Loyalties, divided! I'm a second-generation Jersey girl and the daughter of a dedicated New York Giants fan. Mostly when I think of my dad, I see him in a chair in the den, comfortably plowing through the Star-Ledger and the New York Times, section by section, smelling of Old Spice, coffee, and newsprint. But he was also a rabid sports fan, and basketball, horseracing, and football were his sports. He spent a lot of chilly winter afternoons huddled in the stands with me and my sisters, a blanket wrapped around our shoulders as he tried to explain what was going on between the wide-shouldered men scurrying like ants around the Astroturf. Yes, they were the New York Giants, but they played at the Meadowlands, on our turf, and everyone assumed that North Jersey, where we lived, was kind of a sixth borough of New York City anyway.
My sister Amy has come late to her birthright as a Giants fan. She doesn't have a lot of team fellowship out in Minnesota, where she lives; the recent triumph of the Giants over the Green Bay Packers was celebrated mostly for the whipping the Packers took, since any dedicated Minnesotan despises the Packers, longtime arch-rivals of the home-team Vikings. But she found a Giants jersey somewhere, and now she wears it around town in lonely pride. (She felt the same way when Obama won, four years ago. While Oakland erupted in cheers, cruising, and fireworks, her posh Minneapolis suburb tallied its Republican losses behind closed curtains.) "I hope you'll remember your roots!" she said about Sunday's game, only half-joking.
But I left New Jersey in 1990, settling in San Francisco for the next 12 years. Yes, there was a brief boomerang back to New York City for a few years in the mid-2000s, but I returned to Bernal Heights in 2008, full of a winter longing for backyard Meyer lemons and fresh Dungeness crab, convinced that this was my home.
Mostly, I'll be rooting for the 49ers because I know everyone in the Bay Area will be super-excited if they win, and a Superbowl frenzy always gives a city a little lift, something to talk to strangers about in the supermarket check-out line. But I hope Eli Manning and the rest of the boys in blue give the Niners a good run, something worth munching through all those ads for Ram trucks and Coors Light.
Ah, yes, football and food. This year's 49ers are not the high-living Chardonnay-sippers of the Joe Montana era; in their blue-collar workshirts, they're following the working man's attitude of coach Jim Harbaugh. And Candlestick Park hardly offers the wine and sushi of AT&T Park, although there will be a clutch of local food trucks serving the tailgaters outside the park on Sunday (in Bud Light Plaza, naturally).
Never one to miss an East-vs.-West rivalry, food blog Serious Eats has a tongue-in-cheek scoreboard of NYC vs. SF eats, tallied in four quarters for burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and ice cream.
According to New York writer Ed Levine, NY bumps out SF in the burger category, thanks to a bunch of fancy-pants taverns and their dry-aged prime beef offerings; hearing about the meaty glories of Marlowe, Zuni, Rosemunde's Tuesday special, and Joe's Cable Car doesn't sway a guy with Shake Shack in his backyard, apparently. There's a dual-city tie for sandwiches, with Bakesale Betty's fried chicken sammie scoring equal touchdowns with Katz's pastrami.
But wait, New York wins for "pizza diversity"? How can this be, when there's no mention made of San Francisco's great innovation, Indian pizza, the best meeting of East and West since Marco Polo brought back noodles from China? Sorry, New York, you may have an infinite number of greasy slice joints, but no one does garlicky, spicy, cilantro-y cauliflower on a cheesy crust like they do at the corner of Mission and Cortland.
We do get the edge for ice cream; even a Giants fan like Levine is forced to admit that "SF is one helluva ice cream town these days," thanks to Humphrey Slocumbe, Bi-Rite Creamery, Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous in Dogpatch, Three Twins, Ciao Bella, and Straus Creamery's excellent soft serve. And this in a place where the summer temperatures rarely cruise above 65 degrees--take that, you sweaty New Yorkers! His final foodie's score? New York wins burgers and pizza, San Francisco wins ice cream, and so New York nosh beats San Francisco eats by a single point.
For which I have one word for you, Mr. Levine: avocados. Ever tried to get a decent ripe avo in an NYC supermarket? Ever tried to find a saucer of guacamole for less than $12 in an NYC restaurant? I have, and you know what, New York City? Epic fail! Avocados grow on trees here, and it shows. Avocados, Meyer lemons, Casa Sanchez chips, Anchor Steam beer: Who's got it better than us? Nobody!
San Francisco 49ers Guacamole
Honestly, why would anyone settle for some questionable green goop in a tub when you can make your own in 10 minutes with nothing more than a bowl, a fork, and a few of our buttery, nutty California-grown avocados? If you want to go totally local, look for Bearss limes in the farmers' market. Green and lime-y when underripe, yellow and more lemony when ripe, they make a good locavore substitute for tropical-grown limes. This recipe is adapted from my kids' cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Fun Food: Kids in the Kitchen.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 cups
2 scallions (green onions), chopped
3 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
juice of 2 limes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
5 or 6 sprigs of fresh cilantro
1. In a medium bowl, mash the avocados roughly with a fork. I like my guac a little chunky, but if you like it smoother, just keep mashing. If you're making this in quantity, a flat, waffle-style potato masher is a good tool.
2. Mix in the lime juice, salt, and cumin. Add the chopped scallion and jalapeno. Taste for seasoning.
3. If not serving right away, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the mixture to cover and refrigerate. Taste for seasoning before serving, adding more salt or lime as needed.
4. Just before serving, pinch leaves off cilantro sprigs. Mix half the leaves into the guacamole, and sprinkle the rest on top. Serve with fresh raw vegetables and/or your favorite corn chips.