For Americans, there is nothing quite like the Super Bowlnothing. The football tour-de-force still draws over 100 million viewers annually, no small feat at a time when a tenth of that audience is considered ratings gold. And this year, with Houston hosting the Big Game, the city is offering about 100 million ways to celebrate, too. Whether you scored tickets right on the 50-yard line or you couldn't explain a pick-6 if your life depended on it, you won't want to miss this once-in-maybe-a-decade party.

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Turn It Up

The Super Bowl isn't a one-day event — it's a week-long party! A host of family-friendly activities, concerts, tastings, and yes, super-duper-exclusive affairs are set to take over the city.

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Discovery Green

Free

What: Super Bowl Live
When: Jan 27-Feb 5
Where: Discovery Green

A free, 10-day festival, this event is ideal for families, offering music from local bands, food, games and plenty of attractions to keep the estimated 1 million visitors who will descend upon Houston busy. The park’s giant, 15-foot football clock counting down the hours left till the big game makes for the perfect photo-op. housuperbowl.com

What: Super Bowl Parties at GreenStreet
When: Jan 27-Feb 5
Where: GreenStreet

Just a block from Super Bowl Live, GreenStreet will be offering music, food, games, photo booths and digital art installations. greenstreetdowntown.com/happenings

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Minute Maid Park

Affordable

What: The NFL Experience
When: Jan 27-Feb 5
Where: George R. Brown Convention Center

This family-friendly event features interactive games, autograph sessions with current and former NFL players, and plenty of physical activities to tire out the tots, like kicking a field goal or playing a quick game. Check out the Hall of Fame memorabilia display and shop for limited-edition merchandise you won’t find anywhere else. Tickets start at $20; ticketmaster.com

What: Opening Night
When: Jan 30 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Minute Maid Park

Start the week right with this kick-off celebration, where the teams that make it to the Big Game will be introduced out on the field, along with music, food and more. Tickets start at $20, ticketmaster.com

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2016 Super Bowl Breakfast

It's Going to Cost You

What: Luminaries of the Game
When: Feb 1 at 7 p.m.
Where: Marriott Marquis Houston

Houston socialite Lynn Wyatt and former Secretary of State James Baker are the honorary chairs of this gala, featuring an NFL Pro Football Hall of Famer at each table. Proceeds benefit Touchdown Houston, the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee’s charitable program, which supports non-profits throughout the city. Tickets start at $75,000 per table, housuperbowl.com

What: Bruno Mars Super Bowl Concert
When: Feb 3 at 9 p.m.
Where: Club Nomadic

Making headlines as one of the hottest Super Bowl Week venues, Club Nomadic is a temporary space popping up at Sawyer Yards that will have plenty of "24 Karat Magic" when Bruno Mars headlines on Friday night. If you miss the show, don't fret: The singer is expected to return to the Toyota Center in October. Tickets start at $175, ticketmaster.com

What: Super Bowl Breakfast
When: Feb 4, 8-10 a.m.
Where: Houston Marriott Marquis

At this morning event, one player will receive the 2017 Bart Starr Award, annually bestowed upon an NFL player who demonstrates leadership within the community. The NFL Today and Thursday Night Football host James Brown emcees, and players Tony Dungy, Roger Staubach, Bruce Matthews will be in attendance. Tickets start at $200, superbowlbreakfast.com

What: The Super Bowl Taste of the NFL
When: Feb 4 at 7 p.m.
Where: University of Houston

Benefiting the Houston Food Bank, this event offers food and wine tastings from renowned chefs representing all 32 NFL cities. Guests get to sample the dishes and chat with the cooks as well as plenty of pros. Tickets start at $700, tasteofthenfl.com

What:  The Players Tailgate Houston 2017
When: Feb. 5 at 1 p.m.
Where: Mike Calvert Toyota

We’ve all seen Guy Fieri on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and now fans can watch him work live at this pre-game party, where he’ll cook up a mouthwatering menu—tacos, mac n' cheese, burgers, brisket and nachos—for fans as well as more than two dozen current NFL players. Tickets start at $700, bullseyeeventgroup.com

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Club Nomadic

Invitation-Only

What: ESPN “The Party”
When: Feb 3 at 10 p.m.

Sports fanatics will be dying for tickets to ESPN’s annual shindig. It might not be the place to ask for an autograph, but it’s definitely the spot to say you had a drink (or five) with Peyton Manning.

What: DirecTV Super Saturday Night
When: Feb 4 from 9 p.m.
Where: Club Nomadic

Taylor Swift will headline AT&T’s DirecTV Saturday-night concert, the pop star’s second live performance since the end of her tour in December 2015. Word on the street is the Grammy winner is due to drop a new album soon; maybe she’ll debut the new Calvin Harris–inspired song Swifties have been waiting for.

What: Rolling Stone Live Big Game Bash
When: Feb 4 at 9 p.m.
Where: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Although the headliners hadn’t been released as of press time, it wouldn’t be a Rolling Stone party without the biggest and best musical acts in history—past headliners have included Steven Tyler, Pitbull, Elle King, Avicii and Charli XCX. Expect celebrities and athletes to swarm the venue. —Marianella Orlando

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We give you permission to freak out if you see Beyoncé.

How to Be Cool When You Spot a Celebrity

Houstonians are a proud people—that is, until the most minor of celebrities walks into the room. Then we tend to lose our chill and act like starry-eyed hayseeds, giddy over the likes of Rob Kardashian and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino. The Super Bowl, of course, is a rare occasion when famous people will be flocking to Houston, so it’s time we learn how to remain cool and composed when graced with their presence.*

Follow the code of the New Yorker: If you see a famous person on the street, wait until you’re safely out of squealing earshot before you call everyone you know.

Practice and perfect the art of the fake over-the shoulder selfie: When a star is nearby, maneuver so that you’re facing away from them, then hold your phone up to take a selfie and put them in the frame. This will not fool any legit famous people, but you’ll leave with your dignity more or less intact.

Treat famous people like, you know, people: Don’t interrupt them when they are trying to eat, or going somewhere, or in the bathroom. Don’t mob them. Don’t stare. That’s just bad manners.

Instead of asking for a selfie or an autograph, consider having a 30-second conversation (max) about something they’ve done that connected with you, or asking them if they’ve tried Vietnamese iced coffee, or been to the Turrell Skyspace. It’ll be a better story. If your friends need photographic proof of your encounter to believe you, get new friends. — Sarah Rufca Nielsen

*Does not apply to Beyoncé. If you see Beyoncé, go nuts.

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The halftime show for Super Bowl VIII at Rice Stadium featured a performance by the Longhorn Band.

5 Great Super Bowl Moments

Super Bowl VIII (1974)

Rice Stadium, Houston

Miami Dolphins, 24 — Minnesota Vikings, 7

For most, Super Bowl VIII wasn’t terribly memorable, with the Miami Dolphins coasting to a win over the Minnesota Vikings. For Houston, however, it was notable indeed, as the first of two title games to be played here. Nearly 30 years later, it would be back, a few miles south on Main Street at Reliant.

Super Bowl XXIII (1989)

Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami

San Francisco 49ers, 20 – Cincinnati Bengals, 16

One of the great NFL urban legends involves this game. With three minutes left, down four, Joe Montana—nicknamed the Comeback Kid—walked into the 49ers huddle. Looking into the stands and spotting a celeb, the laidback quarterback supposedly said to his team, “Hey look, it’s John Candy,” causing a few chuckles and calming everyone’s nerves. Whether or not this really happened, one thing is verifiable: Just over two minutes later, Montana hit John Taylor for the game-winning TD.

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Of course the former Oilers made it to Super Bowl XXXIV.

Image: Baer Tirkel

Super Bowl XXXIV (2000)

Georgia Dome, Atlanta

St. Louis Rams, 23 – Tennessee Titans, 16

Just four years after leaving Houston for Nashville, the former Oilers made their first-ever Super Bowl. With only six seconds left on a potentially game-tying drive, wide receiver Kevin Dyson caught a pass inside the five-yard line and tried to stretch for the end zone as he was being tackled. He came up less than a half yard short. For many frustrated Houston football fans, it felt like poetic justice.

Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004)

Reliant Stadium, Houston

New England Patriots, 32 – Carolina Panthers, 29

Believe it or not, there was a game that happened the year of Nipplegate. It was a relatively low-scoring affair until the teams combined for 37 points in the final quarter. With four seconds left, the Patriots scored a 41-yard field goal for the win—the second in what would ultimately be three titles in four seasons under the Tom Brady–led squad.

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Super Bowl XLVI was a nail-biter.

Image: Stephen Luke

Super Bowl XLVI (2012)

Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

New York Giants, 21 – New England Patriots, 17

With a record of 18-0, the Patriots were bidding to be only the second team in NFL history to run the table with a perfect season. For most of this match, it appeared they would do just that. But a brilliant nine-play, 88-yard drive by the Giants and Eli Manning proved to be the game winner, highlighted by one of the most unbelievable moments in Super Bowl history, when Manning narrowly escaped a sack and heaved the ball downfield to David Tyree, who caught the ball with one hand, pinning it against his helmet. —Jeff Balke

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Nice to Meet Hou

The last time a Super Bowl came to town, downtown offered tourists a bunch of nightclubs… and not much else. What a difference a decade makes.

1. Market Square Park

A thoughtful 2010 redesign made this historic park a destination, offering regular movie screenings, bingo nights and local markets on the lawn, not to mention a Niko Niko’s outpost hawking the city’s favorite Greek gyros.

2. Art Blocks

Three blocks of Main Street comprise Main Street Square, a unique pedestrian enclosure that’s been enlivened by several large-scale public art projects. Pass through by foot, bike or METROrail to view the immersive color experience of Color Jam Houston, the cultural flair of Saludos and the functional whimsy of Trumpet Flower. 

3. Discovery Green

Houston’s state-of-the-art urban park is always chockful of events, activities and art. Wake up with free yoga, catch a concert, take a lap on the outdoor ice skating rink, or stroll under the promenade of LED light flowers of the Enchanted installation.

4. Houston Is… Mural

Adjacent to Market Square Park, this psychedelic explosion of civic pride by artist Gonzo247 is a testament to the qualities that make the city great.

5. Hearsay Gastro Lounge

With two convenient locations downtown, this glitzy hotspot offers everything from post-work happy hour to date night to Sunday brunch.

6. Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

The most impressive place to pray for a gridiron victory might be this ultra-modern house of worship, designed by architecture firm Ziegler Cooper to replace its neighboring, century-old predecessor and dedicated in 2008. 

7. Avenida Houston

A new pedestrian-friendly dining corridor has arisen along the Avenida de las Americas—look for lively patios along the George R. Brown Convention Center replacing the formerly bare thoroughfare. Among them: Kulture, Marcus Davis's elevated paean to the food and music of the Southern-Afro-Carribean diaspora; Landry's revamped take on Italian fare at Grotto; and Bud's Pitmaster BBQ, a Southern-style 'cue joint with an upscale atmosphere.

8. Conservatory

On a chilly day, there’s something inherently appealing about an underground gathering space—not least when it's a beer garden that also houses four popular food stalls, including perennial favorite Melange Creperie.

9. Public Services

A couple of design tweaks and a beautifully curated menu of wine and whiskey has transformed the turn-of-the-century Houston Cotton Exchange building into downtown’s most genteel spot for a drink. 

10. Pastry War

Nope, no patisserie here—just to-die-for margaritas, tequila and mezcal (plus tamales and chips-and-queso, obviously) from sustainable Mexican producers, served in a colorfully laidback space.

11. Nightingale Room

This intimate space is one of the best spots for live music, with performances Tuesdays through Fridays. On other nights, come for low-key cocktails and classic vinyl records. 

12. Boots 'N Shoots

Hey, maybe this is your first rodeo, and you want to get the full experience. You’re in luck with this, downtown’s first Lone Star–themed bar, which is lock, stock and loaded with true Texas whiskeys. 

13. Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

This Houston dining institution debuted downtown in 2015 with old-fashioned steakhouse fare in appropriately swank surrounds. Go ahead, try to walk past the meat case and then order a salad. We dare you.

14. Jackson Street Barbecue

Frankly, all barbecue should be served in a giant red barn, just as God and our Texas forefathers intended. This collaboration between ’cue expert Greg Gatlin and restaurateurs Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd brings down-home country goodness and to-die-for ribs to the heart of downtown. 

15. Phoenicia

Sure, it’s a grocery store, but it’s a grocery store with an enormous pita bread conveyor belt, meats roasting on spits, and its own satellite café, MKT Bar, known for its popular steak night, craft beer lineup and guest DJ appearances. — Sarah Rufca Nielsen

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Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

In Town For the Game?

Where to eat, drink and stay to have the ultimate Houston weekend

For the Guys

Stay  

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Glenwood Cemetery

To get and keep the party going, make Aloft Hotel Downtown your home base. Any hotel that has a lobby bar and a rooftop pool bar and deck—but no restaurant—has the right priorities.

Eat/Drink

For breakfast, head east from downtown to line up for the city’s best breakfast tacos at Villa Arcos, which could tame the a.m. cravings of an entire offensive line. At lunch, order a few rounds of the city’s best Neapolitan pies at Pizaro Pizza Napoletana, and in the evening, feast like gents at the superlative steakhouse Vic & Anthony's. Then pick your poison: Lovers of elaborate beer lists should mosey up to the bar at Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, whiskey enthusiasts can plant themselves at Reserve 101, and cocktail fans should make for the ever-changing menu at Moving Sidewalk.

Do

February is prime outdoors weather around these parts, so take advantage of it by renting a B-Cycle and exploring the revitalized green spaces of Buffalo Bayou Park heading west from downtown. Grab $2 tickets in advance for a short tour of the park’s hauntingly beautiful underground Cistern. Pedal over to Glenwood Cemetery to pay homage to one of America’s great playboys, Howard Hughes, and keep heading west to behold the work of another Houston innovator: the Beer Can House. If you have a car, make the pilgrimage west (to Katy) or north (to Spring) to the bro mecca that is Top Golf before heading back downtown for a night out.

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Montrose Shop

Image: Parcs and Rec

For the Ladies

Stay

For a pampering weekend, you’ll want to hole up at the JW Marriott Houston Downtown, which offers cool artwork in the lobby, a creative restaurant, and the world’s first Spa by JW concept, fitted with what Travel + Leisure calls “the Rolls Royce of massage chairs.”

Eat/Drink

Start off your day with a latte and a mind-blowing pastry (we recommend the kouign-amann) at Common Bond, then go full ladies-who-lunch at stylish State of Grace. Save room for dinner at Pax Americana, where the sublime and unusual desserts are reason enough to order them all, you know, to compare and contrast. Finish the night with a bang at Barbarella for drinks and dancing, or geek out over the city’s best wine selection at the sleek Camerata.

Do

After breakfast, take a short walk up Dunlavy from Common Bond to scour the deals at The Guild Shop —unless it’s Sunday, in which case stick to the locally made goods at Space Montrose or the stylish wares at The Montrose Shop. Later, ogle one of Houston’s prettiest estates at the stunning campus of Bayou Bend.

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Marriott Marquis

For Families

Stay

No matter what else you do during your visit, if you spend it at the Marriott Marquis, decades from now your kids will recall this trip as the first time they saw a Texas-shaped lazy river—and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Eat/Drink

For breakfast, hop over to Natachee's Supper 'N' Punch in Midtown—tots will love the kiddie "cocktails" and comfort food served in old-fashioned lunchboxes, or pick up a portable family-pack lunch and turn it into a picnic at Hermann Park. For dinner, hit up Jus' Mac, Houston’s mac-'n'-cheese-only eatery, or watch the sun set at Cottonwood, a laid-back outdoor bar with enough room for kids to entertain themselves while their parents relax over pints of craft beer. Cap off the day with treats for the whole family at The Chocolate Bar.

Do

While you’re at Hermann Park, hit the Houston Zoo to check out the new gorilla habitat, or stick to indoor fun in the nearby Children's Museum of Houston. Back downtown, the kids will find endless things to do at Discovery Green, which offers putting greens, family yoga, shuffleboard and so much more.

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La Grange

For Singles

Stay

For those who are ready to mingle, a stay at the decadently stylish Hotel ZaZa —whose bar basically functions as a semi-permanent after-party—is the natural choice.

Eat/Drink

Dining solo? Savor a morning at Rice Village’s Croissant Brioche over an espresso and a heavenly pastry. Feeling social? Join the brunch party at La Grange, which combines tasty Tex-Mex with a great bar scene and plenty of screens, or try the tap list at Hay Merchant. For dinner, recharge with banh mi and ca phe sua da at Midtown institution Les Givral's before making a night of it. Axelrad Beer Garden and its hammock grove make the perfect place to hang out—yes, that’s a hammock pun—and listen to live music, or ride the rail downtown to mingle with the pretty young things at OKRA Charity Bar or silently judge all the bad Tinder dates at chic wine bar 13 Celsius.

Do

From the Village it’s a short trip to Rice University, whose campus is always worth exploring. Sunrise and sunset are the best time to experience the school’s James Turrell Skyspace, but the installation is worth a visit anytime (don’t forget to do your best “Hotline Bling” dance while you’re there). —Sarah Rufca Nielsen

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Image: AP

How Nipplegate Made Boobs of Us All

In 9/16 of a second, a hummingbird can flap its wings 28 times, a cheetah at full sprint can travel 56 feet, and the world can erupt in collective outrage over the blink-and-you-missed-it appearance of Janet Jackson’s breast inside Reliant Stadium at the end of the 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show.

Nipplegate might not have happened if not for new technologies like TiVo, which let Americans replay the moment frame by frame, as if examining the Zapruder film, while at the same time condemning its obscenity. Over 540,000 people filed complaints with the FCC, and then-chairman Michael Powell fined 20 CBS stations a record $550,000 each.

And so, America’s Puritan impulses took over, in what was surely the lamest chapter of the never-ending culture wars. For almost a decade, the Super Bowl halftime stage was reserved exclusively for middle-aged men, whose own nipples, if exposed, would be safe for children’s eyes. Jackson, meanwhile, went from America’s sweetheart to scorned jezebel. And Justin Timberlake—the actual person who ripped off Jackson’s bodice while singing the words “gonna have you naked by the end of this song”—continued unscathed on his path from boy-bander to pop and film star.

But the fallout from Nipplegate wasn’t all bad. It ushered in the DVR age, inspired the founding of YouTube a year later, accelerated the exodus of cutting-edge entertainment from network TV to FCC-exempt cable, and introduced the world to elaborate nipple jewelry. It turns out a second—or even 9/16 of one—really can change the world. — Sarah Rufca Nielsen

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The Secret Weapon of the Super Bowl Host Committee Volunteers

Ten thousandyes, ten thousand—volunteers have been recruited for the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee (HSBHC). As they hit our city’s streets (and hotels and airports), wrangling them will be no easy task. This disparate group must come together quickly, make Houston shine, then part ways—a tall task without teamwork.

One shortcut to good team management? Having volunteers wear bracelets indicating their personal E-Colors. As part of their training this fall, volunteers were invited to take a 15-minute online survey. Their resulting E-Colors—a system developed by Equilibria, a professional training, coaching and business-management firm—indicate personality-style patterns.

A Green is a thinker, a Red a doer. Yellows are socializers, Blues relaters. HSBHC honchos believe knowing volunteers’ colors will help them to understand their strengths and weaknesses and, hopefully, foster communication. Bark an order to a Red, for example, and they will likely applaud your brevity. Bark an order to a Green, on the other hand, and be prepared to discuss, in detail, the process you employed in deciding to do so.

This fall, when volunteers learned about the E-Color system, their excitement was palpable. Even before the presentation had ended, over 100 go-getters had already taken the online survey. We bet they were Reds. Karen Abercrombie

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All anyone really wants in life is unlimited chips, queso and guac.

Image: Shutterstock

The Houstonian's Guide to Hosting the Perfect Super Bowl Party

1. Forget about creating an edible football stadium. Real life is not Pinterest, and the little guacamole-covered field inevitably leaks out onto the table. Anyway, people just want unfettered access to their guac—and chips, and queso. Be sure you have plenty of all three on-hand. Get some pre-made guac (Kroger’s spicy version is a favorite) and save your effort for homemade queso.

2. Smoke a brisket. If you can’t or don’t want to, buy one fully cooked from H-E-B. Your brisket can be turned into any variety of meals from here, but we suggest a build-your-own brisket-taco buffet with a Crock-Pot of refried beans, fresh flour tortillas from El Bolillo, and plenty of shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, cilantro and all the other fixin’s.

3. Super Bowl parties aren’t the time to break out the punch bowl. Buy a few cases of local beer instead. Saint Arnold Santo is a natural pairing with brisket, while Buffalo Bayou 1836 Copper Ale is the rosé of beers: a crowd favorite that goes with everything. Make sure to have some non-alcoholic options on-hand for designated drivers and/or people still trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions. We recommend a few cases of LaCroix.

4. Did y’all know that Texas Firecrackers—the addictive crackers baked here in Houston by Texas Fiery Snacks— now come in a cayenne-ranch flavor? Sprinkle a few bowls of these around the TV area, and folks may never leave the living room.

5. For dessert, you could always order cute football-themed cupcakes from Crave or football-topped bundts from Nothing Bundt Cakes, but we’ll be sticking with a classic crowd-pleaser: Texas sheet cake, topped with a layer of fresh pecans. —Katharine Shilcutt

Recipe: Chili con Queso a la Houston

Ingredients:

  • One 16-ounce box of Velveeta
  • One 15-ounce can of Wolf Brand Chili (no beans!)
  • One 7-ounce can of Herdez Salsa Casera

Instructions:

Dump everything into a large Crock-Pot. Slow-cook on low until Velveeta is melted. Mix and serve. Serves 6 to 8. Scale up as necessary.

Recipe: Texas Sheet Cake

For the Cake:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease and flour a 13x9 baking pan.

Instructions: 

  1. Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda and cinnamon in one bowl, and set aside.
  2. Stir together the remaining ingredients in another bowl.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry. Stir until you have a smooth, thin batter.
  4. Pour into your pan. Bake at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting.

For the Frosting: 

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted (about 4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Mix the milk and cocoa in a heavy saucepan. Add the butter and stir until it melts over medium heat. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the pecans.
  2. When the cake is just out of the oven, spread the frosting evenly on the hot cake.

Recipe adapted from Texas Cooking.

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The True Quarterback of Super Bowl LI Isn’t Who You Think It Is

Meet the woman who has spent years — yes, years — planning everything but the game.

SALLIE SARGENT'S LIFE—until Super Bowl kickoff on February 5, at least—is one relentless, uninterrupted string of meetings. They start early each morning and extend well past sundown: conference calls, board check-ins, one-on-ones, brainstorming sessions. The 57-year-old president and CEO of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee (HSBHC) tries to sleep between midnight and 6 a.m., but says she’s fallen behind on her “beauty rest.”

Every other week, Sargent’s 39-member team gathers at their offices near Discovery Green to update their boss on the myriad projects the committee oversees, from fundraising and corporate galas to security and volunteer coordination. The detail is granular, near-sociopathic. In one presentation, 102 days before the big game, Sargent’s transportation czar explains that he’s hired 50 standby buses to park in a downtown lot on the off-chance that a Metro train gets derailed, clogging the tracks during the NFL’s 10-day fan festival.

This job is a culmination of sorts for the one-time cheerleader from Arizona, who has worked in major-event production for nearly three decades and moved to Houston four years ago to write the city’s 153-page Super Bowl bid. Afterward, Sargent asked Ric Campo, HSBHC’s chairman, if she could run the whole operation. He told her to secure 11 major sponsors in six months, at which point he’d consider her application. She landed them with time to spare.

Sargent loves Houston, which she calls her “adopted hometown,” and she’s eager to promote its virtues on a global scale. The city has changed dramatically since it last played host, in 2004, and she wants the festivities to reflect its new infectious energy. Her female-heavy staff talks about Super Bowl week as a modified world’s fair, a legacy builder for a city trying to showcase its development and shake tired stereotypes. “Especially with oil and gas hurting,” one consultant tells the group, “what you’re doing here is special.”

It’s also mind-bogglingly complicated. There’s an absolutely rigid deadline. Brand-conscious NFL executives scrutinize every decision. Sargent must think through all potential contingencies, and keep all of Houston moving in the same unified direction. Through it all, she likes to picture herself in the eye of the storm, cool and collected. A six-week deadline? No problem! Creative approval from “the big boys in New York?” Got it covered.

Long past the final February whistle, Sargent says, she intends to stay in Houston, where she’s forged lifetime friendships: “Of course, the day after the game,” she laughs, “they’ll all say, ‘Sallie who?! You can’t do anything for me!’”

But that, of course, is a lifetime away. After today’s committee meeting, what’s in store for Sargent? Ever more meetings, plus an evening cocktail party. She runs a hand through her platinum blonde hair and considers the 102 days ahead of her. “Now I just need to find a little more time,” she says, “and a little more money.” — Adam Doster

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You're in Texas, you should know what this is. 

How Rookies Can Enjoy Watching the Super Bowl

Not all of the 100 million people who watch the Super Bowl each year are football fans—not even close. But no matter which teams make it to the final battle, and no matter who you’re watching with, we promise you this: It’s way more fun when you actually know what’s going on. For all the newbies out there, here’s a gridiron crash course:

Know your quarterback.

The guy who has the ball most of the time is the quarterback. He is probably the most important player on the field. Try to ignore where he puts his hands before he gets the ball.

Keep your eye on the ball.

Whoever has the ball controls the play. Stay fixed on wherever it goes, especially if it’s bouncing around on the field. This will likely be accompanied by copious shouting from the fans at your party.

Turnovers are critical.

When the team with the ball drops it and it’s picked up by the defense, or throws it to a defender, usually on accident, that is called a turnover. Typically, the team who wins the turnover battle wins the game. During these moments, expect lots of cursing.

Ask questions during commercial breaks.

It might be tempting to ask a football enthusiast what a first down is when it happens, but try to reserve questions until a break unless you like being ignored…or glared at.

Unless you have a rooting interest, just enjoy the game.

If you don’t care about either team, have fun and forget worrying about who wins and loses. Unless it’s the Cowboys. Always root against the Cowboys. — Jeff Balke

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Regarding the Super Bowl Mascot

Mascots don’t always make sense. The Syracuse Orange is uncomfortably strange, and the Rockets are repped by a giant gray teddy bear for no obvious reason. But both of these are cuddly, at least, and therefore beloved by children and adults alike.

Then there’s TD, the mascot conceived by a Houston Super Bowl Host Committee that’s otherwise done a bang-up job. We recognize TD is supposed to be a football, but with those big oval eyes in that even bigger oval head and that disproportionally tiny body, we can’t help but think his stated dream job of “astronaut quarterback” is really code for “alien overlord.”

While some see him as the committee envisioned—“friendly, fun and full of Houston hospitality”—we can’t help seeing him as a cross between Leatherface and Freddy Krueger. His online “bio” says TD is old, giant, red and loves to eat barbecue, fajitas and sushi—but our money is on the flesh of infants just like some Lovecraftian Great Old One.

Silver lining? If the Cowboys end up playing in the Super Bowl, TD will be just the guy for the job. — Jeff Balke

Andre johnson   houston texans vqhswu

Will the Texans Ever Win a Super Bowl?

As the city prepares to host the big game for the third time, we couldn’t help but have hope.

EACH SEPTEMBER IN HOUSTON, as football season rolls around, we’re always reminded of being a Star Wars fan back in 1999, when The Phantom Menace hit theaters. Without fail, we always experience the exact same sequence of emotions we did that day at the movies: an overwhelming sense of optimism and anticipation, followed by crushing disappointment.

For 41 seasons of NFL football in Houston, first with the Oilers and then the Texans, fans have rallied behind their teams. And, without exception, each of those 41 years has ended in frustration. This level of futility is rare in pro sports.

And yet local sports-talk radio is cluttered with talk of football even in the offseason. This is, after all, the home of Friday Night Lights: not just the show, but the phenomenon itself. Stadiums may as well be churches, because in Texas, football is religion.

Which may explain why we stand behind the Texans each year, despite the fact that in 15 seasons, they’ve had nary a whiff of good fortune. The high-water mark of the franchise came in 2012, when they went 12-4 before losing their quarterback to an injury and their hopes of a title to the Patriots in the second round of the playoffs. That hope-inducing record was followed by a disastrous 2-14 season.

In big games, the Texans tend to crumble. Their record in primetime is abysmal. At the most critical moments, just like Arian Foster’s groin, they have a knack for falling apart.

No one disputes that it’s tough to win in the NFL. Thirteen of 32 teams in the league have never clenched a title, after all, including our own former Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). But the Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars are the only teams that have never reached the Super Bowl in the first place. It’s no wonder they’re division rivals.

So, can the Houston Texans get to the Super Bowl? Of course. Will they? Probably. Will they ever win it? In truth, the odds aren’t that great. There is simply no perfect formula for success. Until they do—if they ever do—fans will just have to keep hoping. — Jeff Balke

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