It’s the best time of the year for a football fan.
The national collegiate football championship was decided Monday night, and this coming weekend, eight remaining teams will take part in the National Football League’s Divisional Playoffs, each just two wins away from a Super Bowl berth.
Even if you’re not a football fan, it will be tough to avoid the gridiron match-ups, with two games scheduled on Saturday and two on Sunday.
One way to get a little more enjoyment out of your hours in front of the TV set is to pick a team, enjoy some food that’s associated with that team’s hometown, and wash it down with a complementary glass of wine.
Mixing our sports metaphors and melding football with baseball, we’re going to “root, root, root for the home team,” and focus on the four host cities for this weekend’s games: Green Bay, Buffalo, Kansas City and New Orleans.
Here’s a look at the signature dishes of those cities, along with a few wines to accompany them…
Saturday, January 16 at 1:35 p.m. Eastern
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field is famous for its Brats, and if the game were being played a day earlier, one might stop off at one of Wisconsin’s famous Friday Fish Fries. But for a cold day in Green Bay, nothing beats fried cheese curds.
Cheese curds are made from the curds (i.e., the milk solids) of the cheese, typically cheddar, which are deep fried.
The frying makes them a wonderful companion to sparking wine such as Prosecco, and they also pair nicely with a slightly chilled Chardonnay. They also work really well with an off-dry Riesling.
Saturday, January 16 at 5:15 p.m. Eastern
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills
Yes, Buffalo is known for its wings. But the kind that many people like — slathered in hot sauce — can be challenging to pair with wine.
So we’d suggest another Buffalo staple: a beef on weck sandwich.
The beef on weck utilizes a kummelweck roll that’s topped with caraway seeds and kosher salt. It’s stuffed with thinly sliced rare beef, and each bite is dipped in au jus.
Many people also spread horseradish on the sandwich, but we’d advise against it because of the wine pairing challenges it creates. Instead, enjoy the beef, bun and au jus, and serve it with a good Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Sunday, January 17 at 12:05 p.m.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City is all about barbecue, and it’s a more “inclusive” style of barbecue that embraces turkey, lamb and sausage in addition to pork and beef.
But locals know what “real” Kansas City barbecue is all about: burnt ends. Cut from the point of a smoked beef brisket, they’re fatty, crusty and flavorful.
Burnt ends still pick up flavor from the signature tomato-based sauce, so opt for a medium-bodied red wine. Think: a fruity California Zinfandel, an Italian Chianti, or a smooth red blend.
Sunday, January 17 at 1:40 p.m.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Not that there will be that many people inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but when fans are allowed, they’re known to nosh on Shrimp Po’ Boys.
Here’s how these tasty sandwiches are made: Start with a French baguette, scoop in plenty of crispy Cajun fried shrimp, and top it with creamy remoulade sauce.
With all that flavor going on, the accompanying wine cannot be wimpy. Opt for an off-dry German Riesling or a well-chilled Sauvignon Blanc.
Should any of this weekend’s visiting teams win, we’ll share some wine-and-food pairing suggestions for their hometowns next week. Meanwhile, enjoy the games… and the wine!