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Ditch the Dips: Why Fresh, Cooked Food Wins the Game Day Spread

March Madness is upon us! College basketball takes center stage, bringing thrilling buzzer-beaters, nail-biting rivalries, and the undeniable joy of cheering on your favorite team. But alongside the action on the court, another kind of madness unfolds in kitchens across America: the quest for delicious game-day eats.

Sure, chips, dips, and frozen snacks are easy grabs for a sports viewing party, but they leave you feeling sluggish and unsatisfied. Level up your game-day spread with fresh, cooked foods!

Fresh ingredients offer a wealth of benefits compared to processed snacks. They’re packed with essential nutrients that fuel your body and keep you energized throughout the game. Plus, cooking allows you to control ingredients, minimizing unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars often found in processed options.

Fresh meals are also more filling, keeping you feeling satisfied and preventing unhealthy over-snacking during those nail-biting moments. So, ditch the dips and embrace the taste of fresh, homemade goodness – your body and taste buds will thank you!

Not sure where or how to start?

Fear not, Cal Mart shoppers! We’re here to help you slam dunk your menu with fresh cuts from our Meat & Seafood Department. Forget the greasy, processed fare often associated with sports watching. This year, impress your fellow fans with restaurant-worthy dishes that are surprisingly easy to prepare at home.


Host A March Madness Culinary Feast in Style with an Assist from Cal Mart

The pros always pace themselves in a game and gradually ratchet up their intensity as the game progresses. And your NCAA marathon events should be that way, too! 

Starters that Steal the Show:

  • Sizzling Steak Fajitas: Fire up the grill for these crowd-pleasing fajitas. Marinate our skirt steak cuts in a zesty blend of citrus juices, peppers, onions, and spices for ultimate flavor. Serve with warm tortillas, sauteed peppers and onions, your favorite salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Let everyone assemble their own fajita masterpiece! (Pro tip: Grill the steak in batches to ensure perfect doneness for everyone).
  • Delectable Deviled Eggs with a Spicy Kick: Deviled eggs are a classic party appetizer but elevate them to MVP status with a flavorful twist. Boil a dozen eggs, remove the yolks, and mash them with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, and chopped chives. Pipe the mixture back into the egg whites and garnish with crumbled bacon or smoked paprika.
  • Crispy Chicken Wings with a Variety of Dipping Sauces: Wings are a game-day staple and Cal Mart has you covered. Choose from our selection of whole wings, drumsticks, or flats. Season them with your favorite dry rub or sauce, then roast in the oven or grill for crispy perfection. Take it a step further and offer a selection of homemade dipping sauces like buffalo sauce, creamy ranch, or a tangy Asian-inspired chili-lime sauce.

Main Courses that Score Big

  • Hearty Beef Stew for a Crowd: This slow-cooked wonder is perfect for a chilly game-day evening. Brown our lean stew beef in a Dutch oven, then simmer it with diced tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, and your favorite herbs. For a richer flavor, consider adding a splash of red wine or dark beer. This dish is even better the next day, so feel free to make a big batch!
  • Sizzling Sliders with All the Fixings: Miniature burgers are a fun and interactive way to feed a hungry crowd. Use our freshly ground beef to create perfectly sized patties. Grill them to your desired doneness and pile high on mini hamburger buns with your favorite toppings like cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and our house-made burger sauce.
  • Savory Salmon with a Lemon-Dill Glaze: Looking for a lighter option? Our fresh salmon fillets are perfect for a delicious and healthy main course. Marinate the salmon in olive oil, lemon juice, fresh dill, and a touch of honey. Bake in the oven for a quick and flavorful meal. Pair it with roasted vegetables like asparagus or broccoli for a complete plate.


Sweet Treats for the Victory Lap

No game-day spread is complete without a touch of sweetness. Head over to our bakery department for a selection of fresh-baked cookies, brownies, or cupcakes. Feeling ambitious? Bake a batch of your own! We have all the ingredients you need to create delicious treats from scratch.

Don’t Forget the Drinks!

Stock up on a variety of beverages to quench your thirst throughout the tournament. We have a wide selection of beers, craft beers, local wines, sodas, juices, and waters. Looking for some non-alcoholic alternatives? Try offering sparkling water with fresh fruit slices for a refreshing and festive option.

Pro-Tips for a Winning Game-Day Experience

Like a championship game, every great effort is preceded by planning, preparation, and delegation of roles on the court. Your game-day feasts will benefit from this approach as well!

  • Plan Ahead: Do your grocery shopping a day or two before the game to avoid the pre-game rush. Cal Mart’s knowledgeable staff and customer-friendly service counter allows us to offer a tantalizing display of hand-cut meats, house-made, and all-natural pork or chicken sausages.
  • Prep Work is Key: Marinate meats, wash vegetables, and prepare any cheeses, sauces or dips in advance to minimize last-minute stress.
  • Delegate Tasks: Get your friends and family involved! Assign someone to be in charge of the grill, setting up the table, or keeping the drinks flowing.

And don’t neglect to embrace the casual atmosphere. Game days are meant to be fun and relaxed. Don’t worry about perfect presentation. Focus on good food, good company, and cheering on your favorite team!

With these ideas in mind, your March Madness viewing party is sure to be a slam dunk. Head over to Cal Mart today and stock up on all the fresh cuts you need to create a winning menu for your NCAA viewing party.

Your March Madness Guide to Mouth-Watering Meat Options

When it comes to grilling, smoking, stir-frying, and even baking, there are many considerations to weigh for your selection of meats.

Here’s a closer look at some additional tips for specific protein choices:


Beyond the crowd-pleasing fajitas and hearty stew, our beef selection offers a variety of options for delicious game-day eats.

  • Grilled Ribeye Steaks: For a luxurious indulgence, fire up the grill for some perfectly seared ribeye steaks. These impressive cuts are sure to satisfy any steak lover. Marinate them beforehand for added flavor, or simply season them generously with salt and pepper. Serve alongside roasted vegetables or a loaded baked potato for a complete and decadent meal.
  • Seared Filet Mignon Sliders: Take these elegant cuts of beef and transform them into bite-sized delights. Pan-sear the filets mignon to your desired doneness and pile them high on mini brioche buns with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, and a touch of horseradish cream.

Fantastic grilled pork chops


Chicken is a versatile and crowd-pleasing protein, perfect for a variety of game-day dishes.

  • Baked Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard Sauce: These crispy tenders are a guaranteed hit with kids and adults alike. Marinate our boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a mixture of buttermilk, hot sauce, and your favorite spices. Dip them in our house-made honey mustard sauce for a sweet and tangy flavor combination.
  • Spicy Chicken Nachos: Level up your nacho game with shredded chicken. Poach or bake boneless, skinless chicken breasts and shred them with two forks. Layer tortilla chips with shredded cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, and the shredded chicken. Broil in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with your favorite garnishes like sliced jalapenos, sour cream, and guacamole.


Don’t underestimate the potential of pork for your game-day menu. Cal Mart offers a variety of delicious cuts, from ground pork to succulent pork shoulder.

  • Pulled Pork Sliders with BBQ Sauce: Slow cook a pork shoulder in your crockpot with your favorite BBQ sauce for a tender and flavorful pulled pork. Pile it high on slider buns with coleslaw and pickles for a taste of the ballpark right at home.
  • Asian-inspired Pork Lettuce Wraps: Ground pork is a great base for these healthy and flavorful lettuce wraps. Brown the pork with chopped vegetables like water chestnuts, carrots, and scallions. Season with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and a touch of sriracha for a kick. Serve with lettuce leaves and your favorite dipping sauces.


For those seeking a lighter option, seafood – the meat from under the sea – is a fantastic choice for your game-day menu.

  • Garlic Butter Shrimp Skewers: Skewer large shrimp and grill them to perfection. Baste them with a mixture of melted butter, olive oil, minced garlic, and fresh lemon juice for a simple yet incredibly flavorful dish. Serve with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce for dipping.
  • Cioppino: This hearty seafood stew is a crowd-pleaser. Sauté diced tomatoes, onions, and garlic in olive oil. Add white wine, fish broth, and your favorite medley of seafood like clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops. Simmer until the seafood is cooked through and serve with crusty bread for dipping.Make a Big Splash with This Grilled Shrimp Recipe

    Meat Selections from Local Sources and Regions Beyond Napa Valley

    Go local for your next game-day feast! Locally sourced meat boasts fresher flavor, superior quality, and often comes from animals raised humanely. Supporting local farmers keeps money in your community and ensures ethical practices you can feel good about.

    Plus, shorter travel means less environmental impact – a win for everyone! As with most all of our food products, we make it a priority to find and provide locally sourced items including meat products.

    And, in addition to our locally raised and farmed products, we also feature quality brands such as:

    And there is never any mystery as to what you’re buying. Our in-store signage follows the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) labeling law which means that you know exactly where our meat product choices come from and how they have been raised.

    Cal Mart: Your Winning Choice for Your March Madness Get-Togethers

    Remember, these are just a few ideas to get you started. With the wide selection of fresh cuts available at Cal Mart, the possibilities for your game-day menu are endless! So, head over to our store today, stock up on your favorite proteins, and get ready to create a menu that’s sure to be a champion!

    And don’t forget to visit our weekly ad to see some of our latest specials!