Super Bowl LVI: Culinary Matchups of the Rival Cities

Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

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GrapevineThis weekend we celebrate two uniquely American traditions, both on the same day. On Sunday, we will gather with friends and family to be entertained by the most-watched sports event of the year, Super Bowl LVI. The second? A feast above all feasts, which I have dubbed my own National Junk Food Sunday.

While the Super Bowl contestants display their skills, strength, agility and (mostly) trim bodies on the field, millions of Americans will be consuming food and drink that will likely detract from their athletic skills, strength and agility – and perhaps add a few pounds in the process. 

Here are several food facts for Super Bowl Sunday. According to the National Chicken Council, 1.42 billion chicken wings will be devoured. That’s the equivalent of four wings for every man, woman and child in the United States. As for beverages, Americans will spend more than $1.3 billion on a combination of mass-market and craft beers and $600 million on wine.

As I have for the past few years in this column, I thought of the rivalry on the gridiron and began transposing it to the bars and living rooms across the locales of the Super Bowl participants. Does the West Coast star-laden ethos prove to be an advantage over the youthful social fabric of the Central Midwest?

First, the gridiron statistics.

On the field: The Rams franchise seems like America’s itinerant team. Founded in 1936 in Cleveland, it moved three times before landing in Los Angeles for the second time in 2016. They will be appearing in their fifth Super Bowl and seeking their second championship.  

The Cincinnati Bengals will be appearing for only their third time, the first in 33 years. They will be seeking their first Super Bowl win.

Experience and proven talent favor the Rams, while the Bengals have youth and momentum on their side. Both quarterbacks are first-round draft picks. Matthew Stafford is a 13-year league veteran, while Joe Burrow is in his second year. Early odds favor the Rams by four points, but the Bengals have been surprising opponents all season.

Food: Each region has its unique dishes. Which is superior? A 21st century Los Angeles New Wave dish of sea urchin with oxtail and congee? Or the blue-collar delight of Cincinnati chili, local-style chili over a bowl of spaghetti and topped with a mound of shredded cheese?

A Hispanic-inspired chorizo breakfast burrito from L.A.’s Latino quarter? Or goetta, a breakfast staple made from pork, pinhead oats and spices?

The verdict? It’s nouvelle cuisine versus old-world standbys. I give the nod to the vibrancy and experimentation of Los Angeles chefs over the appeal of Cincinnati comfort dishes.

Wine: Both cities have reputations as wastelands for fine wine production. The consensus is the climate is too hot in Southern California and too severe in Ohio.

A pleasant surprise is on the southern West Coast, the Temecula Valley wine region. Warm days, cool nights and a constant Pacific mist make for a longstanding region with great sustaining potential. Look for consistently high-quality Bordeaux blends from Bailly, Callaway, Churon, Doffo and Leoness wineries. So, too, with the Rams’ consistent offensive production, led by Cooper Kupp, first in the NFL in receiving in 2021.

I have sampled several wines from Ohio, courtesy of my resident brother-in-law, an enthusiastic spokesperson for local wines. He failed to win me over. Yet the Bengals are the pride of Ohioans, with a bright future, including the stellar contribution of their rookie receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, fourth in the NFL in receiving.

The verdict? Kudos to the Temecula Valley for its combination of balance and exuberance. Can this be a catalyst for a Rams Super Bowl victory? Or will the upstart Bengals – and Ohio wines – have their moment to shine? 

Beer: With the proliferation of small-batch craft beers across the nation, consumers have their favorite local breweries; more power to the people. The verdict? To each their own.

Super (Snack) Bowl Sunday: Nirvana for football enthusiasts and junk food aficionados alike. Whichever camp you fall into, just kick back and enjoy the game and the camaraderie.

Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.


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