Catered my first tailgate party Sunday, which was for a bus trip to Dover, Delaware for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race. Cooking an event like this is very difficult logistically, as everything needs to be packed in the lower compartment of the bus.
The planning and preparation has been going on for weeks. The menu was relatively straightforward. Pulled pork, burgers, hot dogs, sausage and peppers were the main food, with sides of cole slaw and potato salad. Sheila made her salsa and chips as well, and I also served cookies, soda and water.
While there was a lot of prep work to be done, the thing I was most worried about was getting the setup done. It would not have been a problem, but I had no help. My brother had agreed to come and help me months ago, but apparently lacks a calendar and a pen, because about a month ago he scheduled a BBQ at his house for the same day. Said he couldn't move the date, so I knew I was going solo. Most people I know would rather be waterboarded than go to a NASCAR race, so I knew it would be me going it alone.
Fortunately, my friend Brendan Burek of Transformer BBQ came down Saturday and helped with the prep, which was awesome. As it was, I didn't get everything finished and packed into the SUV until around 10 PM, so I probably would have been up all night without his help. He pretty much made the sausage and peppers, which everyone loved.
Sheila helped a great deal Saturday too, and the salsa got numerous compliments too.
The good news was that the weather was perfect, and we got a great bus parking spot with plenty of room to set up, and for the 46 guests to enjoy themselves.
So as soon as the bus parked I swung into action. The bus driver helped me get the pop up tent up, so by the time everyone got off the bus I had much of the setup done.
I had cooked the pork butts Saturday, and they were holding hot in the Cambro with the Italian sausage. Backing up, as I was unloading the SUV into the bus at around 4:30 AM, the packed Cambro slid out of the truck and landed door side on the ground. I was worried that I had ruined the food, but it ended up being fine, with barely a drop leaking from any of the pans. Love that Cambro.
Anyway, I heated up the pork and sausage, fired up the gas grill to start the burgers and hot dogs, and basically was going berserk getting everything done. I knew people wanted to get inside, which I I never really have been able to understand. We were there at around 10:30 AM, and the race didn't start until after 2 PM. But that's how NASCAR fans are.
Fortunately Sheila's salsa and chips gave people something to snack on while I got everything ready. When the buffet opened things went pretty smooth for the most part. Regardless, people were understanding and saw how hard I was working to get everything done. Many offered to help, but I didn't want to have paying customers having to work.
The food itself was a success. People just raved about the pork and sausage, with some less adventureous types sticking to the burgers and dogs. I got through about 2/3 of the people before I ran out of cooked burgers, so a few had to wait for the second batch to finish.
So by 11:30, everyone had eaten and most of them headed into the track. It was so great to decompress. When it was all said and done, I had one pan each of pork and sausage left. I put them back on the stove and got them really hot, then put them back in the Cambro. When the race was over, I rushed back and put out the leftover pork and sausage, rolls, slaw, chips and salsa and cookies. Everything was devoured except the salsa and slaw, which I brought way too much of anyway.
So in the end, everyone seemed to enjoy the trip. The whole day just went extremely well, with virtually no traffic the whole way down, a great race (neither Busch brother won), food afterwards, and really no problems.
Ok, those who know me are aware that at every BBQ contest, I forget something. Small, random things. So I really tried to be prepared this time, because Mike from Lakeside Smokers would not be there to lend me whatever I forgot. And of course, I forgot stuff. Here's the short list: apron, salt and pepper, and knives.
I learned a bunch of things too. I'm doing another race tailgate party in September for a bus trip up to the NASCAR race in Loudon, New Hampshire. For more information click HERE.