Thursday, April 01, 2010

Twins Feast

I’m not going to lie – it’s been a dark couple of months. Back in late-January, while speaking with new Target Field Executive Chef Pastor Jiminez, he told me the awful truth about Target Field's new Murray’s Steak Sandwich. I recalled it in this blog post the next day....

Speaking of bad driving, we talked with the folks at the Target Field display about their food options. It started as a very pleasant conversation. I'm excited about the options there, and they were receptive to our lobbying for Surly to be included in the available beers. Of course, we also pointedly argued that they couldn't claim to have Minnesota food fare and not have anything with Spam.

OK, we likely didn't help our credibility much with that last point.

But the really disappointing part of that conversation was the revelation that the Murray's Steak Sandwiches that are going to be served at Target Field are not the same as the ones they currently serve in the bar at Murray's. They're coming up with something new, instead. In fact, they haven't even determined what it is going to be.

(These sandwiches, as you know, if you know me, are ambrosia. Char-grilled, oh-so-tender, pink-fibered ambrosia, cut into tiny chunks and covered with cheese and bacon. I would walk over hot coals for that thing. They only serve it at lunch and they only serve it in the bar. There. Now you have lunch plans today.)

Worse, once they create this new...this new... I'm going to go with "monstrosity"..., they're going to replace the sandwich they currently have with it. It's the worst possible situation.

And later in the post….

Please, gawd, don't let them shave the steak for those sandwiches. It HAS to be bite-sized chunks of beef. If they try to create a Philly Cheesesteak, which they will inevitably butcher, and ALSO screw up my steak sandwich, I'm going to be inconsolable.

And then…

If you want to sell something from Murray's, how about the garlic toast they have in the bar? Offer me a sleeve of those things for $5 and the popcorn guy will go out of business.

And I finished it with….

It's hopeless, isn't it? It's going to go the way of my lamb sirloin with that tasty dipping sauce they had at Palomino in the 90's. I hate change.

And thus began the self-pity spiral, and I’m not going to apologize for it. One of the top five foodstuffs in this world was going away, never to be heard from again, and I was powerless to stop it.

Well, somewhere, someone heard my plea. Actually, I can pretty much tell you who at least one of those someones was – Matt Hansen at the forward-thinking firm Beehive PR, who was kind enough to invite me and a few other bloggers to Twins Feast yesterday.

(No, “Twins Feast” wasn’t the official name. It was dubbed such by an exceedingly jealous and gratifyingly bitter Voice of Reason. Giggle.)

Tell me that THIS doesn’t sound like heaven: you get invited into Target Field, ushered around from booth to booth by an assortment of chefs, and handed free food while you interview and take photos. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Well, it IS nice. And I tweeted the whole thing. Since some of you folks might want to gnosh a little at the two exhibition games this weekend, I thought I’d give you a few impressions:

The afternoon started at Hrbek's, the bar on the first level pretty much directly behind home plate. And there we learned that I'm a pretty terrible photographer, because that food on the left is much, much better than it looks in thie picture. The onion ring is the size of a baseball, and the T-Rex burger is stuffed with cheese and carmelized onions and anything else that looks good in a burger. Plus, they had some ice cream sundae things that go on a cookie that were instantly nominated as "Food Most Likely to Put John Into a Diabetic Shock."

Which is a shame, because I'm almost sure I'm not going to spend much time in Hrbek's, despite liking it very much. We'll get to why later.

Oh, and I'll apologize in advance - I didn't have the Vincent Burger. Sorry. I have no excuse. It was just bad driving. I'll remedy that on Opening Day.

Kramarczuk's Sausages
It's nice to have Kramarczuk's in Target Field just so I can eventually master the spelling and pronunciation of their name. I still remember that warm glow I felt the first time I didn't need to look up "Pierzynski" and the chest bump after mastering "Mientkiewicz." I felt a little robbed last year when the Grundzielanek experiment ended a little early. It's nice to have a new mountain to climb.

And it looks like I'm going to need to learn it because I'm going to be talking about these sausages. Somewhere during my time at the Metrodome I switched from being a bratwurst guy to a hot dog guy. That's going to change. The bratwurst I had was outstanding, and the polish sausage that followed it was even better. Plus, I'm going to want to hang out around that stand just for the smells. I might consider moving my seats. It's that good.

My only concern about these is how long the line will be. I expect it will be Chipotle-in-the-mid-90s kinda long.

Schwiegert Hot Dogs

Another reason that I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up eating so many Kramarczuks' sausages is because I have some concerns about the hot dog situation. Twice I've been at Target Field, and twice the only dogs I've found are the $5.25 "Big Dogs," which is the new equivalent of the Dome Dogs. I was never a dome dog guy - they're expensive, they're too big, and I don't want the chips. And I feel the same way about the Big Dogs, except that they also have a bun that's too bready.

According to the North Delaware representative, they are selling original dogs in the park all over the place. They would be the equivalent of the dollar dogs they had at the Metrodome, and they're supposed to be the same recipe they had at The Met. And they absolutely have both yellow and brown mustard. No sign of sauerkraut, which is obviously a concern, but I'm going to assume they have that covered.

Tony O's Cuban Sandwiches Stand

Yep, that's Tony Oliva, who together with top Twins and Deleware North brass introduced his Cuban Sandwich stand. There's going to be a lot of competition for the food dollar in Target Field, but I think these are going to stand out. It's comfort food. It looked like ham, pork, swiss cheese, thinly sliced pickle and mustard inside a flaky role. If you like grilled cheese or pot roast sandwiches, I think you're going to like this plenty.

Asian Noodles
I'm embarassed to say I don't know the name of the stand that served us Asian Noodles, but it was just to the left of Hrbek's yesterday. That's not generally considered ballpark food, but I found it to be a nice option. In particular, I was impressed that they weren't afraid to make it a little spicy. I won't be surprised if I find myself back there soon. Keep it in the back of your mind.

Ribs, Chili and State Fair Fare

I absolutely love ribs, so even though I was getting full I was pretty excited to go after a few of them from the State Fair booth out in left field. Unfortunately, they were simply, um, fair. Maybe they would have been better received if I had them earlier in the day. My impression of them, along with the chili and the walleye-on-a-stick, was that none of them were going to rise to the top of my list at the park.

Townball Tavern
One thing that WILL be at the top of my list is the bar on the second level down the third base line: the Townball Tavern. The featured item on the tour was the non-alchoholic feature on the left: a two-person root beer float made with Killebrew Root Beer, ice cream, whipped cream and a root beer cookie stick. It is enormous. Possibly the greatest shared dessert date item ever.

But the reason I'm likely going to spend my time here instead of Hrbek's is because of the balcony. Out the back of the tavern is a small shady balcony with a half a dozen tables on it that just beg for hours of lounging before or after a game. It's such a great feature that it makes me almost angry that it isn't everywhere, stretched across the entire south and east sides of the stadium. I can hardly wait to take advantage of it.

And what will I be drinking at the Tavern? For the most part, Target Field looks to be a Budweiser ballpark, or at least that's the domestic mass-produced beer that is most prevalent. Summit is also on tap, listed as a premium beer, which means it costs $7.50. I'm almost sure I saw Grain Belt Premium that last time I was there. I've heard Surly is available in cans somewhere, but I didn't find it. I'll do a more exhaustive survey on Opening Day.

The Murray's Steak Sandwich
And so finally, we get to the main event.

I'm relieved - very, very, VERY relieved - to say they mostly got it right. The key is the bite size steak chunks. This isn't a shaved steak sandwich, and the chunks were really tender, meaining it wasn't a chore to chew. It's covered with provolone cheese and served on ciabatta bread which holds up nicely. Unlike the old version, there isn't any bacon, but I was almost giddy to find that each one is served with an authentic piece of Murray's Garlic Toast, just like they have in the bar.

It runs $10.50, which is a lot for ballpark food but about the same price I've paid for it in the bar. If they can continue to make sure the steak bites are tender, it's going to become a staple. If not, I'll need to get the original one at Murray's before the game. Either way, it sounds like there are going to be plenty of options.


haasertime said...

note to self: next time a new stadium is built, bitch about the food before the doors even open.

The cheapo dogs are awfully generic, and possibly made from old leftover hot dogs found during the destruction of the Met circa 1985. They put the sauerkraut on for you rather than offer those small red containers and trust you to do it yourself.

skyjo said...

Dang. Were they full sandwiches? That's quite an impressive feat of eating.

Bryz said...

Apparently you still need some work on Grudzielanek, since you threw in an "n" as the 4th letter :-P

I really wish I could try all this food, but I can't since I'll be acting unprofessionally by ordering food while in uniform. I believe the Asian noodles place you're thinking of is called the Hello Wok (or at the very least Wok is in the name) but I can't guarantee this.

Lastly, I see you didn't have any food from either Senor Smoke's or Frankie V's. Were they closed or you just didn't feel like eating their food?

John said...

Good questions...

Haaser, I actually suggested that if Calvin was still around, that would actually be the case. That sauerkraut situation needs to change. I can't believe they think that's the best way to do that.

Bryz, thanks for the heads up on the asian noodles name. I don't think we stopped at either Frankie V's or Senor Smoke's.

soup said...

Asian Wok. What do I win?

Anonymous said...

You need some work on spelling Schwiegert, as well. It's Schweigert.

Adam said...

Love the post, as this will now serve as my roadmap for cuisine at Target Field throughout the season. I know that the Murray's Steak Sandwich is expensive, but it might be worth it.


Kyle Eliason said...

I heard through the grape vine that the Surly folks inquired, exchanged some figures with the Twins and were told their beers would be sold at $10 a pop, and then declined.

Anonymous said...

Will you really be able to have a beer in the Townball Tavern after the game? I bet they turn things off after the 7th inning.