Football food: Kickoff can wait when there's tailgating

Joseph Sclafani pitches in to clean up after a rich feast of grilled porterhouse and rib-eye steaks. Tailgating at the Meadowlands, as visiting Neapolitans were learning, is a high art form.

Joseph Sclafani pitches in to clean up after a rich feast of grilled porterhouse and rib-eye steaks. Tailgating at the Meadowlands, as visiting Neapolitans were learning, is a high art form.

Daily News freelance sports columnist David Moulton recently raised the question of going to a professional football game — the $100 tickets, $10 beers, the waits, the crowds — as opposed to watching it on TV at home with all of the comforts that implies.

Some of his points are well taken. But I would argue that today, more than ever, being at the game is more fun and exciting and is, indeed the “total” NFL experience. I am an unabashed New York Giants fan and have been ever since I was old enough to throw a football — although not necessarily in a perfect spiral. But that was when the football looked more like a watermelon, and was harder to throw; the helmets were leather with little protection. And that also was when the game itself was not just the main event — it was the only event.

Today it’s different. The game is still the centerpiece, but it’s just a part of the day’s activities, Mr. Moulton’s opinion notwithstanding.

Today there are the pre and post game events and celebrations. There are marching bands, scantily clad cheerleaders and entertainment and concessions like a midway at a state fair.

And there are tailgate parties.

Recently my friend and neighbor Joe, also a Giants fan and season ticket holder, invited me to what he called the world’s greatest tailgate party preceding the opening game of the season and the official opening of the magnificent new Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

We arrived in a convoy of four or five cars and settled into a parking spot in one of the many parking lots surrounding the stadium. In minutes it was turned into a five-star open-air restaurant with tents and canopies (as well as canapés, which came later).

With the help of cell phones to inform others where we were setting up, it didn’t take long before our crowd expanded to between 20 and 30 participants, all decked in Giants’ Jerseys and shirts.

Joe was right. What he had billed as the world’s greatest tailgate party certainly lived up to expectations.

It started at 9 a.m., four full hours before kickoff.

Talk about breakfast at Tiffany’s. This was a gem of a party. Charcoal grills? Nary a one in sight.

Hot dogs and burgers? None of them, either. They’re for the hoi polloi and the college crowd. This was, after all, professional football and therefore required a professional tailgate party.

How about oysters on the half-shell to begin with, followed by a variety of steamed mussels, clams and shrimp. There were little lamb chops, as from a rack of lamb except without the skirt. (After all, this was a tailgate party, not a fancy sit-down dinner.) There were huge pans of pasta, vegetables and salads.

And the steaks —rib eyes, filets and four of the largest porterhouse steaks I have ever seen, brought and expertly cooked by Joe’s son, Joseph. There must have been a half-dozen propane grills working at the same time

While this was mostly a male event, there were a few members of the distaff. One woman was particularly visible, and that was Bloody Mary. Like yours with lots of spice? You got it. More on the mild side? That was available. Prefer Grey Goose or Kettle One, take your pick.

Other forms of libations were available including, of course, beer and wine as well as soft drinks and bottled water. The champagne? It was on ice until after the game, depending on the outcome.

To make a long story short, the Giants won and the champagne was consumed; the new stadium was christened and the world’s greatest tailgate party was adjourned till the next home game.

Oh yes. There actually was play on the field. You could say that I went to a tailgate party and a football game broke out.

Regardless of the other “inconveniences” mentioned by Mr. Moulton, it’s difficult — no, probably impossible — to duplicate that kind of experience in your TV room.

Naples resident William Klauber writes occasionally on a variety of topics for the Naples Daily News.

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