One thing we’ve learned over the years is that hungry gamers are grumpy gamers. We’ve also learned that a good food experience makes for a better night than an utterly forgettable one.
Food for Thought is a series where we talk about food at the table.
Potluck Ideas #1 – Drinks and snacks
This week’s Food for Thought is going focus on an actual food suggestions. We don’t want to do these every week but now and again we’re going to share some ideas for food that may suit your gaming table and have worked well for us.
The basic way that our group tends to set up meals is to divvy up the dishes. Since there are four groups (two couples and two singles), that gives up the categories of drinks, snacks, main and dessert. This week, drinks and snacks. Next week we’ll look main and dessert.
And in case you are wondering, I rolled randomly to see who would tackle which dish. Yes, I really am that kind of a dork.
Finaira – What do you mean I shouldn’t spike the punch?
Drinks is often the easiest of the dishes to deal with. As such, we usually let one of the single men claim drinks since the prep time is quite low and it doesn’t, generally, require a lot of fore-thought.
Pop, soda and fizzy drinks are all well and good, but they are frequently so sugary that sometimes our health consciousness kicks in and we want something a little less unhealthy. An easy fix is to bring juice, buy low calorie or low sugar drinks. But for those of you aiming to impress or just wanting to make something a little more themed, I bring you mulled cider.
- 2L fresh clear juice (apple, cranberry or grape are favorites)
- 2-6 cinnamon sticks or bark
- 1 tsp to 1 tbsp whole cloves
- 1 tsp to 1 tbsp whole allspice
- 5-7 cardamon pods
- pinch of nutmeg
- orange peel, in strips or circles
Pour juice into a saucepan or slow cooker. Turn to low or medium if you are in a hurry. Places spices and orange peel directly into the juice and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. The stronger you want it, the longer you should let it sit (or add more spices). Strain out the plant matter and ladle into mugs to serve.
Helpful tips: You can place the spices directly into the mix and then strain them out when serving or, if you like to keep things tidy, put the spices into a cheese cloth sachet and secure with a string. If you do this, you can use ground spices. Do not use ground spices without a sachet! You can prepare the spice mix in advance and store in a baggy in the fridge or freezer to save until needed. Orange peel goes directly into the juice, rather than the sachet, so keep a fresh orange on hand.
Vanilla apple pear juice is a favorite here because it adds a nice sweetness to the drink that would otherwise be overpowered by the spices. If you do use a flavoured juice, don’t add the orange peels.
Remember that heating up the drink does make a bunch of the liquid evaporate so plan ahead! It’s always a safe bet to bring some extra juice and add it in if it gets too strong or if you are running low on refreshments. The spices can be reused in the same pot or topped up if they’re getting a little over saturated.
Adjust the amount of spices to taste! This is a great recipe to play with and try different levels of spiciness.
You can always add a splash of dark rum (or rum extract) for extra flavour or to make your drink a little more alcoholic, as required. Save this for the mugs though, or else any alcohol will burn off in the pot.
Kim: Pass the chips, please?
Chips, cookies, candy – we all know the usual snacks that can hit a gaming table. Let’s wander a little further afield, shall we?
If you aren’t interested in a lot of prep, fruit’s a good way to go. You can buy fruit platters with the fruit pre-cut or you can buy whatever’s in season and cut it yourself. You can use yogurt as a dip and you can pair fruit with cheese. I like brie and apples, myself, or a sharp cheddar with strawberries.
If you’re okay with a little more prep, how about some bruschetta?
- loaf of Italian bread (or your crusty bread of choice)
- 1 large clove of garlic, cut in half
- ~8 medium sized ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. As the oven heats, slice the bread diagonally into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Spread the bread slices on cookie sheets. Toast the bread for 15 minutes or until crusty and dry, turning the slices over once and rotating the cookie sheets between upper and lower racks halfway through baking. Transfer the bread to wire racks to cool. When the bread is cool enough to handle, rub 1 side of each toast slice with the garlic.
In a small bowl, toss tomatoes, basil, oil, salt and pepper until combined. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the tomato mixture on the garlic-rubbed side of each toast slice.
Fun variations: The toast slices can be topped with all sorts of fun things. Try some mild goat cheese and a bit of prosciutto, or a dab of tzatziki with a piece of smoked salmon. If tomatoes aren’t your thing, you could try a fried medley of mushrooms or chopped bell peppers with a touch of balsamic vinegar. Play around! (And let me know what works because I wanna try too.)
Words from the peanut gallery
What are your favorite drinks or favorite snacks? What’s something that you only pull out as a special treat?