While the Atlanta Falcons are getting ready to take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51 on Feb. 5, 2017, many individuals and households across the country are preparing for the second largest day of food consumption in the U.S. (behind only Thanksgiving), which is now less than two weeks away.
Americans, whether they will be hosting themselves or going to a party on Super Bowl Sunday, will be making preparations and stocking up in the coming days on some staples of the game day experience that remain popular year in and year out.
Grand as the stage is for the NFL on Super Bowl Sunday, it is an equally big day for pizza restaurants across the county. In 2015, Pizza Hut broke a record for digital sales by halftime of the big game, with Newton Pizza Hut District Manager Don Tibbits attesting to it as one of the busiest days of the year.
Data from a Nielsen survey showed that pizza was in fact the number one food choice in the country (with 46 percent of the vote) on Super Bowl Sunday in 2015, leading salty snacks and dips. The reasoning behind that is quite simple in Tibbits' eyes.
"People can sit at home and watch the game and not have to get off their couch," Tibbits said. "They can call for delivery. I think delivery is why it's so popular. They don't have to stop and cook."
In preparation for the big day, Tibbits noted Pizza Hut always has extra staff on hand and allows for extra prep time, noting that the restaurant usually sees the highest volume of orders immediately before and after the opening kickoff. Additionally, Pizza Hut also deals in another game day favorite, as Tibbits noted buffalo wing sales spike significantly on Super Bowl Sunday (more than one billion wings were projected to be consumed in 2016 by the National Chicken Council) as well.
Chips and dip
Right behind pizza in the most recent Nielsen survey, these party favorites' place in the pantheon of Super Bowl foods is no surprise to Vicki Stobbe, owner of Kitchen Corner.
"It's a partying day and people just love to grab and go, or grab and eat," Stobbe said. "People love dips and people love to eat. A chip and a dip, hey, it works."
Kitchen Corner has numerous offerings when it comes to dip mixes, with Stobbe noting most can be made with the addition of sour cream or cream cheese.
Additionally, Stobbe noted the staff is willing to help customers with whatever their game day needs may be, whether in finding the right dip or providing them with some recipes. While she recommends giving the dips a couple hours to refrigerate (in order to enhance the flavor), she believes the relative simplicity is part of what makes the food so popular.
"You can whip a dip up in, probably, two minutes," Stobbe said. "Everything we sell in here is easy. Anybody can make it."
On its own, beer is a facet of the big game as well, with 50 million cases sold nationwide (according to Nielsen data) in the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday. Pairing it with some of the traditional food, though, is something Anderson Retail Liquor assistant manger Jeff Schmidt said can enhance the game day experience.
Using pizza as an example, Schmidt noted pairing it with a lighter beer (with bubbles) will make the flavor more interesting for a longer period of time.
"It's going to keep refreshing your palate while you're having your pizza," Schmidt said.
Schmidt, who has handled pairing responsibilities for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters fundraising banquet the past two years, noted many of the same rules as pairing wine with food apply to pairing beer. Contrasting or complementary beers can be used (depending on how you want the flavor enhanced) and he suggested, like with wines, starting with lighter beers and progressing to heavier varieties with each course.
For example, Schmidt noted that pairing beer with wings can have multiple flavor enhancements. If you want to bring out the spiciness of the wings, he recommended pairing them with a pale ale or IPA. To enhance the sweetness of the wing sauce, he suggested a brown ale or wheat beer.
Along with not overthinking the pairings, Schimdt admitted having enough food on Super Bowl Sunday is also key, especially as many guests will likely be driving home afterwards. Filling up on food will encourage less drinking (and less intoxication), and given the day's ties to food consumption it also makes sense.
"With the Super Bowl, people are going to be gathering without too much other purpose except to watch the game," Schmidt said. "Because people are gathering, there's always going to be, or should be, some food involved."
Looking for a quick addition to your game day lineup? Try out the recipe listed below, provided by Stobbe and Kitchen Corner.
Hot Pepper Jelly Cheeseball
About one-half jar Hot Pepper Peach Jelly (or to taste)
2 eight ounce cream cheese blocks
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
Finely shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Chopped jalapeños (optional)
Mix jelly, cream cheese and onion well. Chill until firm. Roll in Monterey Jack cheese in either a ball or logs—can also be used as a spread by increasing the cream cheese.