers, Grilled Ribeye with Knob Creek® Bourbon BBQ Sauce, and the Grilled Korean and Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey BBQ-­‐Style Wings.   For space constraints I’ve decided not to pack all the recipes in long form onto this post.  You can get all the info from the end of the videos and many of the recipes, along with a lot more, are also listed on Knob Creek’s site.

Of course it wouldn’t be much of a review without tasting the whiskey by itself, neat. Now I’m really not the sort of guy who can sit there and tell you that there are notes of this and hints of that. What I can tell you is what I like, and I liked these whiskeys. They were exactly what I expected, and in a lot of ways that’s a very solid compliment. If I were to drop money on a bottle labeled bourbon or rye, and it tasted like something else I wouldn’t be too happy.

Normally a review would end here with my assessment on if a particular product has a place at your next tailgate. I’m deeming Knob Creek Bourbon and Rye Whiskeys “Tailgate Approved.”  Luckily I do have one last surprise for you all. Along with the review opportunity I was also able to bounce some questions of Chef Michael Symon himself. Yes that same Michael Symon you’ve seen on “The Chew”, “Iron Chef America”, and all over the airwaves.  However the interview pushed the length of the post way over what we like to do so it will be released soon in a separate post.  I think Chef Symon gave us a few nice little tidbits that you can probably apply to your next tailgate. Stay tuned for that.  Update 10/24/14: The interview with Chef Symon can be found here.

For more information and to see other recipes you can visit Knob Creek directly at www.knobcreek.com.

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TailgatingIdeas.com is a tailgating blog dedicated to bringing you the latest and most intriguing tailgating ideas out there. Whether it is the latest tailgating gear reviews, a great new recipe or a funny list to make you smile, our goal is to inform and entertain the avid and the casual tailgater alike.

Started in August 2007 by tailgating enthusiast Dave Lamm, TailgatingIdeas.com has evolved into an advocate for tailgaters rights and is not afraid to touch on controversial issues confronting those who frequent the tailgating parking lots.

To learn more about TailgatingIdeas.com and our team of writers, reviewers, cartoonists and contributors, please visit the About Us page.

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