When it comes to fall football entertaining, there are a few things to keep in mind: some of your guests might not be that into football, some of them might not be rooting for your team, and some of them may be even crazier than you are about football. So, your goal? Make a weekend filled with football as much fun as possible!
Well, we are definitely football – and fun– fanatics, here at the Anderson house, when it comes to cheering on our Tennessee Vols. And, how could we not be? My husband, Charlie – or #82 as he’s also known– used to play for the Tennessee Volunteers.
Yep, we do football season big here at the Anderson house in Knoxville. So, when we decided to invite some of our closest friends (from near and far) for a Tennessee Vols weekend, we did it the only way we know how: BIG – and with tons of Tennessee Vols spirit to spare!
The Planning & Preparation. Before our guests arrived, we had some planning and preparation to do. I knew that in order to give Charlie and I time to entertain and actually spend some quality time with our guests, we needed a plan. So, we decided to dine at home all weekend, with a good mixture of home cooking and food from our favorite local spots. To weed out any surprises, we asked our guests ahead of time about their food likes, dislikes and allergies, especially, since we had some kiddos joining us!! We also asked our guests to tell us their favorite wines and cocktails of choice, so we could have the bar well stocked and ready to go.
Also, on hand to welcome our weekend crew? Welcome bags! We had each welcome bag personalized with “The Anderson Experience All Vol Weekend” on it. Each bag was filled with Vol gear (such as socks & scarves) and healthy snacks, and an “All Vol” store was set up, where guests could choose a hat, t-shirt or sweatshirt for the weekend to get into the Tennessee spirit. And, for the kids’ bags, we had t-shirts, hats and games.
Day 1: Low-Key Southern Comfort. A few of our friends came in Thursday night, and since the weather was being a team player, Charlie wanted nothing more than to fire up the grill and cook for our guests. After a day of traveling, it was the perfect way to let everyone get comfortable, with some unwinding and relaxing at home. While Charlie fired up the grill, I set out my customary cheese tray appetizer, with assorted specialty cheeses, olives, grapes, nuts and tapenade – just enough to tide everyone over ‘til the main course. To accompany Charlie’s grilled chicken, I served up some green beans, veggies, baked potatoes and salads. And, the culinary coup d’état for me: “Cowboy Candy” – candied jalapenos – that pairs perfectly with any meal.
Moll Must: When planning a group meal at home, think of a condiment, garnish or side dish that is uniquely you. For me, it’s serving a honeycomb with my cheese tray and my “Cowboy Candy” – the perfect blend of sweet and spicy to welcome our guests into our southern home – for dinner.
Day 2: Football Friday. On Friday, the remainder of our guests arrived throughout the day. After they got settled into their rooms, we took them out to the Anderson Training Center on campus that afternoon. If they weren’t football fans, they sure were after getting to know the current players and coaches. A definite highlight was that they even got to meet some former Vols-turned-current NFL players who were in town for the game! After an active day, I had a proper sit-down dinner for my guests, so we could all catch up and enjoy a homemade meal at home.
Moll Must: While it might be tempting to go out to eat with a large number of guests in town, there is something so warm and welcoming about sitting down to a family-style dinner. I find that it instantly bonds your guests, and provides the perfect environment for meaningful, heartfelt conversations to take place.
Day 3: The Big Day. With a big day ahead of us, I wanted to make sure all of my guests were properly fed and fueled. We tried to have every option our guests might crave for breakfast! From frying up eggs to whipping up smoothies to baking egg casseroles, we had the protein portion covered. To bring our local flavor to our out-of-town guests, we had fresh juice options from our local juice bar, and delicious locally baked goods from the farmers market, like blueberry sweet rolls with orange glaze, almond sweet rolls and cinnamon rolls. And, for those who wanted to keep it simple, we had a variety of fruit, bagels and cream cheese, ready for noshing. My goal when it comes to breakfast for houseguests is to keep it very relaxed. After all, while it might be just another day at home to me, it’s a mini vacation for my visitors! By not having a sit-down breakfast and setting everything out ready-made and buffet-style for my guests, they had the option of sleeping late, coming down when they were ready and loading their plates up. A simple and stress-free way to kick off a competitive day!
Game time! We treated our guests pre-game by taking them to the field for the pre-game warm-up, and the playing of “Rocky Top,” a Tennessee tradition we love. As for the game, itself? Our Vols did not disappoint! I was so proud of our team as they came up from behind to beat the Georgia Bulldogs 38-31! It was so fun to see our friends getting to see the full Tennessee Vols spirit in the stadium! And, it was definitely a memory I’ll always cherish.
That night, I kept things simple and hearty, with serious comfort food of lasagna, spaghetti, Italian sausage and peppers, garlic bread, and salads. But, I brought out the big guns for dessert, when I introduced our guests to Buttermilk Sky Pies!
We didn’t hold back, because we wanted them to taste all of our favorites: coconut cream, pumpkin, caramel, buttermilk, apple and the “I-40” which is a delicious concoction of bourbon, pecans, chocolate chips, and toasted coconut. The best part of the pie? The shortbread crust! Uh-oh. Now, I’m hungry!
Moll Must: When entertaining out-of-town guests, be sure to bring in some local flavor. For this visit, I chose to bring in our local juice bar’s juices, baked breakfast goods from our farmers market, and homemade pies from our favorite baker, Buttermilk Sky Pies. These little gestures of hospitality add up to a majorly memorable experience for all.
Day 4: Goodbyes. While I hated to see our good times-game weekend come to an end, I was so grateful for every one of those faces, that I found sitting around my table. To send everyone off satisfied and full, I knew there was only one choice in staying with our Tennessee theme: BARBECUE!!
I couldn’t let our guests leave without some authentic Tennessee barbecue! So, I called up my trusted Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House for a truly southern spread, to send my guests off in style. We had pulled pork, chicken, brisket, green beans, collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, pinto beans and Sweet P’s specialty – southern BBQ burritos! Let’s just say no one left hungry…
Moll Must: Before saying goodbye to your guests, be sure to feed them! Even if they’re getting up early to catch a flight, have bagels and cream cheese or baked goods, ready to go with them. Sending them off with full bellies and full hearts is a sure-fire sign of a successful weekend!
Moll Wants To Know: How do you entertain on game day?