Yes, you read that correctly, hosting a Super Bowl Party is a “Fine Art”. Not only do I have it down to an art, I have it down to a science (what exactly that means, I don’t know). I’ve been hosting a Superbowl party for as long as I remember, or at least ever since the lady allowed me to. And yes, I am keeping score, 1996 was the first “full blown” party. Back then, the penchant wasn’t yet for Samuel Adams (couldn’t afford it), it was for anything that came out of a hose connected to a big silver barrel. Aah, the kegger. Is there a better justification to having a keg at your own house/apartment than to invite a pack of wild passionate football fans over to watch the big game? I think not!
That’s really how it began, simply as an excuse to buy a keg (well, that and to not have to drive home after the game!). Over the years, it has evolved into what is now a yearly event that a group of my friends look forward to attending, so much so that they get angry when I send them an “invitation” to attend. I always feel like something needs to be sent out, and yet the responses I get back are mostly like this: “Yo, don’t scare me like that. I only want to get a message from you if you are NOT having the party, otherwise, I will be at your house on every Super Bowl Sunday no matter what!”
The best part about the party being a regular event attended by the usual “Core” group and others, is that now I’ve got it so that the work involved in being the host is very minimal. This is extremely important. I break down the party evolution into three key “eras”: The Kegger Era, The Pot Luck Era, and the current, I Do Food, Please Bring Beer Era.
The Kegger Era
As mentioned, the early years were all about the keg. As an added bonus(?), liquor stores in Massachusetts were closed on Sundays…but not to worry, that just meant getting the keg and setting it up on Saturday. Which of course meant, gotta try it out to make sure it works. I’m sure everyone is following me on that one, yea, really took some arm twisting, heh-heh. There were always a few hearty souls that would join me on Saturday afternoon/evening to give it a test drive. Good times, good times. The problem here is the ice factor. You gotta keep that baby cold, yet you probably can’t put it outside for it to get too cold…ever tried squeezing anything out of a frozen keg? Not good times, bad times, very bad times.
In any case, aside of buying a ton of ice, a good sized stack of plastic cups…and having some ratty old towels available for the inevitable mess, that was the only preparation that was needed. Maybe a few paper towels for the eating process, but that’s it. We always skimped and created “plates” out of the top of the pizza box by ripping it into pieces. Simple times, yet not quite enjoyable. The whole passing of the hat thing was a little awkward, and you always get the one person that doesn’t want meat on their pizza so you end up with a half eaten veggie pie at the end of the night.
This era lasted a couple of years. It wasn’t so much that kegs went out of style, but the deposits became insanely high, and we were beginning to enjoy the taste of good beer….and at the time, there was no way to afford a keg of good beer (we won’t get into what happened when we tried to bring back the “Kegger Era” into the “Pot Luck Era”, right Steve?). This led to the…..
The Pot Luck Era
The driving force behind this was since we weren’t having a collection for beer and pizza, why don’t we let everyone bring what they like to eat and drink. This is especially helpful for those in the group that have kids. Not only that, you just know that any beer that is brought to the party and not consumed becomes part of your domain to be consumed at your leisure in the coming months – a nice pay back for being the host, ha!
This too was a good era. A great improvement on the Kegger Era since there was now a wide variety of food and beverage to choose from. Somehow, it always worked out, too, hardly ever did any two people bring the same item. There were main courses, appetizers, desserts – and the person that had no time (or skill?) to make something would stop on the way to pick up a couple bags of chips or a nice calzone. And as host, I would grill up some burgers and hot dogs and sausages (from Federal Hill Sausage, of course).
Yet there was still something missing. There was always the “scramble for my plate” game that took place whenever someone would go home after the game. Plus, there was always WAY too much food leftover at the end, food that no one wanted to bring home with them. Beer left over is ok, food, not so much. Something just wasn’t quite right, maybe it was that people weren’t too interested in putting something together to bring. This led to…
I Do Food, Please Bring Beer Era
Believe it or not, this is a great era – both for me as the host and the guests. I’ve got the menu pared down to exactly what the people want, and it’s all very easy to prepare…all I ask is that people bring what they want to consume for a beverage and if they feel obliged, perhaps a bag of chips or something that will not be on that year’s menu.
And speaking of the menu, let’s get into that in a little more detail. If you keep the menu simple, then it can probably be purchased from your local warehouse supplier (ie. Sam’s Club, BJ’s, Costco, etc). In year’s past, this has simply meant meatballs and boneless buffalo wings. That’s it. Grab some paper plates, paper towels, plastic utensils, plastic cups for mixed drinks (gotta have Randall Raiders – Southern Comfort and Ginger Ale), a couple disposable pans, Blue Cheese, Provolone Cheese, Spaghetti Sauce, a few small rolls and ice and that’s it. Should run you around $50 – $75, which is CERTAINLY what you’d pay if you went out to a bar to watch the game.
If you are going to do the meatballs, I recommend a crock pot. Yes, I know that is not manly, but I’ve done the “pot on the stove on low” thing with the meatballs and it works out ok. The problem is, if you have it on too high, or for too long, or forget that it’s on…then you’ve got a seriously burnt pot on your hands that you may never get clean. Do yourself a favor, next Christmas, when your parents or sister ask what you want for a gift (even though you’ve been trying to get a Yankee Swap going for years), tell them you want a crock pot. That’s what I did a couple of years ago, I mean, I don’t want to be caught in a store buying one, ya know?
In any case, now that I’m a few years into this era, the menu has evolved slightly. Instead of meatballs, I’ll be picking up one of those spiral hams. A little more pricey than a cheap bag of frozen meatballs, but as I’m sure you would agree, well worth it. While there’s nothing wrong with a nice meatball sangie, inevitably, one of them ends up on the floor leaving an unsightly red blotch. Ham leaves no such mark, and can just as easily be made into a sandwich. The only additional item needed for ham is brown mustard, which is offset by not needing parmasean cheese.
Any gathering at my house needs to include Federal Hill Sausage, and this one will be no different. Since most people at a Super Bowl party instead of having one big sandwhich, like to “pick”, I’ll be grilling up the sausies then cutting them up into chunks and putting them into the crockpot. Mixed, of course, with peppers and onion. Nice way to keep them warm without having to worry about drying them out (er, burning them to those of you in the sausage business like I am).
In the oven, I’ll set up a couple of pans (disposable pans) with the boneless buffalo wings and cook those up for about a half an hour before you want them. Note: if you play your cards right, you’ve purchased the pre-cooked boneless wings, this way you don’t have to check the temperature to see if they are done – an idiot’s guide to cooking – you can’t screw them up. That’s it. Leave out a couple of large bowls (or even disposable pans) for the chips that will arrive, set up a couple coolers with ice for the beverages that are going to arrive, and have the bread and cheese ready for action and you are in business.
The key part in all of this is that aside of the crockpot (which hopefully is dishwasher safe) and a couple of bowls, everything else you use is disposable – plates, utensils, everything (I even go so far as to pick up a couple cases of soda instead of having to fumble around with plastic cups). That way, when the party’s over, you just go around the room with a big garbage bag and it’s all done. Now mind you, I always have the montra “anything brought is appreciated”, but this way of doing things keeps it simple, and gives the masses what they want. Hopefully they will all bring a different kind of beer so you can mix and match, and enough will be brought so that there is plenty leftover.
It’s as easy as that. There are many variations on the basic theme listed above, especially since your guests may have different tastes/needs. The burgers and dogs haven’t worked out that well for my gatherings (Pot Luck Era), more so because cooking them up took so much time (and had a lengthy cleanup, even if using the grill outside). I don’t want to be slaving away doing anything at my own party, if it doesn’t cook itself either in the oven or in a crockpot, forget about it, not for me. Gotta be able to enjoy your own party while at the same time limiting the clean up effort that could potentially fall to your spouse if you end up consuming a little too much.
Lastly, if you can work a theme of the game into the party, even better. There was the year that our local heroes (Patriots) had an unbelievable run that brought them to New Orleans (1997, I think). We chipped in a bought the ingredients and cooked up some jambalaya – which came out great! Any suggestions out there as to a food “native” to Houston? Some great BBQ maybe? Drop me a line…
That’s the food angle, I’ll go thru the set up and watching areas in my next installment.