Summer may seem like the best time to plan outdoor events but fall has it’s own benefits to offer: cooler weather, fewer bugs, an encouragement to snuggle. Take the vintage pickup out to a football game tailgate party or, if gridiron games aren’t your thing, try tailgating at a concert or plan a fall picnic in the woods, at a pumpkin patch, or a leafy park.


A football game tailgate is a time-honored tradition but there’s no reason to give it all up to the grill and face paint. We’ve pulled together a simple menu to feed the fans without having to worry about keeping the flames going and the food hot. The easiest way to nourish an active group is to set things out and allow people to fend for themselves. A cheeseboard paired with fresh fruit and nearby crackers will sit happily on the tailgate in fall’s cool temperatures.


Skip the bowls and set out grab-and-go snacks in lunch-size paper sacks. Folded down to improve bulk and easy access, the bags hold crackers, chips, and nuts. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.


Provide a meaty alternative to carb-heavy chips and crackers with these tasty salami chips teamed up with a tangy mustard dip. You can make the chips and dip up to 3 days ahead of time. Keep them chilled in an airtight container.

Salami Chips with Grainy Mustard Dip

  • 1/4 
cup sour cream
  • 1/4cup mayonnaise
  • 2 
tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 
tablespoons grainy mustard
  • ½ lb thinly sliced salami

To make the Grainy Mustard dip, mix sour cream, mayonnaise, Dijon-style mustard, and grainy mustard in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 2 15x10x1-inch baking pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Lay the salami slices out in a single layer in the baking pans. Bake on the center rack until they are evenly browned and rigid, about 15 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool. The salami will crisp further as it cools.

Our recipe comes from the experts at Better Homes & Gardens.


What better way to serve good old-fashioned bottles of cane sugar Coca-Cola than in a vintage Coke cooler? Anyone? Exactly. The deep chest holds enough ice and sodas to keep fans going all afternoon. If you can’t score an old cooler, the Coca-Cola store offers a new version here.


Stock an ice-filled tub with seasonal brews such as hard cider, apple or pumpkin ales, and Oktoberfest beers.


Avoid the cold-cut spread by preparing sandwiches in advance. Slice a large baguette lengthwise and spread with spicy mustard. Layer ham and turkey (add roast beef for meat lovers) with sliced tomatoes, pickles, and crisp lettuce. Wrap the sandwich with parchment paper and tie with baker’s twine.


Set the baguette sandwiches on the breadboard and let diners slice off a serving when they’re ready to eat. Old pie tins make great plates for the main meal.


Amber and Andrew are ready to eat! Disposable plates and cutlery may be convenient but they lack the weight and sense of occasion that you get with reusable serving items. Unbreakable melamine and metal plates and bowls (naturally, we love the vintage versions) work best.


Pour heated soups into vintage Thermos flasks to keep them piping hot until ready to serve. Tag each flask with a label identifying the contents.


Nothing beats a warm bowl of soup on a cool fall day. We topped our easy and delicious Black Bean Soup with a dollop of sour cream and bacon crumbles. Mmmmmmm.

Here’s how to make it.

Black Bean Soup

  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup brown rice (partially cooked)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cans black beans, drained
  • 1 cup or small jar picante salsa
  • 1 can consommé soup
  • sour cream

Cook bacon until crisp in bottom of large saucepan and reserve some of the drippings. Crumble bacon and set some aside for topping. Saute garlic and onions in drippings. Add beans, soup, water, salsa, rice, and oregano. Cook about 30-40 minutes.

Serve with sour cream and crumbled bacon.


After soup and sandwiches, you’ve gotta have a sweet finish. The dessert station features football brownies and a caramel apple bar. For the apple bar, fill a vintage tin pie plate with slices of crisp apples. Throw together a mix of varieties that include tart and sweet selections.


We filled an old muffin tin with a choice of toppings for our caramel apple bites: mini M&Ms, colorful sprinkles, pecan pieces, crumbled toffee, crushed candy bar, and mini chocolate chips.


Dip sliced apples into soft caramel and try out the selection of tasty toppings. Our dessert plates look like traditional paper plates but are shatter-resistant ceramic replicas.


Make these themed brownies the quick way with a boxed mix or go the homemade route with your favorite fudgy recipe. When brownies are baked and cooled, cut out the ovals with a football shaped cutter. You can chop up the brownie leftovers and add them to your caramel apple bar—waste not, want not!

Fill a plastic bag with vanilla icing (canned or homemade, your choice!) and snip a small hole in one corner of the bag. Pipe stripes on each point of the oval and laces in the center. See how the Test Kitchen experts at Better Homes and Gardens do it.


Fueled and fortified, everyone will be ready to enjoy the game. Pack-up is a snap with all the hampers and coolers at hand. Don’t forget to bring a fold-out trash receptacle with you to keep your tailgate party tidy. Go team!

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