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This tailgate is a classic!

by Shawn P. Roarke

Bob Blumer is the host of the Food Network's Surreal Gourmet and Glutton for Punishment.
Tailgating is an art at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Fans of the Buffalo Bills have had countless opportunities to perfect their cold-weather techniques as they cheer for the Bills through the treacherous early winter months of each football season.

Tailgating, however, is not a usual staple of NHL fans during the winter – especially in Buffalo – where the weather often is too frigid or too foul to promote such activities.

But with the NHL hosting its first regular-season outdoor game in the United States at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio), figured the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic – pitting the host Sabres against the Pittsburgh Penguins – would be the perfect opportunity for NHL fans to show off their tailgating chops.

And to help in that endeavor, enlisted the help of celebrity chef Bob Blumer, host of the Food Network shows Surreal Gourmet and Glutton for Punishment. The new season of Glutton for Punishment begins Jan. 2. Check your local listings for time.

Not only is Blumer an “adventure chef,” but he is Canadian, originally hailing from the Montreal area before settling in California. Therefore, he not only understands the challenge the wintry elements could present on New Year’s Day, but he also understands just how important and magical the actual game is for those in attendance, as well as hockey fans across the globe.

“I recently saw an interview about the outdoor game and the player said how excited he was to be playing outside again and how it reminded him of how he would sometimes play outside as a kid,” Blumer said. “And, I thought, ‘Some hockey outside?’ I played my entire youth-hockey career playing outside.”

Growing up on one of the western tips of the island of Montreal, in tiny Baie D’Urfe, Blumer was a typical Canadian kid. He wasn’t thinking about the exotic recipes that now define his adult life. Rather, he was thinking about being an NHL-worthy hockey player, particularly for the hometown Canadiens.

“Up until I was 16 or 17, I wanted to be a professional hockey player,” said Blumer, who honed his skills on a backyard rink built by his father. “I was always a good scorer, but I was never tough enough.”

Yet, he still lived and died with his Canadiens. Jean Beliveau was his hero and he was lucky enough to see Beliveau play a few times at the old Montreal Forum. Blumer says Montreal great Yvan Cournoyer was his neighbor in Baie D’Urfe and he still has vivid memories of being shocked to see one of the game’s greatest players painting his own garage.

Blumer’s childhood love for the game remains, but he has dedicated his vast energies elsewhere. After a successful and lengthy artist-management career, Blumer “fell into” the celebrity chef business after producing a cookbook as a side project in 1992. His cooking career has taken off since then and now he is the author of four food-related books, the host of two food shows and one of the most recognizable culinary personalities on the planet.

So, Blumer has the credentials to lead the NHL fan to tailgating nirvana on New Year’s Day. Understanding that the weather is likely to be bad, he has laid out a simple menu that can be put together in the warmth of a fan’s home before heading out to brave the elements and see history in the making.

His menu includes Oyster Shoot-outs, Buffalo Chile and Liquid Chocolate Mint Bars. It is comfort food designed to keep the fan warm and happy as he prepares to watch Sidney Crosby’s Penguins go head-to-head with Ryan Miller’s Sabres on the frozen pond in the middle of Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Bon Appetite!


Unlike summertime tailgating, a snow-filled parking lot doesn’t provide as friendly an environment to be cooking from scratch. The following menu can be prepared in the comfort of your own kitchen and then served up pre-game with minimal effort. It’s guaranteed to keep you warm inside and out.

Oyster Shoot-outs

After skates, oysters just may be the next best thing kept on ice. Eat them on their own, or add them to my Bloody Mary mixture for a shot that is bound to kick-start your day, and score with all your friends.

(yield: 12 shooters)

8 ounces tomato or Clamato juice, chilled
4 ounces lemon vodka
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 shakes Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
3 shakes Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon freshly grated horseradish or 1/4–1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
12 unshucked oysters, kept on ice or snow, plus extra for eating on their own (or pre-shucked oysters—available in jars)

In a sealable container, mix all ingredients except the oysters.

When you are ready for your shoot-out, fill shot glasses 3/4-full of Bloody Mary mixture. Shuck the oysters, then drop an oyster in each glass. When you hear the whistle, shoot ‘em back.

Buffalo Chili

Unlike Buffalo Wings, I can promise you this hometown favorite will not taste like chicken! Make it in advance and reheat it at the game on a butane burner – or the engine block of your car.

(Yield: 6 hungry-man servings)

4 ancho chilies
4 New Mexican chilies (or 4 tablespoons powder)
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons oregano
2 pounds Buffalo sirloin steak (or conventional sirloin steak), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 yellow peppers, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 28-ounce can whole plumb tomatoes (fire roasted if available)
2 bottles full-bodied beer
1 16-ounce can black beans
1 16-ounce can red kidney beans
1 16-ounce can pinto beans
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped finely

Preheat oven to 250°F.

Seed and stem whole chilies. Bake for 10 minutes.

Allow chilies to cool, then grind in a coffee grinder. Reserve.

In a dry pan, toast cumin seeds. Allow to cool, then grind in coffee grinder. Reserve.

Season beef generously with salt. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large sauté pan over high heat, sear beef on all sides (approximately 1 minute/side). Reserve.

In a large, heavy pot, over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil and sauté onions, garlic and bell peppers for 5 minutes. Add chilies, cumin and oregano, and stir for 2 minutes.

Add seared beef to veggie pot and add tomatoes (with the liquid) and beer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add beans, lime juice, sugar and cilantro. Simmer for 5 more minutes.

Note: can be made up to two days in advance

Liquid Chocolate Mint Bar

When I was growing up in Montreal, Laura Secord Chocolate Mint Bars were my favorite treat. This rich, hot chocolaty drink is the grown-up version of that candy bar. It’s guaranteed to keep you warm all over.

(Yield:  6 servings)

1 1/2 cups half & half
12 ounces best available quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
2 1/4 cups milk
6 ounces crème de menthe (clear or green)

In a medium pot, bring half & half to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir until chocolate has fully melted. Whisk in milk. Warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it simmers. Add crème de menthe, then immediately transfer to a thermos.

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