February is a month for new relationships, meteorologically inclined rodents—and anyone who enjoys the great American spectacle of the Super Bowl. While the game has undoubtedly kept pace with the times—it’s gonna go 3D any year now—the Super Bowl Party has lagged way behind. No, we don’t mean canapés and harp music. It’s still a sporting event we’re talking about here. But in an age when grass-fed beef sliders can be standard arena fare, you have to go beyond the pork rinds, fuzzy TVs, and lumpy couch cushions. Here, our guide to the perfect classy-but-sporty Super Bowl Party.
Elegant autumn Save-the-Dates with attached RSVP cards? Not exactly. But you can’t just tell coworkers on Friday that they should stop by if they want. Send a Facebook event or an e-vite about two weeks before and reply promptly and definitively if you get one. As with any party, it’s up to you to determine the right balance of colleagues, family members, kids’ friends’ parents, etc., but do make sure to go beyond merely including “the guys.” In past years, more women have been watching the Super Bowl than the Oscars and Grammys combined, so assume you know more female fans than you realize.
When it’s time to plan the menu for a Super Bowl party, too many hosts do what’s cheap and convenient. Sure, it’s easiest to carry out an order of wings from that chain named after New York State’s second largest city, but a homemade batch via the recipe from the back of a Frank’s RedHot bottle has much less grease (they’re baked, not fried) and is still quite delicious. Salty snacks are requisite offerings, but one doesn’t have to be a germaphobe to abhor the typical communal bowl setup; a simple solution is to add a couple of scoop utensils to the bowl. Your guests will feel better about not catching the flu from chip-fiend Uncle Sal. And that mystery dip? Instead, try a basic fondue recipe from the Internet paired with a selection of breads—the provolone is irresistible—from The Kneaded Bread (181 N Main St, Port Chester 914-937-9489; kneadedbread.com). And, depending on the teams that are competing, use a regional cheese for the fondue (Vermont white cheddar for the New England Patriots, Wisconsin Colby for the Green Bay Packers, etc). Firing up the barbecue just before halftime for sliders and an assortment of grilled veggies is a democratic way to satiate mid-game munchies.
To wash it all down, avoid cans of beer (only your curmudgeonly Grandpa would be happy with cans of Schlitz and Bud) and offer an iced tub of bottles of small-batch craft brews—a store like The Beer Necessities (11 Quaker Ridge Rd, New Rochelle 914-401-4431; thebeernecessities.com) has hundreds of choices. Glass mugs in the freezer overnight add a pub-like feel to your party. Don’t forget the teetotalers with Boylan Bottling Company and IZZE sodas, natural beverages that are sweetened with the real thing instead of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients.
For dessert, resist buying that cheap, wan, sugar-overdose of a cake—the Stop & Shop football replete with a horde of ingredients you likely won’t recognize. (What the heck is propylene glycol anyway?) Lulu Cake Boutique (40 Garth Rd, Scarsdale 914-722-8300; everythinglulu.com) has a selection of house-made Twinkies (Nutella, red velvet, passion fruit) and mega cupcakes that will wow your guests’ taste buds without the chemical intake.
Lastly, set up a buffet table for all the food rather than using the coffee table; this will ease serving and avoid annoying reachovers and bodies blocking the TV.
So long as you know how to turn it on and off, what’s to do? Well, if your set is smaller than 30 inches, rent a bigger one—the bigger the better, so long as it doesn’t outsize your room. Electronic stores like Yonkers-based Cezar AV (800-986-2392; cezaraudiovisual.com) offer TV rentals.
A second, smaller TV, what is known as the Counter Programming TV, connected to a DVD player, should be placed in a separate room from where the Super Bowl TV is. Let’s face it: At any Super Bowl party, there are those attendees that have no interest in the game. So instead of having them pester the football fans with bothersome questions (‘Is number eighteen a good homerun hitter?’, ‘How many baskets before the team in green and gold wins?’), give them a set of their own with DVDs on hand like Sex and the City, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Hunger Games, or Dr. Who. And when the halftime show comes on, all the guests can congregate in the Super Bowl TV room, with the football fans likely cringing and the Counter Programming Group likely dancing and singing along.
Unless you want to see a bunch of otherwise-mature people calling “fives” and the total destruction of your beloved recliner to spills, dig out some seats from the garage or borrow from a neighbor. If you’re having an especially large party, leaving two-thirds of the guests standing around while trying to balance a plate of chips is just lazy, so there’s almost no way to get around renting some chairs. Party Line Tent Rentals (21 Vreeland Ave, Elmsford 914-592-1200; partylinerentals.com) can hook you up with a variety of seating options ranging from comfy to functional and high chairs to barstools. Arrange them in a horseshoe, and remember: Once you put more than a few seating options in a room, you’ll want some shorter ones for the front, so find those bean-bag chairs from college for kids who are old enough to keep quiet but young enough to sit almost on the floor.