Guide to Super Bowl Hosting Essentials
As you probably know, there's a football game this weekend. You may or may not have feelings about who is or is not the best (or classiest) corner in the league, who can or can't win games in cold weather, and whose pseudo-Jheri curl does or doesn't make him look like Dave Chappelle as Prince. But however you feel about those controversial and important issues, one thing is certain - you're going to want to maximize your intake of quality food and drink on Sunday afternoon while Seattle and Denver duke it out.
You could go to a bar, sure, and there are plenty of fabulous places to watch the big game. But for our money, the best way to celebrate football, America, freedom, beef, beer and our God-given right to wear tight pants is at home. To help you get the absolute most out of your Super Bowl Sunday, we've assembled this guide to the three essentials of Super Bowl hosting: meat, dips and beer.
Vallarta's ranchera preparada on the grill
These days our first choice for meat to grill is almost always carne asada, and so far we have yet to find a place whose marinade can match the quality of Vallarta Supermarket's. Yes, it's a giant supermarket chain, and yes, we'd rather support a local carniceria, but extensive research has yet to yield a competitor who can legitimately challenge Vallarta. The flavor is just amazing, bright, citrusy and unique, and it's sliced so thin that grilling is effortless and insanely fast - the better to get you away from the flame and back to the game as quickly as possible. Go for the ranchera preparada, the meat that's been sitting in the marinade, and if you have the time and the presence of mind, we recommend you buy it on Saturday to let it soak up some extra flavor in your fridge overnight.
If burgers or steaks are more your speed, Burbank's Handy Market might be your dream meat pick-up spot. They have outstanding weekly specials on great quality meat from ground beef or turkey to T-Bone steaks, and on Saturdays they BBQ in the parking lot. They also sell groceries, so you can pick up a portobello mushroom to slather in oil and throw on the grill (disdainfully, disgustedly) for the vegetarians in the crowd, and even a bit of decent beer. Which brings us to the second essential category for Super Bowl Sunday.
With apologies to the straightedge vegan football fans among us, the load bearing pillars of Super Bowl Sunday are meat and beer. If you take care of these two things, your party cannot suck. Your boy Peyton can throw like eight picks, but as long as the meat and the beer are on point, an awesome time is just about guaranteed. To ensure that your beer is top notch, we have one simple word for you: growlers. The L.A. beer scene has grown up in a huge way over the last year or two, so two liters (or more) of fresh, relatively inexpensive local brew is a great way to celebrate.
The Smog City - Monkish one-two punch is an outstanding option, and between Smog City's great takes on English and American styles like their Groundwork Coffee Porter and Hoptonic IPA and Monkish's perfectly balanced, exquisitely herbed and spiced versions of Monastic Belgian beers (notably Floraison and Crux), you're sure to find something to fit every guest's palate.
If you're on the hunt for something a little more extreme, make the short trip Northwest to El Segundo, where El Segundo Brewing just released another spectacular batch of Hop Tanker, their second massively hoppy DIPA. The rest of their lineup is excellent too, primarily their hoppy offerings Two 5 Left, White Dog, and Blue House Citra Pale, each of which would fit nicely into a branded two liter jug in your fridge.
Other spots around the city for growlers include Eagle Rock Brewery, Ladyface in Agoura Hills, the Stone Store in Pasadena, the newly renamed Progress Brewing in El Monte, Pacific Plate in Monrovia, and if you can make it down to Long Beach you can see whether Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, the area's most-lauded brewery, deserves its accolades (spoiler alert: it does).
If you insist on having smaller format beer on hand, we understand that impulse too, and we've got you covered - our new go-to is a recent entry to the L.A. market from San Diego: Modern Times Beer. Their pint-sized cans are beautifully packaged and skillfully brewed, from Blazing World amber IPA to Black House coffee stout, which features coffee they roast themselves. You could also opt for beer from new-in-cans Pizza Port, whose Swami's IPA is a standout at a shockingly low price point, or old favorites like Avery's White Rascal, Trumer Pils, Green Flash Double Stout, or Boulevard's Tank 7 and Dark Truth.
Carne asada taco and chicken vampiro at Mexicali
Now that you've taken care of the pillars of your party, you can move on to the fun stuff - the accompaniments. Frozen jalapeño poppers are a pretty outstanding choice if you don't feel like cruising over to your local Jack in the Box to grab some of theirs, and there's no real reason to mess with chicken wings. The way to go, really, is with some dip.
Dips are participatory, democratic, irresistible, and a good spicy salsa is perhaps the hardest to resist of them all. You could try one of these five outstanding recipes, or you could make a salsa designed by an expert in the field. We asked Esdras Ochoa, one of the owners of Mexicali Taco & Co., winners of LA Taco's Taco Madness in 2011 and 2013, and the Weekly's own Best Carne Asada Taco of 2013, for his deceptively simple recipe.
From: Esdras Ochoa of Mexicali Taco & Co.
Makes: A decent-sized bowl.
8 Roma tomatoes
1 medium/large onion
4-8 Serrano peppers (depending on desired spice level)
1 bunch of cilantro
4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of white vinegar
1. Roast the tomatoes & peppers on an open fire or in a skillet over high heat.
2. Pulse all of the ingredients together in a blender, looking for a chunky consistency.
Get the Squid Ink'd Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly food newsletter, which features top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips and a link to our print review.