How to Throw a Heluva Good Party for the Big Game, Hungry Fan® Style
It’s hard to believe the Big Game is only two weeks away! It seems like just yesterday we were watching the New England Patriots’ epic come-from-behind-win over the Atlanta Falcons in Houston, Texas. What. A. Game.
This year, the biggest football game of the year heads to Minneapolis, Minnesota, home of the Vikings and the new U.S. Bank Stadium. For those of you fortunate enough to be heading to the game, or tailgating at the game, be sure to bundle up! (Check out our tips for cold weather tailgating. Also applies well to hanging out in Minneapolis!)
If you’re not heading to the game, chances are pretty good you’re either going to someone’s Big Game Party or hosting your own.
Fun fact: for 2016’s 50th anniversary game, 43.3 million Americans threw a watch party at home. 70 million Americans attended one of these parties.
Everyone who hosts a watch party for the Big Game wants to host the best party. And we don’t blame you! You want to throw the kind of party that people will be talking about for months to come. You want to throw the kind of party that when the Big Game rolls around again next year, your friends will be hitting you up to host again, it was that good. That means great good, great drinks, great atmosphere (and decor), enough seating for everyone, maybe some game-within-the-game-friendly-competition, etc. Ideally, this is all achieved without spending a small fortune.
Here are some easy tips to consider before you kick off your Biggest Game of the Year festivities:
1. Work ahead:
One of the most important party-throwing tips is not to get stuck in the kitchen. There’s nothing worse than having all your friends and family in the other room enjoying the game and the party atmosphere while you’re stuck in the kitchen, missing the game. The key to serving great watch party food is to make as much of it in advance as you can. Hot or cold, make it the day before and keep all the food refrigerated until it’s time to either reheat or set your food out.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to serve hot food, have it already cooked and warming as your guests arrive. Once Pink and Leslie Odom, Jr. sing the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful”, respectively, and once the coin has been tossed and we’re a few minutes away from kickoff, that’s a good time to set out any hot food. Room temperature food and food that’s been chilled is good to be set out as people start to come in. If you plan to serve more hot food during the second half, use the commercial time during halftime (if you want to watch Justin Timberlake, because who wouldn’t), to heat everything up.
2. Split the cost:
Throwing a Big Game party can be really expensive, especially if you’re also providing the beer and adult beverages. Encourage your friends to split the cost by using apps like Venmo or Paypal. Setting up an account on both platforms is a piece of cake. Both usually charge a small fee for using a credit card, but using a bank account carries no additional fees!
Pro Tip: Since beer and alcohol tend to be much more expensive than food ingredients, consider throwing a BYOB watch party, especially if you’re on the fence about asking your guests to split the cost with you.
3. Vary your food offerings:
More and more, in today’s age, people seem to have very specific food restrictions and allergies. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, tree nut allergy, organic only, pescatarian, no refined sugars, etc. While it is quite difficult to host a Big Game watch party that’s sensitive to everyone’s dietary needs without serving 12 different dishes, try to offer at least a couple dishes for the gluten-free folks and vegans/vegetarians.
Pro Tip: If you’re serving chips and salsa, opt for 100% corn tortilla chips. They are gluten-free. If you’re doing tacos, opt for corn tortillas for the same reason and offer an all-veggie tortilla topper (like sautéed mushrooms and shaved Brussels sprouts) in additional to a meat/poultry. Crudité, AKA cut up veggies, are FANTASTIC for feeding everyone, especially those still committed to their 2018 New Years resolutions to get and eat healthy. (Pair those veggies with some dip and we are so all over that)!
Be sure to keep reading below for some of our FAVORITE ready-made dips!
4. Get crafty:
Set out a bunch of koozies (insulated sleeves to keep cans cold) and Sharpies, and encourage people to decorate their own. One, it’s fun. And two, the more your friends drink, the easier it is for them to forget which beer is theirs. Personalized koozies are fun and clearly, they solve problems. ‘Nuf said.
Pro Tip: This set of koozies is available on Amazon with prime shipping and comes in just about any variety of color you can think of. It’s also $5.95 for 12. Can’t beat that!
5. Play games
Everybody likes a football pool/bracket. It’s fun to game-ify the game. There are forms online you can blow up (just Google “football pool sheets”) or use a whiteboard and make one yourself. You can choose to run it with real money or just for bragging rights. Either way, people tend to get really into it and it makes an already competitive game even more competitive and fun!
Pro Tip: You can use this site to generate custom brackets and templates; and here is another site that explains how you operate a pool as well as how to play other games, such as their “Prop Pool,” which is one of our favorites.
6. Remember the kids:
If you have kids coming to your party, make a dish and beverage that is easily approachable for them. For example, you could make a fruit-ade. Take watermelon, honeydew, strawberries or any other fruit and throw it into the blender or food processor. Purée the fruit, and add in a little basil, honey or maple, an then add in ice to make a slushie fruit-ade. The kids will have something fun and healthier than soda to drink. And grownups can add vodka, gin, or whatever kind of booze they want to it. (Just be sure, when adding the adult drinks into the blender not to accidentally forget and add to it or use what’s left in the bottom for the kids! Give it a rinse and start again if making a new batch for the kiddos).
Fun fact: When it came to buying food for their 43.3 million Big Game parties in 2016, Americans showed their love their munchies.
$142.2M in potato chips
$93M in crackers
$20.1M in tortilla chips
$5.1M in vegetable trays
$4.9M in tater tots
1.3 billion chicken wings
Whoopsies. The Canadians left out a secret ingredient.
What to do?
No time to answer that question because behind me is Coach Dale, swiftly and covertly dolloping strawberry jam on each piece of pork the guys had made. “Overtime!” he shouted. (Score 2 for Coach Dale)!
I’ve got to give Dale Jr. props for that. While stretching the rules a bit, the jam saved the day.
We judges spent some time tasting and judging the dishes. It was seriously tough. Both dishes were truly fantastic. I’ll never forget Michelle’s strawberry jam coated, barbecue zucchini sticks. So good. (I actually caught Coach Blaney of Team Canada snagging one during the competition. Seems he knows good food when he sees it too). And the Canadians…after learning about avocados, they ended up grilling theirs. That was delicious.
While the judges talked things over, Ron notes, “I had an opportunity to talk to one of my favorite drivers, Martin Truex Jr., and what a gentleman he is. I told Martin as well as Dale and Ryan not to sample what we had cooked because they might not make the race on Sunday if they did. No guarantees.” Ha. Ye of little faith.
In a close, close decision (that in retrospect could have easily just been called a draw), the W was given to the brothers McBeath and coaches Dale Jr. and Ryan Blaney.
The Hungry Fan Throwdown and the Future for Ron McBeath
It’s so rewarding for me to hear from guys like Ron and Bill McBeath that they not only enjoyed the Hungry Fan Throwdown at the Pocono Fan Fest, but that to them it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” I can only hope Pocono Raceway, NASCAR and the fantastic teams and drivers involved feel as blessed as I do to help make that happen for such quality people.
So what’s on tap for Ron and Tammi McBeath? They typically attend Pocono annually and this past year they also had the chance to visit the Las Vegas Speedway for the March race. Ron says that Tammi hopes to go to Daytona this coming February for their 30th wedding anniversary. I hope they make it! As Ron quotes, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” Needless to say, he is working on making that happen.
Ron hopes that with retirement coming soon, that he and Tammi will have more time and flexibility to attend additional races and cheer on their favorite drivers (Dale Jr. [who is unfortunately retiring at the end of this year], Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson).
Where to find Ron, Bill, Tammi, Anne Marie and the rambunctious crew from the north next July? Pop by to congratulate them or just give ’em a high five in the Pocono Infield at camp sites 75, 76 and 77! They’re easy to spot: just look for the billowing Canadian flags! I hope to be there too, Molson in hand.