Regional Pairings for Super Sunday

I’m guessing you’re probably aware that there’s a football game on TV this Sunday. It’s basically an excuse for companies to spend $3.8 million on 30 seconds of commercial airtime, and that dollar figure does not include the amount spent on producing the commercials.

Apparently, they’re expecting a lot of people to watch this game.

According to this report, two of the highlights figure to be a Best Buy commercial starring Amy Poehler, and a Mercedes-Benz spot with Kate Upton. A man wrote the story, so draw your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, in-between the commercials, a bunch of guys from San Francisco will be knocking helmets (but not intentionally, and not too hard) with a bunch of guys from Baltimore. They’ll be doing this inside a very big building in New Orleans, Louisiana, called the Superdome.

Actually, it’s called the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but I’m not sure whether Kate Upton has anything to do with that.

The cities involved in this commercial-fest… uh, game… got me thinking about wine. (As you’ve probably noticed, just about anything has the potential to do that!) If I were in any of those cities—San Francisco, Baltimore or New Orleans—I’d want to watch the telecast with some of the local cuisine and, of course, a good glass of wine.

So, if I were in San Francisco, I’d probably opt for chop suey—a very Chinese-sounding dish that did not originate in China, but rather in the City by the Bay.

As the story goes, a man had come to San Francisco from China around 1860, and got a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant. As part of his remuneration, he was allowed to eat leftovers at the end of the day. A former cook, he’d take the various vegetables and pieces of meat, chop them up, add his own sauce concoction… and called it chop suey.

Once passersby smelled the dish, they insisted that it be added to the restaurant’s menu. It wasn’t long before Chinese restaurants all over the city were serving their own renditions. Rice goes great with it, but chop suey is the real San Francisco treat.

Because there are vegetables involved and so many sauce variations, it’s impossible to pinpoint a single wine that would match well with all styles of chop suey. That said, I’d opt for a white over a red, and it’s probably best to simply pick out a white wine that you like—one with no noticeable oak flavor—and then chill it down. In this way, it will function more as a “refreshment” than a pairing partner, but you’ll still be able to have a nice glass of vino with the meal.

Now, if I were in Baltimore, the pairing problem would not be nearly as daunting because the dish on which I’d be noshing is much more wine-friendly.

That dish? Crab cakes—those succulent lumps of Maryland crabmeat, lightly seasoned and breaded, and cooked to a perfectly even brown all around.

Some chefs will add more assertive seasonings to widen the flavor spectrum, but if you really want to experience the flavor of the crabmeat, no seasoning is necessary. Less seasoning also makes wine pairing a much simpler proposition.

Our No. 1 choice: Sauvignon Blanc. Our No. 2 choice: a dry sparkling wine, such as a Blanc de Blanc. Hey, you’re going to need something bubbly in the house to toast your team’s victory, right?

Okay, we have San Francisco and Baltimore covered, but what if I were in New Orleans? What would be a truly “local” dish to prepare on game day in that city?

There is only one answer: alligator!

New Orleans restaurants typically use tail meat, cut it into small cubes, and then dip the cubes in the same batter they use for their fried seafood. Yes, it’s true that alligator tastes a lot like chicken, only chewier.

As with San Francisco chop suey and Baltimore crab cakes, the flavor of alligator can vary widely based on the spices and sauces used. In New Orleans, a dash of Cajun seasoning is typically added to fried alligator. So, with fried food and some seasoning in the equation, I’d for with a high-acid white wine, such as dry versions of Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc.

If the Cajun kick is more pronounced, opt for a dry rosé-style wine, and chill it before serving.

Me? I’ll be watching the commercials (and the game) in Chicago, so I’ll probably order a pizza and open a bottle of Zinfandel.

And from what I’ve heard about the Kate Hudson commercial, I’ll probably be wishing I owned a Mercedes-Benz.

Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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