This is a Bowl that's full of food and drink
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When it comes to the Super Bowl, preparation is key. It's mind-boggling how much effort goes into that.
Not the coaches and players, nor even the fans lucky to attend the game. We're talking about the fans at home, or at somebody else's house, who put a ton of money and time into shopping for and cooking what they're going to eat and drink and eat while they watch the game.
Food and drink and other marketers pile on the bandwagon, in a blitz that goes far beyond the millions of dollars worth of super TV commercials that you'll see during the event.
Here at the Post-Gazette food section, we've gotten "big game" food pitches from everyone from Sam's Club to the Canned Food Alliance, for everything from Cuba Libres to football- and helmet-shaped cookie cutters.
WeightWatchers.com weighed in on "how to enjoy a tasty but healthy Super Bowl -- so that way, the only pigskin at the end of this season will be the football!" The Hass Avocado Board reminded us that "Big Game Day is one of the largest consumption days of the year for Hass avocados, with an estimated 46.3 million pounds of avocados expected to be eaten during this year's festivities."
Everybody offers recipes -- using their products, of course. Some outlets aren't so partisan. Epicurious.com last week posted tasty menus inspired by both teams.
For the Arizona Cardinals, Epicurious assistant editor Lauren Salkeld provided a buffet of Classic Margaritas; Chili con Carne with Cheddar Shortcakes; Chicken Enchiladas; Cactus, Chayote, and Green Apple Salad; Southwestern Corn Pudding; and Cocoa Chimichangas.
For the Steelers: Pierogies; Primanti Brothers-inspired Grilled Kielbasa Sandwiches with Classic French Fries and Creamy Coleslaw; lager beer such as Iron City; and Banana Split Pie ("many believe that the banana split was invented in a Pittsburgh area drugstore in 1904" -- in Latrobe.)
The entry asked, "Which menu sounds better to you? Cardinals or Steelers?"
"Chili Dan" Howard, with his wife, Dawn, runs chicagofootballchili.com that posts themed menus all season to match the Chicago Bears and their opponents. They've continued with a Pittsburgh-Arizona menu pitting Mushroom & Swiss Roethlis-Burger Chili vs. Supermarket Bag Boy Chili.
The two cuisines collide again tomorrow on NBC's "Today" show, where big Burrito's Bill Fuller is to appear with a Phoenix chef, Beau McMillan from Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain (on the fourth-hour segment that starts at 2 p.m. on WPXI). Tricks up Mr. Fuller's white sleeve include black truffle pierogies and Wild Turkey.
Even WQED is getting into the act, airing on its Create Channel a daylong block of cooking programs for tailgaters and Super Bowl partiers -- in six-hour blocks beginning 11 a.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday.
Back here at the PG food sectio n, we've received inquiries about Pittsburgh-style food from publications from New Hampshire to Tennessee to Des Moines. We were charmed by one from Fay and Stan Danielsen:
"We live in Billings, Montana and have hosted a pre-Super Bowl Party for the last few years. We try to serve food that represents the cities in the Super Bowl, and are asking for your help in finding foods that would best represent Pittsburgh.
"The last time Pittsburgh was in the Super Bowl, we served Primanti sandwiches and would like to do something different."
We tried, but unfortunately, Pittsburgh doesn't really have a strong foodway identity of our own. Sure, many of us, especially during the high holy days of a Super Bowl run, embrace the icons of pierogies and kielbasa and, Mancini's bread and "Arn" beer.
Mancini's is one of the local companies -- from Eat n'Park to Mineo's Pizza -- shipping eats out of state to the Pittsburgh diaspora, many of whom will gather at far-flung Steelers bars in their tribal colors to ingest tribal fare.
Pittsburgh Willy's is one of the places feeding displaced Pittsburghers and other Steelers fans (and perhaps this Pittsburgh food myth). Located in an antique mall in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, the gourmet hotdog cart-turned-place (pittsburghwillys.com) is run by Monongahela native Randy Walters, who reports via e-mail that in addition to serving piles of pierogies, he's hawking "fried bologna sammiches and chipped ham sammiches. And Klondike bars." His special Pittsburgh Dog? It's topped with cheese and grilled chipped ham. "My best seller so far has been the Joe Santoni (who was given credit for naming the Steelers in 1933 and my wife's uncle). It is a huge hunk of kielbasa split, grilled and served on a big slice of Italian bread and smothered in seasoned kraut."
Sounds pure Pittsburgh. But in truth, Allegheny County's ethnic heritage is more German, Irish and Italian than Eastern European, and we have a small but interesting pot of new immigrants such as South Indians and Mexicans that it'd be a shame to ignore on what some say has surpassed Thanksgiving to become America's biggest eating day.
A survey by Visa last week said 70 percent of Pittsburghers planned to hold a Super Bowl gathering and spend $171 on it -- just under the national average of $172.
We Pittsburghers probably eat what most people eat while watching the Super Bowl: "junk," as WeightWatchers.com puts it -- some $55 million worth of "pleasure foods" including "approximately 11 million pounds of potato chips, 8 million pounds of tortilla chips and 4,000 tons of popcorn on one single day."
Now that's crunch time!
The Nielson Co.'s annual "Guide to the Super Bowl" report last week noted that "Super Bowl Sunday is the most important snack purchasing day of the entire year, followed by the day before the big game. Snack sales in U.S. food, drug, and mass merchandiser stores ... are expected to reach $595 million during the two weeks surrounding Super Bowl Sunday."
Compared to average sales figures, dip mixes and canned dips enjoyed the biggest surge around the last Super Bowl, up 38 and 24.5 percent respectively.
"And it's not just junk foods that saw their sales jump," the report continues. "Rice cakes enjoyed an 11.3-percent bump in sales in the days surrounding the Super Bowl last year, while Health Bars & Sticks ... saw a 3.1 percent increase."
As we're seeing this week, there's nothing that can't be adapted to the Super Bowl. Millvale's French baker, Jean-Marc Chatellier, is making black-and-gold tarts and other pastries, including a classic religieuse, which is supposed to represent a nun, adapted to represent Steelers fans (jeanmarcchatellier.com/Steelerspastries.htm).
Hey, even Coach Tomlin agrees, you gotta embrace the fun.
I was inspired last week to work up some recipes that would combine Pittsburgh food with that of Arizona, which I also know and love. After all, the two teams do have a lot in common. You can try my "Pittsburgh West" recipes, Pierogies in Green Chili Butter and Casey-dillas, right. Or make up your own. (I haven't yet tested my Monongarita: A shot of tequila and an Iron.)
Or just try some of the many recipes from Steelers fans around the country who shared some of what they're going to be eating Sunday while the Steelers feast on red poultry.
Bob Batz Jr. can be reached at email@example.com and 412-263-1930.
First Published January 29, 2009 12:00 am