For big game: Old Bay and some purple beer

The Baltimore Sun

What are we going to eat and drink Sunday night as we watch the Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers? This is the question that is consuming Baltimore eaters this week.

There are several game-day possibilities: bowing to superstition, choosing local flavors or going purple.

The superstition route is one Gary Scher travels. His eating habits bring the Ravens good luck, he thinks.

When, for example, he watches the Ravens on television in his Ellicott City home, Scher always pops open a can of Coors in sync with the kickoff.

On game days, he always eats a breakfast of creamed chip beef on toast and scrapple. It is the breakfast he and his brother Marc serve at their Poe Brothers tailgate outside M&T; Bank Stadium when the Ravens are playing in Baltimore.

Scher told me he does not have a set game-day menu, but he does have a firm belief about the dinnerware. It has to be purple. "I have purple plastic forks, purple knives, purple plates - everything has to be purple," he said, adding that he orders the items from a Web site called

The local-flavor approach, serving food and beverages from the Chesapeake Bay region, is a game-day strategy that I employ.

Because our strongest culinary player, the blue crab, is out of season in January, I like to go with a solid backup: crab seasoning.

On game days, I often sprinkle crab seasoning - Old Bay or Obrycki's - on trimmed chicken wings, then broil them in a 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes, flipping them once at the 15-minute mark. I also sprinkle crab seasoning on cut-up potatoes and roast them in the oven.

Until recently, I have not been very interested in the purple-food front. The few foods that are naturally purple, some types of asparagus, some types of cauliflower and cabbage, hold little attraction for me.

But this year, I took a journey down the purple road and met a new friend, food coloring. It is sold, in four-packs, in the baking aisle of grocery stores. McCormick & Co., local folks, make it in Hunt Valley.

Five drops from the red vial and two drops from the blue vial in the bottom of a glass will turn a beer an attractive shade of purple. For a video demonstration of how to perform this feat, go to my beer blog, Kasper On Tap.

I tried the drops out on several good local beers - a Clipper City Pale Ale, and a lager called The Raven, which is named after Poe's poem, not the football team. The results were good. The beers had the legitimate look of the football team's purple, and, happily, the coloring did not affect their flavor.

I also experimented with a vial of purple from another McCormick's package, one that featured neon shades of food coloring. This neon purple food coloring did change the hue of the beer. But it was too girly looking.

I suppose you could put drops of food coloring in a variety of beverages. But I learned there are limits to the appeal of purple. When, for example, I put a few drops of purple food coloring in my wife's glass of chardonnay, she refused to drink it. It looked off-putting, she told me.

Instead, I put some of the girly purple food coloring in a glass of Iron City, a modest brew that calls itself the "official beer of the Pittsburgh nation." It looked awful and tasted worse. I don't know how those Heinz Ketchup eaters up there in Pittsburgh drink that swill. But changing Pittsburgh's favorite beer to the color purple was great fun.

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