"You don't have to be a die-hard NFL fan to throw a Super Bowl party," says Bronson van Wyck, who designed a fete for NFL team owners before the Super Bowl in New Orleans last season. "People are always happy to attend a party." On the invitation, ask guests to wear team colors to get everyone in the spirit.
Serve regional food and drinks based on the cities competing—like crab cakes for Baltimore and Cable Cars for San Francisco. "Keep the food preparation simple," Van Wyck says. "You don't want to be in the kitchen when the winning touchdown happens!"
Don't invite just sports fans or else the party will not be social. "Set up the TV for true fans to enjoy the game, but also have another area for those who are more interested in socializing." A party game is always a good idea: Create a pool for light betting and donate half of the proceeds to a charity backed by one of the winning team's players.
Up your party's foodie factor with tips from chefs who work with Taste of the NFL.
SKIP: The usual toppings—Fritos, oyster crackers, generic shredded cheese.
SERVE: Epicurean garnishes. Oven-roasted kale adds "crunch, flavor, and texture," says Carrie Nahabedian of Chicago's Naha restaurant. "For cheese, use a block of American cheddar broken into shards. In place of sour cream, try Greek yogurt."
SKIP: Fast-food delivery.
SERVE: Chicken satay skewers. "Marinate the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, orange juice, sesame oil, and ginger," says Lynne Hackman of Minneapolis' Franklin Street Bakery. "Chicken-tender sliders are another good substitute. Chicken wings can be so messy!"
SKIP: Carnitas. It takes too long to slow-cook.
SERVE: Baja-style shrimp tacos. They're superfast to make, and healthy, too. "Use soft tacos, sweet corn, pico de gallo, and black beans," says Debbie Gold of Red Door Grill in Leawood, Kansas. "Lay everything out and it's a build-your-own-taco bar." Use the same BYO idea to amp up your nachos.
SKIP: The grocery-store-made spread.
SERVE: A sexy veggie. "I make a big bowl of sautéed Brussels sprouts for people to munch on all day," says Deb Paquette of Nashville's Etch. "If they get cold, throw them in the oven for a minute to warm them back up."