Say you don't care about football. The good news is only a few hours of Monday have to be devoted to the actual College Football Playoff championship game. The rest of the day can be spent eating and drinking your way to a fun time during the classic American sport of tailgating. As hordes of people head to Tampa to watch the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide play, represent the Sunshine State with these themed tailgating ideas.
Pay homage to the Cuban
Florida doesn't necessarily have one food that represents the state. But Tampa, specifically? That's Cuban sandwich territory. Impress upon out-of-town guests the tradition of the Ybor City-style sandwich, which originated in Tampa's early Cuban immigrant communities. The very specific Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich — which the Tampa City Council designated in 2012 as the city's signature sandwich — must be made with ham, mojo roast pork, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, three dill pickle slices and Cuban bread scored on top with a leaf from a palm frond. Mustard and pickles don't necessarily hold up to hours in a cooler, so pay tribute to the sammy in a more practical way. Onto wooden skewers, layer rolled slices of ham, roast pork and salami. Do the same thing with the Swiss cheese, then cap each end with a pickle spear cut in four. Serve mustard as a dipping sauce.
Choose a simple drink and stick with it all day
If you're going to start imbibing at 9 a.m., you need to tread carefully. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Beer is a given, but if you're not a beer drinker, or simply want another option, try a cocktail that's as easy to make as it is to drink. In keeping with the Florida theme, go with grapefruit juice and orange juice for the mixers, and serve with a choice of clear liquors, such as vodka and gin. Have slices of fresh orange and grapefruit on hand to keep things festive. And if you want to get really fancy, squeeze the juice from fresh fruit the night before and tell everyone where you got the citrus locally.
Limit hot foods; this is Florida
I've never really understood why people insist on standing over hot grills in a parking lot in Florida. Even in January, there is no guarantee temperatures will dip below 80. Plan for blazing sun on Monday, and be pleasantly surprised when temps plunge into the 60s at night. There are plenty of tailgate-ready foods that don't need to be served steaming. Think cold Florida shrimp with cocktail sauce, or dips that can be served room temperature, such as guacamole. Just about anything wrapped in bacon will please, regardless of its temperature. On Sunday, make Bacon-Wrapped Figs by wrapping fresh figs with raw bacon (one piece of bacon per fig), then baking in a 350-degree oven until bacon is cooked. Cool, refrigerate, then bring to room temperature and serve during the tailgate.