Ravens at Patriots, Saturday Jan. 10, 4:30 p.m., Gillette Stadium, CBS
Those who automatically assume that New England has the edge in the coaching matchup this weekend might want to reconsider.
Bill Belichick, the Patriots' Annapolis-reared, perpetually scowling legend of a coach, has a 19-9 career postseason record. John Harbaugh, the man who'll be standing across the field from him on Saturday, has a higher playoff winning percentage—and manages to smile once in a while.
If not for an almost-catch (followed by a missed short field goal), John Harbaugh would be batting 1.000 against Belichick when it counts (unfortunately, that dropped TD and missed chippie in 2012 did in fact count, so he's 2-1 in the playoffs against The Hooded One).
Whether you're heading up to Massachusetts for the game, going to a bar in Baltimore, or watching at home, food and drink will play a pivotal role in your game-day experience. This promises to be a classic Saturday on all fronts.
What to Eat: New England has a rich culinary tradition that centers on shellfish. Clam chowder or oyster stew (with bacon!) are winter classics. A New England clambakeA New England clambake is the best way to enjoy the largest variety of seafood, although it's usually prepared in the summer outside. While there are stovetop clambake recipes, they seemed a bit ambitious for me, so I'll be making Boston baked beans, a great accompaniment to almost any dish.
- 2 cups navy beans (soak them in cold water overnight)
- ½ pound of bacon
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons of molasses
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce
- ¼ cup of brown sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Arrange the beans in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with bacon and onion. In a saucepan, combine molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and pour over beans. Pour in just enough of the reserved bean water to cover the beans. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 3 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, until beans are tender. Remove the lid halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent the beans from getting too dry.
What to Drink: Many credit Samuel Adams for America's craft beer renaissance. The Boston Brewing Company started producing beer in 1984 and now is one of the country's largest breweries. Its Winter Lager, White Christmas, and Chocolate Bock are reliable cold-weather favorites. Also Boston based, Harpoon Brewery makes one of the most drinkable IPAs on the market. At 5.9 percent APV, it's a well-balanced beer with the right amount of hops.
If You Go: Foxborough, home to Gillette Stadium, is actually a not-much-to-it suburb about a half hour southwest of Boston. If you do head north, stay in Boston, one of America's culturally richest cities.
Normally I'd advise against blindly flocking to the requisite tourist sites, but in Beantown, they're worth it. If the weather's nice(ish), a stroll along the Freedom Trail or in Boston Common is a must. Stop for a drink at the Bull and Finch Pub, better known to the TV-viewing world as Cheers.
Eastern Standard is a handsome restaurant with a large bar on Commonwealth Avenue near Fenway Park, an area that is crowded with large chain bars. It has a substantial cocktail menu and solid food.
If you're in town for a few days, the Russell House Tavern just across the river in Cambridge's Harvard Square serves classics like lobster sliders and crispy fried Cape Cod oysters. FuGaKyu, located just outside the city in Brookline, has more than just a clever name. It claims to be the largest Japanese restaurant in New England, and definitely serves some of the best sushi in town.