In our epicurean fantasy football league, we’re tailgating from a parking-lot corral of Escalades and Land Rovers, with Fred Flintstone ribs coming off a massive wagon smoker. In reality, we’re popping the back of our 5-year-old Chevy Aveo and heating chili on a propane burner. Not that there’s any shame in that: Good chili makes most things OK, even a January wind chill. “It’s one of those dishes that warms you from the inside out,” says Michael Mina, the San Francisco chef with a national league of restaurants, stretching from Miami to Seattle.
Mina is a serious San Francisco 49ers fan who’s logged over two decades of tailgates at Candlestick Park, the team’s recently retired home field. When the 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium opens later this year in Silicon Valley, Mina will also launch a Bourbon Steak & Pub offshoot that’ll transform, on home-game days, into Michael Mina’s Tailgate. Season-ticket holders and suite owners will take in a scaled-up version of the chef’s Candlestick tailgates, including the appearance by a guest chef from the opposing team’s city, who’ll cook a dish from home.
The chili Mina’s team cooked for our own subcompact tailgate is a recipe from The Handle Bar, a stepped-up pub in the Four Seasons Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s made with elk, though you can substitute beef chuck (full recipe for Michael Mina’s Rocky Mountain Chili here), and garnished with cheddar, sour cream, and Fritos (yeah, actual Fritos). It’s a chili with character, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That should make it just about perfect for tempering Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey, a game so serious that Mina—who watched the Seattle Seahawks defeat his 49ers earlier this month in the NFC Championship—will not be tuning in.
At least he has chili and Fritos to warm himself with. And now, so do you.
Photos by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com