Excessive Celebration: Expert Tips for Game-day Entertaining

Last year, the Super Bowl became the most watched show in U.S. television history. A whopping 114.4 million-plus viewers in households across America tuned in. So whether you’re a die-hard sports fan, watch only for the year’s hottest commercials or just like to catch the highly anticipated halftime show, folks love to gather with friends and family to snack and sip their way through Super Bowl Sunday—considered the second-biggest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving. While the usual dips, chips, chili and beer are still quite popular menu items, we challenge you to take your love for dippy treasures and bubbly sips a step further.

As owner of a wine event planning firm, I’ve thrown, attended and have been a part of some of the most inventive Super Bowl parties. But as trends change, recipes become more imaginative and game-day activities expand. So I asked some local experts for their perspective on what makes for a great Super Bowl party experience. Nicole Jennings of Edina is married to Super Bowl champion wide receiver Greg Jennings, and says the year her husband won the championship title with the Green Bay Packers was one of the coolest experiences. Since that monumental victory, the Jennings have started a new Super Bowl party tradition with friends and family—wine tasting. Because they’re not much of a beer-drinking crowd, they hire a wine professional to lead them through a wine tasting experience during the halftime show.

When asked what foods she likes to offer, Jennings lists a whole slew of delicious eats such as grilled steaks and ribs. But it’s a burger bar that is often the Jennings’ signature Super Bowl food event. From eggs, bacon, mushrooms, lettuce, pickles, cheeses and chilies to the couple’s latest obsession, Hawaiian rolls, Jennings says burger bar options are endless.

So while sipping wine and relaxing with her favorite superstar receiver is one of her favorite things to do on Super Bowl Sunday, Jennings admits she also loves to put on fashion pop-ups featuring styles from her company, Posh Mommy. Doing something fun for the ladies like pairing wines with a variety of fashions can make a sporting event more exciting for all the attendees, even those less excited about the game.

Mike Shannon is one of my favorite Twin Cities chefs and my right-hand man when it comes to teaching food and wine classes and conducting in-home culinary events. Because Shannon and I, and our families, have spent quite a few Super Bowl celebrations together, I asked him to share his favorite game-day recipes. Shannon, a Southerner by birth, makes some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. From his zesty Carolina sauces to his smoky Southern sides, nothing beats this culinary pro’s ribs, especially his house specialty—Hawaiian-style pork ribs. The key, Shannon says, is to really let the marinade sit with the ribs overnight before cooking.

Shannon adds that Super Bowl Sunday isn’t complete without the perfect Bloody Mary. A great game-day idea is to create a signature Super Bowl Bloody Mary bar. With accoutrements from anything pickled to smoked sausages, bacon, cheese to seafood, a Bloody Mary smorgasbord can end up being the day’s most popular event. Shannon suggests adding a Vietnamese flair by adding a drop or two of fish sauce, a teaspoon or so (depending on your spice tolerance) of fresh horseradish and Sriracha sauce to the mix. Then top it off with one of Shannon’s bánh mì meatball skewers. He calls this the bánh mì Bloody Mary. Prepare Shannon’s quick pickled veggies recipe for another skewer option on your Bloody Mary bar or just let guests build their own concoctions. Score!

Stop by Jerry’s Foods in Edina for everything you need to create Nicole Jennings’ burger bar and chef Mike Shannon’s Bloody Mary specialty and oven-roasted ribs. Jerry’s is filled with oodles of delicious eats for entertaining, beginning with their cheese department. It’s loaded with artisanal cheeses to cover your burger, including a variety of freshly made local products like Red Clay Gourmet’s pimento cheese dip, Philia Food’s fancy feta spreads and the Lone Grazer’s newest artisanal cheeses. In the deli section, look for Jerry’s Bloody Mary tomato salad, perfect for pairing with your Bloody Mary bar. And the take-home Neapolitan pizzas are a quick and easy snack for your younger football fans.

The bakery section has some of the best sourdough bread this side of the Mississippi. From sourdough bread bowls for chilis and chowders to the tasty Super Bowl-themed cakes and cookies, Jerry’s bakery has your guests covered, with options for gluten-free buns and more.

And in Jerry’s meat department, the crew makes entertaining a snap with a lineup of prepared gourmet burgers, a variety of delicious hand-crafted brats (like their mouth-watering pickled cheddar brat) and local cured turkey sticks to their very own jalapeño tequila wings. Other local brands like Kadejan Farms offer up a tasty line of wingettes and drummies. Need some help with your marinade? Jerry’s offers a number of savory dry rubs and specialty marinades so that you’re not left without something tangy or spicy to dip and cover your main proteins. From a variety of delicious foods to even a few fun Super Bowl centerpieces, Jerry’s has what you need to make planning your game day a success.

So there you have it—hot entertaining and shopping tips to create your own ultimate Super Bowl party.

Hawaiian-Style Pork Ribs
Serves 4-6

  • 1 ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • ½ tsp. chile flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 lbs. baby back ribs
  • 3 scallions, green parts, thinly sliced

Whisk together sugar, soy sauce, oil, chile flakes, garlic and ginger with ¼ cup of water in a large bowl. Add ribs and coat well. Cover bowl with plastic and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place ribs curved side up on a lined sheet pan with a baking rack. Roast for 30 minutes on each side or until tender.

While the ribs are roasting, add marinade to a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce. Use reduced marinade to baste ribs.

Serve with warm basting sauce and garnish with scallions.

Quick Pickled Veggies Recipe

  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 6” piece of daikon radish
  • 4 green onions, cut in 3/4” pieces
  • ½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 jalapeño chile, thinly sliced

Cut carrots and daikon to fit your skewers. Place the white and light-green pieces of the onion with the carrot mixture and reserve the dark-green onion pieces. Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a medium size bowl. Add carrots, daikon and onions and let stand at room temperature for 1-2 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Bánh Mì Bloody Mary

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 2 oz. of your favorite vodka
  • Your favorite Bloody Mary mix
  • 1 tsp.–1 Tbsp. of Sriracha (adjust according to spice level)
  • 1 tsp.–1 Tbsp. fresh horseradish (adjust according to spice level)
  • 2 drops fish sauce
  • 2 twists fresh ground black pepper

Pour a handful of kosher salt onto a small plate.

Rub the juicy side of the lime wedge along the lip of a pint glass.

Roll the outer edge of the glass in kosher salt until fully coated.

Fill with ice and set aside.

Squeeze 2 lime wedges into a shaker and drop them in.

Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice.

Shake gently and strain into the prepared glass.

Garnish with bánh mì meatball skewer.

Bánh Mì Meatball Skewers
Serves 10

  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, green and white parts finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sushi-style mayonnaise
  • ½-1 Tbsp. sriracha
  • Water to thin
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 6” piece of daikon radish
  • 4 green onions, cut in 3/4” pieces
  • ½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 jalapeño chile, thinly sliced
  • 16 sprigs of cilantro, trimmed

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Gently combine pork, basil, garlic, onions, fish sauce, honey, cornstarch, pepper and salt in a work bowl.  Using gloved hands, with a scant tablespoon of the meat mixture form 3/4” meatballs taking care not to compress or compact the mixture.  Place on baking sheet, cover and chill for 15 minutes up to overnight.  

Mix mayonnaise, onions and desired amount of Sriracha in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Thin with water to desired consistency.  Taste and season to taste. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 300° F. Heat sesame oil mixture in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often, lowering heat as necessary, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to clean baking sheet and hold in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.  When ready to serve, drain pickled vegetables and skewer with meat balls. Garnish with reserved green onion, jalapeno, cilantro and spicy mayo.