Feasting at the Bing National Tailgate Championships

After living here for 15 years, a few quintessential Seattle experiences are missing from my repertoire. I've never been on the Underground Tour; sadly, I've never taken the Clipper to Victoria, B.C.; and despite a major remodel and a noteworthy chef, I've never dined at the Space Needle restaurant.

Rounding out the list of things I haven't done...I've never been to a Seahawks football game. Technically, I still haven't. But last month, I got a taste of the pre-game festivities and I now I know...I've been missing out!

Just before Christmas, I was invited to the Bing National Tailgate Championship tour. Regional tailgate teams compete for an opportunity to attend the national championships, held in Dallas/Ft. Worth in February. Joe Cahn, the Commissioner of Tailgating, led the festivities and rallied a team of judges including local chef Ethan Stowell (Tavolata, How to Cook a Wolf, Anchovy & Olive, and Staple & Fancy) and celebrity judges, former Seahawks defensive end Jacob Green, and rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot.

When the invite came in, I thought, "Tailgating in Seattle? Am I missing something?" I had no idea tailgating was a significant part of our culture. And I learned later, it's not. But based on this event, you'd never know. Pregame festivities were a sight to behold!

Which way to the Tailgate Championships? Quick! Follow these guys.

Hey, good lookin'! Where's the party?

This is our destination: Qwest Field. Notice our rare day of sunshine? It's also worth noting...in a town that averages 155 days of winter rain, the football stadium has an open roof, while the baseball stadium's roof is retractable, weather pending.

By 11 AM, this guy was working up a sweat. What's the deal?

His 11 hour ride is dedicated to military families. (7 hours to go.)

A highlight of the pre-game festivities? The Blue Thunder marching band.

Blue Thunder drum corps

Here's looking at you!

Ah...the fans. Love this guy!

I found the tailgate festivities, and managed to squeeze into the press corps. See the camera guys?

Joe Cahn, the Commissioner of Tailgating, "What 'cha cooking today?" Several teams went all out, "We caught or shot everything we're eating today."

(L-R) Former Seahawks defensive end, Jacob Green and Chef Ethan Stowell.

Smoked salmon platter. Nice touch with the football helmets, eh?

What 'cha got there???

Burgers, fries and yes...jello shooters!

Hey sailor!

Jocob, weighing in on the competition.

Pork and salmon burgers, with a tall & frosty beer.

Go 'Hawks!

Racing to the judges' table.

Smoked salmon with capers and dill.

The Seahawks cheerleaders stop by for a visit.

Good times, people. Good times!

Brent, The Luge Master

"Wanna shot?" Take a block of ice, and carve trails into it. Pour a shot at the top...and as it travels down the luge, it chills. Genius, no?

Yeah, it's like that.

My turn!

I made it on the Pour House RV. Special delivery: baby back ribs.

Kissed with smoke and hot off the grill. "You want some?"

Christmas tree, decked out in Seahawks gear. Love this ornament.

Got tickets?

End of the line for me. I wished the Pour House team good luck, and headed for home. (The winners were announced at half time.)

And the Bing National Tailgate Championship regional winners? Congrats to Hawk One!

Moment of triumph here: