Home-gating 101: How to make the perfect food for your Carolina Panthers watch party

With every Carolina Panthers game feeling more and more like party-central, chips and dip just ain’t gonna cut it at your Sunday home-gating football fiesta.

We asked Blake Hartwick, executive chef of Bonterra Dining and Wine Room and official Panthers Taste of the NFL chef, to share some thoughts on making game day fare match the fun and excitement on the field.

Here’s a few of his favorite tips:

Keep game day within your means. Don’t create a lot of stress for yourself. This means preparing as much ahead as you can and serving dishes you are familiar with. Game day isn’t necessarily the best time to try out new recipes unless you are pretty accomplished around the kitchen.

Serve two or three hot items and two or three cold items. Variety helps make sure everyone gets to enjoy something from your menu. Finger foods help people nibble, socialize and create easy clean up.

Go for foods that hold up well. The game is going to be several hours; You want to have tasty food that is going to make it from kickoff to the final score. I like braised meatballs that linger low and slow in red wine sauce, and chicken wings cooked low in their own fat to keep them moist.

Go BBQ. We are in North Carolina, BBQ is a staple – go for smaller, slider sized buns. I like BBQ ribs, also. Avoid hot dips — they can be mess and the cause of accidents. Another Southern-oriented slider is jalapeno cornbread with country ham and pimento cheese – dynamite.

Prilosec OTC Homecoming Event
Jason E. Miczek AP Images for Prilosec OTC

Go nuts. Bake some cashews or mixed nuts in the oven until brown, coat with a bit of olive oil or melted butter and then sprinkle with cayenne and garlic salt. These are dynamite to snack on.

Vegetarians – Go hummus and pita. Hummus and baked pita chips are a great option for vegetarians. I like traditional garlic, tahini, olive oil and chickpea recipe for my hummus.

Cocktails – Keep them simple. I like a John Daly – It is a riff on an Arnold Palmer which is sweet tea and lemonade. With a John Daly, add vodka and you’ll have a bit of a kick for the game.

Photos: Michael J. Solender; Jason E. Miczek/AP