Spring has been a total tease this year—how many times have we collectively thought “OK, that’s it for winter FINALLY!” and the next day the fucking harbor is frozen?—but I think now for really real we might be out of the woods.
I guess this time of year is sort of the equinox or whatever marking the longest stretch one can go without a true ballpark dog—bloated, sweaty, and wan, stewed just so by a few innings in hot hot-dog water, jostled about by the hot-dog gal or guy, the junk-food equivalent of Madeira wine, if you will.
Awesomely gross hot dogs not your thing? Well, we are lucky enough to now have a stadium that offers foods that diverge significantly from the hot dog/burger/nacho triumvirate that dominated even up to a few years ago. Options will now include Korean-style meat “Takos” (that’s tacos only with a “k,” because Korean I guess?). The downside to all this, of course, is exorbitant stadium prices.
For the more canny among us there is another option, for we are even luckier still to have a stadium that allows fans to bring in their own food. Yes, that’s right, what all the outside vendors on Eutaw Street have been barking at you is true—Camden Yards allows outside food. The only explicit restrictions are for alcohol (duh) and size and construction of bags, containers, or vessels—no specific mention of food at all. Even M&T Bank Stadium allows food, although the NFL proscribes much stricter rules for bags and such. So yeah, buy something from the outside vendors or pick up some to-go from wherever and stroll through the gate with impunity. But where’s the fun in that, you ask? In the absence of taboo, it’s just regular old food, you might be thinking. Fair enough.
So how to maintain some sort of specialness, some ballparkiness if you will, when bringing your own food? How about a little project I like to call “Neat Foods You Can Get At Other Stadiums But Can’t Get At Camden Yards, In Burrito Form”? That last part is because the burrito is a fairly ideal format for one-handed, surface-and utensil-free eating, boasts nearly perfect volume-to-food ratio, and requires minimal packaging. This is kind of the result of my plan to visit every MLB stadium being way behind schedule. If you’ve been lucky enough to go to games in other cities, you know that most times there is some regional specialty on offer that might seem out of place in our own ballpark. Some of these are just ingredient lists, some are actual recipes.
Toronto Blue Jays (April 10-April 12) Poutine
OK, I know poutine is a Quebec thing but hey, they serve it at Rogers Centre, take it up with them.
French fries, cooked
One large flour tortilla
Roll the first three ingredients in the flour tortilla, then wrap in foil. You can find cheese curds at Wegmans.
Seattle Mariners (May 19-May 21) Sushi
Seattle has a huge Japanese population, so sushi at the ballpark is a given. But since a) sushi rice is kind of tricky to make properly; and b) raw fish would not keep well in one’s pocket on a summer day, I suggest a Korean analog that is better suited for portability—kimbap. In this case the tortilla is replaced by roasted seaweed.
½ cup julienned carrot
½ cup julienned zucchini
1 teaspoon sugar, plus extra to taste
¼ teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
2 cups fresh spinach
Nori sheets for making maki sushi
1 package takuan (yellow pickled Japanese radish)
1 ½ cups cooked short-grain rice
Soy sauce and sesame oil to taste
In separate bowls, toss the carrots and zucchini with 1 teaspoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt each, coating all strands thoroughly. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes, draining any remaining liquid afterward.
Scramble eggs, adding a little sugar and salt to taste. Gently fry into a thin sheet, set aside allow to cool. Roll up the egg sheet and thinly slice into julienne.
Saute spinach until wilted, set aside to cool adding a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil to taste.
Slice 2 long strips, ½-inch square and as long as the nori is wide, from the takuan. Reserve the rest for another use.
Using rice that’s still cool enough to handle but still warm, spread into a ½-inch layer on nori, leaving about 2 inches exposed at the top.
Starting just below the horizontal centerline of the rice, lay down rows of spinach, carrot, zucchini, egg, and one takuan strip. Drizzle a little sesame oil and soy sauce on top of the fillings.
Carefully but firmly roll up the nori, tucking the filling into the center as you go.
Dampen the exposed area of nori with water, and finish rolling. The wet nori should seal the roll up.
Note: Normally you would then slice the roll into pieces like a standard maki, but for the sake of convenience just wrap in plastic and go. When you’re ready to eat, eat it as if it were a giant Slim Jim.
Detroit Tigers (July 30-Aug. 2) Tacos
Almost no one outside of Detroit knows this, but some of the best Mexican food anywhere can be found there, most notably in the not-so-creatively named area called Mexicantown southwest of the city. Some of my favorite tamales ever are from there, but Comerica Park only gets as far as tacos.
1 beef tongue
1 can chipotle peppers
Finely diced onion
Simmer tongue in salted water for about 3 hours or until tender. Allow to cool in the cooking liquid, reserving some of the liquid.
Peel or cut off outer layer, then chop trimmed tongue into ½-inch chunks.
Toss chopped tongue with salt, pepper, some cilantro, some of the onion, and some of the cooking liquid to season.
In a blender or food processor, puree chipotles, using water to achieve a medium-thick sauce consistency, adding salt and lime juice to taste.
Combine remaining onion, cilantro, and tomatoes to make a pico de gallo, adding salt and lime juice to season.
Roll into a massive uber taco.
Kansas City Royals (Sept. 11 - Sept. 13) Burnt Ends Cheeseteak
Kansas City is known for barbecue, and Camden Yards already has Boog’s BBQ for that (although whether Boog’s is truly barbecue is debatable), but burnt ends are their own unique thing. And they happen to neatly dovetail into our own tradition of pit beef, which is what Boog’s does too, so circle of life and so on. They’re exactly what you think—the dark, burny outer crust pieces of barbecued beef that make up in sheer visceral fire and meatiness what they might lack in textural subtlety. In surveying a million pit beef stands in the Baltimore area, I discovered years ago that many places will just give away burnt ends for free, often marketing them as dog treats. Honestly one of the happiest discoveries of my life, still. I’ve never even thought to ask at Boog’s because I’m usually already locked into “ballpark corporate food” mode, but it will be interesting to see how they respond. Anyway, at Kauffman Stadium they serve burnt ends as a cheesesteak, with Swiss cheese, grilled peppers and onions, and barbecue sauce. So really for this one, all you need to do is obtain some burnt ends and roll them into a burrito with those fixins. Places I’ve successfully received free or nearly free burnt ends include Smokehouse Pit Beef, The Canopy, and Pioneer Pit Beef.