With Super Bowl Sunday just around the corner, it's not just regular Joes who are gearing up for a nacho-fueled afternoon of football watching. Bay Area chefs will be doffing their toques to cheer on the Niners with friends and family.
Of course, when it comes to their Super Bowl party snacks, there's a certain reputation to uphold. For Michael Mina, the Michelin-starred chef with restaurants in San Francisco, San Jose, Las Vegas and Baltimore, Super Bowl Sunday is all about cioppino, San Francisco's iconic seafood stew. Casual, do-ahead fare is the menu of choice for Berkeley chef Paul Arenstam and San Francisco's Gaines Dobbins, who will be representing the Bay Area's football teams at New Orleans' Taste of the NFL party, a National Football League fundraiser for local food banks.
But what all three approaches have in common is an emphasis on do-ahead fare.
Iconic San Francisco
No die-hard football fan wants to spend game time in the kitchen, Mina points out. So every element of his Super Bowl party menu is a well-prepped play on the seafood and sourdough bread of Fisherman's Wharf.
An orange and red pepper rouille makes a zesty dip for crudite and the base for addictive Dungeness crab toasts to accompany the cioppino and wine-steamed mussels and clams.
Everything can be made ahead and set out for guests to help themselves during the game, filling their bowls with seafood and hot,
Casual comfort food
A successful party is all about the prep work, says Arenstam, the chef at Berkeley's Summer Kitchen+Bake Shop, who has been involved with Taste of the NFL for the last 18 years. Arenstam will be in New Orleans, serving up Moroccan bites -- grilled chicken tagine with Meyer lemon -- at the philanthropic event. But, he says, there's no better tailgate party food than Summer Kitchen's signature buttermilk fried chicken and oregano-laced meatballs, made of grass-fed beef and Grana Padano cheese.
Those meatballs, he says, would be perfect at anyone's Super Bowl party. They're easy to make in quantity, terrific over pasta with a hearty marinara, and they make great grab-and-go hors d'ouevres too.
Just keep your menu doable, says Dobbins, the Mississippi-born chef behind Eureka, a Southern restaurant in San Francisco's Castro district. At last year's Taste of the NFL, he grilled 250 pounds of coulotte steak for the event. Don't do that, he says, with a laugh.
"I had tendinitis for literally six weeks after," he says.
Instead go for what delights your guests and keeps you sane. Deviled eggs are one of the most beloved items at the Eureka, "swear to god," says Dobbins, shaking his head in wonder.
So make the eggs, he says. Do pimento cheese -- serve it cold as a spread or make "the best grilled cheese in the world." Marry Southern barbecue with a Texi-Cali classic and make pulled pork nachos.
And above all, cheer for the Niners.
Taste of the NFL
For the last 22 years, prominent chefs and Hall of Famers have paired up for the Taste of the NFL, a National Football League food and wine event that has raised $14 million for food banks in NFL cities. This year's party will be held in New Orleans on Feb. 2, but many of the chefs involved come back year after year, or host additional fundraisers for the cause.
"Cooks like to feed people. It's a natural extension of what we do, and we raised $10,000 for the food bank here in San Francisco last year," says Gaines Dobbes from San Francisco's Eureka restaurant. "I had as much fun as you can have doing this."
For more information on Taste of the NFL and its chef-player partnerships, or to donate to the cause, go to www.tasteofthenfl.com.