A couple weeks ago, my (then) girlfriend and I hosted an incredible tailgate. It was for our 30th birthdays.
Well, it was supposed to be.
You see, 12 days before the tailgate I thought, “screw the birthday party. Why not have an engagement party?”
Here’s how it all went down:
How Our Birthday Tailgate Become an Engagement Tailgate
I’ve known for a long time she was “the one.” But, I didn’t think we’d get engaged for another six months or so. After all, she had just moved in a few weeks prior.
But on Tuesday March 31st, I woke up with an idea. I’ll propose on April 5th, the day after her birthday. For those bad with math, that’s five days later.
Crazy, I know.
What makes it crazier: I didn’t have a ring.
To me, though, it made sense:
- She was out of town for the week.
- She works for a diamond e-tailer.
- Everyone was ALREADY getting together on our behalf to celebrate!
So, how did the plan work out?
Long story short, she said “yes!”
But if you want the long story long, here are a few details that made the engagement extra special.
Some Engagement Details
Here’s what made it all unique and fun.
Her bosses were in on it. How could they not be? I mean, Ritani can turn around rings FAST. Like 5-7 business days fast. But you need an inside connection to get it done as quickly as I needed.
I asked her ring size on April Fool’s Eve. Clever, right? Well, here was her response.
“Big enough to fit in your butt!” Yep, that’s my fiancé.
She had no clue. Since the plan was to celebrate her birthday, my excitement and way-more-than-normal sweetness seemed appropriate. This was us the night before it all went down. I clearly had something on my mind. Her, not so much.
I left it to the Scrabble Gods. The plan was to hang on my rooftop, play Scrabble and wait for the right moment. I had to play a pathetic word or two because I was holding onto “LOV.” Eventually I got an “E”, asked for her help, and flipped my tiles around.
Just us and Lucy. Yes, I put myself out there. Some would say I’m a showman. But this moment was not about putting on a show for others. It was private and intimate. Just us on a beautiful day doing what we do. Cocktails on the roof playing board games in the sun.
Our secret for the week. With one week until our now surprise-we’re-engaged tailgate, we got to enjoy the news with each other and our nuclear families.
As you can see, we were thrilled once we shared the news. But we still had a tailgate to host! Here’s what was wanted to ensure.
The Goals for Our Tailgate and What We Learned
People do tailgates differently. But everyone agrees they should be awesome.
- Awesome food.
- Awesome setup.
- Awesome vibes.
To be clear, ours was all that. But, we had to keep one thing in mind: This was not a dinner party.
It was a tailgate.
And to be sure was awesome for everyone (hosts included), we needed to do make sure was easy.
Let me repeat. It’s a tailgate. It should be easy.
Easy and awesome.
Here’s what we learned.
The Big Table
This one’s straight-forward. You can’t have a tailgate without a big ol’ table. It serves as:
- A place for food.
- A place for silverware, plates, napkins, etc.
- A necessary component for flip cup or beer pong after the food is put away. 🙂
We had one table for 40 people. We could have used another.
1. Meat Selection and Ratio
Sure, you can throw a tailgate with a menu like Gene And Georgetti.
But that’s NOT easy.
And, not having a fancy selection of steaks, burgers and chops doesn’t make a tailgate less awesome.
So we went with all hot dog-shaped meats. Specifically, kosher dogs, chicken sausages, and bratwursts.
Well, here are the benefits:
- Efficiency. Dog-shaped meats take minimal real estate on the grill.
- Safety. All the dogs were, as most are, pre-cooked.
- Uniformity. One shape means one type of bun.
But, what about the ratio?
Our group was filled with mostly health conscious (or at least health-aware) people. How could they not be? They’re loyal LINY subscribers!
So our ratio was 50% chicken sausages, 25% kosher dogs, 25% brats. (We wanted to get veggie dogs but couldn’t find any in time.)
This ratio satisfied the needs of the group. Yet, I was surprised about what was BY FAR the most popular.
Yes, it’s a special event, but this still surprised me. Health conscious (or at least health-aware) people still love the most indulgent option at the tailgate.
As such, the next thing goes without saying.
2. No Vitamix
I use my Vitamix all the time for smoothies. But also for entertaining.
My friends know this. Two of them even incorporated it into this amazing, hand-made, blender-and-baseball-themed birthday card.
(Perhaps missed my Ninja vs Vitamix YouTube video?)
But, a tailgate is no place for any of that fresh, healthy stuff.
Everything a Vitamix is good at making is best kept away from the tailgate.
Having said that, let’s get back to discussing meat.
3. Meat Count
We knew how many people were attending. And we knew we had about two and a half hours to tailgate. Would two dogs per person be enough?
It sure was.
Now, let’s be clear. When you’re throwing a tailgate, you never want to be short on food. “Oh, maybe I should wait until everyone has had firsts,” should NEVER cross an attendee’s mind.
As such, one dog per person would NOT have been enough. And, 1.5 per person would have cut it too close.
1.75 dogs per person was about right ratio for a 2-hour tailgate.
But what about buns?
4. Bun Count
Okay, if you have 100 hot dogs, you need 100 buns, right?
Not even close. There are so many reasons for this, all of which don’t really matter:
- People avoid bread all-together.
- People avoid bread on their second dog.
- People don’t care about going bun-free, especially if they’ve had a few to drink and don’t see a bun to accompany their dog, even though there’s a huge stack of them under the table.
Bottom line recommendation on bun-to-dog ratio: One bun for every two dogs purchased is PLENTY.
We had a pretty good setup for dressing up your dog.
- Mustard (several kinds).
- BBQ Sauce.
But there coulda been more.
Condiments are so inexpensive and easy to put on the table. The more perfect your tailgate guests can make their dog, the happier they’ll be.
Credit goes to my (now) fiancé for this one. Where do the dogs go once they’re cooked?
In a metal serving tray (with lids), of course. Oh, and you can label them, too!
Hot dog packaging is absurd.
It ought to be like a bag of potato chips. Open the top and have access to all the contents.
But what’s it actually like?
It’s more like getting access to a row of toddlers’ feet.
Weird, I know, but stick with me.
Imagine three toddlers sitting down with their shoes tightly tied. Your job is to take off all their shoes. You can’t just say, “Guys, shoes off,” and wait five seconds for six unwrapped dogs, err, toddler feet. You have to go one-by-one, untie the shoe, unlodge it with gentle force and repeat five more times. Hot dog packs are the same!
Translation: Opening hot dog packs is a tedious, one-by-one job. Worst part is your reward is a slightly moist and smelly thing. I recommend you don’t do it alone. Get a second set of hands.
Moreover, it’s not something you want to do have to do at the tailgate. If you have some time, do it at home. Nothing else at a tailgate should require much prep (see above).
8. The Grill
If you’ve ever thrown a tailgate, surely you know how to work a charcoal grill.
It’s not tough.
Yet, I made one big mistake (that my dad, fortunately, was able to diagnose quickly).
The vents at the bottom AND top must be open a bit.
It’s basic science.
If you want a fire to go out, smother it so it can’t get any oxygen.
But if you have a new grill or have one with closed vents, don’t forget to open them up. Air flow from top to bottom is key for happy, hot coals.
9. The Balloons
If you’re a tailgate regular, you probably have a massive flag to make your location easy to find. The rest of us get balloons.
- Helps people find you.
- Adds to the festiveness.
But, remember this: Helium balloons want to fly away.
So when you quickly open the car door at the parking lot because you’re excited to start the tailgate, know the balloons are excited, too. Tie them down immediately; otherwise they’re going bye-bye.
Now, I’m getting hungry again. Let’s get back to food.
10. Beans, Slaws, Etc.
We were prepared with potato salad, cole slaw, and other forkable foods.
What we were not prepared for, however, was how small of a dent our tailgate attendees made in them.
I’m sure some people appreciated a couple bites of this stuff.
But we did not anticipate how much would end up going to waste.
So, of course, we took the rest home. And that, my friends, was regrettable.
I’ll admit, the breakfast we made on the morning after the tailgate was incredible.
Post bday tailgate Hoppel Poppel with the fiancé and her fam. Scrambled eggs whites, chicken sausage, onions, and “hash browns.” A photo posted by Lenny Gale (@lennygale) on
But after that, I wanted to be done with tailgate food. All I wanted was to return to a life of fish and vegetables.
Yet, Kettle chips dipped in potato salad seemed like a good idea. So did peanut butter covered chocolate chip cookies. I’m serious. This happened. Several times.
Yes, they were tasty. But it was also cause I didn’t want to see it go to waste.
So I ate indulgent tailgate food leftovers for several days.
After a week, I said, “Enough!” and threw it all away.
The crazy thing? Even after a week, I STILL coulda had cookies, chips, potato salad, and kosher dogs for every meal for another two weeks.
Bottom line: Bring leftovers to the office or give them away. And, if those aren’t an option, just toss them in the garbage. Yes, it’s wasteful. But, it’s not your job to prevent waste by adding to yours. (Your waist, that is.)
12. Final Thoughts
Enjoy your tailgate. Do it right. Make it easy and awesome.
Then get back to eating like right.
Why? Because Life is NOYOKE.