Tailgaters gather for a feast
at the regulation football
field established at Hayworth
Estate Wines near Eugene. ##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser
Roots Wine Company’s canned Sauvignon Blanc served with Bellhop’s Southern Fried Chicken. ##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

Tailgate Gourmet

Score big before the game with delectable dishes and fine wines

By Tamara Belgard

With football season upon us, tailgate parties are in force. After all, there’s nothing like the ambiance of a parking lot for eating and drinking to excess. And while throwing some juicy dogs on a grill or bringing a plate of savory charcuterie is always welcome, there’s a whole world of tailgate ideas that will inspire even the non-sports lovers to come out in droves.

Duck or Beaver — or Viking or Pilot or Wildcat or Raider, etc. — one thing we can all agree on is tasty food. The following recipes were generously provided by local restaurants, caterers, as well as local food blogging geniuses, serving to unite fans everywhere. Paired expertly with the recommended Oregon wines, these dishes will surely make you a game-day winner.

Erin Lynch of Platings and Pairings, a master of party planning, is always whipping up something delicious in her kitchen. She has loads of wonderful tailgate party ideas — I’m including two here — but check out her website for many more.

Sausage Bites in White Wine with Creamy Mustard Dipping Sauce

Simmered in white wine and served with a creamy, spicy mustard dipping sauce, these sausage bites are a delicious party appetizer that cook up quick and easy. Crack open a few cans of Canned Oregon White Bubbles, produced by the Stoller Wine Group, to really get the party started. With aromatic notes of tropical fruit, pineapple, Creamsicle and a bright citrus finish, this wine cuts right through the fat of the sausage and works brilliantly with the spice of the mustard. Canned Oregon wines are in wide distribution, so they’re easy to find at your local market.


2 19-ounce packages Italian sausages (mild or hot), cut into 1-inch pieces

½ bottle dry white wine

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup Dijon mustard

1–2 teaspoons hot sauce

1 clove garlic, finely grated

* salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Place sausage pieces in large, deep skillet; add wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until fully cooked, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare creamy mustard dipping sauce. Combine all ingredients in small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate, until ready to serve.
  3. Once sausages are cooked, remove with slotted spoon and place on baking sheet.
  4. Broil (on high) for 6 to 8 minutes, until sausages are browned, tossing halfway through.
  5. Serve with toothpicks and creamy mustard dipping sauce.

Albondigas/Mexican Meatballs

Foregoing the traditional breadcrumbs often used in meatballs, Lynch opts for crushed corn chips instead. She also takes a time-saving shortcut by using canned enchilada sauce, which seasons the meatballs as they cook, and, conversely, the meat seasons the sauce. The result is a nicely thickened, piquant dish that’s mild in heat but big on flavor. Top these albondigas with a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, radishes and cilantro, or consider a hearty sprinkling of cheddar cheese with some avocado; it’s up to you. Keep these juicy bites warm on game day with a slow cooker. Depending on what topping you choose, Joe to Go has a canned wine for all seasoning scenarios. Grab an assortment of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris or rosé, and let guests create their own food and wine adventure.


½ cup crushed corn chips

¼ cup milk

1 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon cumin

2 eggs

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pounds ground beef

1 28-ounce can enchilada sauce

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

6-inch corn tortillas

Toppings: sour cream, cotija (or cheddar) cheese, sliced radishes, cilantro, avocado


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Stir together corn chips and milk in large bowl; let stand about five minutes or until chips soften. Stir in onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, eggs, salt and pepper. Fold in beef.
  3. Shape into 1½-inch meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each). Evenly space meatballs on cookie rack set in a deep-sided baking sheet or on a broiler pan.
  4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until browned. Transfer meatballs to large skillet or Dutch oven; add enchilada sauce. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through. Remove from heat, sprinkle cheddar cheese, cover pan; let stand 5 minutes before serving.
  5. Serve meatballs with tortillas and desired toppings.

Hayworth Estate “The Haymaker” Red Blend opened and shared at the tailgate party. ##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

“When I think of tailgating, I think of meat cooked over a flame or cheesy dips,” says food, wine and travel writer Mary Cressler, the founder of wine blog Vindulge and co-founder of Ember & Vine Catering with husband Sean Martin. And when Eugeneans think football and wine, Hayworth Estate — just north of the college town — is quickly becoming the top pick. Why? A fifth-generation grass seed farmer, Russ Hayworth has created a regulation football field in the middle of his vineyard, planted in 2006. The gridiron is no gimmick though; Hayworth Seed grows into turf wherever pro teams tussle. Pair the smoky dip with Hayworth’s 2016 The Haymaker red blend (Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir) showing rich notes of black cherry, vanilla, and spice, with the subtleness of smoky oak.

Smoked Sausage and Hatch Chile Beer Cheese Dip


½ pound ground hot Italian sausage, casings removed or buy in bulk

4 Hatch chile peppers

1 tablespoon butter

⅓ cup red onion, diced

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup beer — light beers work well (pilsner, Kolsch, amber)

1 cup smoked cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup sharp cheddar, plus more for topping

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 ounce cream cheese


  1. Preheat smoker to 250°F. We recommend oak wood for both the sausage and chile peppers.
  2. Sausage: Place tray of sausage into smoker for 60 to 90 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  3. Chile peppers: Cut chiles in half, removing stem and seeds. Place in smoker for up to 2 hours, or until soft. You can go longer, but the chile may dry out, so be careful. Let cool, then dice for dip. You’ll need ⅓ cup of diced smoked chiles for the dip. Pro tip: If you want a char and the skin off, put under a high broiler and rotate every minute until blackened. It won’t have the smoky flavor but will still be delicious.
  4. Beer Cheese Dip: Heat butter in medium-size saucepan over medium heat; then add onion. Let soften (about 6 minutes). Add pre-smoked chile peppers and sausage that has been crumbled. Cook together, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add flour and stir together for 1 minute as the thickening agent (substitute cornstarch as an alternative). Add beer and bring to a simmer, then reduce to low. Add cheeses, Dijon mustard, and let melt together. Adjust ingredients to your taste preferences.
  1. Enjoy with chips, baguette slices or soft pretzels. Cressler also adds, “We love topping with some chopped green onions.” And if you want to add a little extra kick, she recommends topping with pickled peppers. “We’re a little obsessed with the spicy pickled peppers by Mama Lil’s, but you can experiment with any pickled spicy pepper.”

Note: If you don’t intend to devour the dip within five minutes of cooking, transfer to a slow cooker and keep on low to keep cheeses from hardening.

Executive Chef Sascha Lyon of King Estate Winery in Eugene offers the following upscale meat and potatoes meal guaranteed to class up your tailgate party and satisfy even the hungriest of fans. Paired with King Estate’s 375-milliliter 2016 Pinot Noir topped with a screw cap, it’s ideally suited for tailgating, encourages moderate consumption and lowers waste. SCORE! The wine, dark garnet in color, shows ripe strawberries and raspberries with secondary notes of black tea and earthen aromas. On the palate, it’s rich with dark cherries, fresh strawberry, sweet oak and vanilla flavors. Round and full, with supple tannins and a fresh, generous finish, this wine is a show stopper with chef’s Snake River Farms Smoked Kobe Beef Flatiron.

French Potato Salad

What differentiates this preparation from a traditional American version is in the variety of potato, the size of the cut, the added Dijon mustard in the recipe, the house-made mayo and, of course, bacon. Feel free to substitute this recipe with baby gold, Russian banana or fingerling potatoes.


5–8 pounds Yukon gold potatoes

4–6 cups homemade mayonnaise

1 cup strong smooth Dijon mustard

2 cups chopped cooked bacon

2 cups of chopped mixed tender herbs (flat leaf parsley, tarragon, chives and chervil)

¼ cup sea salt


  1. Peel and dice potatoes into ¼-inch cubes. Soak in cold running water for 30 minutes to remove excess starch. Strain and place in a large sauce pot.
  2. Cover with cold water, add salt, and set on a medium-high flame. Place lid on pot until potatoes come to a boil.
  3. Remove lid, reduce heat to a slow simmer, and cook until potatoes are just tender. (This should not take very long. Be attentive not to overcook the potatoes. You want to cook the potatoes until tender but still holding their shape.)
  4. Note: As potatoes cook, taste water and potatoes for salt and add more if necessary. The goal is to season the potatoes perfectly while the potatoes cook as they absorb moisture, so no additional salt is needed later. The mayonnaise, mustard and bacon are flavorful enough and do not need to be seasoned further.
  5. When potatoes are cooked, strain and cool on sheet pan. Do not refrigerate.
  6. When potatoes are cool to touch, gently combine them in a bowl with mayonnaise and mustard, adjusting for taste and consistency.
  7. Fold in bacon and herbs. Cool in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Snake River Farms Smoked Kobe Beef Flatiron

Chef Lyon recommends speaking to your butcher about obtaining the whole top blade rather than using already fabricated flatiron steaks. He says, “When the highly marbled Wagyu top blade is cooked in its entirety, the connective tissue — that’s always removed before cutting individual flatiron steaks — melts into a marrow-like jelly. This cut is one of the best for smoking, braising and steaming.”

The process King Estate follows preparing this cut of meat utilizes two methods. One is a lower-temperature hot smoke using a mild hardwood for about 6 hours. The other is steaming the meat in a sealed pan with onions, garlic, aromatics and lager in a very low-temperature oven for an additional 3 hours. Steaming is slightly different from braising as the meat is not completely submerged in liquid. The meat is placed on a wire rack resting above the vegetables and liquid. As it cooks the vegetables breakdown in the lager and the meat begins to settle into the liquid but is never fully covered. This results in an unctuous, truly satisfying, deeply flavorful piece of beef.

The trick to portioning this cut after cooking is to let it cool completely in the pan under refrigeration before handling it in any way. It will be extremely tender and fall apart with the slightest manipulation. However, once the meat is cold, it can be sliced without falling apart and placed in a serving dish to be warmed slowly. The meat can be warmed with either the strained braising liquid for a brothy-style dish or with the barbeque sauce of your choice. This recipe serves 12 really hungry tailgaters.

Smoking Ingredients

2 whole top blades weighing 3 to 5 pounds each

1 part brown sugar

1 part kosher salt

½ part paprika

* alder wood is recommended, but any wood will do


  1. Combine all three ingredients and coat outside of beef thoroughly (This cure can be prepared in bulk and kept in cupboard for future use).
  2. Refrigerator uncovered overnight for about 12 to 18 hours
  3. Smoke for 6 hours at 150°F.

Steaming Ingredients

8 onions, cut into ¼-inch pieces

4 heads garlic, cut in half across the bulb

6 fresh bay leaves

1 bunch fresh thyme

½ cup mild olive oil, vegetable oil

* sprinkle of salt

6 bottles of your favorite lager (King Estate recommends Weihenstephaner Original Helles lager)


  1. Combine onions, garlic, herbs and oil in bottom of roasting pan. Season with salt and add beer.
  2. Place wire rack on top of vegetables, resting the two pieces of the smoked meat on top.
  3. Cover with aluminum foil sealing very well around edges. Place in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes, then reduce to 200°F and cook for 2½ hours.
  4. Check meat at this point. Depending on size, you might need another 30 to 90 minutes. Re-seal very well after opening. If steam escapes through the process you’ll lose moisture, possibly drying the meat.
  5. Cool, slice and reheat before topping with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Chef Brian Parks, owner of Bellhop in Corvallis, generously offers his recipe for perfectly crispy Southern Fried Chicken. Bellhop, known as an offbeat spot for global comfort foods plus weekend brunch, sources ingredients from a variety of local farms. This recipe takes a little forethought and time in advance but is well worth the effort. Alternatively, order a few batches from the restaurant along with some Mac ’n’ Cheese, and take it to go. Pair with Roots Wine Company’s canned Sauvignon Blanc for a touchdown. Aromas of spring grass, lemon peel and Asian pear repeat on the palate with refreshing bubbles that simply add to the pleasant taste experience. 

Southern Fried Chicken

Brine Ingredients

1 cup salt

2/3 cup brown sugar

¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

3 quarts ice water

2 fryer chickens, cut up

* buttermilk, enough to cover chicken

Chicken Ingredients

8 cups flour

2 cups corn starch

½ cup Old Bay

¼ cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons black pepper

Brine Preparation

  1. Take 1 quart boiling water; add salt, brown sugar, Old Bay seasoning and blend.
  2. Add 3 quarts ice water.
  3. Add chicken to brine and soak overnight in refrigerator.
  4. Drain chicken well and cover in buttermilk.
  5. Soak chicken in buttermilk for at least three hours.


  1. Mix flour, corn starch, Old Bay, Kosher salt and black pepper in large bowl.
  2. Remove chicken from buttermilk, leaving as much buttermilk on chicken.
  3. Dredge chicken in flour.
  4. Place chicken in deep fryer at 300°F (cooking time will depend on size and thickness of chicken pieces).
  5. Take temperature of chicken and pull it when inner-most parts have reached 165°F.
  6. Allow chicken to rest for few minutes after removing from fryer and serve.
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