We’re in the middle of that period of football wasteland. No home team to root for in the postseason with friends, and no built-in reason to quaff our favorite wine or beer as we veg out on our favorite reclining chair.
Super Bowl XLVII, regardless of the long gridiron tradition that precedes it, is as anticipated for its off-field festivities as it is for its on-field combat. The season has come down to a single game and the glory and esteem it will bestow on one team.
As I pondered this week’s column, I thought of the rivalry on the gridiron and began transposing it to the bars and living rooms across the country. Super Bowl Sunday brings together friends and family to indulge in the biggest junk food day of the year. Once a year we indulge guilt-free in those waist-widening, artery clogging foods we try to fastidiously avoid all year. And what better way to wash down those calories and fat than with your favorite beverage.
But what to eat and drink?
Here are several food facts for Super Bowl Sunday from the National Restaurant Association: 48 million Americans will order takeout food. What will we be eating? There will be 69 percent noshing on salsa, chips and dips and 63 percent will be inhaling chicken wings. In fact, according to the National Chicken Council, 1.25 billion chicken wings will be devoured.
Here’s my premise for this week’s column: a Super Bowl Challenge for the best food, wine and beer produced in the two rival football regions.
FOOD: Each region has its iconic foods. Which is superior? The home towns of each team, while on opposite coasts and influenced by different oceans, are famous for their local seafood delicacies.
Baltimore rightly touts its crab harvests. Whether prepared minimally, incorporated into a dip or a Mamma Vida salsa, crab is king all along the mid Atlantic coastline.
In my opinion, after New York City, San Francisco is the dining capital of the United States. From the freshest, most eclectic and bountiful waters of the bay to the culinary heights of haute cuisine in the downtown area to the ultimate comfort Italian food in North Beach, diners continually find “one of my favorite meals” in San Francisco. And don’t forget the Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Café. If this category determined the Super Bowl winner, San Francisco would win hands down.
WINE: This is an easy category. Just 45 minutes north of San Francisco lie two of the most famous and highly revered wine regions in the world, Napa and Sonoma. Although there are very few wineries of note near Baltimore, one has to travel just a short distance to Virginia wine country for one of the up-and-coming wine regions. That is just like the representative football teams. Both have strong defensive backbones, but the 49ers have the more dynamic offense. Raise your glasses of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as you salute the favored 49ers. But also toast the Raven’s Ray Lewis, who is retiring this year on the highest of high notes.
BEER: Craft beers are growing in popularity, a testament to the new generation of talented brew masters. Both teams’ quarterbacks are now stars, having recently come into their own prominence. However, San Francisco craft beer makers of Anchor Steam, 21st Amendment and Speakeasy have gained accolades across the nation, while excellent small production Baltimore beers like Heavy Seas and Stillwater are wallowing in anonymity, waiting for the chance to be in the spotlight. The latter breweries have a strong chance of following in the footsteps of the Raven’s newly popular Joe Flacco. However, San Francisco easily overpowers Baltimore in this category.
Whatever your plans are for the Big Day, relax with your favorite junk food, your beverage of choice and enjoy the game. May the best team win, and here’s to Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey.
Nick Antonaccio is a 35-year Pleasantville resident. For over 15 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. He is co-host of “Glass Up, Glass Down,” a local cable television series on wine and food; he also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.