Ask A Bay Area Expert: Best Easy Tailgate Food

August 27, 2014 5:00 AM


Fans tailgate outside Levi’s Stadium before the 49ers play the Broncos on August 17 in Santa Clara. (Noah Graham/Getty Images)

candlestick Ask A Bay Area Expert: Best Easy Tailgate Food(credit: Randy Yagi)

The NFL season is set to begin and football fans across the country are ready to root for their favorite teams and engage in the lively pre-game ritual of the tailgate party. One of the great American traditions, the tailgate party can be a fairly simple mixture of food and refreshments – or more stylish cooking on the barbecue. If you want to impress your tailgate friends, try out these expert tips and delicious recipes from Parke Ulrich, acclaimed executive chef of two of San Francisco’s most popular waterfront restaurants -Waterbar and EPIC Roasthouse.

parkeulrich Ask A Bay Area Expert: Best Easy Tailgate Food

(credit: Parke Ulrich)


Executive Chef Parke Ulrich
EPIC Roasthouse
369 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA  94105
(415) 369-9955

399 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA  94105
(415) 284-9922

raiders Ask A Bay Area Expert: Best Easy Tailgate Food

Tailgate Party at Oakland Coliseum (credit: Randy Yagi)


Steak Cooking Tips

The larger the cut of meat, the longer it needs to be seasoned. For cuts one to four pounds, Ulrich suggests seasoning the meat the night before serving it. Cooks should massage it with extra virgin olive oil (so the rub will adhere to the meat) and add salt and pepper and then refrigerate.

For smaller cuts, Ulrich suggested seasoning the meat one to two hours before grilling. When massaging meat with EVOO and spices, Ulrich recommends using a large pot or bowl to keep things tidy in the kitchen.

Ulrich reminds cooks that salt brings out the flavor in meat and enhances the fat content. So use a bit when seasoning for the best results, but you must be careful not to overdo it.

parkeulrich2 Ask A Bay Area Expert: Best Easy Tailgate Food

(credit: Parke Ulrich)


Spice it up!

Ulrich recommends that home cooks use a variety of spice mixes when preparing meat. He likes mixes such as Old Bay on beef and chicken. Once meat is seasoned, let meat come to room temperature, and then sear it on a charcoal grill to create grill marks. Then put meat into the oven at a low temperature (or turn down the grill to a lower temp). Cooking meat at a lower temperature will ensure that it won’t shrink, and will be more tender.

Words to remember: high heat = tough meat! Keep it low and slow. For large roasts, use a thermometer to keep track of the temperature. Remove the meat at 10 degrees under the desired cooking temperature as “carry over cooking” will occur, which means the meat will continue to cook once it’s taken off the grill/out of the oven.

When you remove your meat from your heat source, remember to let it rest before slicing. Resting the meat allows the juices to settle back into the meat and keep in the flavor.

49ers Ask A Bay Area Expert: Best Easy Tailgate Food

San Francisco 49ers Tailgate Party (credit: Randy Yagi)


BBQ Tips

Chef Parke loves to cook outdoors in the California sunshine in the spring and summer. For Father’s Day, his favorite meat to cook is Tri Tip.

For his Tri Tip, he uses spices including cumin, ancho chili powder, paprika, a bit of cayenne pepper, Old Bay spice, fennel seeds along with salt and pepper. Ulrich recommends toasting the spices before using them as it brings the oils out for an enhanced flavor profile. To do this, he recommends tossing the spice mixture in a dry pan, and warming the mixture over the stove top.

To cook the Tri Tip, he utilizes the same cooking process as with steak. First, bring the meat to room temperature, and then give the meat a dose of high heat to create grill marks. Next, turn the heat down to cook the meat slowly. He recommends bringing the temperature of the meat to 125 degrees (which equates to a medium rare piece of meat).

No charcoal grill? No problem! To get that same smoky flavor from a gas grill, buy wood chips from the store. Soak them in water for about 30 minutes, and then throw them in between the grate to impart that smoky quality.

Marinate and prep as much as you can ahead of time so you can enjoy the event. Marinating ahead of time also ensures the best flavor. Make sure everything is wrapped and travel safe in Tupperware, Saran Wrap or anything to help keep things clean and fresh.


Yellowtail Jack Ceviche

You can also use halibut, mahi mahi or shrimp. This is great to prep before you head out and keep on ice. It’s easy and delicious.


  • Yellowtail jack or fish – 8 ounces, diced small
  • Limes – the juice and zest of 3 limes
  • Salt
  • Red onion – 2 tablespoons, minced
  • Jalapeños – 2 peppers, minced
  • Cilantro- 1 bunch, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil


  1. Combine the fish, lime juice and salt. This begins the curing (cooking) process.
  2. Add the red onion, cilantro and jalapeños.
  3. Add the olive oil to taste. It will mellow out the tartness of the lime and balance the flavors.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips.

Fried Green Tomatoes


  • Unripe, green tomatoes
  • Buttermilk
  • Flour
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Eggs
  • Panko breadcrumb mix


  1. Slice tomatoes so they are 1/4-inch thick.
  2. Soak in buttermilk for 30 minutes.
  3. Drain on paper towel.
  4. Season flour with salt and pepper.
  5. In a line you should have your flour, egg wash and Panko breadcrumb mix. Dredge the tomato in the flour, then egg and finally the panko bread mix.
  6. You can either shallow fry or deep fry the tomatoes at 350 degrees F.
  7. Drain again on paper towel to get rid of any excess grease.
  8. Serve room temperature with a tabasco aioli.

Tabasco Aioli


  • Mayonnaise – 1 cup
  • Add Tabasco to taste
  • Pinch salt

Note: If you wrap the tomatoes in plastic, poke holes in the top and it will prevent them from getting soggy. You can also put them on the grill once you get to your destination to heat them up if you so desire.

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on

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