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The NFL playoffs are coming, if you haven’t noticed. Three weekends of football are all we have left before the biggest Sunday night party of the year sends us back to the office Monday morning in a stupor.

I’ve never loved Super Bowl parties. The game mercifully starts at 6:30 p.m., but somehow the event keeps me up past midnight forcing me to endure a six-hour binge session of chips, cheesy dips, and pots of chili. I prefer a quiet more intimate Super Bowl Sunday: One with just a handful of friends, a takeout pizza, and some drinkable beer.

The Conference Championships, however, are cause for a gastronomic blow-out of epic proportions. While everyone else pre-orders kegs for their final dance and booze orgy, my friends and I concoct a culinary tribute to the final four.

Our menu is driven by the regional foods popularized by each team’s home town. So while the rest of the world watches Kansas City play Baltimore in the wild cards this weekend we’ll ponder barbecued ribs and sumptuous crabcakes. I hope the Ravens pull it off, since I no longer have a grill. (Maybe you know someone with a smoker to spare?)

I’m pulling hard for Chicago over those fucking Eagles. A Chicago Italian beef sandwich kicks a cheesesteak’s ass any day. And New England is looking tough. Who’s gonna step up to the plate and put clam chowder to rest. I’ve certainly prepared my fair share of the briny stew.

We all know Pittsburgh will bring us the finest sandwich known to man [Editor’s comment: Scott, really?], but might a New Orleans victory bring us an opportunity to explore the cuisine of an Esquire top-ten food city?

It doesn’t matter. For the next two weeks I’ll be glued to a TV, with a pile of cookbooks at my side rooting for my favorite dishes. No matter who ends up playing the last weekend in January, the food is going to be good.

Photo by Scott Reitz