SUPER BOWL SNACKS: The good, the bad and the yummy

EDITOR NOTE: Todd Lihou, a self-confessed foodaholic, takes you on a caloric odyssey as you prepare for the big game – and the big feast.

CORNWALL, Ontario – You know what’s better than food? Breathing – but only because being alive allows one to eat more food.

Anyone who knows me is also aware of two important facts: that I have amazing feet, and I love to eat.

Eat. Eat. Eat.

Foodies often circle one date on their calendar as the drop-dead, can’t-miss event of the year…the Super Bowl (which is next Sunday, Feb. 1).

With that in mind, I contacted a few friends in Cornwall to get their thoughts on what makes a grand Super Bowl feast.

Their answers might surprise you.

Tony Lacroix, purveyor of all things trendy at Love Love Food (can you think of a better name for a Bistro?) on Second Street said the key to a Super Bowl feast is variety.

“It’s all about trying new things for your guests, but not breaking the bank at the same time,” he said. “Not everything has to be drowned in sauce or cheese…but that is good too.”

Lacroix said many Super Bowl snackers include the basics on their menus like chips, dips, chicken wings and even chili.

But he suggested changing things up entirely, or adding to Super Bowl staples.

“A cheddar corn bread is awesome,” he said. “You can eat it on its own, or add it to something like chili.”

The beauty of corn breads, said Lacroix, is they’re relatively simple (a combination of corn meal, flour, buttermilk, butter and salt and pepper) and can be modified for different tastes.

“I’ve added red peppers to them, or Jalapenos,” he said. “And with the popularity of bacon you add that too – just make sure you cook your bacon first.

“The possibilities are endless when it comes to corn bread.”

But if you really want to make some changes to your Super Bowl fare this year you may have to think big – really big. And perhaps the biggest Super Bowl snacking challenge isn’t just what you will make, but whether you can make it to the end.

Nav Centre executive chef Luc McCabe and his staff have dreamed up a foodie challenge of mythical proportions.

It’s called the Herc Challenge – and you better bring your stretchy pants if it interests you.

The Herc is a massive burger complete with three patties (toppings spread throughout include bacon, cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, goat cheese, ham, grilled pineapple and an over-easy egg) and two grilled-cheese sandwiches book-ended with a pretzel bun.

On the side (ha!) is a 2.5-pound poutine that includes equal portions regular and sweet-potato fries topped with half a pound of cheese curds and two cups of gravy.

If that wasn’t enough there’s also a huge pile of onion rings – ‘cuz onion rings go great with anything.

If you can finish it in under an hour, by yourself, the $29 bill will be torn up.

McCabe said so far the Herc is undefeated among Nav Centre staffers who have tried, and failed, to finish it, “but it’s attainable.

“We played around with it for a couple of weeks before we came up with something that works.”

Contestants can visit Nav Centre at 3 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday to try their luck (and stomachs) with the Herc Challenge.

At between 3,000 and 4,000 calories, such a meal is not for the timid – or those looking for a healthy alternative.

Lynne Giroux, a public health dietician at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, concedes it’s tough to be a nutritionist in the days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday (and other occasions famous for eating) but adds there are ways to enjoy some snacking without going overboard.

The big difference maker can be substituting fruits and vegetables for typical menu items that are fried and loaded with calories.

“You can buy baby carrots, sugar snap peas, green beans or grape tomatoes,” she said. “To keep things interesting you can also add some root veggies – like rutabagas.”

Giroux said to try adding low-fat Greek yogurt to those powdered dips that call for sour cream or mayo.

“You can also stretch those bottled dips and dressings by adding low-fat yogurt,” she said. “Or you can puree some chick peas or legumes to make it stretch and add some flavour.”

Not unlike the game itself, Super Bowl snacking can often fail when it tried to live up to the hype.

I can remember one year, in my youth, where we gorged on roast beef, popcorn and Subway subs (not necessarily in that order) during a memorable Supper Bowl snacking fiesta.

It was fun at the time – but murder the next morning.

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