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The National Food-Ball League Conference Championships

Getting to the Conference Championship games in the National Food-Ball League Playoffs is a lot like having a Soufflé in the oven. You have put a lot of work into this masterpiece of yours and you are just one step away from achieving either glory or gloop. This Sunday the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers will be putting their recipes to the test. And now I am here once again to give you some insights as to Who will win & Who will flop and what kind of food best goes which each team on this our final weekend of real football (the Pro Bowl NEVER counts) in the National Food-Ball League.

 

Last week in the Divisional Round my heart got one game out of four right while my head predicted the eventual winner in each game. The favorites all won, sorry Carolina fans  – you really weren’t expected to win that game, and the National Food-Ball League got a final four teams that any combination thereof would be able to spin the resulting media out of control for two weeks. Ultimately what the National Food-Ball League will get is a matchup between one of the greatest old school quarterbacks versus one of the best new school quarterbacks. It’s almost like a battle of Comfort Food vs Nouvelle Cuisine and that’s how we are going to look at the matchups here.

 

AMERICAN FOOD-BALL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

 

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

 

(If you only want to talk food, skip to the next paragraph) Just in case you have been hiding under a rock this past week, this will be the 15th time that Peyton Manning has faced off against the Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll and the 4th time that they have met in the playoffs. The Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll does hold the advantage in the playoffs and does hold a 3-1 lead in Super Bowl rings but all that goes out the window this coming Sunday when these quarterbacks quit facing off in the media and get to settling things on the field. Now football games aren’t won at just one position and it’s very true for these two teams. While New England may have one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, they also have a hoodie wearing coach who may look like he is down to his last dollar but he is one who knows how to stretch & get the most out of the talent he has available. At the beginning of the season, no one knew who was going to catch the ball. Now that they are one game away from the Souper Bowl, everyone knows that the Patriots have people who can & do catch the ball but they still don’t know their names. I don’t think the average football fan could have named even one of the Patriots running backs but last week LeGarette Blount scored 4 touchdowns and now everyone in Boston can’t forget him. The Patriots defense is forgettable in that no one is anyone you have ever heard of but they can be thrown on and throwing the ball is what Peyton Manning does best. He has four of the best pass catchers in the game and a 1-2 punch in the backfield with Moreno & Ball that led the Broncos to a record number of points this year. Scoring will not be an issue on Sunday for the Broncos. Stopping the Patriots may however be a little more troublesome. I haven’t been sold on the Broncos defense all year and with injuries to the line & secondary in the past few weeks, they have become even scarier to watch. No lead is safe.

But let’s get to the FOOD, shall we ? The Patriots really have been the equivalent of a boiled/steamed/broiled lobster for quite some time. Its that one dish that is always looked up to more for its pedigree than its actual taste. Then one day you realize that you are sick of lobster and it is not what you want anymore no matter how much someone tries to push it on you. That’s how the Patriots are with me and I am sure with a lot of you too. That is why I am going to pull out an old tried & true insults recipe that worked last year when the Baltimore Ravens beat the Patriots to get to the Souper Bowl. It seems that the Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll lives part of the year with his Barbie Doll wife in New York. That is almost as bad as having a Red Sox fan be the Mayor of New York (Looking at you Bill deBlasio). So when it comes to the Patriots (again this year), I am going to have a nice Manhattan Style Clam Chowder represent them at the table. As for the Broncos, well last week taking a bold dish that spoke for itself like Elk Chili worked as the Broncos vanquished those nasty catfish (thank you gderr) tacos also known as the San Diego Chargers. Well this week the Broncos are again going to need to be represented by something bold yet familiar. Something that is powerful in its ability to strike. This week my Denver Broncos are going to be represented by a big bowl of Rattlesnake Chili. (Quick – someone send me a recipe) It should be a great game but I am leaning (in a very biased fashion) toward Denver beating New England.

 

NATIONAL FOOD-BALL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP

 

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

 

There are some people I have heard say that this game is the real Souper Bowl and that the game in two weeks will be anti-climactic in comparison. I will say that this does line up to be one hell of a game. The two teams met twice during the regular season and each team won at home. This game is in Seattle inside a stadium that has been dubbed the loudest stadium in football. Even ESPN Sports Science looks into it this claim and found that during games not only does it get louder than standing next to an airplane at takeoff but that the fans have actually been responsible for a few minor earthquakes. (It should be noted that touchdown runs by Marshawn Lynch caused both of those) The 49ers however won’t be impressed or intimidated. This team has already gone conquered Mount Lombadi and thrown Cam to his own Panthers in his own den. The 12th Man & The Hawks Nest are just what the Niners want to see. They are essentially the same team that made it to New Orleans last year and Colin Kaepernick is playing like he wants to come to New York this year. Of course the Seahawks will have a lot to say about. Their quarterback, the undersized Russell Wilson, has won 15 of the 16 games he has started in Seattle. The Seahawks play like beasts at home and they have one of the more intimidating defensive secondaries in pro football. They do however have a small chink in their armor in that in recent weeks, Wilson has looked human and the Seahawks did lose at home. Will any of that matter though when they kickoff on Sunday night ?

 

The 49ers are more than just a San Francisco treat and Rice-a-Roni would never do as a food representative for this great city. When I lived in the Bay Area back in the late 1980’s & early 1990’s there was a great steakhouse by the name of IZZY’s that I would love to use here but I am saving the steakhouse references for the Souper Bowl. Instead, I am going to stick with what got the Niners where they are today – a nice complex bowl of Cioppino and some Sourdough Bread. The Seahawks need something a little more. Seattle is a home to some real groundbreaking cuisine and Pike Place Market is wonderful place to visit & snack. When I think of Washington, I think of Apples, Cherries, Coffee & Salmon. I love all of them. Maybe I’m missing it somewhere but while I love to rub my salmon with RUB WITH LOVE from Etta’s, I have yet to find a coffee rubbed salmon. So that is what I would love to have someone come up with for this game, a Coffee Salmon with some sort of apple/cherry dessert. As for who wins ? My head says Seattle but my heart, which I left there for a little while back in 1991, says San Francisco.

 

Am I right ? Am I wrong ? Do you have better foods to represent your team ? Are you starting to plan your Souper Bowl Menu too ? Let me know and we will be back next week and the week after to not only talk football but to more importantly talk FOOD-BALL.

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The National Food-Ball League Playoffs – Divisional Round

Last week in the Wild Card Round of the National Food-Ball League Playoffs (where yes, they actually compete to win) the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers & San Francisco 49ers all came away victorious. That meant that I was perfect with my picks on Saturday and perfectly awful with my picks on Sunday. They say you can’t win them all and that is probably why the Las Vegas Casinos throw a ticker tape parade whenever I come to town but that is neither here nor there and irrelevant to this story. It also means that we are a week closer to determining who is going to wind up playing outside in Giants Stadium on that first Sunday in February.

Now if the Souper Bowl had been played this week, the Polar Vortex that gripped the nation would have been quite a factor in the game. I can tell you from personally pounding the streets of Manhattan that it was cold and the wind was fierce. In fact, with conditions like the ones we had this week, soup was on the menu at lunch just about every day, which led me to consider various types of soup when I started previewing the matchups this week in the National Food-Ball League Divisional Playoffs. So without further ado, let’s break out the ladle & bowls and start dishing on the games. (Boy did that ever sound cheesy) 

Saturday January 11

 New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

 Who Dat think they going to beat The 12th Man ? This is a re-match of a midseason blowout where the Seahawks dismantled the Saints like a fishmonger dismantles a salmon down at The Pike Place Market. Last week however, the Saints broke a franchise long losing streak of road playoff games by winning in Philadelphia so the Saints are on a high. The Seahawks have looked somewhat human over the last few weeks but the week off and the controversy over Marshawn Lynch not speaking enough to the media are really all the fuel that Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks will need. While I do love me some Gumbo of just about every shape, flavor & size I do feel that the Salmon Chowder that the 12th Man will be bringing in from the tailgating parking lots is going to seeing the next round of the playoffs.

 Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

 The chic pick by so-called Football experts is the Colts. Everyone fell in love with their wild second half comeback last week against the hated (by me) Kansas City Chiefs but now they have to come to Foxboro to face the Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll Quarterback & his Hoodie wearing coach. The quarterback of the Colts may be named Luck but in New England his luck is going to run out. The ball won’t bounce off the turf & directly into his hands like it did last week on the game winning touchdown. In Foxboro, the Gods of Football tilt the field in one direction and one direction only. (I still don’t know how Baltimore won last year) So you can pair that Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich from Indiana that I heard so much about in the comments last week with just about any soup out there and it isn’t going to beat the good old fashioned creamy thick New England Clam Chowder that Giselle will be serving up after the game.

 Sunday January 12

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers

At the beginning of the season no one could have seen this game coming. The Carolina Panthers were not a team on anyone’s radar other than a North Carolina State Trooper’s. The 49ers were the defending NFC Champions and were expected to waltz easily to the Championship Game. Funny thing happened, they actually played the season and during the season, the Panthers even beat the Niners in San Francisco in a smashmouth game 10-9. This time the game is going to be played in Charlotte in front of some seriously playoff starved fans who can somewhat remember what a Souper Bowl tastes like. The Niners however, unlike the Panthers, are road weary & battle tested after their trip to the Frozen Tundra at the foot of Mount Lombardi. I fully expect Colin Kapernick to be serving up a big bowl of Cioppino (and I won’t slice off a part of my finger eating it) to counteract the Hatteras Style Chowder that I just googled as the top regional soup in North Carolina for Cam Newton & the Panthers. The Sourdough on the side may have been the tipping point.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

The Chargers were the team I least wanted the Broncos to face in the playoffs in that they are hungry, have nothing to lose and they know the Broncos all too well. Quarterback Philip Rivers is full of so much swagger & bravado at the moment that he thinks that a Bolo tie is high fashion (too some yes, to me, no – it’s a source of ridicule). He also has an overachieving undersized running back in Danny Woodhead who is playing larger than life and like I said last week, rookie WR Keenan Allen is just plain deadly as he slices through the secondary. Don’t count Peyton Manning and his aerial offense out though just because the Chargers dealt him his worst game of the season in Week 15. All four of his double digit touchdown grabbing receivers & running back Knowshon Moreno are ready to go & ready for revenge so they only pre-game tears we will be seeing are those the chargers fans getting ready for their beating. As for the soups, well last week that lousy tilapia fish taco somehow beat out a bowl of Cincinnati Style Chili but this week that lousy tilapia fish taco is going in a blender and being served alongside an Elk Chili that stands as proud as the Rocky Mountains that spread across Denver’s skyline. (I thought about using Colorado Buffalo but the Buffaloes up in Boulder were HORRIBLE this year on the gridiron so we really don’t want to cross contaminate)

So there you have it. This week’s picks are The Seahawks & their Salmon Chowder, The Patriots & their Creamy Clam Chowder, The Niners & their Cioppino with a sourdough side and The Broncos & their Bugling Elk Chili. What do you think ?

Come back next week when we review where I was right & where I was wrong in this week’s game while giving you insights & recipes for the Conference Championships.

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I Am In A Culinary Rut

I am in a culinary rut.

I love to cook. I always have. My family loves it when I cook and I love to cook for them. It’s just that recently I haven’t felt the fire that I need to finish off some of the half baked ideas I used to have almost every time I walked into the kitchen. I have a 9 foot by 4 foot spice rack that is full to overflowing and when I look at it, I see nothing. When I open the fridge, I see jars & bottle of different sauces & spreads and I yawn. When I look in the fridge or freezer, I see cut after cut of meat or fish and I think about takeout. The Super Bowl is a little over 17 days away and I haven’t even begun to think about my game day menu and if you know me, you know that is bad. I’m not even sure if I have the alligator in the freezer that I will need for my mandatory & much requested alligator chili. So yeah, I am in a culinary rut.

I am sure that I can put some of the blame on the lifestyle change I was forced to make last spring when my doctor sent me to my room without dessert and I am sure I can put some of the blame on the DIE-t I went on to go with that lifestyle change. Sure I lost 48 lbs and now I can eat just about anything I want any time I want (within reason) but even that hasn’t inspired me to get wild & crazy in the kitchen. I guess I feel like a part of me has an out of order sign hanging on me and the service person keeps having to re-schedule.

Slow cooker recipes bore me. Cookies were fun for a while but the holidays are over. I can only justify cookies as donations to food banks and I can’t justify them for myself. I haven’t been traveling anywhere new so I haven’t had a chance to try some new dishes that I can try to spin at home. I haven’t tried out for CHOPPED or had my wife & kids hit me with a mystery basket full of bizarre ingredients. I was hoping that the NFL playoffs would inspire me but most of the teams with interesting cuisines got eliminated already and I am not all that inspired by the food of Baltimore, New England & New York though I can most certainly play with San Francisco. Even my writing feels a bit like limp overcooked pasta to me.

So what do I do ? What do you do when you are stuck in a culinary rut ? How do you get excited about being in the kitchen again. I generally hate blogs that ask a question but I am tuck so I am all ears, eyes & tastebuds for any idea you may have no matter how outlandish. If you know me, you know I will try most anything (within reason).

So come back next time when hopefully I will be out of my culinary (and literary) rut and we will be discussing the incredible Super Bowl Menu that you all have inspired me to create.

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