Tailgating Tips from MasterChef Winner Jennifer Behm!

Master Chef winner Jennifer Behm. Photo by Chris Tomko/FOX.

Point-to-Point is here! (This Sunday, May 6, to be precise.) To help you get ready, we’re sharing local caterer and MasterChef winner Jennifer Behm’s special recommendations for making your day at the races fabulous.

10. Pick a Theme
This way, if you have guests who offer to bring something, they know what direction to head in.

9. Create a Signature Drink
If it’s fruity, I recommend freezing some of the fruit the night before to help keep drinks cool.  You may want to get cool signature cups so everyone knows whose tailgate has the best drinks.  Another idea is to use carved-out frozen oranges or lemons as food and beverage vessels.

8. Serving Drinks
Let’s face it—you want to enjoy the party too. Here’s how: get two five-gallon glass containers with lids. If you choose a vessel with a spout, beware: if the spout clogs or breaks, party foul. Bonus tip: bring two plastic ladles. (It’s always good to have a back-up in case yours breaks or the neighboring tailgate forgot theirs.) Keep beverages in an open metal tub filled with ice.

7. “Who has the opener?”
It’s always the question. Take butcher’s twine and tie one end to the opener and the other end to the leg of the table. You may want two, one for each end of the table. Other things not to forget: sunscreen, bug spray, duct tape. (Yep, duct tape. It has 1,001 uses. If the hem falls on your dress, duct tape to the rescue!)

6. Keeping Drinks Chilled
Solution: cut off the top of a milk carton, fill it halfway with water and your signature drink, garnish (some possibilities are cut-up lemons, oranges, watermelon, basil, or grapes), freeze, then add more water and garnish, and freeze again. At the beginning of the day, drop it in your serving container and voilà! I recommend making two of these, especially if it is hot. As it melts, the fruit doubles as a snack.

5. Keeping It Cool

Point-to-Pointers get started on the spread. Photo by Pat Crowe.

Ice always seems to be the first thing that runs out. To avoid this, collect one-liter soda bottles with lids during the days leading to Point-to-Point. Fill them 3/4 full with juice, water, or your favorite sodas—the beverages you’ll be drinking during the day—and freeze them. These double to keep the food cold. (If you do run out of ice at Point-to-Point though, don’t worry: an ice truck will be selling eight-pound bags for $3).

4. Stepping Up Your Food Game
It doesn’t have to be expensive. Try using blood orange juice instead of regular OJ for morning cocktails. If champagne is too expensive, try cava or prosecco (my two favorites) for Bellinis and hibiscus mimosas. Try a chayote, daikon radish, and green apple salad. Want seafood? No worries: serve a crab and watermelon salad or a refreshing ceviche in an ice bowl.

Setting the scene at Point-to-Point with matching tailgate theme and outfits! Photo by Pat Crowe.

3. Morning Libations
To get things off on the right hoof, I usually set out eight disposable dishes filled with garnishes next to drink mix and different juices. It’s fun and keeps guests occupied trying different drinks while I set up.

2. Keeping Food Hot
Create your own hot box! Take three or four bricks, wrap them in foil, and place them in the oven at 500 degrees for one hour. Line a cooler with foil-wrapped cardboard, place hot bricks in the bottom, and cover with another piece of foil-wrapped cardboard. Place food in the cooler. Do not open until ready to serve.

1. Be Organized!
A clear plan of attack is critical. Label your dishes so set up is easy. Use chalkboard spray paint to cover wooden cutouts and print what each dish or beverage is. Use weighted vessels for flower arrangements so they don’t blow over and use large binder clips to hold down linens.

Most importantly, enjoy the day socializing with your friends and family. Take in the races and the beautiful grounds and have a great time!

Family, food, and fun at Point-to-Point. Photo by Bob Hickok.

Want even more tailgating tips? You’ll find a great list of creative ideas at the Point-to-Point Facebook page.

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