Super Bowl XLIX: Wings, Dips and 10 Best Party Foods with Top Chef Richard Blais

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterJanuary 29, 2015

Celebrity chef Richard Blais and his favorite Super Bowl snack.
Celebrity chef Richard Blais and his favorite Super Bowl snack.B/R Illustration

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the two best food holidays of the year. When done right, Thanksgiving is still the tops in terms of combining good food with good football, but Super Bowl Sunday isn't bogged down by dry birds, unnecessary side dishes or the Dallas Cowboys.

If Super Bowl Sunday is the best day for food in sports, what is the best Super Bowl snack? It's a simple question with a seemingly endless number of delectable choices.

On our Bleacher Report Radio show this week, Josh Zerkle and I employed an expert opinion in celebrity chef and Top Chef winner Richard Blais to figure out the answer.

Blais not only has a number of restaurants across the country, but he's become an expert in the sport of competitive cooking, both as a frequent contestant and a judge. Who better, then, to help us pick the best Super Bowl food for your Sunday spread?

Before asking Blais about his favorite Super Bowl food, we also had to ask him—as a judge on Top Chef Boston this season—which Super Bowl city had the best food. (Hint: He's an East Coast guy at heart.)

We then got down to it, asking one of the top chefs in the country what he loves the most at his Super Sunday spread.

His answer was the consensus top choice as well, and it's certainly a finger-licking selection. But first…there are other foods our listeners and tweeters helped rank in our top 10 Super Bowl party foods. Let's dig in.

10. Pizza

J.M. Hirsch/Associated Press

Pizza may be the greatest food ever invented. Plain pizza is a stand-alone staple, but a good crust-cheese-sauce combination can serve as a vessel to virtually anything in the culinary universe. Pizza is also easily split between partygoers, making it a certain choice for the list on Super Bowl Sunday.

Why isn't it higher?

Because pizza isn't special. There's nothing different about pizza on Super Bowl Sunday than every Friday night of the entire year. It's a classic, but if you're invited to a party, are you going to be the guy who comes with a couple of pies? And you're a total jerk if you show up with nothing and just "pitch in" on the pizzas when they get delivered at halftime.

9. Chips and Salsa/Queso

Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

Another staple of everyday snacking, chips and salsa, or chips and queso, is a must-have at any Super Bowl soiree. The friend who brings the chips and salsa is a good friend indeed, but he didn't put a lot of time into his snacking selection. "Oh, we forgot to get food for the party and we're halfway there. Quick, does that gas station sell beer? No? Grab some chips and don't forget the queso!"

In addition, most Super Bowl parties are four or five hours long. Do you really want to be eating chips and salsa all night? 

8. Chili

Chili is awesome, and when done right, it's the best homemade option on this entire list if you're having a small group of people over for the big game. But for a large party, chili is never the best option.

First, you have to worry about a separate vessel for the chili, be it bowl or cup. If all the other food fits on a plate, you're suddenly the jerk who made everyone grab a bowl too. Second, you also need a separate utensil for your friends, and who wants to pull out a bunch of spoons for the guy who decided to surprise his friends with a Crock-Pot full of chili?

Last, and perhaps most importantly, is the penchant for spills. The more people at a party, the less room on the couch, which means more nudging, bumping and squeezing and less coffee table space for your giant bowls of chili. Do you want a hot bowl of chili on your lap when the Seahawks return a pick-six in the second quarter?

Delicious in small batches. A perfect Super Bowl Sunday dinner. Not great for a party.

7. Chicken Fingers

Associated Press

I know, chicken fingers can be boring. But they are almost always delicious, are super easy to eat when grazing past the food table to and from the fridge for a beer, and they can be dipped into literally anything.

Seriously. Stop and tell me one thing chicken fingers can't be dipped in? Honey. Mustard. Honey mustard. Ranch. Barbecue sauce. Ranchero. Ketchup. Hot sauce. Duck sauce. Everything, including the next item on the list.

6. Guacamole

Matthew Mead/Associated Press

Why, you ask, are chips and salsa so much higher up on the list and guacamole is down here? Because even the best homemade salsa pales in comparison to a wonderful, creamy, hand-mashed guac. Plus, unlike a mountain of gelatinous cheese sauce—and I mean that in the most deliciously respectful way—guacamole is sort of good for you. Or at least better for you than heavy cheese. 

Here, via The Associated Press (h/t The Denver Post), are a few good guacamole options if you are feeling particularly homey this Super Sunday.

5. Soft Pretzel Tray

I may be showing my Philadelphia bias, but there is nothing—not a darn thing—more delicious than a warm soft pretzel on a cold February day. The pretzel tray is a staple at any sports-related gathering in my neck of the woods, and it's almost always the first thing gone. From full size to minis to nuggets, you can't go wrong with a soft pretzel.

Plus, you can eat soft pretzels as a snack, a meal—slice one up and put some cold cuts on the inside—or dessert, as all the good local pretzel joints offer some kind of cinnamon or icing dip in addition to the traditional mustard and cheese.

The only drawback to pretzels is that most people can only have a few before the doughy nature of this snack takes its toll, filling up too much of your stomach with pretzely goodness too early in the night. Pace yourself if you come across a wonderful Sunday array of pretzels.

4. Pigs in a Blanket

Larry Crowe/Associated Press

Quite possibly the perfect appetizer.

Hot dogs are wonderful, but you're not going to eat a hot dog during the Super Bowl when the table is full of all those other scrumptious options. Fourth of July, you give me a thousand hot dogs, but at the Super Bowl? It doesn't make any sense to waste the time and energy to fire up the grill, throw dogs in the buns and hope people grab one when they slide past the Doritos.

Instead, take some minidogs, roll them in some puff pastry and get them in the oven about 30 minutes before your first guests arrive. They'll be gone before kickoff. It's the perfect American finger food.

Only, maybe it can be better. My old friend Nick Tarnowski offered a twist on the traditional pigs in a blanket that could be a game changer: mini-corn dogs.

Simply mix bacon and cheese into cornbread batter, then stick a hot dog in the middle as you pour the batter in a mini-muffin pan. You can even replace the hot dogs and bacon with chorizo and chilies for more of a festive Southwestern flavor. The Super Bowl is in Arizona this year, after all.

3. Nachos

MILWAUKEE - APRIL 10:  A worker prepares nachos for a customer before the Opening Day game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago Cubs on April 10, 2009 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This is chips and salsa, queso or guacamole on steroids. You cannot go wrong with a good nacho platter when it's hot and the cheese is warm, melted and gooey. The problem with a nacho platter, however, is that it gets stale very quickly. 

The nachos right out of the oven are a guaranteed hit, but come halftime? Nobody is touching that cold, congealed nacho cheese. Get it while it's hot, folks.

2. Seven-Layer Dip

Don't sleep on the seven-layer dip, which is often one of the most overlooked options on the dip list (yes, there is a dip list) but ranks No. 2 on our list, and deservedly so.

The traditional seven-layer dip has everything you need for your chip's enjoyment. Beans, cheese, meat, sour cream, guacamole, salsa and fresh vegetables. It has everything, and if prepared properly, it can stay out the entire game so your first-quarter munchies and your late-game pangs are covered. 

We asked Blais if he could "chef-up" the traditional seven-layer dip (think foie gras, lamb and creme fraiche to start) before asking him what his favorite Super Bowl snack would be.

If you click one audio file this year, the foodie inside you demands it be this one.

It turns out, his favorite Super Bowl snack is our favorite, too. And it's America's favorite, because it's too good not to be.

1. Wings

Matthew Mead/Associated Press

Wings are easy to pick up, eat and discard. You can grab a few early and a few late, and you really won't fill up if you properly pace yourself throughout the game. There are many spice levels and flavor profiles to wings, from sweet to super hot and spicy and everything in between, so there is something there for everyone (other than you, vegans).

Wings can get messy, but as my friend Jack Kogod reminded me, it's not like anyone touches the remote on Super Bowl Sunday anyway. Plus, if you employ a nice dry rub to your wings, you can limit the mess with heavy sauces while still maintaining amazing flavor.

Millions of wings will be devoured this Super Bowl Sunday, and there's a good reason: That All-American chicken wing is the best Super Sunday snack we have to offer, and the perfect treat at every party you plan to crash.


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