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Entries in 3-Corner Field Farm (1)

Tuesday
Jan052010

The Art of the 16C Tailgate

WHAT: Giants Tailgate, parking lot 16C
WHERE: Giant's Stadium, New Jersey

Perfection is a Zabar's Hot Dog at the Tailgate at 16CThis Search takes me to a Tailgate party at lot 16C at Giant's Stadium. To some, tailgating may seem like a crazy thing to do. We arrive about 4 hours before the game, standing around in often freezing weather, sometimes in the rain, sometimes in the snow. And yet, we endure, and we endure happily and enthusiastically. We are overjoyed to be at this tailgate. We feel honored and privileged to be a part of it.

Because this is about more than just a group of people, grilling up some hot dogs and drinking a six-pack of Bud Light. This is about tradition. Irwin, the distinguished older gentleman who runs the tailgate, has been running it, with the same general group of people, for over 25 years. The participants of the 16C tailgate work very hard to ensure that each and every tailgate is perfect and exactly as it should be. There is an order and a ritual. And central to this ritual, the most important part of this honored tradition, is the food. Everyone here cares about the food--a lot. They treat each tailgate as a gourmet meal. Like a dinner at the finest New York restaurant. Every ingredient--from the hot dogs, to the Silver Patron tequila--is of the finest quality.
Irwin, master of the 16C tailgate, grilling up some thick sliced baconI realized during this last tailgate that this is really the epitome of the Search for Delicious. The 16C tailgate perfectly demonstrates one of the central concepts of the Search: that food is not purely about tasting Delicious, but also about context and location. Where you eat is often as important as what you eat. And eating with a group of people who all share the same love and enthusiasm of food as you do, being part of an eating tradition, makes everything taste that much better. And let me tell you, at 16C a hot dog never tasted so good. And when you sink your teeth into that juicy bacon cheeseburger you can't believe a bacon cheeseburger could be so delicious. Year after year I look forward to the tailgate at 16C as one of my greatest Search for Delicious experiences.  
Juicy Merguez Sausage with a healthy dose of meat smokeTypically, Irwin grills alongside Larry. But Larry couldn't make it to this particular tailgate and I was offered the incredible opportunity to be Irwin's Grilling Sous Chef. I humbly accepted, knowing full well that this was a major honor. I was nervous. But I knew the tailgate ritual well, and I felt confident I could step in and do a good job.
There I am, beer in one hand, tongs in the other. Completely focused. Zen grilling.Irwin provides most of the food, buying almost everything from Citarella and Zabars, as any good Upper West Sider should. When Matt and I are in attendance, we bring along wonderful Merguez sausage from 3-Corner Field Farm from the Union Square Greenmarket (spicy, tangy Merguez sausage is always a part of the Tailgate menu). One guy always brings Patron tequila and a Ziploc bag of lime wedges (throughout the meal, tequila toasts are made, always ending with the group chanting: "Go Big Blue!"). One guys brings a giant chocolate chip cookie. Another one brings the beer. When it's cold outside, Irwin makes 24 hour baked beans. When it's Hanukkah (as it was this past tailgate), someone makes homemade Latkes. If it's an early morning tailgate, someone brings bagels and lox. Each person has a role and and a place at 16C. The idea is that if we maintain the ritual of the tailgate, and we do the best that we can do, then the NY Giants, in turn, will play their hardest and do the best that they can do. We're all part of the team.

Go Big Blue! One of many tequlia toasts.This is the standard 16C tailgate menu, course by Delicious course. It is served in the exact same order every time:

Grilled Shrimp: We eat these, shell on, which adds a nice crunch and texture. Smoky and a little sweet, served alongside cocktail sauce, they make the perfect hors d'oeuvres.

Grilling shell-on shrimp. Crispy crunchy delightsGrilled Merguez Sausage: Thick, meaty, delicately lamb-y, cut into big chunks and eaten with your hands. The merguez is very fatty and big, billowing clouds of smoke rise up from the grill, enveloping us with meat smoke. Heaven.

Latkes: (An extra course for Hanukkah, not usually a part of the standard 16C menu, but a welcome addition) Hand grated, pre-fried and then heated up right on the grill. Awesome. Served with sour cream and applesauce, of course.  

Latkes heating up on the grill. Have you ever heard of latkes at a tailgate? This really is the best tailgate ever.Hot Dogs: Now, I'm a major hot dog lover. Love them dogs. Irwin gets Hebrew National dogs from Zabars. They are not prepackaged, like you would buy in a supermarket, but treated like sausages and served as individual dogs. And they are INCREDIBLE. Seriously, special hot dogs. Go try them, you'll be very happy. I like mine charred and slathered with ketchup and mustard with a heaping of sauerkraut (which is heated up in it's can, on the grill).
Zabar's Hotdogs are some of the best dogs you can buy.Bacon Cheeseburgers: First, we grill thick sliced bacon. Then the thick meaty burgers. Place the bacon on the burger and top it off with some American cheese and we have a heavenly burger, juicy and smoky, oozing with the cheese.
Thick sliced bacon on the grill. Crispy, meaty, a little chewy, a lot Delicious.As always, about 45 minutes before the game, we start to pack up. We dump the coals in a pile next to the car, pack up any remaining food and head toward the stadium. Seeing the smoldering embers, I know the ritual is complete. Another successful tailgate. It is time to watch the game and cheer on the Giants. I am delirious with tequila and bacon cheeseburgers.

This is the last year in Giants Stadium, and possibly at 16C. Next year there will be a fancy new stadium and maybe a new spot in the parking lot. But the traditions of 16C will go on, no matter where we are...The shrimp, the merguez, the tequila. All a part of this memorable tradition. Whether the Giants win or lose (and we all know they haven't been winning too often lately), there's nothing like the triumphant feeling after a successful tailgate at 16C. I can't wait for next season...Go Big Blue!
Merry bunch of 16C tailgaters.