The action won't just be taking place on the field Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals meet the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. In living rooms and bars across the Valley and western Pennsylvania, fans will be enjoying their respective signature foods and drinks. Here's a decidedly biased look at how the two regions' cuisines stack up:
Henry John Heinz founded the Anchor Pickle and Vinegar Works in 1869 and began selling ketchup four years later. Today, Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Company sells more than $1billion in ketchup annually (along with everything from pasta to fruit juice), allowing it to pay $57million in 2001 for naming rights to the Steelers' Heinz Field.
Red or green, thick or thin, spicy or sweet - does any other condiment offer so much diversity and adaptability? Like ketchup, you can put it on hamburgers, hot dogs or fried potatoes. Unlike ketchup, it also goes great with chips, tacos, grilled chicken or fish, eggs and ... well, just about any food.
FAVORITE WAY TO WRAP FOOD
Introduced to western Pennsylvania by Slavic immigrants, these half-circular dumplings of unleavened dough are stuffed with mashed potatoes, cheese, meat or vegetables. According to a friend from neighboring Ohio, pierogi are popular with Pittsburghers because they're soft enough to be eaten by people with missing teeth.
Popular on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, burritos are flour tortillas wrapped around a combination of fillings, typically meat, rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Entire restaurant chains - from locals (like Someburros) to nationals (like Chipotle) - have been launched by burritos.
FAVORITE SANDWICH TOPPING
French fries and cole slaw
Primanti Brothers, which started as a wood stand in the early 1930s, came up with the idea of putting fried potatoes and cole slaw on nearly every type of sandwich - saving people the daunting task of eating the side dishes separately - and became a Pittsburgh institution, now with 14 restaurants in the city.
Man has been eating chilies for nearly 8,000 years. Here in the Valley, you can find them in everything from the habanero cheeseburger at Carlsbad Tavern to the chipotle barbecue sauce on the pulled pork sandwich at San Tan Brewing to the jalapeño jack cheese on the Southwestern Club at Dilly's Deli, just to name a few.
FAVORITE MEAT PREPARATION
Isaly's, a chain of dairies and restaurants, created this luncheon meat in 1933 by taking a loaf of chopped ham and "chipping" it against a meat slicer blade to make razor-thin slices, a process also known as "Pittsburgh style." As with pierogi, one can only assume this is a benefit for the dentally challenged.
Mention barbecue in the South, and you're usually referring to pork. In the West, however, you're primarily talking about beef. One corporate chef of a large barbecue chain - who's spent a decade checking out barbecue all over the country - told me the pecan-smoked sliced beef brisket at Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert is the best he's ever had.
FAVORITE HOMETOWN BEER
Iron City Beer
Pittsburgh's Iron City Brewery Company began making one of America's first lagers in 1861 and pioneered the use of aluminum cans, presumably so Steeler fans could crush them against their foreheads more easily. With a thin body and stale aftertaste, its flagship pilsner, Iron City, is a favorite of very old men.
In just a dozen years, Tempe's Four Peaks Brewing Company has established itself as an acclaimed brewer, and Kiltlifter, its flagship Scottish-style ale, has won medals at the Great American Beer Festival three times. With a slightly sweet, slightly smoky flavor, the amber ale is enjoyed by beer lovers of all ages.
FAVORITE SWEET TREAT
This longtime Pittsburgh favorite also was introduced at Isaly's, the store that created chipped ham, in the 1920s. The chocolate-covered squares of ice cream didn't go national until 1982 but now are available in more than 90percent of U.S. supermarkets. They come in 13 flavors, many inspired by candy bars.
Started in 1992 by Phoenix childhood friends Eileen Spitalny and David Kravetz, this direct-mail gourmet brownie business ships more than 2.5million brownies per year all over the world. They're also available in 13 flavors - but all-natural, free of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, preservatives and artificial colors.