"The first thing you want is to have masculine food," says Sharkey. "Big, bold, smoky, spicy, and meaty flavors." To set that tone, he recommends starting with a choucroute garni, a hearty and heaping Alsatian dish — sausage and bacon are braised in sauerkraut and wine and served under a bed of new potatoes and mustard. "We serve it in a big pan," says Sharkey. "Any time you have a food item that you have to actively work to get, where it’s not an individual plate of something, creates a social interaction."
Another plus? This contemporary spin on meat and potatoes can sit in its juices and holds up over the course of a long evening. It also reheats really well for sandwiches the next day.
Beer is a no-brainer, and even though the mass brands will run funny commercials, try something a little more creative. "You want to have a good craft beer, something thats not too heavy," notes Sharkey. He recommends a pilsner or a light ale "so you can drink six, seven, eight of them and not be on the floor."
Brooklyn Brewerys Sixpoint, now sold in cans, is a favorite of Sharkeys. For something more under-the-radar, Sharkey suggests Full Sail Brewing Co.s "Session" bottles. "Its like if Miller High Life was a craft beer," says Sharkey. "And its only 4.5 percent alcohol, so you can drink a ton of them." The Hood River, Ore., brewer prints "Rock, Paper, Scissors" icons on its caps, giving the beer a social component as well.
What makes Bark Dogs unique is the way they elevate the humble sausage to gourmet heights by dressing it with a wide variety of toppings: pickled jalapeños, sweet and sour onions, and coleslaw made with pickle juice. You’d be wise to follow in their footsteps. A regular old brat is good even on a bad day, but why not go with a Cheddar bratwurst? These are widely available in the butcher department at most grocery stores, and they will distinguish your sausage fest from most others.
"We do a Cheddar bratwurst and we serve it with this spicy habanero sauce, and you bite into it and it’s oozing the cheese," says Sharkey, selling us with "oozing cheese." The host can grill the brats ahead of time and keep them warm in a 250-degree oven, or can cook them to order. Either way, the aroma of sausages will fill the air.
In the case of the Super Bowl, where any diet is given a free pass, Sharkey likes to round out the meal with a heart-stopping, easy-to-prepare pan of rich and gooey goodness — not to mention a comfort food classic. "We serve shells and cheese," he says, adding that you can gussy it up with flourishes like braised bacon or a jalapeño-roasted garlic sauce — things that make the comfort food a bit more original.
As for condiments, Bark’s most popular one is a pepper relish. "It’s sweet, acidic, and tangy, and cuts through the fat and smoke of the dog," says Sharkey. While Bark has made its own ketchup in the past, Sharkey notes that Heinz must be somewhere on your table. "You just really can’t beat it," he says.
Sharkey’s approach to pacing the evening is simple and spot on. "I like to eat right away," he says of serving his guests. "If you’re going to be sitting down watching TV for five hours, you might as well be in a food coma."
The day isn’t about anything other than the game, so make the TV central. Sharkey likes to squeeze as many people around his couch as he can, as knees and the coffee table serve as the dining table.
After cooking all day, the last thing anyone wants is to spend hours cleaning up. Sharkey's essentials include biodegradable paper plates, forks, spoons, and knives. When Bark caters a party, they take a minimalist approach to décor, preferring the food to shine through.
However, in his home, Sharkey likes to use growlers as a showpiece in addition to a serving vessel. He’ll fill them with beer as well as Foxon Park sodas and water, and sometimes, he’ll even place a few flowers in one as a centerpiece. To keep the beverages cold he uses a Six Point-branded tin bin packed with ice. Most hardware stores will carry tin bins, a huge step up from the Styrofoam variety.
Between the game and commercials, there is hardly room to squeeze much more into the evening, including a soundtrack. But Sharkey has a few ways of livening up the party.
When the food is served, he’ll put recipe cards on the table so that, as people eat, they can check to see how something was made. Afterward, they can take the cards home. "If you want to impress a girl, cooking is a pretty good way to do it," Sharkey says.
Since nothing sparks a little debate quite like wagering, Sharkey has everyone fill out a Super Bowl pool. These stat sheets can be found on the Internet and they go beyond the final game score. One can bet on everything from who will win the coin toss to the first song Madonna will sing at halftime. However, the only sure bet of the evening is that your guests will leave full and happy.