New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens: Which Team Is the AFC Champ of Food?
Now that you've heard Ed break down the Giants and 49ers game this weekend—with predicted scores determined by their respective food town cred—it's time to talk about the Patriots and Ravens game.
This one might be a little less fair since "New England" covers a sizable territory, but Baltimore has its share of serious eats to be sure. With some help from Pizzablogger, who knows his way around the Baltimore scene, and Boston-based Slice Editor Meredith representing New England, we've compiled a breakdown of all four quarters in the following categories: shellfish, beef sandwiches, pizza, and sweets.
First Quarter: Shellfish
Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore can steam with the best of 'em. Walk into LP Steamers in Locust Point and you'll be met with an aromatic cloud of steamy shellfish. And Chesapeake Bay oysters, the white gold of the Atlantic seaboard, when coated in a crisp cornmeal crust and fried are hard to beat. Just a couple on the half shelf at Nick's Oyster Bar on Charles Street will make a strong case for these briny creatures. But the crabs from the mid-Atlantic waters are the most beloved. And at the recently closed Obrycki's, a Baltimore institution, you could get as fine a crab as any; they were known for replacing the characteristic Old Bay seasoning with black pepper.
New England Patriots: Sure Baltimore has crabs, but New England can represent in the shellfish department and beyond. Most of the clam shacks along the yankee shore are serving up crisp, golden-fried clams dug from local beds that pack a sweet-salty punch. The coastal parts of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are populated with legendary shacks like the Clam Box in Ipswich, The Bite in Chillmark, and Woodman's in Essex—which also serves up another New England seafood favorite, the shore dinner (where lobster, clams, potatoes, and corn unite). And the clam varieties that don't land in the fryer, make their way to the steaming pot, where drawn butter awaits the bulging beauties on the other side. Not to be topped in the oyster department, the stretch along the northern Atlantic coast is home to dozens of varieties of the highest caliber, like those you find at Island Creek Oyster Bar and their beds in Duxbury.
Score: Both have huge steamer cultures. Baltimore has crabs and well, littlenecks, but if this category is all of New England, we're covering all the coast (Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut, etc.) That's a lot of territory. Though you can't get crabs like you can in Baltimore anywhere else up the coast, we have to give New England 7 points here; 6 for Baltimore.
Second Quarter: Beef Sandwiches
Baltimore Ravens: Pit Beef is Baltimore's sandwich legacy. Roadside stands all over Baltimore county charcoal-grill hunks of well-seasoned meat, achieving a nice char and a rosy pink interior. Out on Pulaski Highway, Chaps is a longstanding favorite near the city for their tender, thin-sliced beef sandwiches. Set out on the rolling hills of the county roads in Woodlawn, Pioneer Pit Beef uses a wood-fire to cook their meat, infusing the moist slices with an intense smokiness.
New England Patriots: To the north of Boston, New England has its own roast beef sandwich culture. Kelly's Roast Beef lays claim to introducing the style—deli-thin sliced beef piled high on Kaiser rolls—at their Revere Beach flagship location. But imitators soon popped up all over the North Shore and 'beefs' (as they are known locally) inspire fierce loyalty, like Nick's in Beverly. And of course a good idea can always be improved upon, like the less traditional but supremely satisfying version at Cutty's in Brookline.
Score: Baltimore ups the flavor by actually grilling the beef over charcoal, which sure adds some flavor complexity. Baltimore scores a touchdown here; New England earns a field goal. The score now: 13 to 10 (Baltimore's lead).
Third Quarter: Pizza
Baltimore Ravens: You can't have a conversation about Baltimore pizza without Iggie's and its very, very thin crust (it begins as a dough ball that's aggressively rolled into a round "skin"). Even if you're not into the snappy thin crust, Iggie's pies are topped with fresh ingredients including their housemade mozzarella. Matthew's is a different experience—it's "Greek pizza," even if they don't actually refer to themselves as being Greek pizza—where the dough cooks in a deep pan with a significant amount of olive oil at the bottom so it develops a crisp, slightly greasy, foccacia-like chew. "It's a pizza experience completely unlike most others... and unfortunately, it's the one pizza style that unless it's executed perfectly, can be downright awful (defying the old adage that like sex, even bad pizza is still good). Matthew's, fortunately, executes perfectly," noted our Kenji Lopez-Alt after his visit.
New England Patriots: The Pats really have the, er... home team advantage on this one. New England is firmly planted on a good portion of the pizza belt (which spans from Philly to Boston). The greats of New Haven like Sally's Apizza, Frank Pepe's, Modern, Bar, Zuppardi's could defeat most regions of the country on their own. But that's just ONE city in New England. Connecticut has greats beyond those. Then add to that the pizzas throughout Massachusetts, and the grilled pizza innovators of Rhode Island, Al Forno—clearly the cards are stacked pretty heavily against any contender.
Score: If it were a head-to-head in just the Greek pizza category, then Baltimore might have a fighting chance, but that's not the case. New Haven is involved, so Baltimore is getting pummeled here. A big 7 points for New England; Baltimore gets 3. The end of third quarter score: New England has 17, Baltimore 16.
Fourth Quarter: Sweets
New England Patriots: This is serious, serious ice cream territory. You've got Toscanini's and Christina's in Cambridge, Dr. Mike's in Bethel, CT, loads of ice cream shacks, like Four Seas on the Cape, that have been around for generations, and let's not forget the Ben & Jerry's empire that had its humble beginnings in Vermont.
Baltimore Ravens: The gelato from Pitango (which also has locations in D.C.) is worth scooping. Israeli-American owner Noah Dan insists on sourcing certain ingredients like "almonds only from a particular slope in Sicily" and grass-fed organic milk from Spring Wood Organic Farm in central Pennsylvania. It's about as good as gelato gets outside of Italy. And if we're opening up this category to the bigger sweets scene, we'd be remiss for not mentioning all the big Italian pastry shops and pie from Dangerous Pies.
Score: New Englanders LOVE ice cream. Even with all the snowfall and frostbitten faces and puffy coats, the weather doesn't stop them from loving it hard. New England scores a touchdown for ice cream, and we'll give Baltimore a field goal for offering a respectable sugar rush.