sexta-feira, 9 de maio de 2008

Ballpark Deluxe>1=24000

Baseball’s traditional fare might be hot dogs and beer, but going out to the ballgame can be a gourmet experience at many parks across the U.S.

By Andrea Pyenson for MSN City Guides

'Buy me some peanuts and craaaacker jaaacks…' Oh, and as long as you're getting up, could you bring me an Ichiroll combo (Seattle)? a cup of clam chowder (Boston)? or maybe some Rocky Mountain oysters (where do you think)?

Variety on ballpark menus is increasing as dramatically as players' salaries. Sure, you can still get a hot dog at a game (a half-pound dog if you're at the Metrodome in Minnesota), along with peanuts and popcorn (hand-tossed caramel corn at AT&T Park in San Francisco). But feeding the fans has become big business—part of "an entertainment experience" that is now integral to enjoying our national pastime live, and usually contracted out to large companies like Aramark and Centerplate.

At ballparks across the country, there is a focus on offering fans fresh, regional and exciting choices. Here's a look at some of the more interesting culinary options in both the American and National Leagues (no judgment on what's happening on the field at these parks).

Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners (AL)
In addition to traditional concession stands throughout the park, Safeco has an area known as the "Bullpen Market," open to all attendees, with specialized items highlighting the area's bounty. The Field Grill features seafood, including the Sea Dog, a 10-inch-long breaded codfish fillet, tucked into a hot dog bun. The Grill also serves cedar-plank grilled salmon and Dungeness crab sandwiches. For those with a more carnivorous bent, the Bullpen Pub satisfies with prime rib nachos.

Situated in a city with a large Asian community, Seattle's ballpark has offered sushi since it opened in mid-July 1999. Its most popular item, the "Ichicroll," is a spicy tuna roll named after the team's superstar Japanese center fielder, Ichiro Suzuki.

New this year, the Mariners have partnered with Verizon and Nintendo in two separate plans that enable fans to order food to be delivered to their seats—the 17 percent service charge added to the cost of the food is distributed among the park's service staff.
AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants (NL)
AT&T Park offers Giants fans and visitors representative selections from some of San Francisco's favorite eateries. Go to the North Beach section for a 40-clove garlic chicken sandwich from the city's Stinking Rose restaurant, tiramisu from Victoria Pastry Co. or meatballs delivered fresh daily from the Original U.S. Restaurant. The Wharf (as in Fisherman's) section features Dungeness crab sandwiches.

Get your "Irish nachos" and Irish fisherman's corned beef quesadillas at Murph's Irish Pubs (named for longtime clubhouse manager Mike Murphy), located throughout the park. Local favorite Ghirardelli's chocolate also has concession stands throughout the park. But if you want a "crazy crab" sandwich, you have to be in the bleachers.

During games, fans can have food and beverages (alcoholic and non) delivered to their seats for a two-dollar fee. Mixed drinks are limited to four per person. Capitalizing on its location, the park offers California wines of every varietal, and recently added some Italian selections. Frances Ford Coppola has been on-site serving wines from his vineyard to thirsty and appreciative fans.

Coors Field, Colorado Rockies (NL)
The general manager for food and beverages at Coors Field is the first to admit that Rocky Mountain Oysters (buffalo, boar or bull testicles, usually deep-fried) are not for everybody. But they are a local delicacy and they are available for Rockies fans who want them—usually 40-50 people per game.

More popular are the tamales, served with green chiles, from portable carts along the stadium's concourse. Vegetarian options have caught on recently, with fruit cups, grab-and-go salads, vegetarian wraps, panini, pizzas, burritos and garden burgers rounding out the list.

Coors Field is also home to Blue Moon Brewing Company @ the Sandlot, a brew pub named for the hand-crafted beer that was invented at the field, with a brewery onsite. Blue Moon micro-draft beer is available throughout the park.
Metrodome, Minnesota Twins (AL)
The Metrodome is one of the top hot dog consuming ballparks in the country. But fans aren't just eating any old hot dogs. In addition to good old fashioned dogs, they are packing away half-pound "Chicago Dogs," loaded with mustard, ketchup, relish, onions, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce. Twins fans also love their specialty bratwurst—turkey, beer and regular.

The park boasts a Famous Dave's barbecue stand (a regional chain started in Minnesota), selling barbecued pork and beef sandwich platters. There are also four Papa John's pizza stands.

Don't want food you can get somewhere else? How about fresh-spun cotton candy? It’s much better than that packaged kind. And if you and the kids haven't maxed out on sugar, save room for the Metrodome's signature "walk-away sundae," vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone bowl with chocolate sauce, nuts and cherries on top.
Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies (NL)
In 2007, The Food Network voted Citizens Bank Park "best food in baseball" and PETA named it the "most vegetarian-friendly ballpark in the country."

Citizens is dedicated to offering "Best of Philadelphia" items, from Chickie's & Pete's crab fries to Bull's BBQ, where Phillies legend Greg Luzinski is in residence at all home games. The park also features outposts of the city's most popular cheesesteak purveyors, Tony Luke's and Rick's Steaks, where all sandwiches are made to order. Rick's offers two vegetarian cheese steaks. The park also sells vegan hot dogs, hamburgers and a vegetarian chicken cheese steak.

Citizens Bank Park is one of only two places in the world to serve the Schmitter Sandwich, a variation of a cheesesteak, named after a group of guys who used to hang out at nearby McNally's Tavern, drinking Schmitt's beer and naming sandwiches.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles (AL)
When you think Baltimore, you think crab cakes. And if you're at Oriole Park, you can get some baseball with your crab cakes. Or your crab soup. Or, for that matter, your crab pretzels, a Baltimore specialty that involves baking crab dip and cheddar cheese on a soft pretzel.

Oriole Park is also home to Boog's BBQ, where Boog Powell, the Orioles' former All-Star first baseman, serves fans his own barbecued pork and pit beef (with a side of autographs). And the park boasts a Jack Daniel's Ribs stand, featuring ribs with famous Jack Daniel's barbecue sauce.

For those who just can't get enough, halfway through last season, Oriole Park opened an all-you-can-eat section in which fans pay a set price for a ticket and can have as much food (from a menu including hot dogs, sandwiches, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, ice cream and soft drinks) as they can put away during a complete game.

Nationals Park, Washington Nationals (NL)
The National League's most recent addition opened its new state-of-the-art stadium to great fanfare in late March. And Nationals fans should not go hungry. The signature item is Ben's Original Half-Smoked Sausage, based on an item from a Washington, D.C. landmark restaurant. Also popular are Noah's Curly pretzels, formed in the shape of a 'W.'

In a regional nod, Nationals Park also serves up the Chesapeake Burger (a half-pound burger topped with crabmeat) and crab cake sandwiches. The condiment racks all include bay seasoning along with the requisite mustard and ketchup.

All of the sausage stands are called Senator's Sausage—lest anyone forget for a moment where they are…

Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox (AL)
The country's oldest baseball venue, Fenway Park, has gone trans-fat-free. And, in deference to fans' expressed interest in lower calorie, lower salt, lower fat foods, there are lots of fruit bowls, veggie bowls and Caesar salad wraps on whole grain tortillas at concession stands this year.

But there are also fish-and-chips (trans-fat-free, of course), New England-style lobster rolls and crab salad rolls. During chilly games (of which there are too many), fans enjoy warming bowls of local favorite Legal Sea Foods clam chowder. Another local favorite, Hilltop Steak House, sells its steak tip and turkey tip sandwiches.

In the premium seating areas, the core of chefs has made a concerted effort to use local, sustainably raised produce and seafood, and other ingredients like Vermont cheese and maple sugar.

Andrea Pyenson is a freelance writer and editor based in Boston, home of the World Champion Boston Red Sox and the historic FenwayPark. She is a regular contributor to The Boston Globe's Food section. She is also the executive editor of Misstropolis, a new online magazine for modern women.

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