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No Matter Who Plays the Super Bowl, It's Party Time

Midwinter in Northern Virginia is not usually picture-postcard-pretty with gently falling snow as it was last Saturday. It's likely to be gray and cold, and what falls from the sky is icy rain. The holiday season is over, so what 's the best way to cheer up? A party. And what's the best excuse for a party? The Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XXXVI will be played in New Orleans this year on Feb. 3. Those who head for the city of good times can probably continue the party right on through to Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Feb. 12; but for those who stay at home, there is always the game and a party.

The Super Bowl is one of the most watched events on television and has become the excuse for one of the United States’ biggest party days. This is not the time for elaborate decorations and fancy gourmet foods. This is beer, pizza, big sandwich and chili time, whether you make the fixings yourself or head for your favorite deli or supermarket.

Have plenty of food and drink in store, paper goods — this is fun, remember — and enough televisions begged or borrowed scattered around to let those who really want to watch the game watch it. For everyone else, it's a great reason to chase the winter blues and get together with friends. So let le bon temps roulez!

Chili is a natural accompaniment to gatherings of friends, cold days and football. Novice professional chef Rachel Trigg, a longtime amateur cook at church suppers and other group events, offers her recipe for chili.

" I don't have anything written down, as I usually do this on the fly. So anyone making this may want to adjust amounts to taste. I do know it takes a lot of chili powder to get the chili as spicy as I like it."

<mh>Vegetarian Chili

<bt>Serves 8 to 10

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

5-6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 chili pepper, minced (optional)

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 6-oz. cans tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine or red wine vinegar

2-3 tablespoons chili powder (more or less can be used to taste)

2 teaspoons basil

1 teaspoon each oregano and thyme

1 tablespoon parsley

3-4 15.5-ounce cans black beans, kidney beans and other beans, drained

(Several different kinds of beans can be used.)

Sauté the onion in the oil until translucent. Add garlic and, if

desired, the chili pepper. Cook several minutes more. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, then red wine. Stir until mixed and heated through. Add basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. Taste and add chili powder as desired.

Add beans and stir. When hot, taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serve chili over rice or spaghetti and top it with sour cream, grated cheese, chopped or sliced onion , thin slivers of chili peppers or any combination desired.

For those who love chili or deli food but don't want to prepare their own, there are lots of choices.

<mh>Chili and Much, Much More

<bt>Chili lovers can always head to Hard Times Cafe, which traditionally offers four kinds of chili: Texas chili, Cincinnati chili, vegetarian chili and Terlingua red chili. Hard Times has restaurants in Alexandria, Springfield, Clarendon and Herndon, where takeout is available. Call 703-837-0050 in Alexandria; 703-913-5600 in Springfield; 703-528-2233 in Clarendon; and 703-318-8941 in Herndon

Corkie's Restaurant & Lemmedoit Catering in McLean offers homemade chili in mild, medium and light-up-your-life versions for $9.95 a quart. They also sell giant subs sold in 3-foot sections for $45 and offer a hot dog bar with a 10-person minimum at $8 per person. The bar includes all-beef hot dogs, buns, chili, cheese, onions, sauerkraut and condiments. For snacking, there is spinach dip at $12 a quart; cheese and salsa, $14 a quart; the ubiquitous buffalo wings and Southern fried chicken fingers. Subs need to be ordered one week in advance, other orders five days. Call 703-533-5880.

<mh>Super Bowl Italian Style

For a Super Bowl celebration with an Italian flavor, try the Romantica Deli and Pizzeria. in Great Falls. Their 6-foot subs, with Italian cold cuts, serve 25-30 people at a price of $89. “Award-winning Buffalo wings can be ordered in any amount, about $60 for 100 wings. Order 24 hours in advance. The regular menu has a variety of sandwiches, regular-size American and Italian hot and cold subs for $4.99 each, calzones for $4.99 and $5.59, and all kinds of pizza from plain to stuffed ranging in price from $7.99 to $17.99. Call 703-757-1791

Rocco's Italian Restaurant in McLean offers a 16-inch Pope’s Blessing Pizza with everything on it, $15. Order 30 minutes in advance. Call 703-821-3736.

Deli Italiano Ledo Pizza with stores in Arlington and Falls Church offers a five-foot sub with Italian cold cuts; serves 15-20; $69.95. There’s an 11-by-14-inch rectangular “Meat-Lovers” Pizza with pepperoni, sausage and meatballs; “Pizza 55” with pepperoni, sausage and mushroom: $14.95. Order 48 hours in advance. Call 703-521-5336 in Arlington and 703-847-5336 in Falls Church.

<mh>Honey Baked Ham

<bt>It's not as busy as Christmas time, but the Honey Baked Ham Co. gets "our share" of customers planning Super Bowl parties, according to Fred Scott, assistant manager in Fairfax. In addition to the hams and turkey breasts, smoked and glazed, which the company is known for, a variety of trays are offered. The complete tray — which includes plates, napkins and utensils — includes a meat tray, cheese tray, condiment tray, salads, breads and condiments. To serve 10, the cost is $79.50, to serve 15, $119.25. The meat and cheese trays can also be purchased individually: The meat tray serves 10 for $37.50 and contains ham, roast turkey, roast beef and smoked turkey. The cheese tray serves 10 for $20 and contains Colby, Swiss, American and cheddar cheeses. The Nibbler Tray, which serves 20 to 25 people for $45, includes honey-baked ham, salami, roast turkey, Colby, Swiss, cheddar and hot pepper cheeses, cubed and served with ham salad. The tray also includes napkins and serving utensils.

In addition to the Fairfax store, there are shops in Franconia and Falls Church. Call 703-764-3200 in Fairfax and 703-922-7200 in Franconia.

<mh>New York-Style Sandwiches

Pica Deli Gourmet and Wines offers a complete line of catered products for formal and casual entertaining. Gabe Pica is owner of the Arlington-based deli, and his brothers, Frank and Ron, own and manage Pica Deli in Reston. Famous for their New York-style deli sandwiches, they offer sandwich platters, subs, Buffalo wings and a wide variety of appetizers, including vegetable and cheese patters ranging in price from $38.99 to $48.99, baked brie and crackers for $45.99, mini cocktail roll sandwiches for 24 at $34.99, cocktail meatballs, a half pan for $39.99. Buffalo style wings are $39.99 for a half-pan, and grilled wings marinated in lemon and garlic are $44.99 for a half-pan. For more information, call 703-524-5656 in Arlington, 703-476-5050 in Reston, and go online at www.picadelireston.com.

<mh>More Choices

<bt>Elie's Deli & Catering, owned by Elie Haddad, has three locations in Fairfax, Vienna and at the County Government Center. In addition to selling Super Bowl-size subs, 6-footers that contain 7 1/2 pounds of meat, the delis offer a huge menu for catering and takeout that can be viewed on their Web site www.eliesdeli.com.

There are a variety of hors d'oeuvres including assorted bries and cheeses, party dips, cocktail-size finger sandwiches and cocktail finger food. They also offer hot entrees and salads and a whole selection of heart-healthy food. For those with a sweet tooth, there are dessert platters, including a chocolate suicide cake that serves 16, for $36.75; a deep-dish pecan pie that serves 14, for $34.75; a fancy gourmet dessert bar that serves 25 to 35 guests, for $182.95; and a carrot cake that serves 16, for $34.75; not to mention a variety of cheesecakes, brownies and cookies. Call 703-691-1777 in Fairfax and 703-761-3777 in Vienna.

<mh>Super Bowl Sales

<bt>"Super Bowl is a big season for us," said Barry Scher, vice president of public affairs for Giant Foods Inc. "We always do special ads to encourage customers." He noted it was bigger when the Redskins or Ravens were playing, which isn't happening this year, but no matter who plays, it's a big day. Giant offers party platters, subs, snacks, sides, beer and wine. "We will even design a cake with a football theme," Scher said and added that you can pick up flowers or flower arrangements as well.

Giant offers a full range of party platters from $32.39 to $80, depending on what they contain and the number served. A 3-foot sub will feed 15 to 18 people for $32, and a 5-foot sub will feed 25 for $49. Stuffed pitas for 15 people are $37.95. There are also spicy wing trays, deviled eggs and a wide variety of dips.