Attention Couch Potatoes - This Spud's for You

Come Super Bowl Sunday, while you're huddling around the TV, don't forget the appropriate snacks!

Hey all you couch potatoes, your holiday is almost here. It's time to start planning your football party menu for Sunday's Super Bowl game.

Whether it's crunchies and munchies like chips and dip, or spud appetizers (like the recipes on the right), food is probably just as important as the Big Game itself. (OK, a close second.) (OK, OK, a distant second.)

In the host city of New Orleans, one catering company, Food Art, is going all out to accommodate the needs of out-of-towners including those Yankees from Boston craving something other than their beloved baked beans or clam "chowdah."

Janina Simmons, director of sales at Food Art, says, "Most of the people would like us to showcase New Orleans food because they're from out of town." A couple of weeks before the Super Bowl, Ms. Simmons said they had only a couple of events planned, but she expects last-minute orders to trickle in.

At one pregame party, they are serving Confetti Crepes Stuffed with Crab Meat and Caramelized Onions, Topped with Jarlsberg Cheese; Stuffed Quail with Southern Corn Bread Dressing, with Orange and Rosemary Sauce; and for dessert, Bananas Foster, a traditional New Orleans dessert served over vanilla ice cream.

Doug Ritchey, a sportswriter for the Green Bay Chronicle, prefers to take a more low-key approach. Like most people, he enjoys casual fare while watching the Super Bowl - pizza, grilled steaks and brats, and chips and salsa.

In a town known for tailgate parties, Mr. Ritchey says that Packers' fans take their food seriously. "When the Packers play, the city stops," he says. "They get their brats out and beverages, and arrive three hours before game time, usually at around 9 or 9:30."

But this year, Ritchey will be traveling to New Orleans to cover his first Super Bowl game. Just hearing about what they serve for regular-season games, he won't be shortchanged when it comes to the food department.

"For every home game in the press box, we have brats, hot dogs, hot roast beef, and cold cuts, potato salad, baked beans, and cold drinks.

"I would imagine in New Orleans, they will have a lot of fish and other foods like that," he says.

Larry Felser, a veteran sportswriter for the Buffalo News, says, "I gorge myself; it's the finest eating town in America. I just got off the treadmill; I'm on a diet now because I know I'll eat a lot down there."

Mr. Felser adds that the best food is served before and after the Super Bowl, not during.

"We usually just get a boxed lunch in the press box during the game - maybe a sandwich, an apple, and a pastry."

The day usually starts at 11 a.m. with a colossal brunch, Felser says. "There's everything known to man at this brunch, such as made-to-order omelettes and mounds of shrimp."

Not everyone, however, will have the same opportunity that Ritchey and Felser have - especially if your city no longer has a football team.

Craig Marks, a sportswriter for the Westside Leader in Akron, Ohio, says there are still some bad feelings toward football since the Cleveland Browns packed up their bags and moved to Baltimore.

"Ever since the Browns left, we've been sort of apathetic to Super Bowl games," Mr. Marks says. "But I'll still have some friends over, find some comfy chairs, and watch some of the game."

It's obviously a major food fest during the biggest game of the year, Marks says. "We usually buy enough chips to last us until Easter and the food is gone before we know it. We'll use whatever pizza coupons we can find and watch as much football as we can stand.

"At halftime, we'll probably turn it off and watch "Independence Day."

Not everyone has a cold attitude toward the Super Bowl, however. At Commander's Palace in New Orleans, the restaurant is overflowing with reservations.

"We have been taking reservations a year in advance and we are fully booked for the Super Bowl," says Julie Thiel, who works in the restaurant's sales department.

Because Felser has covered so many Super Bowl games, he knows that in order to eat well, reservations are a must.

"I made reservations two weeks ago at Mr. B's (bistro) and at Ralph and Kacoons in the French Quarter," he says. "New Orleans is the Super Bowl of eating. There are so many good restaurants, I have trouble choosing."

After the game, Felser says, they'll replay the game on giant screens and serve a fabulous buffet. "I love gumbo, crayfish, oysters, and bread pudding. At G&E's Restaurant, I love the Oysters Rockefeller Soup. I've never had anything like it.

"In this job you get to eat like a native."

Half-Time Potato Skins

6 small Idaho potatoes

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1/2 teaspoon of paprika or Cajun seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush each potato lightly with oil and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out most of the centers, leaving 1/4 inch of potato attached to the skin.

In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, and paprika.

Lightly brush the interior of the potatoes with oil and sprinkle with seasoning.

Re-bake the skins at 375 degrees F. for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a variety of toppings, such as sour cream and chives, salsa, guacamole, grated Monterey jack, Roquefort, ricotta, or cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, crab meat or cream cheese and crumbled bacon.

Baked Stuffed Red Potatoes

Choose small, blemish-free red-skinned potatoes. Allow two or three potatoes per person. They should be washed, and either boiled gently until tender or baked in a 350 degree oven until tender, about 30 minutes.

To serve, cut the potatoes in half and place cut side down on trays. With a melon-ball scoop, spoon out some of the top to create a small cavity.

Fill with a dollop of sour cream and top with red, black, or golden caviar, or any of the toppings below.

Topping Variations:

Crumbled crisp bacon

Sour cream and fresh herbs

Chopped ham

Chopped scallions

Grated cheese

Chopped walnuts

Alfalfa sprouts

Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and melted butter

Potato Salad Nicoise

5 pounds Idaho russet potatoes

3 medium red onions

2 red peppers

2 green peppers

2 yellow peppers

6 medium tomatoes

1 bunch fresh basil

1 1/2 tablespoons thyme

1 1/2 tablespoons oregano

1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar dressing

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Cook in boiling water until barely tender, about 20 minutes.

Cut onions into julienne or fine strips. Core peppers, remove seeds, and cut into julienne or fine strips. Core tomatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Wash basil and dry thoroughly; leaves should be left whole.

Combine all ingredients and toss gently with dressing. Serve on a bed of argula or romaine.

Yield: 12 (8-ounce) servings or 24 (4-ounce) servings.

From chef Steven Kilts, caterer/owner Castle Grill, Providence, R.I.

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