(Guest post by The Boyfriend)
This is definitely not your traditional ballpark fare. But it’s something I could learn to like in a hurry.
On Thursday, the Cincinnati Reds, along with representatives of Food Network, introduced new menu items available in suites at Great American Ball Park. Suite owners and patrons are now being offered themed meal & cocktail packages that will change from month to month throughout the baseball season.
The project is the result of a partnership between Food Network, Delaware North Companies Sportservice, and participating ballparks. To date, the venture has introduced new signature dishes in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee, San Diego, Minnesota, Detroit, Cleveland, and Texas. Several representatives of the Reds, Food Network, DNCS, and GABP were on hand for the event, held in the Diamond Club at GABP.
Chef Charlie Granquist is the culinary producer who is spearheading the project for Food Network. Granquist said that the offerings have been well received and have become very popular in a short time. “We like to think of it as comfort food with a twist,” Granquist said on Thursday. “We want familiar dishes approached from a different direction.” The dishes are developed by chefs in Food Network’s test kitchen in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.
The menu packages, which will be essentially the same in all participating ball parks, include an appetizer, side, salad, and entree. Included is a specially-prepared cocktail and a six-pack of beer chosen for the menu.
The Italian-themed August/September menu is quite tasty.
The entree is a Ricotta Herb Meatball Sub with Sauteed Spinach. I am a fan of meatball subs, and this was the best I’ve eaten outside of New York City in many years. The beef and pork meatballs, braised in a pancetta marinara sauce, were exquisitely tender and juicy. I initially ignored the sauteed spinach since it’s not something normally found on a sub, but one of the GABP food staffers leaned over and whispered, “Try the spinach on the sandwich…you’ll like it.” Delicious. It was the perfect complement to the sandwich…garlicky with a bit of heat. An extra sprinkling of parmesan cheese completed the sandwich. Although I had told myself that I wouldn’t have more than a bite or two of anything on the menu, I ate the whole sandwich. And I’d do it again.
The side is a Smoked Mozzarella, Arugula and Artichoke Dip with Grilled Bread. This is a rich, creamy, mildly tangy variation on traditional artichoke dip. The recipe includes mascarpone cheese, the principal ingredient in the filling of tiramisu; no doubt, this is where the dish gets its creaminess. Arugula and slow-roasted tomatoes provide the tanginess.
The appetizer is Sausage and Pepper Potato Skins with Ricotta, almost a cross between traditional potato skins and an Italian sausage with peppers on a bun. The salad is a Sun-Dried Tomato Caesar Salad. Both dishes were quite good.
All packages include a beer and a cocktail chosen for the menu. The signature cocktail developed for this menu, in keeping with the Italian theme, is the Tuscan Summer: a refreshing, almost-too-smooth-for-one’s-own-good drink consisting of Bombay Sapphire Gin, Campari, Limoncello, orange juice, and seltzer. The beer for the menu is Sam Adams Coastal Wheat.
The project actually began last month, with the following menu: a New Orleans barbecued shrimp appetizer, smashed fried potatoes topped with cheddar cheese and bacon, an arugula salad tossed with watermelon and feta, and a slow-roasted drunken pork sandwich with celery root slaw.
The cost is $395.00, not a bargain by any means, but also not as steep a price as I might have anticipated, given that each package feeds eight people and includes cocktails and beer.
Keep in mind that these new items are available only in suites and are therefore not available to the run-of-the-turnstile fan at GABP. And that’s a shame because the food really is that good. In previous posts over the past two years, Julie and I both have been critical of the food selections at the park, especially after we had positive experiences at other MLB parks. The general concessions menu choices at GABP have improved this season, no question about it, but still fall far short of the hoped-for mark.
In their introductory remarks at the event on Thursday, spokespeople from GABP, DNCS, and Food Network stressed that the project is in the first phase of a multi-year agreement. During the next year, the venture will expand to suite areas at NFL stadiums and basketball and hockey arenas. The plan, they say, is to extend similar types of items to the general concessions menu at GABP and other MLB parks. They say that the goal is to add these choices for the 2011 season.
Let’s hope so. A winning baseball team and top-notch food at GABP? That would be Heaven.