Taking Tailgating to Extremes

Chef Tommy Klauber

Ok… I have my own little fieldside parking spot to use for watching the Sunday games at the Sarasota Polo Club. I have never been a tailgater before; I have no idea what’s involved or what’s expected. I’ve done plenty of catering so I figure I’ll catch on pretty quick. Who the hell came up with this concept, anyway? Basically, a party in a parking lot… hmmm? A slight breeze and there is all manner of detritus; dust, air-borne scraps of paper, and other stuff that's just too horrifying to consider. Paper supplies get scattered about willy-nilly every time you lift the carefully placed brick off the pile. And seating is so limited that the entire group seems to be in the midst of some bizarre version of musical chairs. But whatever the weather – cold, rainy, hot, sunny – there is something quite thrilling about spending an afternoon socializing with friends and family, while watching endorphin-fueled, adrenaline-crazed polo-players aboard finely-tuned, protein-infused, high-priced, sweat-lathered, talented, 1000-pound beasts thundering past you, that creates an appetite for daring culinary feats. This is not your average leisure dining experience… this is, literally and figuratively, dining on the edge.


I’ve heard tailgating can be an elegant event, reminiscent of the lifestyle so beautifully described by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Portable tables draped with white linens…silverware is substituted for plastic cutlery; wine is served in real glasses and the beer is strictly of the handcrafted variety (formerly known as "microbrewed"). Well that is fine for some, but I prefer the more relaxed approach… getting together with a group of friends, simple but satisfying foods and splitting up the work, making the whole effort that much more enjoyable.

Tailgating Tips

Shop smart  Remember food safety begins at the store  Start by buying the freshest produce and meats  Slip meats into a plastic bag to prevent juices from leaking on other food and contaminating it  Stock up on plenty of plastic utensils, cups and serving plates  Be prepared - do some of your prep work the night before  Pack up the car the night before with portable grill or burner, tables, chairs, trash bags, and soap, water and towels to wash up with before cooking and eating  Use two insulated coolers - one for drinks and ready-to-eat foods, the other for raw meats  Pack foods in reverse order so the last ones packed will be the first ones used  Instead of loose ice, consider freezing water in a lightweight plastic milk jug and putting it in your cooler to keep everything cold - that way, you won't flood the cooler, and you will end up with a clean supply of cool drinking water post-game  Pack up leftover food safely in clean resealable bags or shallow, airtight plastic containers and store in the cooler, but toss food that's been sitting out for more than two hours.

Mmmmm… I can smell the delicious aromas already…or is that the smell of horses? Happy tailgating! See you on the sidelines this polo season!

Not-too-Whipee Shrimp Mallets on Grilled Peach Divots

Serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

18 uncooked colossal shrimp (about 2 pounds), peeled, tails left intact, deveined

2 red bell peppers, each cut into 12 pieces

2 firm but ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, each cut into 12 wedges

6 12-inch bamboo skewers (for colossal shrimp) soaked in water 30 minutes, drained

Guava-Lime Glaze

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Mix first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Add shrimp, bell peppers and mangoes; toss to coat. Alternate bell pepper, mango and 3 colossal shrimp on each of 6 skewers (or use 3 jumbo shrimp on each of 12 skewers). Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Grill shrimp until cooked through, brushing with glaze during last 2 minutes, cooking colossal shrimp about 4 minutes per side.

Grilled Peach Divots

2 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. water

4 medium peaches, halved and pitted

Combine brown sugar and water in a bowl. Place peach halves on grill over medium heat and cook 5 to 8 minutes, turning peaches occasionally and brushing with brown sugar mixture, until hot and lightly browned.

Guava-Lime Glaze

2 cups canned guava nectar
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup fresh lime juice

Combine nectar, orange juice and vinegar in heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to 2/3 cup, about 30 minutes. Cool completely. Mix in lime juice. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Makes 1 cup.

Serve the shrimp skewers resting on the peach divots.