The start of football season means it's tailgating season. And for the 70 million Americans who consider themselves enthusiasts of this "party in the parking lot," it also means it's time to go shopping.
Tailgating items and accessories, from portable grills to gas-powered blenders, now constitute an industry all their own. Just this month, retail giant Wal-Mart transformed garden centers at 1,700 of its stores into "Game Time Headquarters," selling all manner of tailgating supplies. Online tailgate merchants abound as well, be they specialists (our favorite is
The American Tailgater
or major names (Amazon.com stocks everything from a tailgating "kit" with a table and cooking utensils to a tailgate-friendly "Freedom Grill" that affixes to your trailer hitch).
With that in mind, here are six new or noteworthy items that might be worth bringing along to your next tailgate.
Weber Char Q
($199, available at various retailers): Renowned grill-maker Weber took portable grilling -- and tailgating -- to a whole new level when it introduced its sleek and compact Q line a few years ago. (Even Oprah Winfrey sang its praises.) The only problem? The Q grills were strictly gas models -- and true barbecue aficionados know that you only get that extra flavor from using charcoal. Now, Weber has finally introduced this just-as-user-friendly charcoal model, which has a respectable 280 square inches of grilling space and a removable catch pan.
's Best Friends sampler ($89.99, available online): Sure, you can grill the usual burgers and hot dogs -- or you can go for the good stuff. D'Artagnan, a gourmet specialist that bills itself as "the leading purveyor of foie gras, pates, sausages, smoked delicacies, organic game and poultry in the nation," offers this package aimed at adventurous-minded tailgaters. Among the offerings: Wagyu (or Kobe-style) beef patties, wild boar sausages, buffalo sirloin steaks and uncured duck hot dogs.
Octoberfest (about $8 for a six-pack, available at various retailers): Just as you can always improve upon what you grill at your next tailgate, you can always improve upon what you drink. And as it turns out, football season coincides with one of the best times of the year for lovers of craft beers. This fall favorite from
is a seasonal amber-colored beer that nicely balances sweetness and bitterness. The brand says it's a perfect "transition" brew between the lighter beers of summer and the heavier ones of winter. We'd be hard-pressed to disagree.
Rubbermaid Dura Chill Coolers
Rubbermaid DuraChiller Wheeled Cooler
($42.99, available at various retailers): Of course, there's no point in bringing beer to the game if you can't keep it icy cold. (And you definitely want to make sure your meats remain chilled before you start grilling.) That's where this
model comes in handy. What distinguishes it is its 75-quart size, which means it can hold 130 12-ounce cans. (Kinda gives new meaning to the idea of the "big chill.") Other nice features are heavy-duty wheels and an ergonomic grip --just in case you want to take your beer over to your tailgating friend at the other end of the parking lot. Oh, and it promises it can keep your items cold for up to five days in 90-degree heat -- perfect if you're tailgating in Florida!
($2.99 for a package of eight, available at various retailers or online): Why wipe your face with any ol' napkin when you can make a statement about your favorite college team instead? That's the premise behind JerseyNaps -- napkins in the shape of football jerseys, with the appropriate colors and logos of more than 40 college teams, from the Alabama Crimson Tide to Wisconsin Badgers. NFL teams aren't part of the line, but there are baseball and hockey-themed JerseyNaps.
($19.99, available at various retailers or online): Before you head into the stadium, you'll want to clean your grill. And that's always a challenge in tailgating situations since there's rarely easy access to running water. Bring along the Grill Daddy and you'll find it much easier. The grill brush has a built-in water chamber, and if you use it when the grill is hot, it essentially converts into a steam cleaner. Brush heads come off for dishwasher cleaning at home, too.
Charles Passy is a Florida-based writer who covers food, travel, entertainment and consumer culture and products.