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Tasteful Tailgating by Lisa Mecray Rogers

Is it September already? Yup…here we are at the end of the summer, the kids are back to school, the temperature is starting to dip…and football season has begun! Are you a fan? Whether you are or not, the game will either be on the tube or you’ll be hanging out with friends and family in a parking lot where beer, burgers, hot dogs, chili, wings and potato salad reign. Or perhaps you’re a fan of the Steeplechase. Had enough of the usual?

Although it may be difficult to replace those popular grilled staples, why not look at the tailgate as if it were a multiple course dinner affair, each course paired with a wine? Here are some ideas to upscale and add to the offerings to make it a more tasteful and fun experience! And remember, just because it’s getting cooler doesn’t mean white wines are out.

Oysters on the half shell - Open and clean in advance. Make a mignonette sauce and you’re good to go! White wine vinegar, shallot and black pepper is all it is. Don’t forget the lemon.

The wine - Northeast coast oysters are ideally paired with Sauvignon Blanc from France's Loire River, most commonly known as Sancerre or Pouilly Fume. The briny and steely nature of these oysters pair nicely with mineral or flinty qualities of a dry white wine. Or how about a Blanc de Blanc champagne?

White Chili – OMG good. Get out your crock pot the day before and throw in uncooked chicken cubes, white canned beans, white corn, chopped Vidalia onion, clove of garlic, package of taco seasoning, green chilies and chicken broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Top with sour cream, lime juice, cheddar or Colby-Jack and serve with corn tortilla chips.

The wine - Choose a Chardonnay from Chile. Its bright fruitiness and acidity to cut the creaminess of the chili.

Burgers - Try mini lamb burgers instead! If you’ve ever been to The Breslin in NYC, you know how amazing a lamb burger can be. Keep it simple and fresh. Ask the butcher for American lamb patties. Sea salt on each side, then grill it to medium rare, top it with sliced red onion, a slice of feta cheese, ground black pepper, olive oil and put between toasted ciabatta bun.

The wine - Serve with a good Rioja for dark fruit, spice notes, ripe tannins and good acidity or a full-bodied Beaujolais rosé, with notes of ripe fruit, ranging from juicy watermelon to dark cherry or an earthy and smoky Pinot Noir.

Cedar-Planked Salmon – The salmon rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper and fresh thyme and the lovely cedar notes from the plank are amazing. Don’t forget to soak the planks the night before! Roasted lemons and a garlic spinach with fennel are nice compliments.

The wine - An elegant Pinot Noir with a smoky, cedar and cinnamon stick finish

Fondue party – Go retro and get out those fondue pots and sticks! The possibilities are endless….a Gruyère cheese fondue with artisan multigrain bread cubes, hot oil fondue with cubed beef tenderloin, coconut shrimp or veggies. Then there is chocolate fondue for dessert with marshmallows, cake or fruit! And please, make sure it’s good chocolate like Valrhona (available at Whole Foods).

The wine – Wow…too many twists and turns here. Pair the Gruyère cheese fondue with an off-dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc and the beef tenderloin fondue with Tempranillo, Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. It also depends if you have a dipping sauce so pair to the dominant flavor. For a dark chocolate fondue dipped with nutmeg-sprinkled orange slices, biscotti or banana bread, try an Argentinian Malbec with notes of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and anise.

Chocolate mini-bar – Have a nice array of chocolaty treats! Try an artisan chocolate and wine flight of 3 chocolates paired perfectly with 3 types of wine. Or perhaps griddle pan Belgian waffles. Yes! Waffles made right on the BBQ. Drizzle them with dark chocolate caramel sauce made with Grand Marnier or chocolate-covered drunken strawberries (cognac or champagne soaked before dipping) with whipped cream or cinnamon Belgian waffles with a bourbon and banana caramel sauce and dark chocolate shavings. Oh, I could go on and on!

The wine – The answer here is that it all depends. Depends on the flavors and aromas of all elements of the decadent dish, the percentage cacao, the type of chocolate…etc. Have fun and experiment or ask someone in the know.

Tailgating fare doesn’t have to be the usual! Mix it up and make it an experience involving finer flavors! It’s a winning combination.

~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.


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