Though the Minnesota Twins were outplayed in nearly every aspect of the game, I left Target Field yesterday with a feeling of optimism and contentment following the Home Opener.
The reason for these positive-edged emotions: the new food being served at the stadium this year.
With a belly full of delicious BBQ ribs from the new Butcher and the Boar grill, I walked away from Target Field not dwelling on the miserable pitching by the Twins staff. After years of such drudgery, it was to be expected, I thought while reflecting on the tender, succulent ribs that were prepared on site at the stadium. Oh, how amazing they were, I told Chris Aldrich, a fellow passenger on the Light Rail as we rolled through downtown Minneapolis after the game.
"The ribs," I pointed out, making sure he wasn't confused about the Twins' performance during the opener.
While Joe Mauer spent his afternoon at the plate apparently confused as how to properly swing a baseball bat, my day was a series of samplings from the new specialty food items at Target Field. During the second inning, when Mauer stood in the batter's box like a millionaire goon whose sole purpose was to create angst among the local fan base and likewise leave two men stranded in scoring position, I sat smacking my lips and fingers with house-made spicy pickles and emptying a basket of BBQ rib tips from Butcher and the Boar. It was as though the sun was shining just for me when I sat back and let the digestion process facilitate.
A hot dog and a beer are the American tradition when it comes to ballpark food, but this year Target Field is taking it up a notch. In addition to the grill and smoker located just inside Gate 34 above right field, the new Butcher and the Boar outpost also features local craft beers, Knob Creek bourbon and Jim Beam batch cocktails. The stand also creates a pleasant BBQ fragrance and smoke that wisps through the cool early-season air. I could only imagine the scent and smoke proved to be a distraction for Mauer that afternoon, hence his miserable, hitless performance.
During the first-ever review challenge at Target Field, while the umpires and review crews in New York discussed if a third-inning shot by Oakland's Jed Lowrie was fair or foul, I took advantage of the situation by returning to the vending area. This time I had my sights set on Valentini’s Supper Club and their new Valentini’s Porketta “Slugger,” which is an Iron Range porketta and cream cheese rolled in an eggroll and served with a house-made red sauce.
It took the umpire crew more than four minutes to determine that Lowrie's ball was indeed foul, and it took about three times that long for my Slugger to arrive from the Supper Club, also located in the right-field stands in section 133. Patience is a necessary and often great thing in baseball, though my wait was not worth the payout when it came to the makeshift eggroll at Valentini's. The roll was too greasy. It was served lukewarm. I felt like many in the Twins' organization must have felt following the disappointment of Aaron Hicks last season.
"Is that all this is going to offer?" I said aloud while trying to enjoy the Slugger.
There are other snacks, sandwiches and drinks new to menus throughout Target Field this year, including hand-dipped cones and cups from Izzy’s Ice Cream, as well as the Valentini’s Italian Burger, which is a meatball put in patty form, grilled and topped with pepperoni, provolone cheese and house-made red sauce and served on a potato roll, according to small sign in front of the concession. There are also specialty Cider Cocktails featured at Hrbek’s and Town Ball Tavern and the Bigger, Better, Burger Bloody Mary that includes a bacon-cheeseburger slider. Yes, a mini burger on top of a cocktail.
Of the 35,837 people who attended the home opener at Target Field, I am not sure any enjoyed themselves as much as I did. I owe most of this gratitude to the Butcher and the Boar and those mood-altering ribs.
The Twins' bumbled about the baseball field for more than three hours on Monday, and it was all the same to me because I was already planning my menu for game two this season. Up first: a smoked BBQ brisket sandwich at the Gate 6 Carvery.
It's a wonderful thing, this Major League Baseball.
Photos by: Joseph Friedrichs