The first Spring Training games are starting in Arizona and Florida and that means that we’re pretty much a month out from the start of the Major League schedule and the Minor League affiliates getting started. Being a month out from Opening Day also signifies the start of another cog in the realm of things not on the field: food tastings.
People often ask what goes on in Minor League Baseball during the offseason and food tastings are something that brings joy to everyone in the office. It’s something we find out dates for usually a month in advance and we all write it down in meetings and mark it on our calendars. It’s funny to look at your calendar and see things like weddings of friends, birthdays and then a big star around food tasting days.
This week we’ve had the pleasure as an office staff of partaking in two food tastings from two different vendors. Basically, companies that sell food product to stadiums, convention centers, bigger facilities, etc., want to come in and meet with our concessions staff, in this case Glenn McComas and Michelle Anna, and offer us some of their new products to possibly sell in our stadium this season.
It would be terribly and grossly unjust if we did not try the product before deciding on whether or not to serve it to our most loyal constituents: the fans. This is where the food tastings come in.
Our first one was this past Tuesday when the people from Food Service Marketing stopped by the ballpark and setup a taste testing for the staff from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. This is one of the interesting things about these tastings: they kind of take place at all times during the day so you might have to be ready to eat a hamburger and hot dog at 10 a.m. It’s almost like a Spring Training for Education Days at the park (and we’ll have three this year).
Regardless, the spread was plentiful and and induced an adequate food coma that ruined any chance of us eating something at lunch. We taste tested three different types of french fries (standard fries with the skin left on the end, shoestring fries (smaller/thinner ones) and some that were dipped in a batter. They also had two types of hamburgers for us to taste but I only took half of one (it’s 10:30 a.m. and I’m not ready to eat a full hamburger yet). Also in the assortment of delectable items were three different kinds of wings (BBQ, Spicy, Breaded), three different styles of hot dogs, different types of pretzels from Snyder’s and (my personal favorite) an assortment of cookies! Now when you get cookies you get the typical assortment of chocolate chip, sugar, peanut butter, chocolate chunk, etc. but my personal favorite of Oatmeal Raisins are always left out. NOT TODAY! They had an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie with Cranberry Raisins in it as well…An Oatmeal CranRaisin cookie!
After the staff had time to recover from the first food tasting, it was on to US. Foods on Thursday for our second taste testing of the week. US. Foods always brings out the big guns when we come to taste test as they usually have 15-20 items to taste that might possibly work in some part of the ballpark. There is a caveat about these tastings though and that is that the items we are tasting are just ideas for things we can serve. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll serve them but it’s an option that we’ll consider based on how the taste test goes and how likable we think it will be for you the fans.
This year’s taste test at US. Foods was done a bit differently than in year’s past as we had two sessions, one for our staff and one for 40 of our season ticket holders. We were all given a ballot (left) and we were asked to mark down whether or not we liked each item they brought out.
There were 12 items all told that were brought out and they ranged from finger foods to sandwiches to desserts. Here’s what we got to try!
First up were the finger foods and the first item we were given was a type of nacho. This nacho was made with a Doritos Cool Ranch chip (which i thought made the dish) underneath a sweet and tangy Sloppy Joes mix. Insert all your typical nacho toppings like cheese, jalapenos, lettuce and sour cream and you’re all set to go. Second up was something that I never thought I might see and that was a bowl of Mac n Cheese! It’s not a typical bowl of Mac n Cheese though as it was made with Buffalo Chicken, crushed bleu cheese and topped with tomatoes. Interesting….
Up next was a twist on the club sandwich as this was piled high with breaded chicken, Virginia ham, cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato and a pesto mayonnaise. Moving on down the line we were given a chicken slider on a fresh baked biscuit that came topped with lettuce, pickles and mayo. Reminded me of something I might find down south and the biscuit was delicious.
The next set of items were a bit heavier than the first four and we started off with a double-decker style hamburger that tasted quite good on the toasted Kaiser roll. Again though, as you can see I had a tough time trying to take a bite because of its massiveness! After the bugger we went to a three tiered club sandwich that was placed on wheat berry bread. From there we traversed the waters to another big item in a hand pulled slow roasted bbq chicken on a Kaiser roll topped with cole slaw and pepper jack cheese! Up next was another item served on a biscuit but this time it was some ham topped with cheese. We also sampled some BBQ chicken that could be served by itself or as part of a meal but then it was on to the big dog (literally). This dog was a half pounder topped with cheese sauce, chili and onion straws on a 10″ roll.
After all that, we still had the dessert style courses. I know..you’re thinking how can we eat all this stuff, right? Well the desserts we sampled were NY inspired cheesecake served in a parfait cup and a sundae-type dessert. The cheesecake was a graham cracker (bottom layer), cheesecake, chocolate and then strawberries to top it off. The other was a typical sundae style with Vanilla ice cream topping brownie pieces with hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry.
It was a long day of tasting and let’s just say that I no longer ate the rest of the day. Our season ticket holders were up next and they ran through the food gauntlet from 5-7 p.m. and had a great time tasting food while meeting up again just before the season starts. Much thanks to US. Foods and to Food Service Marketing for the taste tests and for guaranteeing I’ll be at the gym all weekend long .
Will any of this food find its way on to our concessions menu? We’ll see starting Opening Day, which is 33 days away. Yikes!