Results tagged ‘ designated eater ’

On the Road: An Early Evening Late Night Snack in Jackson

To see all posts from my August 3, 2015 visit to the Jackson Generals (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

The last time I visited the Jackson Generals, in June 2012, I ran a photo of myself holding a Yuengling beer. This photo, I remarked, had “a personal significance that I’ll explain at a later date.”


The “personal significance” was that this was the last beer that I ever ordered at a ballpark. Earlier that month I had been diagnosed with celiac disease; my late June 2012 trip through the South represented the last time that I would ever eat and drink at a ballpark without concern for said food and drink being gluten-free. The following month I ran a post announcing that I had celiac disease, and the first “designated eater” (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet now prohibits) appeared on the blog at the tail end of that 2012 season.

I now have a designated eater at every ballpark that I visit. At August 3’s Generals game, that individual was a man named Bob Sanders.

030Bob, who works for a Memphis-based claims management company, is a life-long baseball fan who enjoys collecting autographs at Minor League games. His passion for this hobby began in the mid-’80s, when he would attend games at the Memphis Chicks’ home of Tim McCarver Stadium. (The Chicks moved to Jackson in 1998 and became the Generals.) Bob attended the ballgame along with Abigail, his 10-year-old daughter, and Barry, a friend, fellow autograph collector and former Memphis Chicks clubhouse manager.

Amid the usual array of ballpark staples, the Generals offer a few unique items. Most unique — and certainly the most outlandish — is “Sarge’s Late Night Snack.” This sandwich, named after the mascot’s alleged nocturnal food cravings, consists of a quarter pound burger topped with barbecue pork, bacon, Philly steak, and white queso.

“Sarge’s Late Night Snack,” added to the menu in 2015 by new manager of catering and concessions Eric Kormanik, is available at the concourse grill. It’s got a hefty price tag ($14, if my nearly indecipherable notes are to be believed), and the menu posted by the grill offers no details as to what it contains. You have to be very curious or already in the know, criteria that applies to all of the best things in life.

Here’s grillmaster Eric Spencer, standing in front of the array of meat that will soon become Sarge’s Late Night Snack.

026Eric said that he enjoys a “Sarge’s Late Night Snack” on occasion, though he can’t eat it in one sitting. He also doubts Sarge’s ability to eat his namesake item, since he “doesn’t move his mouth.”

After Bob hit the fixins bar, Sarge’s Late Night Snack was ready for its close-up.

029Have at it, Bob.

“It’s actually a pretty good combo. I’m serious,” said Bob. “You actually get the different flavors. The burger’s at the bottom, that’s the first taste, and then the other meats. Definitely, the cheese holds everything together. It makes it a lot easier. Though, this is not something that a dainty person should eat. It’s a manly meal.”

“He’s almost never impressed,” said Abigail, clearly surprised that her Dad was giving Sarge’s Late Night Snack a positive review. She then gave it a try herself.

032“Yum,” said Abigail.

Barry, Memphis Chicks clubbie turned Memphis-area teacher, was then persuaded to give Sarge’s Late Night Snack a try. He did so after Bob said something along the lines of “Hey, you’re single again, might as well get yourself out there.”

Indeed, this would make for an excellent online dating profile picture.

035“That’s pretty good,” he said. “The peppers and onions, that’s my first taste.”

Next up: Barbecue Nachos.

028Like the Sarge’s Late Night Snack, these nachos are another Eric Kormanik creation (not to be confused with Eric Spencer, grillmaster). Eric K. reports that the barbecue pork is courtesy of Jackson-based Cajun Cookers, who deliver the meat, already seasoned, in Cryovac bags.

Here’s Bob as he prepares to enjoy a nacho, with Eric standing proudly beside him.

039“It’s definitely more of a Southern barbecue flavor,” said Bob. “It’s not the Rendezvous [Barbecue Nachos, made famous by the Memphis Redbirds], but it’s a lot better than what Memphis has now. But I would like the option of dry rub.”

As a reference point, here’s a circa-2012 photo of the Memphis Redbirds’ famous Rendezvous Barbecue Nachos. These are the ballpark barbecue nachos against which all other ballpark barbecue nachos are judged.


Abigail sampled the nachos as well, offering a review even more succinct than her first.

040“When she ignores you and keeps eating, it’s generally a good sign,” said Bob.

Next, and last, was a bacon-wrapped pork chop on a stick served on a bed of beans, rice and sausage.

042I cannot confirm with complete certainty that the above item is gluten-free, as Eric was not sure about what was contained in the sauce. However, I could not resist giving this a try. Eat now, die later.

043The bacon-wrapped pork chop did not kill me, though perhaps it did bring me closer to death. My notes, barely decipherable as usual, report that the pork chop was a little dry, but that it “mixed well with the bacon, complementary flavors.” The beans and rice, meanwhile, were “well-spiced and flavorful.”

“Well-spiced and flavorful” — just like every post that I create for this, the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time. Thank you, as always, for supporting (or at least tolerating) the greatness.

On the Road: Keeping It Simple in Mississippi

To see all posts from my August 2, 2015 visit to the Mississippi Braves (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

This is Steven Ericson, a geography professor at the University of Alabama and a big fan of Minor League Baseball.


I had known Steven for several years in the virtual realm, through Twitter (@geoSteven) as well as his baseball-centric “My Geography Lessons” blog. But it wasn’t until this August afternoon at TrustMark Park that I met him in physical form. He had made the trip from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Pearl, Mississippi to serve as my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

When it comes to concessions, the Mississippi Braves take an “only the basics” approach. In previous seasons they’d experimented with regional items like catfish sandwiches, but they didn’t sell well enough to justify the effort. So what Steven and I were left with on this scorching Sunday afternoon was an array of the familiar — hot dogs, burgers, pizza (from Domino’s) and the like.

022After much gnashing of teeth regarding how to make a bland situation interesting, we simply decided to take a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach. Steven, therefore, ordered a hot dog ($3) and topped it with Heinz yellow mustard. He didn’t do a very good job in making it look appetizing, however. I was like “C’mon, dude. This hot dog is gonna appear on the internet!”

038Before sitting down to enjoy his hot dog, Steven and I had our photos taken at the iSnap machine installed on the concourse.

Steven has at it:

The quote that I have from Steven regarding his hot dog-eating experience doesn’t really make sense. Maybe I wrote it down wrong.

“It’s average,” he said. “A slice of Americana encased in Americana by enjoying a hot dog at a baseball game. But, yeah, it’s just a hot dog.”

As mentioned in the above Vine video, Steven had obtained an Oxford Brewing Company “Sorority Blonde Ale” along with his hot dog. I didn’t take a picture of it, but I did take a picture of Steven taking a picture of it. He was going to post his photo on Untappd, an app presumably named by a drunk person.

040“It’s very smooth and mellow, a very tasty beer,” said Steven, of the Sorority Blonde Ale. “But it’s not as good as Hipster Repellent IPA.”

Hipster Repellent IPA: a thing that exists.

A hot dog does not a blog post make — I have a crocheted saying to this effect hanging in my bedroom — so Steven and I headed back to the concession stands. The stand offering nachos in a full-size helmet was already closed, or “Na-closed,” as it were, so he opted for a gyro. That’s pretty unique, right? A gyro at a baseball game? We were trying our best.
043Steven, eating a gyro while standing alone on concrete.


Uh, that’s boring. Steven, how about you sing about your gyro to the tune of “Wind Beneath My Wings”?

“It’s really warm. Good. Hot,” said Steven, hopefully referring to the gyro. “A mix of lamb and fresh provolone cheese. It kind of tastes like a Philly cheesesteak in a pita.”

I, meanwhile, took the opportunity to purchase an M-Braves collector’s cup. I did this to placate the #cupdate fiends out there, who harbor an unceasing desire to gaze upon images such as these.

IMG_0129While Steven and I didn’t have too much to talk about on the food side of things, we did engage in an interesting discussion about the field of geography and how it relates to Minor League Baseball. After a while, I had a realization: Why not turn this conversation into an story? So I took out my phone, hit record on the voice memo, and conducted a formal interview. THIS was the result.

CaptureSteven Ericson, Mississippi Braves designated eater turned superstar. It could happen to you, it could happen to anyone. Life is unpredictable.

On the Road: Biscuits in Montgomery

To see all posts from my August 1, 2015 visit to the Montgomery Biscuits (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

First things first: The Montgomery Biscuits do indeed offer biscuits. Minor League Baseball is all about selling yourself.


The Biscuits’ biscuit options include those topped with jam, chicken biscuits, biscuits with gravy, and biscuits served with locally beloved Alaga syrup.  These, and all of the team’s food offerings, are provided by PSC (Professional Sports Catering), a Minor League Baseball-specific concessions company owned by Biscuits co-owners Sherrie Myers and Tom Dickson.

On hand to try these offerings was Joe Marcus, my designated eater for the evening (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). Through the years, Joe had left multiple comments on this blog imploring me to visit Montgomery. So, when I finally did schedule a visit, I figured I’d give him the first crack at being designated eater. He accepted the offer, and so here we were.


Joe, a Montgomery native and radio business veteran, has long been a local baseball supporter. He said that one of his favorite memories is of seeing Knoxville Sox infielder Bucky Dent (yes, that Bucky Dent) hitting a game-winning home run in the 1972 playoffs against Montgomery. Upon further review, it appears that this home run was hit in the 1972 Southern League All-Star Game (played in Montgomery), but close enough.  43 years is a long time for a memory to stay completely accurate.

In more recent years (but still long ago), Joe served as the PA guy at the Montgomery Rebels’ home of Patterson Field. The Rebels played their last season in 1980, Montgomery then went without affiliated Minor League Baseball until the Biscuits arrived in 2004.

I met with Joe in the concourse-level Club Car Bar, where the Biscuits had prepared the following spread.

048 We started, of course, with the biscuits. These, specifically, were chicken biscuits.


Prior to meeting with Joe, he had warned me in an email that he and his friends would most likely be in “good form” this evening. And, indeed, he was. In this case, his “good form” extended to completely dismantling the biscuits immediately upon laying hands on them.


“I can see that Joe Marcus has been here,” said Joe’s friend, Mike, surveying the smashed pile of biscuits that Joe had instantaneously created.

Mike was flitting around the perimeter of the scene, barefoot, drinking a beer, completely uninterested in why his pal was being photographed with an array of food items. Joe, while molding the smashed biscuits into some sort of dough pyramid, made clear that he wished he’d been given a cheesesteak and now kinda seemed hesitant about this whole “designated eating” endeavor. Meanwhile, the Biscuits’ staffers involved with preparing and delivering the food receded far away from the action, giving off a vibe of “Uh, what’s going on here?”

But the show must go on, even if the energy’s off. Joe re-assembled the mess to the best of his mess re-assembling abilities, and the following Vine was created. I guess I thought it was all pretty funny at the time.

“It would have been better with Alaga Syrup,” said Joe, of what had once been a biscuit. “It’s good. It’d be better with some syrup.”

Next up was “The Gump,” a new offering for the 2015 season utilizing the Biscuits’ in-house barbecue. It consists of smoked pulled pork, cole slaw, cheese (pepper jack, I believe), onions and barbecue sauce. Apologies for the poor quality photo, as I was having trouble stage-managing the designated eating experience on this particular evening.

Joe took a bite and then warily held it out for closer inspection.
053“It’s a little heavy for a hot night,” said Joe. “It’s kind of a hybrid of grilled cheese and barbecue. I wouldn’t turn it down.”

And, indeed, he didn’t.

Seeking to give Joe a brief respite from his designated eating duties, I sampled a fresh strawberry smoothie that had been made at the team’s new smoothie bar. The thumbs up was more than a reflexive photo pose, as this smoothie was sweet (but not too sweet), fresh and natural. Just like me.

059Also, for the record, the Biscuits are now serving Chloe’s fruit pops. Gluten free! It melted before I got the chance to try it, however, providing yet another example of the ephemeral nature of all earthly matter.

055But back to Joe. Joe still had some nachos to eat.


These, specifically, are “Super Nachos.” Pork, chicken and beef were all part of the equation.

050 “This is my favorite,” said Joe. “As good as you’ll find at a mainstream Mexican restaurant, as opposed to the little places that are authentic.”

And that was about it for Joe, who was more than ready to abandon Ben’s Biz Blog in favor of the more familiar alliterative triumvirate that is ballgame, buddies and beer. When asked to sum up his designated eating experience, his answer was wistful and poetic.

“I’m glad someone remembered me,” he said. “I coulda been a contender.”

On the Road: Raving About Dinner and Singing for Dessert in Mobile

To see all posts from my July 31, 2015 visit to the Mobile BayBears (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

This is David Haney, a 21-year-old majoring in sociology and criminal justice at the University of Mobile. He was born in Connecticut, but has lived in the Mobile area since a young age. He’s also a baseball fan, and estimates that he attends “probably 30-something” Mobile BayBears games each season. After graduating he said that he’d love to “get involved in the world of sports somehow. Mainly baseball.”

030On July 31, David had found a novel way to get involved in the world of sports. For on this evening, he had been recruited to serve as my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). We met shortly after the game began, and David spent several innings partaking of the local foodstuffs. By the end of our time together, I imagine that he was feeling quite food-stuffed.

We began with a local specialty, recently added to the menu by BayBears food and beverage director Justin Gunsaulus (who spent 2013 and 2014 with the Lakewood BlueClaws before relocating to Mobile). This is a Conecuh sausage, named after the Alabama county in which it is produced and pronounced “Kuh-neck-a.”

029“People kept requesting it in the offseason,” said Justin. “It’s native to the region, so we went out there and got it.”

David was happy to be eating this hometown staple.

“It’s as good as any sausage in America, like times the taste by 10,” said David. “It’s a ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ kind of hot dog. The taste just explodes in your mouth. It’s extremely juicy. Spicy, but not too much. But just enough so its incredible. I’ve never had one at the ballpark, but Conecuh is a Southern version of a really good hot dog. They’re great for tailgating.”

In summary: David likes this sausage.

031Next up was a barbecue pulled chicken sandwich, served with fries.

033Let’s take a closer look.

034“It’s a good mix of barbecue and brilliantly cooked chicken, bundled up together,” said David. “There’s not too much sauce, and not too much grease. Just enough to make the taste buds happy.”

Good things come in threes, so David and I then went off in search of dessert. Our quest ended on the far end of the third base side of the concourse.

036Deep-fried Oreos were procured from this sedentary vehicle, and we then found an idyllic location in which to enjoy them.

038During our brief time together, I learned that David is a musician. He plays in RamCorps — the University of Mobile brass and percussion band — and does some singing “on the side.” Earlier in the season, he performed the National Anthem at a BayBears game. With all this mind, I asked David if he would mind singing for his dessert.

He obliged, and the results were, in a word, excellent. The lyrics have been embedded within my head ever since.

“It’s just an Oreo on steroids,” said David. “Hot. Nice and sugary. There can never be enough sugar. It’s crusty on the outside, soft and smooth on the inside.”

Sing it with me, everyone: Deep-fried Oreos.


On the Road: Oysters and So Much More in Biloxi

To see all posts from my July 29-30, 2015 visit to the Biloxi Shuckers (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Before visiting the Biloxi Shuckers home of MGM Park, there was one thing I was certain of:

There will be oysters.

I mean, if this is your logo, then there better be oysters:

shcuksHowever, I was unprepared for just how much else there was, and I think that you will be as well.

MGM Park’s concessions are overseen by Mike Brulatour, general manager of Ovations Food Services for the Shuckers. On this blog, which I aspire to write in a light-hearted and conversational tone, I usually refer to people by their first name. But I will refer to Mike Brulatour as “Brulatour,” because it’s a cool-sounding surname and allows us to imagine him as some sort of all-powerful Minor League food god. The Mighty Brulatour!

Brulatour had previously held a similar position with the Memphis Redbirds (whom I visited in 2012), where Barbecue Nachos are king.

“In Memphis, we claimed that we were the only ballpark where hot dogs weren’t number one,” he said.

It should come as no surprise that, under Brulatour’s watchful eye, the Shuckers offer their own take on this Memphis specialty: Shuckers Barbecue Nachos. The cheese sauce is actually made in Memphis, while the pulled pork is local (more on that in a moment).

045For comparison’s here are the “Rendezvous Barbecue Nachos” that were on offer when I visited the Redbirds’ home of AutoZone Park (Brulatour was my tour guide there as well).


The Shuckers’ iteration is the result of a partnership with The Shed, a barbecue joint in nearby Ocean Springs. Here, The Shed co-owner Brad Orrison poses alongside his ballpark kiosk with his three “Little Shedheads” (check the shirts).


Alongside me for this food-based juncture of the evening was Cale Merrill, my designated eater (you know, the individual recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

Oh, Cale. He was so young then, so innocent, so entirely unaware of the culinary challenges that awaited.


Cale, an insurance agent who lives in Gulfport, recently returned to the Mississippi after a stint living in Houston. He’s a proud advocate of the Mississippi Gulf Coast region, which he says does not conform to the rural backwoods stereotypes that are often associated with the state. Cale’s also proud of his alma mater, collegiate baseball powerhouse Mississippi State University.

“You’re not gonna find bigger baseball fans than MSU, and don’t let LSU tell you something different,” he said. “You can print that.”

Cale is also a fan of the Shuckers, of course, whom he embraced as soon as they arrived.

“In the South, being outside in the Summer is what it’s all about,” he said.

And as for the Shuckers barbecue nachos?

“The pork is delicious, not just run-of-the-mill,” said Cale. “I like the sweet sauce. I’m not a mustard or vinegar-y kind of person. I’ve always loved [The Shed’s] food.”

Next up: Po’Boys.

049Here’s the Shrimp Po’Boy, with remoulade sauce, which Cale immediately stripped of all vegetable matter. Cale is kind of a picky eater.


And here’s the team’s Oyster Po’Boy, in its natural state.

051Fortunately, Cale’s college buddy Turner was able to lend a helping hand with this (and many other) concession items. Turner lived in Washington D.C. for the past four years, but returned to the Biloxi area to help manage a casino construction project.


“What you’re eating was fished out of these waters yesterday,” said Brulatour, just before the above photo was taken. He also noted that the Po’ Boy sandwiches utilize “good to the last crumb” bread from New Orleans-based Ladenheimer Bread Company.

Cale said that he’s “Not a huge Po’Boy fan” and that he “doesn’t do lettuce.” Turner, perhaps more well-versed on the subject, said that “these are as good as you’ll find anywhere.”

Meanwhile, did you know that Barq’s Root Beer was founded in Biloxi?

“The people here drink it like it’s going out of style,” said Brulatour.

Therefore, it was imperative that Barq’s be served at the ballpark.


Cale, clearing the palate with a Barq’s Root Beer float.

055Next up was a Pimento and Cheese Burger with house-made chips, which Brulatour had procured from the Beacon Grill.

“It’s not frozen,” he said. “We use fresh meat, and you can tell.”


“With pimento cheese, you can’t go wrong,” said Turner, again ably assisting in concession consumption. “I don’t understand why it’s not used more. I’ve never seen it on a burger, and it’s great.”

Brulatour, meanwhile, was plotting his next move. This is the only photo I have of him.

057His next move, in this case, was the centerpiece of the Shuckers oeuvre. 

Aw, Shucks.

058At Aw Shucks, one can get fresh oysters, fresh off of the grill. The oysters, provided by local Crystal Seas Seafood, are shucked offsite, shrink-wrapped and delivered to the stadium. This makes sense from an operational standpoint — on-site shucking would require additional space and resources — but it was disappointing to find out that no actual shucking goes on during a Shuckers game. I was naive enough to believe that it might.

This Vine appears to have been shot in reverse, I have no idea how that came to be.

The Aw Shucks Grill also features, among other things, Bayou Jambalaya served in a helmet. Cale enjoyed some.

060But those oysters! Though pricey ($15 for 8), these garlic butter bivalves are one of the best things I’ve ever seen (and tasted) at a Minor League Baseball game. They are served “on the fly” (as in “atop a Frisbee”) and accompanied by a hunk of French bread. In deference to my gluten-free reality, we forwent the French bread.

IMG_0036Usually I do a “designated eater checks in” Vine at the beginning of a post. Better late than never.

The Aw Shucks grill also features boudin, a Cajun specialty which is, essentially, a rice-stuffed pork sausage.

063I couldn’t get immediate confirmation that the boudin was gluten-free. Yet, I tried it. Forgive me, gluten, for I have sinned. Boudin is delicious.

069Meanwhile, Cale and Turner had become inundated with Brulatourian offerings.

071Here, Cale chows down on a “Grilled Chicken Sink” sandwich from the “Shuck and Cluck” chicken stand.

068In this case, I believe that “kitchen sink” can be interpreted to mean “provolone, mushrooms, peppers and onions.”

067“You can tell, they’re very proud of their food here,” said Cale. “I’m not a good judge of the peppers, but there’s a lot of chicken in that sandwich.”

This, meanwhile, appears to be the grilled Italian Sausage.

064And this? This appears to be a different sandwich than the one seen above. I think that it’s the “Brewers Beer Brat,” which, like the sausage, is available at the Home Plate Hot Dogs stand.

066“I’m gonna have nightmares about you,” said Cale to Brulatour. He had reached his limit.

073And yet, the Brula-Tour continued. At this point in the evening, maybe 10 minutes after the above photo had been taken, the game was in a rain delay and the tarp was on the field.


After an impromptu upper-level ballpark tour, Brulatour led us into the Shuckers main kitchen area. This is the domain of head chef Bob Barlow, an old crony of Brulatour from his Memphis days.


Here, Cale, have a cookie. Brulatour said that it’s called “The Royale” and that “its got everything in it.”

089While in the kitchen, we were also presented with deep-fried cheese curds. These, a suite-only delicacy, do not scream “Mississippi Gulf Coast.” But keep in mind that the Shuckers are a Milwaukee affiliate and general manager Buck Rogers is a Wisconsin guy. So, why not?

090But this isn’t Biloxi’s only instance of commercial cheese curd availability. I know this because Buck’s been on the lookout.

With the weather having cleared up and the game ready to resume, Brulatour led us back to the concourse and promptly handed Cale a BBQ Shrimp Pizza.


“Two hours ago, I was sad not to be eating the shrimp pizza,” said Cale. “But now…”

He didn’t even finish his sentence. He looked like he might pass out.

094Brulatour then emerged with a corn dog. Cale had now had all that he could stand. Therefore, he couldn’t stand no more.

“I’m not eating anymore! I’m a small man!” Cale yelled into the unforgiving abyss of night.

He did, however, consent to pose with the corn dog.

093Cale and Turner, both shell-shocked, stood dazedly on the concourse as Brulatour bid them adieu. When I came upon them again, nearly an hour later, they were being regaled by Shuckers GM Buck Rogers with the sort of story that only Buck Rogers can tell. From my notes:

“Buck is talking about drinking beer in Central America to stay hydrated for rabies shots after getting bit by a vampire bat.”

096Despite his fully-stuffed status, Cale was now in good spirits.

“I made a mistake. I ate a bunch of nachos right at the beginning,” he said. “But no regrets. I’d been looking forward to this, and it was first class.”

Cale had survived his brush with the mighty Brulatour, and has the souvenirs to prove it.


On the Road: Reptile Meat Topped with Mud Bugs in New Orleans

To see all posts from my July 28, 2015 visit to the New Orleans Zephyrs (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE! 

If there’s one thing you think about when you think about New Orleans, it very well may be “food.” From jambalaya to crawfish to oysters to muffalettas to Po’ Boys to gumbo to beignets and beyond, this is a city with no shortage of distinct culinary specialties.

Zephyr Field offers a solid array of region-specific concession items, allowing fans to forgo the traditional hot dogs and Cracker Jacks options endemic to the baseball culinary experience. The forgoing of hot dogs became a foregone conclusion on the Tuesday evening in which I was in attendance, as the local “Lucky Dogs” stand was closed for the evening.

019Boudreaux’s Smoke House, named after the team’s nutria mascot, did not serve nutria stew and thus that was skipped over as well.


Instead, we settled on the unnamed stand located to the right of the Smoke House. There, one could find an array of New Orleans-centric items.

020In the above paragraph, when I said that “we” settled on the above concession stand, I was referring to myself and my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). On this Tuesday night in New Orleans, that individual was one Eric Olsen. He was in attendance along with his wife, Ami.

027Eric has actually appeared on this blog already this season, albeit in an incidental, extremely subtle way. He’s a member of the “Little Piggy Wall-O-Shame,” as a result of failing to complete the Norfolk Tides’ “Salute to Pork Challenge.” Unbeknownst to me, but when I visited Norfolk last month I snapped a photo that included Eric within it. Within this melange of stuffed and defeated men, he’s in the first vertical row, second from the bottom.


Ami was not the biggest fan of Eric’s pork-eating endeavors.

“For the love of our name, don’t throw up,” was the thought running through her mind at the time. “Better a quitter than a puker.”


Eric grew up in Queens, New York and moved with his family to the New Orleans area when he was a teenager. He met Ami via a blind date, and it was Ami who helped him land his current job as a “master control operator” with a local television station. (She moved on to the position of “station operations manager.”) The couple have worked together for the better part of the last two decades, and they often attend Zephyrs games together as well. Eric, a dedicated autograph collector, estimates that he visits Zephyr Field 60-65 times each season.

“This is what he loves,” said Ami. “We already spend eight hours a day together, so we might as well spend a couple more watching baseball.”

But when it came to designated eating, Eric was on his own.

024In Eric’s right hand is a gator sausage po’boy topped with crawfish etouffee, in his left is jambalaya (which, really, should be served in a helmet).  We began with the gator.


Go for it, Eric:

“It’s good. Has a nice kick to it, and the etouffee has a good flavor to it. I’d definitely get this again,” said Eric, who had never ordered this particular item before. “You’ve got the crunch of the sausage, the spice, the onions and the peppers. I’ve had fried alligator before, and like everyone says, it tastes like chicken. But, to me, this is almost like a Spicy Italian.”


“It’s not a typical po’ boy bun, it’s more a hoagie than French bread,” he added. “They’re stretching the definition just a tad.”

For the record, Eric’s favorite place to get a po’ boy is Short Stop, located in Metairie. He also reported that his crawfish cravings are most thoroughly satisfied at the Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter.

Ami, too, is a Gumbo Shop fan.

“The blackened catfish nuggets? Oh, my God,” she said. “You get them with a Creole honey mustard meets orange marmalade dipping sauce.”

Such recollections complete, we then moved on to the ballpark jambalaya. It’s shot through with sausage and shredded chicken.


“It’s good, spicy, and there’s a lot of sausage,” said Eric.

026“It’s good, spicy and there’s a lot of sausage.”

That’s a solid quote, succinct and descriptive, so with that we’ll say goodbye to Eric. His designated eater duties were completed successfully, ensuring that he would not be inducted into another food related Wall-O-Shame.

Once is enough.


On the Road: Rolling, Dogging and Clawing in West Virginia

To see all posts from my June 30, 2015 visit to the West Virginia Black Bears (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my June 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE! 

My late June jaunt voyaging through the Virginias was bookended by an all-too-common occurrence: A delayed start to the ballgame due to inclement weather. It happened in Richmond on June 25, and it happened again in Morgantown (or, technically, Granville) on June 30:

In Richmond, I used this extra pre-game time to meet with my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). And at Monongalia County Ballpark, home of the fledgling Black Bears franchise, I did the same.

West Virginia Black Bears concessions: Small on signage, big on taste

West Virginia Black Bears concessions: Small on signage, big on taste

My designated eater, one Mike Rensland, was an old friend of mine from the University of Pittsburgh. And, like most Pittsburghers, he travels as part of a pack.


Mike’s on the far right, standing next to his wife, Julia (I almost referred to Julia as his “long-suffering” wife, just because she’s married to Mike). Next to them is Mike’s brother, Tim. On the far left, wearing a vintage Acid Mothers Temple “Iao Chant from the Cosmic Inferno” t-shirt, is Gary Boeh. Gary was the metal director during the time I was a DJ at 92.1 WPTS, the University of Pittsburgh radio station. (Where I was known, depending on the time slot, as Futon, Professor Murder, and Sanctimonious Jerkface).

In order to get us out of the rain, Black Bears assistant general manager John Pogorzelski bestowed the above group of misfits (and Julia) with their own media passes so that we could proceed to the upper level and occupy a suite. Mike felt right at home, despite the fact that a metal pole had somehow lodged itself into his cranium.


In Mike’s left hand is that most vaunted of West Virginia delicacies, the Pepperoni Roll. Specifically, this is the “Loaded Pepperoni Roll.”

041 The Pepperoni Roll, long a coal miner’s lunchtime staple, is simply pepperoni baked into a roll. The Black Bears’ “Loaded” version is topped with chili and cheese. It’s a “Julia’s Pepperoni Roll,” made locally by Chico’s bakery.

For comparison’s sake, this is the pepperoni roll served by West Virginia’s other Minor League Baseball entity, the West Virginia Power.


Have at it, Mike, but, please, introduce yourself first.

“The word that comes to mind is ‘Mmmmm,'” said Mike, making a noise that clearly contained six m’s. “The best bites are when you get everything at once. All alone, it’s normal. Together, it’s a flavor masterpiece. I would definitely get it again. I might get it again when we go back outside. It’s fresh.”

Then, turning to his brother, Mike said that “This is up there with the sausage rolls that Mum makes.”

Here’s what the roll looked like after Mike had taken a few bites out of it:


Mike wore a cutoff t-shirt bearing an indiscernible black metal band logo to his own wedding reception, but don’t let his appearance deceive you. He’s the math department chair at Urban Pathways, a charter high school located in downtown Pittsburgh. He’s been with the school since 2001, when he and I both worked there as AmeriCorps members in Pittsburgh’s KEYS (Knowledge Empowering Youth to Success) program. Some 14 years later he’s the math chair there, while I’m a niche Minor League Baseball writer based out of New York City. It’s exactly how we planned it.

‘They gave me the job two years ago, and I’m still waiting for my chair,” said Mike.


Anyhow, things did not stop with the Pepperoni Roll.

049Mike had apparently forgotten about the hot dog he had put in that steam tray 10 minutes prior. Specifically, it was the West Virginia Dog, a Farmdale frank topped with chili, coleslaw and Dijon mustard.

042Julia had had a West Virginia Dog soon after arriving at the stadium, and she declared it “disappointing” because the “chili had no flavor to it.” Now it was Mike’s turn to give it a try.

050“It’s not bad,” said Mike.

“See, I told you you’d be disappointed,” replied Julia, choosing to interpret Mike’s ambivalence as disappointment.

But Mike pressed on.

“It’s a fairly standard hot dog. I think I’ve been spoiled by Dee’s,” he said, referencing a stellar establishment in Pittsburgh’s Edgewood neighborhood. “It wouldn’t be good without the coleslaw. It gives it a creamy punch.”

Mike then made a punching motion.

An order of nachos had made their way up to the suite as well, which were standard-issue ballpark nachos. It was frustrating, however, that the cheese supply was diminished when there were so many chips left. This is a common lament of the nacho enthusiast, and I believe that teams across Minor League Baseball need to take steps to rectify this problem.

Actually, they need to take just one step: Provide more cheese.

052Our brief suite-based food tour ended on a high note, however. Bear Claws. stuffed with a sugar, butter and almond extract filling, had been obtained from a concourse-level kiosk. Each Bear Claw comes with a bowl of ice cream.

“But what do they do with the rest of the bear?” pondered Mike.

053The Bear Claws were met with a chorus of approbation, loved by all four individuals who tried them.

“The ice cream wets you up, and the bear claw dries you back up,” stated Mike.


The only downside was Mike’s cutlery snafu, as a plastic spoon is clearly no match for a bear claw.

060And that’ll do it for Mike and company’s designated eating adventure. If you, for some reason, just can’t get enough of Mike, then check out his band Night Vapor.

“It’s music for the mentally ill,” he said.

The “media” members seen above soon ended their charade, turning their badges in to guest services and returning to their seats just in time for the start of the game.

071Normalcy had returned.


On the Road: Surf and Turf in Potomac

To see all posts from my June 29, 2015 visit to the Potomac Nationals (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my June 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE! 

This is Tony Jaeger.

047Tony’s last name does not have an umlaut, but his name is pronounced as if it was the first two syllables of herbal liqueur Jagermeister (which does have an umlaut). He said that bartenders sometimes give him free shots of Jagermeister, which is good, because it’s not a drink that he likes enough to actually pay for.

But Tony wasn’t attending this Potomac Nationals game so he could drink, or at least that wasn’t the primary reason. He was attending it so he could eat. Specifically, he was to serve as my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). He was joined at Pfitzner Stadium by his girlfriend, Katie. They met on eHarmony, and have been dating for six months.

052Tony, an El Paso native, lives in Washington D.C. (about a 45-minute drive from “The Pfitz”). He works for a non-profit organization that aids those recovering from addiction, managing the property and also assisting with activities.

“I’ve watched him do bingo,” Katie said.

Katie, meanwhile, had been an elementary school teacher for the last decade. She recently resigned, however, saying that it’s “a longer day than I get paid for.”

Tony and Katie are both baseball fans. He has a share of a Washington Nationals season-ticket plan, regularly rides his bike to games and follows the team’s affiliates online. Katie, who lives in Annapolis, Maryland, is a Baltimore Orioles supporter. She also supported Tony’s designated eating endeavors.

“I’m excited; he likes to eat,” she said. “And I like this stadium. It’s what baseball is really about. I’m glad we’re here.”

The three of us were standing in the Cafe Area, a concession and picnic area located just past the main entrance. The Cafe Area had a fairly wide-ranging menu, including, yes, a bacon boat.


The Cafe Area also had a tremendous line, one so long that I have to show it over the course of two photographs.


044We were in search of “The Codfather,” a fried fish sandwich obtainable at the tent on the left. There was no line to speak of at this tent, thank goodness. The mighty Ben’s Biz does not deign to wait in lines.


This turned out to be a slightly trumped-up “Codfather,” as it included both cod and shrimp. It was topped with cole slaw. 046Here’s a shot of Jaeger:


And here’s a short video:

“Thank God for the cole slaw, otherwise it’s just fried seafood in a hot dog bun,” said Tony, of the Codfather. “It’s good, tasty, if someone was looking for something substantial. I would add cocktail sauce.”

Okay, what’s next?

“Let’s look for the enigmatic,” it says in my notebook. I’m not sure who said that, but it captures our collective spirit at that moment. Specifically, we were looking for the enigmatic “National Burger,” which had been suggested earlier in the evening by P-Nats general manager Josh Olerud. But where could this burger be obtained? It wasn’t in the Cafe Area and it wasn’t in the same tent location in which we had located the Codfather.

As we bravely plunged into the crowded concourse area, our fates uncertain, I heard a voice call my name. It was P-Nats food and beverage manager Aaron Johnson, and in his hand was the mysterious National Burger. The enigmatic had been located, and all was right with the world.


Johnson explained that the National Burger consisted of a pub burger topped with two slices of American cheese (one white and one yellow) and a Nathan’s hot dog. Beneath the burger, serving as the base, was a layer of french fries.

“Since our team name is the Nationals, we figured we’d do something all-American,” Johnson said.

Tony wasted no time getting down to business.

051 “Oh, that’s good,” he said. “I couldn’t taste the potatoes, but cheese, burger and hot dogs captures the taste buds. And it’s not falling apart. If there was [an eating] challenge with this, I’d do it. And I’d get it again, if I could find it.”

And with that, Tony had completed his designated eating duties. He and Katie were free to return to their seats, which were located right behind home plate (courtesy of the P-Nats).

“They’re excellent seats,” Tony said. “I was telling [Katie], ‘Baby, this is the closest you’re ever gonna see home plate.'”


On the Road: Dawg Days of Summer in Salem

To see all posts from my June 28, 2015 visit to the Salem Red Sox (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my June 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

We have now reached the third and final post in this Salem series and, if you’ve been following along so far this season, then you know that the third and final post is, invariably, dedicated to food. So what kind of concession items can you get at the Salem Red Sox’s home of Lewis-Gale Field? We’ll get to that in a moment.

I want to start, however, by highlighting something that you can sometimes get (but not on the Sunday afternoon in which I was in attendance): Baum’s BBQ truck, a vehicular food purveyor with an exalted reputation, sets up shop every Friday and Saturday night.


Photo from

Salem Red Sox general manager Ryan Shelton is a native of Owensboro, Kentucky, a locale oft-referred to as “the barbecue capital of the world.” He told me that, with all due respect to Owensboro, Baum’s serves the best barbecue he’s ever had. I wish I had a picture of me eating it, to post right here. Use your imagination:




But, Baum’s or no Baum’s, the Salem Red Sox food show must go on. The first order of business, as always, was to meet with my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet prohibits). At Lewis-Gale Field, that would be one Jennifer Frye.


Jennifer and her family have recently moved to nearby Roanoke, with Jennifer taking a job as an environmental supervisor for the US Army Corps of Engineers. (Come to think of it, I should have asked her for information regarding “environmentally protected wastelands,” a term I was still confused about after hearing it applied to the portion of the Elizabeth River that runs behind the Norfolk Tides’ home of Harbor Park.)

Jennifer said that she volunteered to be the designated eater because she’ll “do anything for Minor League Baseball. It’s good to me, and I’m good to it.” Her two sons — ages 13 and 9 — did not materialize at any point  during her time with me at the concession stands, with Jennifer remarking that they were “worried that Mom’s gonna embarrass them.”

Fair enough, kids. But I guarantee that, when all is said and done, your childhood will have been greatly enhanced by having a Mom with a fun, adventurous and humorous spirit. This spirit was shared by the entirely non-embarrassed adults in Jennifer’s party — husband Jim, sister Justine, and her sister’s husband Jonathan (Justine and Jonathan live outside of Frederick, Maryland, reminding me that I have yet to make it to a Keys game).

039We began at Swine Drive Deli Dawgs, which offers a wide array of specialty frankfurters.


On the Road: Social Donut and Intimate Sausage in Lynchburg

To see all posts from my June 27, 2015 visit to the Lynchburg Hillcats (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my June 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

This is Jimmy “Salad Bar” Wright, pointing to a much younger version of himself. Jimmy served as the bat boy for the 1983 Carolina League champion Lynchburg Mets, a formidable squad that included Doc Gooden, Lenny Dykstra (who stole 105 bases) and, never forget, Jeff Bettendorf.

025Salad Bar — read all about how he got the name HERE — gave up his bat boy duties long ago. These days, he’s the concourse grill master at the Lynchburg Hillcats home of Calvin Falwell Field.

Here are the items he grills up on a nightly basis; salad is not part of Salad Bar’s repertoire:


Clearly, my designated eater for the evening — you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark specialties that my gluten-free diet prohibits — would have to sample some of Salad Bar’s salad-free specialties. He suggested the “Aloha Donut Chicken Sandwich” (topped with bacon and pineapple) and “The Smoke” (sausage topped with fried jalapenos and fried cherry peppers). And so it was.

It’s fitting that the Aloha Donut Chicken Sandwich has a prominent ma-hole-o.


The Smoke Sausage, meanwhile, would like to wish you a merry crisp-ness.

027My designated eater for the evening was to be the wife-husband duo of Judi Muir and David Freier. There was just one problem, however. When it came time to meet with these individuals, the tarp was on the field and the rain was pouring down. So what to do? And where to go?


It was eventually suggested that we set up shop in a concourse storage room. The same room, in fact, where the previously highlighted picture of the 1983 club proudly hangs. And. hey, the more the merrier! Judi and David are part of a boisterous Lynchburg rooting section that has dubbed themselves the “Litterbox,” all of whom sought refuge with us in our storage room-turned-dining hall.


In the above photo, David and Judi are flanked left to right by Litterboxers Steve Horeczko, Matt Lohmeyer, Amanda Bowling, Lauren Liwen, Matt Liwen, Mike Our and Christine Rudy. Laura is pregnant (with a lil’ Litterboxer?) so it’s only proper that she got the seat of honor while the others stood or kneeled.

David and Judi, who moved to Lynchburg in 2003, both teach biology at Lynchburg College. They met in 1988 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, got engaged in 1994 and, finally, got married (on a whim, in a hot air balloon) in 2005. (Just for the fun of saying it, I wish they had then decided to go by the hyphenated surname of Muir-Freier). The Liwens are former students of David and Judi, and now refer to them as “life advisors.”

Minor League Baseball has been a constant in the lives of of the Muir-Freiers, with Judi reporting that they attend about half of the Hillcats games and also travel frequently to other stadiums in the area. Otherwise, she said, “we stay home with our four cats.”

I wish I had been able to see “The Litterbox” in action during the game, as they were equipped with a variety of (literal) bells and whistles.

034If you want the scoop on the Litterbox’s plethora of ballpark chants, rituals and in-jokes, then please consult this handy t-shirt (dating back to the team’s Pirates 1995-2009 Pirates affiliation).



But, anyway, we were here to talk about food. Have at it, Muir-Freiers.

David then started in on the Aloha Donut Chicken Burger.

030“The sweetness of the pineapple with the barbecue sauce blends together well,” said David. “The donut, there’s no sweetness, it’s like a well-made bun. It melts in your mouth. It’s not like a doughy cake donut.”

David then passed this creation down the line, with each Litterbox member taking a bite (clearly, they’re a tight-knit bunch). All gave it high marks.

“The Smoke,” charred to a deep-black, generated no small amount of skepticism. In an email, Judi later mentioned that it looked like “something you would see in a Bones episode.”

032“It needs more condiments,” was Judi’s first impression. “It’s a good sausage. There are supposedly hot peppers, but I haven’t hit them yet. I think I’d have the sweet [sausage] again, over this.”

While Judi wasn’t too enamored with the smoke, she is enamored with her husband. David wanted to give it a try, and this is what resulted.


Linked by love

Shortly after this heart-warming display, a dispiriting message was heard over the PA: That evening’s ballgame, which had been suspended in the top of the second inning due to rain, would be postponed.

The Litterbox, enthusiastic as they may be, were not able to reverse the team’s decision. There would be no more baseball in Lynchburg that evening, nor would there be any more food. But my time with the Litterbox, believe it or not, was not over. The next day, I’d see them cheering on the Hillcats in Salem.

Until then, I remain, in virtual form:


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