If an eight-legged cephalopod is allowed to predict who wins the World Cup (RIP Paul), then dammit, I’m going to stake my bets on the Super Bowl based on a few nuggets of food knowledge. I’m pitting some tough contenders head-to-head in the Baltimore vs. San Francisco arena, in the Bowl of Super Food Cities. Let’s see what’s being served up:
1. Berger Cookies (Baltimore) vs. The It’s-It (San Francisco)
A Berger Cookie sounds like something Jewish people eat during Passover Seder. Like the bastard child of charoset and matzoh balls. On the other hand, It’s-It sounds like a replacement for whatchamacallit or thingymajigger. It’s potentially a teatime biscuit Mary Poppins pulls from her bottomless purse.
Despite the odd naming of these sweet snacks, both the Berger Cookie and the It’s-It are highly respected in their hometowns. The Berger cookie is essentially a vanilla wafer coated with a mountain’s worth–neigh, Mt. Helena’s worth–of chocolate frosting-type mass-produced ganache. The It’s-It is the West Coast’s way of representin’. Two soft old-fashioned oatmeal cookies sandwiching a thick slab of rock-hard ice cream then dipped in a thin shell of dark chocolate. Naughty.
Verdict: It’s-It wins, for the name, one, and also because ice cream is involved.
Chips, always the #1 star at a party. A vessel for onion dip, a base for nachos, a vehicle to shovel store-bought hummus into our mouths. You gotta have chips for the Super Bowl.
The Utz chip is a classic potato chip, versus Popchips, its new-age “healthy” cousin. This is like comparing an old guy named Bernard who wears his pajamas out to dinner with a celebrity baby named Mahogany Spruce Maple who wears Prada booties.
Verdict: Utz. Duh. Those crazy yuppies who invented Popchips are pure genius, but if you’ve got a hearty club sandwich, you’re reaching for thin, greasy potato chips, not a 100-calorie pack of awkwardly-sized popcorn wafers.
3. Lake trout and white bread (Baltimore) vs. Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl (San Francisco)
Lake trout is truly a food phenomena. Horribly deep fried, with bones still intact, the fish is neither a trout nor from a lake. To eat, it’s sandwiched between two pieces of spongy white bread. It’s the kind of dish that makes you think hard about what Baltimore residents have been through.
But I’m going to put it out there: lake trout is the type of thing that hipsters are going to be all over in 2014. Kind of like BBQ was in 2008, and Korean tacos were in 2010. Fried lake trout is coming to a food truck near you. Trout Truck, you heard it here first.
Verdict: Lake trout, because let’s be honest, I didn’t write a single thing about clam chowder in this paragraph. This is a big win, because SF sourdough bread ain’t something to be brushed aside.
4. Stillwater Artisanal Ales (Baltimore) vs. Anchor Brewing Company (San Francisco)
San Francisco and Baltimore both have areas of town known for littered streets, old crack dens, and abandoned warehouse buildings–the perfect storm for burgeoning brewing scenes. Anchor leans more towards pale ales, hoppy and bitter and bold. Stillwater styles are predominately saison varieties infused with a myriad of techniques and styles, more bright and citrusy and round. You’ve got the fairly classic, reserved look and names of the Anchor beers versus the increasingly rogue, punk-kid mentality of Stillwater Ales.
Verdict: Stillwater’s got a slight edge on this one. Not only am I a sucker for saison, but the brewmaster’s gypsy brewing techniques have got us food-types all hot and bothered. Like having a huge thing for the guy who doesn’t want to settle down.
We might as well call this the Battle of the Bays. Chesapeake vs. San Francisco. Atlantic vs. Pacific. East vs. West. Crab cakes vs. cioppino. Bring out the crabs! Atlantic crabs, served by the bushel or barrel, have softer shells, a daintier yet more flavorful meat, and they’re often doused with Old Bay so when you eat them by the dozen your lips tingle with salty numbness. Thrilling. Pacific crabs round up the other end, their shells hard and gnarly and requiring of a warmup routine in order to crack open. They’re often steamed, one or two per dish, and often prepared with some sort of Asian flair. Peppercorns, ginger, garlic, curry, you get the gist. Lots of big spices and herbs that coat the hard outer shell. And maybe a tub of melted butter on the side.
Verdict: This one’s pretty tough, but I give my nod to the Pacific crab. It might be hard to crack into, but once you get through the thorny outer shell you get a full mouthful worth of meatiness (that’s what she said!) that will likely put your heart doctor in a state of panic. Just what I like.
Despite San Francisco’s crab victory, we’re at a 3-2 win in favor of Baltimore. You heard it here first. Full disclosure: This author is a Bay Area native, who plans to name her firstborn son after her team’s all-time greatest wide receiver. Jerry Rice Bryson has got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? So even though the food says Baltimore, she’s still rootin’ for SF.
Jessie came to DC via China via New York via Los Angeles, and admittedly with a bit of a chip on her shoulder. “What’s so good about DC?” thought the politics-ignorant, anti-monogram-wearing, cupcake-hating, self-proclaimed hostess extraordinaire and California native. The answer, she found, is everything. Between balancing a burgeoning writing career and slingin’ cheese at Union Market, she is happily exploring what the District has to offer–mainly in the form of Manhattans and variations of bacon/sushi/sandwiches.