The first official GOP debate to kick off the 2016 presidential run is tonight. Have you figured out the snacks and cocktails for your viewing party? You should. This is going to be good.
“Imagine a NASCAR driver mentally preparing for a race, knowing one of the drivers will be drunk,” John Weaver, political strategist for presidential contender John Kasich, wrote on Twitter. “That’s what prepping for this debate is like."
To help you out, we've paired tonight's 10 candidates with some recipes, including a few cocktails. Because you'll probably need a drink to get through this one.
Chris Christie — pizza
Chris Christie just made it under the wire with enough support to get into the first debate. The New Jersey governor is a longtime Bruce Springsteen superfan, and for food inspiration, we turn to the Boss. According to the biography "Bruce," by Peter Ames Carlin, Springsteen used to have a hungry heart for junk food. Which makes us think pizza would be a good suggestion for a sporting event like this. But wait — didn't Christie just dump Springsteen for Jon Bon Jovi? Well, we hear Bon Jovi likes sushi. So there you have it.
Rand Paul — tea
If you're a fan of the junior Kentucky senator, might we suggest throwing your own little tea party? We highly recommend tea-crusted salmon for the entree. And for beverages, try the Bloody Holiday, a vodka cocktail flavored with spiced black tea syrup. Of course, if that's too much tea, you could just toast Paul with a strong "Hemingway's nog." Just rename it "Paul's nog" (we won't accuse you of plagiarizing or anything).
Mike Huckabee — fried chicken
The one-time champion of healthful-eating is such a big supporter of Chick-fil-A that he organized an appreciation day for the chain. In lieu of Chick-fil-A takeout, we'd suggest a great recipe for buttermilk fried chicken. We hope that won't ruin the sanctity of your support for Huckabee during the debate.
Scott Walker — grilled cheese
When we think Wisconsin, we think cheese. A great grilled cheese sandwich is a no-brainer here, just make sure it's Wisconsin cheese. Want to get a little more extravagant? Go with a Wisconsin Brat Fry. It's perfect if you're feeding the gang — and is also perfect tailgate food when football season starts up again, Cheesehead or not. And maybe toast every Walker zinger with a "Molotov" shout and a B-52 jelly shot. On a side note, we just wonder if Walker knows football players belong to a union.
Donald Trump — booze
If you're a Trump fan, don't even bother with recipes. Cater your party. But we do have a couple of suggestions for cocktails. The Golden Boy is fitting, bubbly and garnished with gold dust (you could also try garnishing it with a gold leaf "comb-over"). And if, like Trump, you're convinced he'll still win the Hispanic vote because "the Hispanics love me," enjoy a pleasantly stiff Mexican iced coffee during the debate. You'll need it. Salud.
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Jeb Bush — beef
The former Florida governor is the second-highest ranking contender at the moment. Might we suggest the filet of beef with three-peppercorn sauce? No one needs to know that it's a hand-me-down recipe from older brother George's first presidential inauguration in 2001.
Ben Carson — vegetables
Who knew that the retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon is a vegetarian? We'd recommend the excellent eggplant osso buco — seared eggplant steaks over polenta with a rich mushroom Bolognese — you'd never guess it's meat-free. Of course, with all the red meat Carson likes to throw out to potential votors, we'd also like to recommend the bistecca fiorentina — it's 2 1/2 pounds of red meat goodness.
Ted Cruz — bacon
If there's one thing we found out this week, the Texas senator loves his bacon. And he likes it cooked on an AR-15 rifle — he called it a machine gun, but. Might we suggest some other things you can wrap bacon around that would taste even better than that? Try bacon-wrapped pork belly — that's double the bacon, double the fun. Or try wild game meatloaf. Not only is it a perfect use for bacon, but it's also a great way to make use of any wild game you might happen to bag if you're actually using your rifle for, you know, hunting.
Marco Rubio — Cuban food
To celebrate the Florida senator, we went Cuban. Make a batch of Pollo al Colmao, a dish from the popular Cuban institution in Koreatown, which credits the recipe to "old grandpa Eduardo Sousa." And don't forget to toast your favorite tonight with a mojito. Of course, if, like Rubio, you find you suddenly need to rehydrate, might we recommend a refreshing tarragon lemonade for your enjoyment?
John Kasich — spaghetti
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is known for "a hair-trigger temper" and for limiting food stamps in his state. If you've never been on food stamps, or can't fathom what it's like to live on a threadbare budget, we have a couple of recipe suggestions. Try the simple spaghetti with crushed black pepper and pecorino, only substitute cheap cheese because you can't afford the good stuff.
It's a shame former Texas Gov. Rick Perry didn't make it into the debate. Texas food is so much fun. And you could have given your guests smart pairs of glasses to wear as party favors. Maybe next time.
Love cooking — and politics — as much as I do? Follow me @noellecarter
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