The Single Best Stadium Food Ever

We have another guest post for your enjoyment.  My good buddy David Gonos writes about Sports, particularly Fantasy Sports. He also is a genius with the pop culture references and knows a lot about food.

It’s getting close to Fantasy Football draft season. If you need some help, check out some of Dave’s great stuff at Davidgonos.com

Enjoy.

The Single Best Stadium Food Ever Involves (Surprise!) Bacon

How do you know you’ve just eaten the best stadium food ever?

Have you ever taken a bite of freedom?

Have you ever heard the Vienna Boys Choir singing in your head while you chewed ballpark food?

When was the last time you bit into something and your teeth cheered?

Well, that happened to me on May 21, 2012, on a baseball trip to Oriole Park at Camden Yards with several buddies. Six of us went to Nationals Park in Washington D.C. over that weekend, stayed over into Monday, and then watched the Red Sox and Orioles in Baltimore. It was the 20th anniversary of the inaugural season of Camden Yards, and they had some new food items to celebrate it.

‘I Guarantee You’ll Like It’

Walking up Eutaw Street, which runs between right field and the Warehouse at Camden Yards, we weren’t exactly hungry. We had eaten dinner about an hour or so earlier, and we had begun cycling beers through our bladders. We even passed up Boog’s BBQ, right after I grabbed a quick pic with Hall-of-Fame 1B Boog Powell.

I tell you that to show you we weren’t famished and our incredible hunger did not trick us into thinking this treat I’m about to tell you about was better than it really was.

As we slowly walked around Eutaw Street, we happened upon a small booth sponsored by Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. I walked up to it to check out the beer can chickens they were displaying. As I got closer, I saw a big plank of meat that was hauntingly familiar.

It was like when you meet someone and you both know you’ve met before, but neither of you can name the time or place.

Hello, huge slab of bacon on a stick. Nice to meet you.

I later realized, like baconéjà vu, I had met this glistening piece of pork in a dream when I was 7 years old. (I woke up with phantom meat sweats that night.)

I asked the weathered man behind the grill, who was busy grilling these thick slabs of bacon and dipping them into a vat of a sticky dark brown liquid, “What … is … this?”

“It’s Bacon-on-a-Stick!” he responded with a shocked voice, like I had asked him what year it was or who the “current’ President was.

I said, “Is it good or is it all hype?”

He laughed for a second, took a step back, then said, “Oh, it’s good. I guarantee you’ll like it. Taste this –“ and then he dipped a plastic spoon into the syrupy liquid and handed it to me.

The spoon was covered in a thin brown peppered syrup that was slowly dripping off. I put it in my mouth and I immediately forgot how to blink. A smoky, sweet maple explosion in my mouth had just occurred.

I said, “How much gimme one!” I hadn’t even allowed him to respond as to the price. It could have been $90. But it was just $5, so I bought a round of bacon-on-a-sticks for the group. In all honesty, I had hoped every one of my friends said no thanks, so I could stack them up like bacon mattresses and eat them myself … My precious …

The Best Stadium Food Ever

We each got a little paper boat with a sheet of wax paper underneath a slab of bacon, skewered with a wooden stick, slathered with viscous brown syrup. We all gathered around a couple wooden barrels standing on their ends, and we dug in.

My first bite had some crunchy bacon meat, along with the soft, salty texture of the bacon fat. The juices instantly ran into my beard, and I didn’t care. The smoky maple flavor covered the inside of my mouth instantly and we all grunted and moaned in harmony.

You had to eat the bacon-on-a-stick over your paper boat, or else you would be wearing the juices down your shirt … and random men would try to bite you. (Single women should think about dabbing this syrup behind their ears.)

I don’t remember tasting any whiskey flavor, but if Jack Daniels is making these delicacies, I imagine it’s in there. I have since bought some of their barbecue sauces from the grocery store, and I’ve been very happy with the results!

I think it was Joey that said, “This is the best food we’ve had on this entire trip.” And to a man, we all agreed. It was certainly the best stadium food I ever had. Ballpark food, in general, is known to be expensive and flavorless because you are a captive audience that’s unable to run out to another restaurant. Although, I have to add, the new Marlins Park might have the best food in all Major League ballparks.

While we were discussing how this chunk of smoked flesh just changed our lives, the bacon-on-a-stick guy came over to ask if he was a liar. We told Cecil (I like to think that’s his name, just because he was missing a few teeth and I would like his name to have a couple hard “s” sounds in it), “This is amazing!” “Thank you!” “You were totally right!” “Will you marry me?” I forget who said the last one.

I asked him if he was bringing the defibrillator.

Cecil laughed and was happy we were happy, and then he delivered a bunch of extra little cups of syrup for each of us.

Tresky reached for a cup of the syrup near my paper boat, and I instinctively growled at him, with a mouthful of pork belly. The caveman came out in me, I couldn’t help it. For the next five minutes, no one really spoke, but the sound of lions tearing apart a gazelle (dipped in syrup!) became our soundtrack.

The bacon was a thick slab, like maybe a little less than a half-inch thick. It wasn’t crispy, but it wasn’t gummy either. It was relatively easy to rip apart with your teeth, unlike if you were eating a pork chop with your hands, but it wasn’t soft like pound cake either.

It was MAN food.

I could see guys tearing into this before storming the beach at Normandy or in a saloon before a gunfight or at a salon before getting their back hair waxed.

Perfection, Thy Name is Bacon-on-a-Stick

Once we were done, we all discussed how they must have cooked this appetizer to the angels. It was obviously smoked, and but was it was just grilled afterward? Some thought maybe it was boiled (or poached) in the syrup, but I don’t see it. I still don’t know how to explain it.

“I’m going to have another later,” Joey said.

While I certainly wanted to have another, I didn’t want to tempt fate. I left my extra set of heart paddles at home, and I could hear my arteries squeaking, like when liquid is forced through a small pipe. I envisioned my heart valves squishing out blood like a water hose when you put your thumb on the end. So I passed on seconds … but not before I openly wept.

So if you plan a trip to Baltimore, make sure you head on over to Camden Yards for bacon-on-a-stick. Apparently, they used to serve these treats sticking out of bottles full of National Bohemian beer. We didn’t get that treatment for some reason, but I can imagine that those two paired really well together.

Looks like I’ll have to start planning a return trip.

Dutchish Blueberry Pie Thing

Pie or Cake? What’s your take? Saying you like them equally is not an option. If you say that to my face, I don’t think I can trust you around my child anymore you sick freak. Seriously though, show some fortitude and make a decision for once in your pathetic life.

My position swayed dramatically this morning because of a snippet from an interview with comedian/podcaster Adam Corolla. When asked about his stance on pie and cake, he answered with this brilliant rant, “I submit this simple challenge to all you idiots, you’re not allowed to say you’re going to the bakery and spend $86 on a super high-end cake. That’s not the challenge. There are great cakes out there don’t get me wrong. The challenge is, I will give you $8. You go find me a cake, then I’ll go down to Marie Calender’s and for $7.99 buy any pie they have in the display case, and it will whip your $8 cake. There’s no such thing as a bad pumpkin pie. (I have to disagree here. All pumpkin pies suck) There’s great pumpkin pie and O.K. pumpkin pie, but there isn’t  BAD pumpkin pie. It doesn’t matter what pie place you go to or what town you live in. Even the store-bought is going to be edible. But cake…you can get some really…really, really bad cake.”

After much meditation on the matter, I agree about 90%  with Mr. Corolla. If you were to pit the best piece of cake against the best piece of pie, cake wins best against best. However, the law of averages states that I will consume many more bad pieces of cake than bad pieces of pie, because there is no such thing as a bad piece of pie. So pie wins.

This new found awakening comes in the heat of pie season. Pies rule the roost in summer, and I want to show you how easy they are to make, from start to finish to make a crust directly in the pie pan, a versatile fruit (I’m using blueberries this time) filling and a buttery scrumptious crumbly topping. Let’s do this!

Dutchish Blueberry Pie Thing

First set your oven to 375°

For the crust:

1 10′ Pie pan

1 1/2 cups  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup organic oil (I’ve used Vegetable, Canola and Sunflower. They all turn out great)
3 to 4 tablespoons water

To make clean up really easy you can mix all the dry ingredients and then whisk straight in the pie pan. Next, Whisk the Oil and water together in a separate container. Make a well in your dry ingredients for the liquid to go into then pour said wet ingredients in pan. You can use a fork to mix everything together or just use your fingers, cause you’ll need those shortly anyway. Once the dough starts to make a crumbly biscuit-like texture, form it into a ball and place in the center of the pan. Start squashing the dough down with your fingers all the way til it goes up the sides of the pan and the entire surface is evenly covered. Don’t make little frumpy creases or flutes into the pie dough side walls. Who are you trying to fool? You’re not Ina Garten. You are a human being. Set crust aside. You do not need to pre-bake.

Fruit filling: (Every fruit works… I think.)

4 cups of fresh Blueberries. (If you can’t find fresh, move on to another fruit that is actually available. Such as 7 apples or 8 peaches.) 

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, strained

3⁄4 cup sugar

3 Tbs. cornstarch

1⁄2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon (If you use apple, double up on the cinnamon)

Place Fruit in a medium-sized bowl and toss with lemon juice.  Stir sugar, corn starch, zest, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl until evenly mixed. Sprinkle sugar mixture over fruit and toss with hands until all the fruit is coated. Set aside.

Crumbly Streusel Topper:

1 Stick Unsalted Butter (Room Temp)

1/2  C All Purpose Flour

1/4 C Cane Sugar

½ Tsp Salt

Place Flour, sugar, and salt in a small mixing bowl and stir until blended well. Take the butter in your hand and separate with your fingers in small clumps into the Flour mix. Then with your fingers toss the butter and flour lightly to form little crumbly buttery balls of streusel. Don’t be rough or else you will end up with cookie dough. Now it’s time to assemble Team P.I.E.

Take Fruit mixture and dump into pie pan. Take Crumbly streusel mixture and sprinkle it over the fruit evenly and graciously. Put in oven. Watch 2 episodes of Storage Wars or about 1 hour until the Dutch part of the pie begins to show signs of browning. Take hot pie out and place on cooling rack. Do not set out on an open window sill. That is lame. Let cool for 30 minutes until pie is still warm but not hot enough to cause oral fissures.

This pie is slowly becoming the death of me. It’s so amazing that I’ve been ordered to make it 4 times in the last 2 weeks. I have a standing order for a blackberry/raspberry hybrid in the next few weeks. Hopefully you too will be struck by the curse of my Dutchish Blueberry Pie Thing.

Joey’s Junction – Highgate, VT

Location, location, location. The famous mantra of many a real estate agent, as it applies to restaurants, usually assumes that the “location” in question is the one with the greatest visibility and therefore the greatest potential for success. Not so with Joey’s Junction, a small bakery/cafe/art gallery in northern Vermont where they are consistently serving the most diabolically delicious breakfast that you’d be hard-pressed to find in even the most hipster-infested joint in NYC. Joey’s sits on a plot of land at the intersection of two country roads in the small town of Highgate, VT, just outside the middle of nowhere.

Joey's Junction spread

I believe a certain Kevin Costner movie once said, “if you build it, they will come”. Well the boys at Joey’s built it, and sure enough, they came. The chocolate iced and custard filled Godzilla doughnuts they’re pumping out probably don’t hurt. There are only a couple of tables inside with a couple more outside, but if you visit, there’s a good chance there’ll be at least a couple of parties enjoying a rib-sticking breakfast. Joey’s isn’t the type of place where you have to call ahead or wait hours in line for. Luckily it’s far enough from Williamsburg that the beardos haven’t flocked to it before it gets too cool.

My family and I have been going there for a few years now, and over time, they’ve managed to refine and reinvent the breakfast staples. On our most recent visit, we spied a rack full of freshly made doughnuts, “we’ll have two” my father proclaimed. Now just look at these things, I don’t know if you can judge the scale from these photos, but these things were freaking huge. Slathered with icing by hand and generously filled to capacity with the most delicious homemade custard. On top of that, the doughnuts were fried to perfection, golden brown with a bright white stripe around its equator. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and spilling over with custard, which promptly merged with the chocolate. This was definitely not an “eat a dozen glazed doughnuts on the way to the real breakfast” routine you might pull with a joint like Krispy Kreme. While I’m sure I’ll reap the full wrath of my colleague, but I felt that the quality, decadence and taste surpassed even Doughnut Plant, King, Queen, you name it. Yes the doughnuts are that good.

Joey's Junction custard doughnut

Not to be outdone is the savory fare at Joey’s. The traffic jam in our aortas wouldn’t have been complete without a breakfast sandwich and a side of home fries. Now I know what you think of when you think breakfast sandwich. Maybe an english muffin or biscuit with a piece of country sausage or bacon, maybe a fried egg and a slice of cheese? You’d be right, but somehow this isn’t enough for Joey’s. They really should put quotations around the word sandwich, because it only loosely describes what you’ll get if you order it. We were presented with two pieces of bread, I’d estimate 2 or 3 fried eggs, a mountain of onions and mushrooms, swiss cheese topped with sausage. The whole affair must have been tossed with a couple sticks of butter and thrown on the flat top because the flavor was just glorious. It was a good thing we had four people to tackle this monster, because the home fries were waiting in the wings. 

Joey's Junction breakfast sandwich

If the breakfast sandwich was Mt. Everest, the home fries were K-2. Talk about value, I think they fried up two whole potatoes and a couple of onions for one order! 

Joey's Junction homefries

Now I know most of our readers will probably never make it up to Highgate. While Joey’s is absolutely worth a trip in itself, if you happen to take my advice and head to Montreal for a little Maison Kam Fung, or L’Express, take the day, drive across the border and hit up Joey’s, you’ll be glad you did. 

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