It’s been said a TV’s flickering glow triggers our primordial brains — deep, distant memories of gathering the clan around a fire, of safety in numbers, of war tales told and battles re-lived. Times change, but our paleo nature remains. The mead hall’s now a man cave, the throne a couch, the battle now a big-screen game — but what is football, really, but an excercise in brotherly bonding? And that means a proper feast. This game day, when your tribe assembles, treat them well. Ditch the grab-and-go couch-nosh staples of Doritos and delivery and offer some more warrior-worthy fare. No matter who’s playing, we have you covered with crowd pleasers inspired from the country’s best — or at least most flavorful — teams.
The Classic // Owl’s Brew // New York, NY
(Dish Origin: Alabama Crimson Tide)
On the field, Bama’s crimson tide is a crushing tsunami; in the glass those waters run sweeter.
We’re talking summertime sweet tea. The weather outside might be frightful, but click-clacking ice cubes and spinning suns of sliced lemon will soothe even the bitterest chill — or defeat. And it couldn’t be easier to whip up a pitcher: icy vodka, a bottle of lemonade, and a healthy pour of Owl’s Brew. New York–mixed but classically southern, Owl’s is the first tea made specifically for cocktails. Their Classic is a traditional English black with a hint of citrus, sweetened with all-natural agave. Add sliced lemons and tons of ice, then drain — just not on the coach.
Mike’s Hot Honey // Mike’s Hot Honey // New York, NY
(Dish Origin: New York Jets)
If some tailgate traditions must remain unchanged — and when pressed, we’d preserve the stack of steaming delivery pies on the coffee table — at least give them a twist; as in sports, even dynasties evolve. And so, (once you towel off a bit of the grease), skip the tabasco, toss out the stale oregano flakes and tooth-sticking red pepper shrapnel, and drizzle that floppy New-York-style slice with this. You’ve had honey on your brie, and this is a similar idea — sweet and savory — but think of it as the R-rated director’s cut, with an extra spicy, herbaceous, kick.
Dry Cured Chorizo // Aurelia’s Chorizo // Boerne, TX
(Dish Origin: Houston Texans)
Chips and dip is the commercial of the Superbowl spread: the extra that outshines the star, the side dish that trumps the entree. When done right, at least. How? Instead of studding your cheese dip with dried out bacon bits, try this: Full-cut pork shoulder (no fillers), aged a full month with freshly mashed garlic and fine, smoked paprika. Fry some slices with a few cloves of garlic, then stir into a couple cups of shredded cheese — a mix is best, like spicy Jack with a creamy mozz or Oaxacan. For some bonus special effects, pour the dip in a cast iron skillet and pop under the broiler for a smoky char.
Smoky Black Bean Dip // La Esquina // New York, NY
(Dish Origin: Pheonix, AZ)
Nothing says southwest like smoky black beans, but nothing says smoky black beans like a particular Lower Manhattan taqueria, the once-secret, now cult-hit La Esquina. Literally, “the corner” — and indeed, a hole in the wall on a tiny, triangular SoHo intersection — the best part of this spot isn’t the tacos (though they’re incongruously *riquísima* given its gringo digs), but their sides: grilled corn, plantains, and especially these beans, a little smoky with a slight serrano edge, which you could order by the cup, topped with crema fresca. Now, their *casa* becomes yours — from Mexico via the Big Apple, but for all your guests know, *abuela’s* secret recipe.
Sweat Heat Pecans // Molly & Me Pecans // Holy Hill, SC
(Dish Origin: Atlanta Falcons)
Another sports-night staple we can’t live without is the humbly habit-forming beer nut. A cinch to serve and impossible to resist — your coffee table’s downright naked without a heaping bowl. In the grand tradition of southern cooking, wherein sugar and spice make everything nicer, these pecans, plucked from a 150-acre farm outside of Charleston, get a dusting of crunchy cinnamon sugar with an afterburner boost of chile pepper heat. No need to fear — the flavor’s balanced and subtle — just keep the beer glass close at hand.
Pork Clouds // Bacon’s Heir // Atlanta, GA
Dish Origin: San Diego Chargers (Chicharrón)
You say your beloved underdogs will win when pigs fly? Get ready for liftoff. These are the fluffiest, crunchiest *chicarrones* we’ve ever seen — the porky puffs practically float on air. The Georgian maker’s method is a Wonka-like secret, but involves kettle-cooking hand-seasoned salt-cured pig skin in good-for-you virgin olive oil — no goopy, deep-fat fryers here. So even if your team stays grounded, you can gorge away your suffering guilt-free. There’s always next game.