When it comes to food this football season, whether you’re tailgating, watching the game at home or out with friends, finger foods are the clear winners.
“Our No. 1 seller for football and most big sporting events is wings,” said George Arnett, owner of Riggy’s Grill in Gainesville. “Then the sides that go with it such as fries or chips.”
Arnett explained eating chicken wings while watching sports has become a tradition over the years. It is such a staple food restaurants buy wings four- to six- weeks ahead of the Super Bowl to ensure they have enough in stock for the big game, Arnett said.
Riggy’s wings are cooked in canola oil, which Arnett said is healthier and tastes better than soy-based oils. They’re then tossed in an assortment of flavors from standard buffalo to a hot sauce. The hot sauce and jerk wings are a specialty of the restaurant.
“If you want something hot, I recommend the jerk,” Arnett said. “It will light you up.”
Riggy’s offers carryout if you want the wings at a party. They are available in quantities of five, 10, 15 or 50. The restaurant also offers its menu to-go.
Chicken wings are not the only popular football fare at Riggy’s Grill at 2415 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville. In the family-friendly and non-smoking atmosphere, customers feast on large quantities of nachos as they watch sports games on the two 140-inch screens or 27 televisions measuring 65 inches.
“A lot of people love nachos,” he said. “Put the queso on there (and) it’s a food that a lot of people can share.”
For the nachos, Riggy’s uses fresh chips. They hand-cut corn tortillas and fry them. The chips are then topped with jalapenos, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream and choice of chicken, ground beef or steak.
The nachos come with queso on the side.
The element connecting both dishes as high-priority sports-watching foods: no utensils needed.
“Finger foods are the most dominant aspect of having fun with your friends,” Arnett said.
Arnett said he likes to have fun with food and often perfects items by doctoring the recipes. Eventually, they end up on the menu. For example, Arnett devised the queso dip while experimenting with cheese originally for the Philly cheese steak sandwiches.
And while Riggy’s Grill offers tailgating food in-house, several recipe options are available to compile a feast at home or on the go for tailgating. In fact, with college football season half over, you may want to reconsider some different recipes to spice up the food for the second half.
If you’re looking for inspiration, try Daina Falk’s new book, “The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook,” with 165 recipes, many suggested by professional athletes such as those her sports agent father David
Daina Falk declares barbecue the universal tailgating food and includes several recipes for favorites such as ribs and pulled pork (including quesadillas and nachos) and chicken.
But the recipe catching some eyes are “tachos” — tater tot nachos. Falk’s version is dressed up with chorizo, homemade salsa and a beery cheese sauce.
The key is to have the tots really crispy and hot, she said. To keep them from getting soggy, put the cheese sauce and other fixings on right before you serve it.
For a vegetarian version, substitute a soy version of the chorizo.
Another tailgating tip: Make food that can be handled standing up.
Sliders or small sandwiches are good; messier things, like chili, soup or jambalaya, are best served in cups or small bowls.
As it gets cooler, chili is a great choice. There are nearly endless variations on chili, from meaty versions to vegetarian. In fact, take a look at Falk’s Kentucky Tomato Bourbon Soup. It’s hearty, with chopped carrots, onion and tomatoes, and jazzed up with brown sugar and a 1/4 cup of bourbon. That will keep you warm on a cold afternoon.
One more tailgating tip: Don’t forget desserts.
While most of the menu will be savory, at some point you’ll want a sweet counterpoint. Cookies and dessert bars are essential, but Falk has a little fun with a dessert she calls Beer Sno-Cones. You basically mix a couple of bottles of stout beer (flat works better, she says) with 2/3 cup brown sugar and freeze it. Keep mixing the slush around until it’s frozen enough to scoop into paper cones or cups.