When you think of tailgating, you generally think of football games, right? Well, John’s brother, Bill, of Blue Ash Farm, has redefined what it means to “tailgate.” According to Bill, all you need for tailgating is a group of happy and enthusiastic friends and family members eating great food before enjoying an activity (whether sporting event or not). And that’s where Bill comes in.
Before we dive in any further, you should know a bit more about Bill O’Donnell. Bill is John’s brother – older by 13 months – to be exact. John and Bill are two of three boys in their family of seven kids and from the time they can remember, Bill and John were roommates. When younger brother, Chris, was old enough, he joined the duo too. As one would assume, that was a troublesome trio. At night after they said their silent prayers (like the good Catholic boys that they are!), they would have a code word to indicate that they were done praying and ready to chat again. Those memories go on, until Bill actually pulled “A Greg Brady” and moved out “on his own” at the age of 15 to the room above the garage.
John is a sportsman, he loves playing golf, watching football, talking hockey, etc., Bill enjoys sports as well, but his version is slightly different than John’s. He loves going fishing, hunting and even the occasional gardening. They are both innovative creators, but just in different ways.
As we all know, John moved from their hometown in Winnetka, Illinois to attend UCLA and eventually launched the johnnie-O brand. Bill, on the other hand, always had dreams of owning his own farm. After 30 years filled with many long and stressful days on the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Bill declared to his wife, Amy, that he wanted some acreage in the woods where he could do some habitat restoration. One day in 2001, Bill set out to visit six farms that were for sale and instantly fell in love with the last one he saw that day located in the southwest corner of Wisconsin. After telling Amy that he had found the perfect farm, he bought it the very next day.
Blue Ash Farm was named in honor of O’Donnell’s grandfather, Karl Rohs, who owned a Blue Ash Farm near Cynthiana, Kentucky decades earlier. Bill’s Blue Ash Farm has become a safe haven for family, providing a sense of comfort, camaraderie, fun, food and the outdoors.
While there are many activities throughout each year that bring the O’Donnells together, there’s nothing like the annual Winterfest at BAF. The event, attended by family and friends alike, takes place each year towards the end of November. Everyone comes out, bundled up in their warmest clothes to participate in the tailgating activities – games of football and corn bags with the dogs running around the property and, of course, there’s a lot, a lot of food. What else do you expect at a tailgate? Well, beer. There’s beer too, don’t worry.
Bill cooks up local bratwurst with sauerkraut, preceded with appetizers like buffalo chicken dip. Once everyone has warmed up with food, Bill loads up the tractor hay wagon and takes the group on a search for the perfect Christmas tree. Kids sip homemade hot chocolate (recipe below) and there’s another full cooler of more beer for the adults. Once they get back to the cabin with the selected tree it’s time to eat again! Bill whips out a large cauldron of his famous Chocolate Chip Chili (recipe below) and the day ends in front of a big bonfire for story time.
We invite you to a closer look at the O’Donnell family Blue Ash Farm tradition. Visit our Facebook page to flip through the photo album from this year’s tailgating weekend, and follow Blue Ash Farm on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Bill O’Donnell’s Now This Is Hot Chocolate! Recipe
This hot chocolate is rich and creamy – all you want in a hot chocolate! There is nothing worse than the powdered stuff you mix with hot water. Bill recommends you give this a try, even if it may not fit into your diet, it’s a tasty treat during wintertime fun.
This recipe can be doubled or tripled depending on how many people you are serving.
6 cups of whole milk
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cups of heavy cream
2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- Put all the ingredients in a crock-pot, stir to combine and turn on low. Let it warm for an hour or two whisking occasionally to incorporate the chocolate chips, as they melt, and cocoa powder into the milk. When everything comes together, ladle into mugs and top with homemade marshmallows! You can also add butterscotch schnapps, peppermint schnapps or Kahlua to kick it up for the adults.
- If you do not have a crockpot and would like to do it on the stovetop, warm on very low heat and be careful not to burn or scorch it, stir often.
Bill O’Donnell’s Chocolate Chip Chili Recipe
We understand that many people have their own favorite chili recipe, so Bill recommends to keep cooking that, but try adding a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips next time. Chocolate adds a little depth and texture to a pot of chili. It is a very subtle ingredient that carries chili over the top!
8 slices of bacon
2 medium onions
2 large bell peppers (Bill uses one yellow and one orange pepper to add color)
2 stalks celery
3 cloves of garlic
2 – 3 pounds of ground chuck, depending on how meaty you like your chili
3 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained
2 15-ounce cans of beef stock (Bill uses his own homemade stock but cans are fine)
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeños, chopped
6 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons cumin
1 Tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chocolate chips
3 15-ounce cans of pinto beans or kidney beans (or a combination of the two)
- Chop the bacon and cook in a large pot until crispy. Remove the bacon and save for later. Chop the onions, bell peppers, and celery and add to the bacon drippings. Mix well and cook until they are soft. Add the minced garlic at the end.
- In another large pot, brown the meat. Drain any grease and add meat to the vegetables. Stir and then add the chopped tomatoes and beef stock, bring to a boil while stirring often. Reduce heat and let simmer.
- Chop the crisp bacon and add to the pot with the jalapeños, chili powder, brown sugar, cumin, salt and pepper, and chocolate chips. Mix well, then add the beans and mix again. Cover and simmer for an hour then remove cover and simmer another hour.
- This chili should be made at least a couple days in advance. Every time it is reheated it gets better, so try to heat it up again and simmer two days later then serve it on the third day. It will be good for 5 days or more and the leftovers freeze well.