Photo: Ditte Isager
With nearly 40 million women tuning in to the Super Bowl this year, it's no wonder stadium food is moving beyond beer and chips. A prime example: Public House in San Francisco, where chef Traci Des Jardins has set out to re-create sports bar favorites—nachos, pigs in a blanket, and jalapeño poppers—using fresh, high-quality ingredients.
Tucked into a corner of AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, Public House features 25 flat-screen TVs and an entire wall constructed of beer kegs—not the decor one might associate with a classically trained chef (Des Jardins apprenticed in two Michelin-three-star kitchens and has won two James Beard awards) whose upscale restaurant, Jardinière, is regularly cited as one of San Francisco's finest. But to this chef, serving food that's both well prepared and down-to-earth makes perfect sense. "People don't always want to dress up and talk in whispers in order to have a good meal," she says. "This is delicious food in a comfortable setting."
For Des Jardins, that doesn't include agitating sensory overload or the smell of stale beer and bad fryer oil. In their place are expanses of dark wood and a menu that includes dozens of small-batch beers and food made from locally sourced ingredients, many of them organic. Thanks to a staff of good-natured bouncers, even the mood of the clientele bubbles along convivially, with only occasional play-related outbursts. As Des Jardins says, "I want women to love coming in here; I want kids to feel welcome."
And that's the same atmosphere you want in your living room during the big game. Unlike hosting a dinner party, where cooking can feel like a stressful performance, feeding a group of friends sprawled across your sofas should be relaxed and easy. The beef for the cheesesteaks can be roasted in advance, then assembled with caramelized onions, peppers, and melted provolone the day of the game. And you can serve everything, including the chopped salad with spicy fried chickpeas, crumbled bacon, and feta cheese, family style.
As Des Jardins says, "The most memorable meals in your life are about who you're with and what you're doing, rather than the food. That's what's great about serving sports bar snacks—it's way less pressured, more social, and just more fun." Especially if your team wins.
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From the February 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!