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Chili, pulled pork and beer essential for Super Bowl party

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Keep it relaxed, with plenty of sides and desserts

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 2:27 pm

Q. What could I serve at a Super Bowl party?

A. Next Sunday is the Super Bowl. I only know this because we were invited to a Super Bowl party. I grew up in a household with the television blaring to every game played all weekend and lots of yelling, hoopla and such. I idolized my older brother, who played football in high school, college, and now is a coach. By golly, I even dated a football player or two in the days of yore. Some of this should have turned me into a raving fan, but I would rather watch “Downton Abbey” on Sunday night. But if you mention a party, I'm there.

If I were throwing a Super Bowl party, I would make it very casual, as most of them are. I tend to entertain pretty formally, so I would have to check that side of my brain. Yes I would even use paper napkins! I would just use easy-to-carry bowls, plates, and also have small bowls for those who might want to have petite portions of many things. You can get those cool tasting sets at Pier 1 that come in lots of little sizes and shapes. I bought two sets and I use them all the time for all kinds of things. Remember to vary the heights of your food on your serving table. This can be done in the dessert section by using cake stands and platters with feet. Pull out your baskets, Ball jars, tin ware, crockery — all the fun things you use in summer are perfect for this event, too.

How to decorate for a party that is centered around food and the TV? First, I would have big balloons floating in the foyer in the colors of the two teams playing. They would have long streamers attached, so when we moved through, they would jiggle around. Each dog would have a bandana of the different team. (Good thing we only have two dogs.) It is important to put the food where everyone can dish up and get right back to that TV. So if you watch it in the basement, be sure to set up a table big enough to hold everything and bring down a trash can or two. Crock pots, warming trays, and coolers are your helpers this night, for sure.

My ideal Super Bowl menu:

•Chili

•White bean and chicken chili

•South Carolina pulled pork

• Little warm buns

•Meatballs

•Pigs in a blanket — don't judge me.

•Cheese board and baguettes

•Crudités platter with hummus and another dip

•Baked beans

•Giant salad

•Potato chips and dip!

•Uber cookies

•Pecan bars

•Old-fashioned chocolate cake

•Tarte au pommes — nice to add an elegant touch to all this fun

Or

•Individual apple pies

In iced tubs:

•Sodas — preferably in glass bottles if you can find them. Cute and no glasses to wash. All glass is recyclable

•Beer — regular and some designer beers

•Wine

•Pitchers of water

I try not to use bottled water. Seems like a silly expense in a country with clean water right in our kitchens.

I would love to hear your ideas of super bowl parties you threw or attended.

Q. What makes up a good cheese board?

A. “How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?” —Charles DeGaulle

There are experts everywhere on everything, and frankly, they can be a bit tiring. I am not an expert on cheese, but I know a few “rules” and I know what I like. It is nice to pick a marble or wood platter to showcase your cheese. Slate is also very cool because you can write the name of each cheese under them. The idea here is to have something substantial yet plain enough to showcase the cheese.

How to choose between the gazillions —and counting — of flavors out there? There are a couple ways to present your cheese. One way is to pick a country and have several cheeses only from that country. Another way is to have a cheese or two from each animal — goat cheese, cow cheese, and sheep cheese. You could even have a true buffalo mozzarella. I am a big fan of sheep cheese, and since goat and sheep cheese tend to be the soft variety, be sure to have a hard cheese from the cow. A second way to is have a variety that you truly love and want to share with your friends. Be sure to have hard cheese as well as soft and sharp as well as mild. It is also great to incorporate a blue cheese. There are so many and you are a grown up now, so quit turning your nose up and try blue cheese.

Cheese is expensive, so knowing how much to serve is important. A general rule of thumb is approximately 2 ounces per person per cheese. Don't have too many, just three to five cheeses are enough. When you're at the market ask for samples of each cheese before you buy it. They should happily let you sample. You may fall in love with something new right there! Please serve them at room temperature. Even though you knew that, I felt I had to reiterate it, as it is my job to nag you. If you do not have a butler to carry the platter after dinner and present it to each diner, please label your cheese so your guests know what they are eating. You can get cute labels that you use markers to write on. You can buy stamped metal labels with names on them, and while cute, they are so limiting. You could carefully pull the label off the cheese and lay it beside each one; I find that kind of messy. Using place cards would work, or popsicle sticks painted with the names of the cheese. Just do something that fits the style of your evening and your platter. Lastly, you need something to act as a palate cleanser beside, or if room permits, on your platter. Fruit, nuts and olives are perfect.

Here is a little story. Last year when I was in Paris, I ordered le cheeseburger, a very unusual dish for the French. The waiter asked what kind of fromage I would like on it and without thinking, I said cheddar. He gasped and looked at me like I had requested dead rats on my burger. Right away, I changed to a French cheese, excusing my stupidity. Guess what I just read? The French are now developing a cheddar. I was just a little ahead of my time that night.

Laura Wilson, owner of La Dolce Vita in Roanoke, is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef. She answers questions in The N-S every other Tuesday. Have a question for Laura? Submit it to clarson@news-sentinel.com or call 461-8284. We'll pass on questions to Laura. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.