With the return of football this month came the return of Baltimore's second favorite pastime. Well, maybe, the city's third favorite pastime. I'm actually fairly certain calling for the offensive coordinator to get fired is No. 2 on the list. But tailgating is the pastime I'm referring to, and with thousands of fans participating every weekend at Ravens, Maryland, Navy and Towson football games, there are no shortage of traditions that make every tailgate unique.
The coolest tradition I heard about was from PressBox reader and Glenn Clark Radio listener Timothy Fisher. The Bel Air, Md., resident told me "for the Ravens tailgates, we always make the food the opposing team's city is famous for. Except for Pittsburgh, because [forget] Pittsburgh." OK, he didn't say "forget." But you get the idea.
So for The 15 this month, with the aid of Fisher, we're going to help you spice up your tailgates this fall by adding some road-city flair to the menu. (We left out games that were essentially duplicates. Maryland is playing Michigan at home, but the Ravens are also playing the Detroit Lions.)
1. Sept. 17 Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland is well known for being the home to delicious Polish food. So perhaps for the Ravens' home opener it's worth throwing some pierogies or cabbage rolls (galumpkis) into the mix for your tailgate. Or if you have the misfortune of actually having a Browns fan attending your tailgate, you could just serve them dog food. That might seem mean-spirited, but they knowingly choose to watch Cleveland Browns football, so they certainly don't mind consuming garbage.
2. Sept. 23 Maryland vs. University of Central Florida
Orlando might not be known for unique food options, but if you're adventurous, this could be a fun week. Bring a deep fryer to your tailgate in College Park, Md., and stop by a local seafood shop that sells alligator meat. Fried alligator balls might not be the most popular item on the table when the day starts, but after about an hour of drinking you can enjoy having your friends tell you how much they like "those little chicken balls" you cooked up.
3. Sept. 30 Towson vs. Villanova
It would be far too obvious to suggest that you should make cheesesteaks when the Tigers host their Philadelphia rivals. It would also be incorrect. If you really want to serve a delicious Philadelphia treat, try roast pork instead. You'll need to stock up on provolone cheese and hoagie rolls that week as well. If all else fails, just run to the store and buy like 100 boxes of Tastykakes. You can't go wrong.
4. Oct. 1 Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
There's nothing special about Pittsburgh's famous Primanti Bros. sandwich. It's just a sandwich with French fries on it. So in honor of the laziness that the folks in the Steel City believe to be a culinary accomplishment, just take whatever it is that you'd regularly make for your tailgate and throw French fries on it. Burgers, sausages, jambalaya, strawberry rhubarb pie, whatever. Toss some fries on top. You didn't actually create anything, but in Pittsburgh you'd be the most accomplished chef alive.
5. Oct. 7 Navy vs. Air Force
If you didn't know, the Air Force Academy is located in Colorado Springs, Col. If you hate your friends, you can make the Mile High specialty known as Rocky Mountain oysters. But if you're not into cooking bull testicles, perhaps just using bison meat for the week would suffice.
6. Oct. 14 Towson vs. Richmond
Richmond's best-known food may be seafood, not dissimilar to what you can get in Baltimore. But if you want to be adventurous for the Tigers game against the Spiders, you have two choices. One, you could eat actual frickin' spiders. It's a horrendous idea, but The 15 isn't here to judge. Perhaps instead you could just go with a delicious Virginia ham. But if you're hardcore, by all means, actual spiders work.
7. Oct. 15 Ravens vs. Chicago Bears
It's probably a little difficult to do deep-dish pizza for a tailgate. You know what isn't difficult? Making enough Polish sausages that you could invite the cast of Bill Swerski's Superfans to your tailgate before the Ravens beat down Da Bears. Chicago-style hot dogs or Italian beef sandwiches would also work.
8. Oct. 26 Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins
While the obvious choice here is the Cuban sandwich (it's pork with a side of pork, so what isn't there to like?), perhaps you find it taxing to get a Panini press to a tailgate party. If that's the case, Fisher says Cuban-spiced chicken thighs with chorizo and rice would be just fine instead.
9. Oct. 28 Towson vs. Delaware
I do not understand for the life of me what scrapple is or why there is any appeal at all. But in Delaware they have a whole frickin' festival to celebrate the meat (is it a meat?) every year. So, I guess, do that. Or just get like 100 Grotto pizzas. If you're inviting me, do that.
10. Nov. 11 Navy vs. SMU
Perhaps you prefer Memphis or Kansas City ribs, but if you make a boatload of Dallas-style ribs there won't be a single friend who complains before the Midshipmen battle the Mustangs.
11. Nov. 18 Towson vs. Rhode Island
The answer, of course, would be clam chowder or lobster rolls. Or lobster rolls dipped in clam chowder. Or clam chowder-stuffed lobster rolls. Or lobster rolls deconstructed and then mixed into clam chowder. It doesn't really matter how you do this because it's going to be cold Nov. 18 and this is going to be delicious. Let me know where you're tailgating.
12. Nov. 27 Ravens vs. Houston Texans
As Fisher will tell you, the obvious answer here is barbecue brisket. But he also suggests you Google the concept of "Texmanese" crawfish and give it a try. It's essentially a Texas take on a Vietnamese crawfish boil, and while that sentence doesn't fully make sense, I'm already preparing a bib.
13. Dec. 3 Ravens vs. Detroit Lions
Here's something inexplicable: If you attempt to search the internet to discover what food is the most popular and unique to Detroit, the answer that repeatedly comes up is ... the Coney dog. There's apparently a whole turf war there between places called "American Coney Island" and "Lafayette Coney Island" regarding whose is best. I haven't spent enough time in the Motor City to weigh in with authority on the topic, but I can't imagine anyone complaining about Coney dogs at a tailgate party.
14. Dec. 23 Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts
I'd be all for my friends attempting to re-create the famous spicy shrimp cocktail from St. Elmo Steak House, but I'm not sure I'd want to be caught crying at a tailgate party. (No, really, it's that spicy.) Instead, maybe just some sugar cream pie will do. I have no idea why sugar cream pie is a thing, but it sounds like a concept I'd support.
15. Dec. 31 Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Yes, of course, the answer is chili. So maybe just make sure your tailgate is a little closer to a bathroom on New Year's Eve.
Issue 237: September 2017