Football Entertaining 101

Football Entertaining 101

Get tips on hosting the perfect football party from Top Chef Season 5 cheftestant Carla Hall What is your football experience at home like?

Carla Hall: My football experience at home is more like the NFL Players Association or the United Nations. I introduce myself as being from “Nashville, Tennessee, home of the Grand Ole Opry and the Titans," but I’m quite proud to be a longtime resident of Washington, DC, home of the Washington Redskins. GO Skins!

My husband, Matthew, is from Michigan, and he is an avid Detroit Lions fan. He stuck by them ALL last season. After all, they did have a perfect score, right? Noah is a Philadelphia Eagles fan. The thought of the Eagles being in the Super Bowl last year - you know, the one he actually attended - was WAY over the top. Noah’s excited about Michael Vick joining his team.

So what’s my experience like at home? Tread softly, and don’t talk too much smack about the other guy’s team. NOT! It gets pretty heated at my house, but I’m always rooting for the team with the ball or the underdogs. Matthew laughs at me, because when the quarterback has the ball, I’m always shouting, “OOOH, it's just SO much pressure!”

How would you suggest a host get guests excited about a football party, even if they're not a football fan?

Three words ... START A POOL! I’m not condoning betting, but come on. When you’ve got stakes on the score, you get involved. Even if you don’t like football, a pool makes the game much more interesting. You may not know the teams or the rules, but you can easily root for the team that going to help put money in your pocket by putting numbers on the scoreboard.

Do you have any specific party ideas or games that people can play during the game?

I happen to love games. ALL games. I was just introduced to Corn Hole at a friend’s party about a month ago, and I later learned that it’s considered a popular tailgating game. Basically, it’s a beanbag toss game that everyone can enjoy. This game requires a set, which you can easily find and order online. My friend’s son made his, but if you’re not the Bob/Barb the Builder sort, ordering online is the way to go. Trust me, you will not be disappointed if you make the effort and invest in the gear. A football toss is also fun – tossing a football through a hole in a wooden board. Honestly speaking, I would need the hole to be as big as a Pilates ball.

You can also make your own set of puzzles that your guests can do during commercials. Consider the commercials the "timer."

1) Scramble the names of 10 players. First person to unscramble all 10 wins.
2) Make a list with players, coaches and/or facts on one side of the page, and make another list of football teams on the other side. See who can correctly match list A with list B.
3) Make your own Find-A-Word with football terms.
4) See how many of the favorite Super Bowl commercials you can remember from years past.

These games may sound kinda lame on their own, but it’s fun when you get a bunch of folks together and you’re racing the clock.

You have said you’re not a huge football fan — what do you do to make the game more interesting?

I’m not a huge football fan, and I often joke and say my prize for winning the Super Bowl tickets was that I didn’t have to watch the Super Bowl. I sit and watch football with Matthew and Noah so that I can spend time with them during football season. Sunday and Monday nights I’m watching with them and asking question after question. I grew up in a family of women who didn’t watch football, so I’m definitely playing catch up here. It helps me get interested in the game when I know the players’ back-story – where did they go to school? What was their record? Where are they from? See, all the facts that the football folks already know. I hear most football fanatics say that college ball is the best. They enjoy watching the raw talent, the love of the game, the passion!

Obviously food is your specialty, what kinds of food do you think are best for a football party?

I like nibbles. Food definitely keeps me interested in a game. Try grating Parmesan cheese (the good stuff!) and tossing it with chopped walnuts and just baking it on a parchment-lined sheet pan until it’s golden. Let it cool, then break the mass apart. It’s like a salty-nutty bark. YUM!

Some of the best dishes can be made in a big pot and served with cornbread or rolls. Chili, of course, comes to mind, but instead of using meat every time, try using butternut squash. Cut the squash into chunks, toss it in oil and salt & pepper, then sauté it in a hot skillet. Add it to your tomato- bean (chick peas work well) mixture. Enjoy it with polenta or grits cakes topped with cheddar cheese.

Another item for your party? Non-alcoholic drinks. Something more interesting than sodas and bottles of juice. Grab flavored seltzer water, a frozen juice concentrate like raspberry or cranberry and some fresh ginger or citrus. Mix it up to your liking and come up with your signature drink. They’re refreshing and the non-drinkers will appreciate the effort. I’m sure the beer drinkers will be takers too.

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