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As we settle into winter and dive head first into the joy and cheer of the holiday season, there’s yet another reason to celebrate that’s fast approaching that our house takes very, very seriously — bowl season! Now I don’t consider myself a football aficionado in any way shape or form, but college football fandom has long been a tradition in my family and one that I happily revel in, especially since it allows me to indulge in two of my very favorite things in life — entertaining and fun, festive home decor! Tasty bites, delicious drinks, a pretty party setup with some simple DIY flourishes, and my favorite people to hang with for hours on end? What’s not to love?! Which is why, with some serious help from Bashas’ and Dr Pepper®, we thought it would be so fun to serve up a little inspiration for your own game day festivities so you can tackle those bowl season parties with ease and be the MVP of homegating! See what we did there? All of the football puns!
For our bowl game party prep, I was so inspired by the classic, nostalgic imagery and trappings of football game days of yore, so I thought it would be really fun and festive to go with a “vintage game day” theme and craft the menu and party decor accordingly! And as we take on all of the prep for game day entertaining and gaggles of guests like this, we rely on our neighborhood Bashas’ and especially their deli area to not only serve as our convenient, one-stop-shop for all of our important food and beverage needs, but to also make sure we get stocked up on our favorite, special game day treat and the official drink of college football fans everywhere, Dr Pepper! Our friends and family members always look forward to being able to enjoy a tasty Dr Pepper when they celebrate game day at our house, but it just so happens to be especially perfect for this fun theme because the rich, indulgent, one-of-a-kind flavor of Dr Pepper has been a part of college football for 25 years. It’s a game day classic!
Below we’re running down all of the party details, including how we easily achieved this super fun “vintage game day” look, the effortless, classic mini Monte Cristo sandwich recipe your guests will go crazy for, our game day entertaining hacks, tips and tricks and so much more so you can master the homegating game this season. Ready…. break!
When it comes to party prep we absolutely love creating a classic, beautiful, elevated tablescape or snack station that looks as good as everything on it tastes, and that feels like it nestles right into our existing home decor. Which is why the “vintage game day” theme is the perfect homegating theme for those of us that want to create a party look that’s a little more elevated and a little bit more stylish than your average game day decor. To achieve the look here I mixed materials, patterns and vessels that all had a vintage or retro feel, which included galvanized metal, rustic wood, retro glass, natural canvas, burlap, ticking stripes, checks, and houndstooth and could not love it all more.
How To: Vintage Game Day Football Party
Dr Pepper Drink Display
We know that the first thing our guests will reach for the second they set eyes on this table is a delicious Dr Pepper (because duh, it’s the tastiest beverage ever), so we like to make sure that they have easy access to it and can grab and go. Which is why when displaying cans like these we like to do an elevated display (here we just did a simple wood box draped in a festive placemat) so they’re easy to grab! These adorable mini cans also happen to have the most fun, bowl season-perfect packaging on the planet, so they definitely take the entire snack station display to the next level, which is so awesome! Pro Tip: You could totally put a little tub with ice on top of the display and nest your Dr Pepper cans in that to keep them cold, but if you simply stack them on the box like we did for a cleaner (and drier) look, you can keep them in the refrigerator until right before your guests arrive and place however many little bowls of ice will fit underneath your box (we did 2) so it keeps the box, and your cans, chilly throughout the game!
BONUS! Save $1.50 when you buy (1) one Dr Pepper 7.5 oz mini-can or 6pk .5L and a Bashas’ ready-to-serve DELI item. Offer starts 11/28 and ends on 1/7.
DIY Football Snack Bags
I absolutely love this easier than easy DIY project because it’s such a fun, creative vessel for serving small snacks and fits perfectly into our theme! To create these I just grabbed small brown paper lunch sacks (full-sized sacks would be great, too) and simply used classic 3/4” masking tape to create my football laces. Easy, adorable and so much fun!
Mini Monte Cristo Sandwiches
The super simple recipe for these tastier than tasty little gems is below, and we can’t tell you what a hit these are with our friends! The Monte Cristo sandwich is such classic sandwich that found fame in the U.S. in the 1950s and ‘60s, so it fits right into our theme and is a crowd-pleaser than basically anyone can love. We also get all of the ingredients we need for these right in the deli area at our neighborhood Bashas’ and Dr Pepper® and it makes our lives so much easier when prepping for game day! Their deli area is a total dream and houses the best items for entertaining.
Classic Mason Jars Filled with Small Snacks
Not only does a classic mason jar fit right into our theme, they’re just plain practical for housing small snacks that guests can eat when they’re watching the game or walking around and not seated at a table. Easy carrying and eating! What’s more, they’re reusable and so easy to clean, so you’re not burning through a ton of disposables and can use them for your next party. And I love tying some sort of ribbon/rope/twine around the top to easily and effortlessly inject some team spirit into the look, so on these I used really cool, natural jute rope with red in it and some navy paper rope, tying them around the jars in knots and bows. For small, portable game day snacks I love to include:
A great trail mix that’s salty and sweet
Stacy’s Cheese Petites that I grabbed in the deli section at Bashas’ (these little snacks are ridiculously tasty – your guests will absolutely love these. Promise.)
Potato Chips (a classic potato chip also fits right into our theme!)
Napkin Rolls Tied with Bow
This little entertaining trick is so stylish and fun and requires minimal effort, which we always love. I simply rolled these really cute brown burlap-like linen napkins with a great red plaid on them, and tied them with a vintage-esque canvas bow that has a beautiful navy ticking stripe on it to fit our color scheme. To add to the “vintage” vibe I displayed them for our guests in a classic picnic basket elevated it on a retro scalloped white cake stand.
This one’s a no brainer and requires minimal effort to achieve. To get the “vintage” look I picked up a plain, canvas bunting at the craft store and paired it with a fun navy polkadot bunting to add some color into the mix! Such a classic game day look and so easy to execute.
Milk Bottle Drinking Glasses
I have long loved using small milk bottles at a drink station when I’m entertaining because they’re really easy and comfortable to hold and their vintage look is such a fun, unexpected take on drinkware. And again, these fit right into our theme and they’re another item that makes for less waste and that can be reused for your next party.
A Classic Chalk Board
If I were really firing on all of my witty cylinders when I set this up I totally would have written “Snack Zone” instead of “Snack Station”, but hey I can’t be perfectly witty all the time, right? Right. We were inspired by the super fun, football-themed Dr Pepper cans and made the letters look like they were straight out of a (seriously convoluted) football playbook, and it’s such a fun, easy way to carry your party theme through to another focal point. I used a chalk marker and not a regular piece of chalk to write the words on this board and it was so much easier (and neater) to do it that way!
The runner I used matches my napkins, and again I just love the vintage, burlap-like look of the brown linen. Paired with the red plaid accents it has a sort of rustic, classic vibe that fits right into our theme and pulls the whole table together. When you’re setting up a party table or snack station or drink station, I always love to start with a great runner to set the tone and add some warmth to the whole look.
Festive Pillows & Throw
A plaid blanket is such a classic, iconic game day accessory (at least where I’m from in the Midwest), so I had to include it in our game day party setup to give a nod to those cozy game days throughout the decades where the stadiums were peppered with many a plaid wool blanket. It also serves as another way to add some team spirit to your party table area and give your guests something to snuggle up with during these cold winter months while you cheer only your team. So versatile! I also added some fun pillows in retro stripes, rich velvets and a little bit of houndstooth for extra “vintage” flair and coziness. Those can also move right to the couch or your favorite chair if guests need extra cushion.
Extra Linens in Classic Patterns
To add more warmth, team spirit and softness to the table, I layered even more linens on top of my runner and snack displays using these really pretty plaid, fringed placemats and it worked like a charm! They have such a cool vintage look with their almost canvas-like fabric and plaid overlay.
Mason Jar Drink Dispenser
I absolutely love using large glass drink dispensers for the basics like water or lemonade and displaying them on some sort of elevated stand, which can just be a simple wood box like I did here. It makes for effortless party prep, fits with this particular theme perfectly and also has a little bit of a “water cooler” vibe, which is perfect for any game day party in general.
Tiered Galvanized Cake Stand
This is one of my favorite party food display tricks – tiered cake stands! You can display so many finger foods like desserts, sandwiches, etc. on tiered stands like this and it not only draws your guests eyes right to them, it also makes for easy, organized access which we love. This galvanized metal and wood stand also happens to fit right into our theme perfectly with a great rustic, vintage look.
Recipe: Classic Mini Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Yield: 12 small sandwiches
1 package of Hawaiian rolls (includes 12 rolls)
12 slices ham from Bashas’ deli (I prefer Black Forest, but use the type of ham you love!)
6 to 10 slices of Swiss or Gruyere cheese from Bashas’ deli (amount & type of cheese is totally based on preference – how cheesy you like it & what flavor you prefer)
3 tbsp melted butter
Dijon mustard (optional)
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and spray an 11-inch rectangular baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
I cut my entire slab of 12 rolls right down the middle to create one slab of tops and one slab of bottoms without separating them because it’s so much easier to build your sandwiches that way. To do this easily I used a large serrated knife.
Next I sliced my rolls right down the middle to create two groups of 6, and spread dijon mustard on the inside of the tops and bottoms of one group of 6 rolls, leaving the other group of 6 bare. Chris loves mustard, but not everyone in our family/group of friends does which is why I listed it as “optional” in the ingredients list. I personally think they’re just as tasty without mustard!
Layer your ham and cheese on your rolls. I laid a half a slice of cheese down first, then topped that with one folded slice of ham, then added another half a slice of cheese on top. If you’d like it a little bit cheesier, feel free to add a couple more half slices to the stack. Then place the tops of your buns on top of the last layer of cheese!
Whisk your melted butter and egg in a bowl, making sure the two are completely combined. Brush your mixture on top of all of your rolls.
Cover with tinfoil and back for 15 minutes. Once you’ve baked for 15 minutes with the tinfoil, uncover and bake for another 15 minutes until the tops of the buns are a nice golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Once your sandwiches have cooled slightly in the pan, sift powdered sugar on top.
Cut and serve!
As I mentioned, we do all of our bowl game party prep in one stop here in Arizona at our local
Bashas’. Not only can we grab our game day supply of Dr Pepper there, but their deli section is our go-to for making entertaining easy and convenient and most of all, our snack spread totally delicious.
Are you guys celebrating bowl season in your house? Tell us your best party prep tips, tricks and hacks and what your go-to game day recipes are in the comments below! Happy homegating, friends!