Our ideas for keeping this party simple, portable, and easy to clean up will help you focus on what tailgating is all about: good friends enjoying the great outdoors together.
Yardage of fabric and a few extra-long bamboo garden stakes make a low-cost canopy that creates ambience, covers the food, and provides shelter from the sun. Use tent stakes to make holes in the ground, stick the bamboo into the holes, then drape the fabric over the top of the poles and secure it with twine. If your car has a luggage rack, tie the back corners of the canopy to it.
Pack snacks in plain brown paper bags at home. To serve, just roll down the tops of the bags and you've got serving "bowls" that can be thrown away at the end of the day. Choose foods that can be stored and served at room temperature.
Vintage insulated bottles are appealing and practical for toting and serving soup. Keep the soups simple (purchased or homemade) and drinkable (nothing too chunky) to avoid the need for spoons.
Serve lunch on large woven chargers, each lined with a dish towel. Line the chargers at home, then stack them and pack them in the car for quick retrieval.
You can't go wrong with graham crackers, chocolate, and roasted marshmallows. Pack a s'mores kit in a lidded tin, then pull out the goodies once you're on site and let everyone toast their own.
Here are a few ideas for s'mores that are just a bit out of the ordinary:
-- Toast flavored marshmallows; vanilla, chocolate, and lemon marshmallows are now available.
-- Go beyond standard grahams and try honey, chocolate, or cinnamon.
-- Layer on dark bittersweet or creamy white chocolate.
-- Sprinkle chopped dried fruits, coconut, or nuts onto the toasted marshmallow, or smear a little peanut butter on the underside of the top graham before you assemble the treat.
Burn up some calories with a little pigskin-tossing in the woods or maybe just a long walk through the falling leaves.