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The Crab Bowl: Baltimore and San Francisco Square Off in a Battle of Recipes

For your game-day party, Charm City's blue crab cakes take on Dungeness crab cioppino from the City by the Bay; plus 25 wines for less than $25 to match

Robert Taylor
Posted: January 25, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII brings two crab-mad towns, Baltimore and San Francisco, together in yet another shellfish-obsessed city, New Orleans. In an American major sport championship first, the opposing teams are coached by brothers, Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers and John Harbaugh of the Ravens. It’s East Coast vs. West Coast, brother vs. brother and, when it comes to signature cuisines, Dungeness crabs vs. Chesapeake blues.

This year, Wine Spectator's Super Bowl food-and-wine pairing match-up features recipes for two crab-based specialties, Faidley’s Famous Crab Cakes from Baltimore and Rose Pistola’s Cioppino from San Francisco.

“Bawlmer” crab cakes have proliferated there since the 19th century, when J.W. Faidley Seafood, the Chesapeake Bay area's most revered purveyor of crab patties, first opened its doors. Founded in 1886, Faidley's is owned and operated today by Bill and Nancy Devine. (Nancy is a third-generation descendant of founder John W. Faidley, Sr.) Nancy herself oversees the hand-making of the Lexington Market restaurant's famed lump blue crab cakes. She and her daughter, Damye Hahn, provided us with a simple version of the Faidley's Famous Crab Cake, minus a few secret ingredients. If you want the real thing, they ship fresh crab cakes overnight to anywhere in the United States.

Fresh lump crabmeat—slightly sweet, slightly briny and always delicate—pairs well with a wide range of white wines, from Albariño to Vermentino, as well as sparkling wines and dry rosés. "We generally suggest a nice Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc," said Hahn. "The David Hill Estate Reserve Chardonnay from Oregon is a good choice, as is Domaine Bellevue Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine. My personal go-to everyday pairing is a blend from Côtes de Gascogne called Haut-Marin. It's a great seafood wine."

In its pan-fried cake form, crab pairs well with beer, of course. Hahn reports that the customers at Faidley's are particularly fond of washing down their crab cakes with cans of "Natty Boh," the local pilsner. National Bohemian brewed its first lager just a year before Faidley Seafood opened and was the first brewery to package beer in the now-ubiquitous six-pack. Locals are known to make a "Baltimore Margarita" by rimming a chilled beer mug of Natty Boh with Old Bay seasoning. The Raven, another popular local brew, seems particularly well-suited for Super Bowl Sunday. "I personally like a nice hefeweizen, with citrus, of course," said Hahn.

San Francisco has an obsession with its own local crustacean, the Dungeness crab, and a dish that originated here in the 19th century, cioppino, a Mediterranean-style fish-and-crab stew made with white wine. Fisherman immigrants from Portugal and Italy would make cioppino from the chopped-up leftovers of the day's catch, the dish's name likely derived from the Genoan dialect Italian verb ciuppin, or "to chop."

One of the best bowls of cioppino in San Francisco can be found at Rose Pistola, a Ligurian-influenced restaurant that opened in 1996 in the Italian neighborhood of North Beach. Executive chef Mark Gordon, who also oversees the kitchens at sister restaurants Terzo and Rose's Café, offers his recipe for Rose Pistola's Cioppino.

Many San Francisco cioppinos are more tomato-based, but Rose Pistola's version is closer to a seafood soup, with tomato as one of the flavor components. Gordon recommends using a dry, crisp, high-acid white wine for cooking—Sauvignon Blanc or Albariño—though he suggests richer whites and even reds with good acidity for pairing with the final product. "This soup is pretty rich, with a little bit of tomato and acid, but also a little bit of spice to it," said Gordon, who previously worked as a chef at Fetzer Vineyards. “There are a lot of [wines] that could work with it really, really well.”

Gordon's picks ranged from Spanish cava to a Saumur rosé from France's Loire Valley to whites such as Vermentino, Verdicchio or Pinot Blanc that have good minerality, good acid and a little bit of richness. "But I think red makes a more interesting pairing," he said. "Pinot Noir, you want one that's not too rich and jammy, you want one that's high in acidity. The same thing with Zinfandel. We have Storybook [Mountain] Zin at Rose Pistola and I think that's a perfect combination. Barolo with a little bit of age—not one that's just been released but maybe a 5-year-old Barolo," said Gordon. "Cru Beaujolais would be great. And Barbera I think works great with that tomato, but only one that was made in stainless steel—I wouldn't recommend one that had any oak treatment."

For plenty of other Super Bowl party recipes (from wings to chowders to Roethlisburgers), check out all the links in the sidebar.


Baltimore vs. San Francisco Super Bowl Party Recipes

Faidley's Famous Crab Cakes
Rose Pistola's Cioppino


Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More value wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

Recommended Red Wine Values

LANGE Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2010 Score: 91 | $24
Smooth and eloquent, delivering a lovely cascade of polished plum, currant and cranberry, shaded with cream and herb as the finish lingers easily. Offers depth and transparency. Drink now through 2017. 4,000 cases made.—H.S.

ARALDICA VINI PIEMONTESI Barbera d'Asti Albera 2009 Score: 90 | $11
Ripe and expressive, this red features black currant, blackberry and violet notes matched to a firm yet pliable structure. Focuses on the sweet fruit that lingers on the aftertaste. Drink now. 2,500 cases imported.—B.S.

MARCHESI DI BAROLO Barbera del Monferrato Maràia 2011 Score: 90 | $12
A dark, succulent red, exuding black cherry, blackberry and violet aromas and flavors. Pure and focused, with a long aftertaste of sweet fruit, flowers and spice. Drink now through 2016. 4,250 cases imported.—B.S.

CLIFFORD BAY Pinot Noir Marlborough 2010 Score: 89 | $15
Robust, offering plenty of fresh black cherry and plum flavors that are extremely juicy and intense, with cigar box and spice details and firm tannins. Drink now through 2020. 30,000 cases made.—M.W.

GEORGES DUBOEUF Brouilly Flower Label 2011 Score: 88 | $13
Aromatic, with a floral overtone to the ripe strawberry and raspberry fruit, grilled plum and vanilla bean flavors. Light tannins show on the fresh, graphite-tinged finish. Drink now through 2016. 10,000 cases made.—A.N.

LOUIS JADOT Beaujolais-Villages 2010 Score: 87 | $10
Creamy, with a thread of ground spice wrapped around flavors of black raspberry, pekoe tea leaf, red licorice and currant. Offers a fresh, lingering finish. Drink now. 75,000 cases imported.—A.N.

MEZZACORONA Pinot Noir Vigneti delle Dolomiti 2010 Score: 86 | $10
Fresh and juicy, with ground spice, floral and dried herb notes winding through flavors of raspberry ganache and wild strawberry. Drink now. 40,000 cases made.—A.N.

Recommended White Wine Values

MARQUÉS DE CÁCERES Albariño Rias Baixas Deusa Nai 2011 Score: 90 | $16
This aromatic white offers an alluring mix of orange blossom, wild herb and seaside notes, with a silky texture and tangy acidity for grip. Ethereal yet racy, this is juicy and fresh. Drink now. 5,000 cases imported.—T.M.

BODEGAS NAIA Rueda 2011 Score: 90 | $14
Gentle but expressive, this white offers peach, pear, clementine and light herbal flavors that mingle nicely in a light but racy texture. Shows bright, clean acidity and a fresh, lingering finish. Drink now. 6,000 cases imported.—T.M.

MARCHESI DI BAROLO Gavi 2011 Score: 89 | $16
Fresh aromas and flavors of apple and peach pick up a hint of grapefruit on this lively white's finish. Drink now. 3,000 cases imported.—B.S.

BOUTARI Moschofilero Mantinia 2011 Score: 89 | $17
A racy white, with crisp and pure-tasting flavors of green apple, grapefruit and pear, joined by notes of jellied quince. The firm, focused finish offer honey cream accents. Drink now through 2018. 6,300 cases imported.—K.M.

INAMA Soave Classico Vin Soave 2011 Score: 89 | $15
Smoky, with a base of minerality and flavors of grapefruit, melon and blanched almond as well as a persistent thread of ground cardamom and ginger. Features good density and a fresh finish. Drink now through 2015. 18,500 cases imported.—A.N.

KONO Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2011 Score: 89 | $11
Lemon curd, fresh ginger and ripe apricot flavors are in harmony, with refreshing acidity and a light but smooth body. Drink now. 96,300 cases made.—M.W.

CHARLES SMITH Riesling Columbia Valley Kung Fu Girl Evergreen 2011 Score: 89 | $12
Fresh and lively, this is off-dry, but with tangy balance to the pineapple and lime flavors, lingering on the finish. Drink now through 2015. 64,800 cases made.—H.S.

BUITENVERWACHTING Sauvignon Blanc Coastal Region Beyond 2012 Score: 88 | $12
Very refreshing, offering lime, green plum and sea salt notes, with good snap on the finish. Drink now. 6,000 cases imported.—J.M.

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Riesling Columbia Valley Dry 2011 Score: 88 | $9
Fresh and vital, with juicy pear and floral flavors that play against lemony acidity. Dry finish. Drink now. 75,000 cases made.—H.S.

BIBI GRAETZ Toscana Casamatta White 2011 Score: 88 | $13
Apple, peach and grapefruit notes mingle in this rich, fresh and balanced white. Vermentino, Trebbiano and Muscat. Drink now. 5,000 cases imported.—B.S.

MOHUA Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2011 Score: 88 | $13
Ripe peach and apricot flavors are round and smooth, with just the right touch of acidity and a terrific fleshy texture. Drink now. 30,000 cases made.—M.W.

COLUMBIA CREST Sauvignon Blanc Washington Two Vines 2011 Score: 87 | $8
A fresh and vibrant white, showing lively flavors of green melon and lime, followed by a silky finish. Drink now. 16,000 cases made.—H.S.

INDABA Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape 2011 Score: 87 | $10
Very fresh, with verbena, kaffir lime and fennel notes, showing nice zip through the finish. Contains 4 percent Chenin Blanc. Drink now. 12,931 cases imported.—J.M.

ADEGA COOPERATIVA REGIONAL DE MONÇÃO Vinho Verde Muralhas de Monção 2011 Score: 87 | $10
Minerally and bright-tasting, with good structure behind the cherry and white plum flavors, which linger with plenty of spiciness on the finish. Drink now. 125,000 cases made.—K.M.

CAVIPOR Vinho Verde Vinhas Altas 2011 Score: 86 | $8
Very fruity, with lively peach, ripe apple and cherry flavors that feature jellied citrus notes. Clean on the finish, with minerally notes. Drink now. 25,000 cases made.—K.M.

BODEGAS Y VIÑEDOS O. FOURNIER Sauvignon Blanc Uco Valley Urban 2011 Score: 86 | $9
This fresh, lean style offers a good mineral undertow to the crisp citrus and gooseberry fruit, which persists on the finish. Drink now. 4,000 cases imported.—N.W.

KIRKLAND SIGNATURE Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave 2011 Score: 85 | $7
This zesty white is smoky and open-knit, showing lots of ground spice, blanched almond and white peach flavors. Lightly juicy acidity runs throughout. Drink now. 75,000 cases made.—A.N.

OAK GROVE Pinot Grigio California Reserve 2011 Score: 85 | $8
Offers appealing tangy peach and citrus flavors, with touches of orange blossom and honeysuckle. Juicy on the finish. Drink now. 7,000 cases made.—M.W.

William Matarese
Florida, USA —  February 4, 2013 12:09pm ET
Wow! Not a single Chardonnay or Merlot on the entire list. How far the once beloved have fallen from favor! Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay 2010 would have been on my list.

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