The Cheeto-Lote from the Los Angeles Dodgers
Imagined if the lyrics to “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” were changed to reflect the cuisine that MLB teams serve up at concession stands in 2018.
“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me grasshoppers and Cheeto-lotes,
I don’t care if I never get back.”
Uhh, insects and Cheetos?
Those are just two of this baseball season’s concession stand options that are currently being served in the first annual MLB Food Fest in New York City. This weekend event gives baseball fans and foodies alike two hours in an all-you-can eat-setting to sample delectable and, um, different, offerings unique to each of the 30 MLB teams. Included in the menu are the Seattle Mariners’ Toasted Grasshoppers and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cheeto-Lote—an elote (Mexican corn on the cob coated in chipotle mayo, Parmesan, and tajin) with powdered down Flaming Hot Cheetos sprinkled on top.
Toasted Grasshoppers from the Seattle Mariners
I went to the food fest on Saturday for lunch, and ended up sampling enough to cover Saturday’s dinner and breakfast for Sunday—an unintended byproduct of trying one paper food tray’s worth of food for 12 out of the 30 ballclubs. These are the teams I visited:
Chicago Cubs – Chicago Dog
Los Angeles Dodgers – Cheeto-Lote
Miami Marlins – Bacon Wrapped Plantain
Milwaukee Brewers – Cheddar Beer Bratwurst
Pittsburgh Pirates – Pulled Pork Pierogie Hoagie
Washington Nationals – Crab Grilled Cheese (with chips)
Baltimore Orioles – Chesapeake Waffle Fries
Cleveland Indians – Flamethrower (Yes, Flaming Hot Cheetos are involved)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (The Angels Angels of Anaheim, or AAA) – Pork Katsu
Seattle Mariners – Toasted Grasshoppers
Texas Rangers – Chicken and Donut Slider
Toronto Blue Jays – Jerk Chicken Nachos
Click the images to see the whole menu.
Chicken and Donut Slider from the Texas Rangers
A few factors limited me from trying the food from all 30 teams.
(1) I was full by the 10th sample of food. I don’t know how I got through an additional two more teams.
(2) Each team had its own counter where you waited in line for the crew to finish a freshly prepared portion of food to hand out. While I appreciated the recovery time, the lines for the Dodgers and the Texas Rangers siphoned away eating time.
(3) Half size portions are larger than expected because of the shifted scale of sizes toward BIG in American concession stands. Reaching all 30 teams may have been attainable with another person by sharing the food and the burden of lining up to collect samples. I’m making this sound too much like field work now.
(4) Some teams occasionally had to pause production to wait for restocked ingredients. One team ran out of two separate ingredients—beef and cheese, for those who want try and guess the team—at two separate times in my two hour block.
Pulled Pork Pierogie Hoagie by the Pittsburgh Pirates
Now to the important stuff about the MLB Food Fest: my awards for arbitrary categories that I’m coming up with on the fly.
Most Appealing Menu Item I Wish I Tried: Tie
Arizona Diamondbacks – Churro Dog
Atlanta Braves – Pig Pickin’
Kansas City Royals – Brisket-Acho
I guess you could also pour a bag of sugar down your mouth for the same effect, but the Diamondbacks’ Churro Dog is a dessert bar menu smashed together into one dish. A churro is topped with vanilla Froyo, chocolate sauce, caramel, whipped cream—and all of that is inside of a donut. Ice cream is my normal sweet tooth weakness, but churros and donuts aren’t too far behind. When I wanted to line up for the Diamondbacks toward the end of my stay, the line sprawled across the room and seeped into the back of the Washington Nationals line on the opposite wall. Kids are correct here: always eat dessert first.
The Braves’ Pig Pickin’ is a fusion between Tex Mex and Southern comfort food. Curly fries, mac and cheese, and pulled pork put together sound too good to turn down. (Ignore the fact that I did turn them down by failing to have the adequate stomach capacity.)
The Royals just dumped cheese and barbecue on top of nachos, but you know what? It’s the barbecue version of what I normally get at Moe’s, so this Brisket-Acho must have been great.
Most Surprising Taste: Seattle Mariners – Toasted Grasshoppers
I still don’t understand how Seattle became an epicenter for eating insects, but here we are. I’m guessing the lime provided with the cup of grasshoppers has something to do with it, but the grasshoppers were a tad sour. Still good, though, and you can leave with a sense of pride if you overcome any fears of bugs to try a grasshopper. I’m just grateful they didn’t make that crunching sound when I bit into my first one—that would have been an appetizer killer.
Most Obvious Pairing: Tie
Baltimore Orioles – Chesapeake Waffle Fries
Boston Red Sox – New England Lobster Roll
Chicago Cubs – Chicago Dog
Crab and Old Bay are the peanut butter and jelly of Baltimore. You can never go wrong with Old Bay in your life.
It would have been a travesty if the Boston menu item didn’t incorporate lobster in some way.
The Chicago Dog is self-explanatory here, right? I had one to reset my taste buds and fight back the sluggishness from eating so much in such a short period of time. It did its job, but I really could go for a Portillo’s Dog after whetting my appetite here.
Chesapeake Waffle Fries from the Baltimore Orioles
Chicago Dog from the Chicago Cubs
Oddest Food/Team Pairing: New York Yankees – Adobo Bao
I’ll have to try this when I go to a Yankees game this year, because 2018 is apparently the debut of the Adobo Bao. The Yankees’ decision to offer a new menu item reeks of a choice made solely from a marketing perspective, but it’s cool to see Filipino flavor get the spotlight here with arguably the biggest name in baseball.
Best Name: Minnesota Twins – Kurd Marczuk
I didn’t get to try this offering, but this wins Best Name because I can’t figure out how to pronounce “Marczuk.” And if you have little ones, you can use the name of the dish as an opportunity to look beyond our borders and teach them about the Kurdish people. (Then you can delve into literary analysis together of the spelling of “Kurd,” which is intended to allude to cheese Curds, and that the “K” may have been chosen to pay homage to the scorecard’s symbol for a strikeout.)
Most Unique: Miami Marlins – Bacon Wrapped Plantain
Like Old Bay, you can’t go wrong with bacon in your life. This was the last item I ate, and the bacon wrapping fell off the plantain. So it was like I had two treats in one: the sweet plantain first, then the salty and juicy bacon to cancel it out. This was a great ending, except for the whole feeling bloated part.
Bacon Wrapped Plantain from the Miami Marlins
Dish I Wish Was in Attendance: Toronto Blue Jays – Churro Poutine
Four churros served with a massive scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce is up with there with the pizookie and cake and ice cream as my favorite desserts. (I just like ice cream paired with pastries, apparently.) This dish would have provided some relief to the long lines of the Diamondbacks, but would have added more competition for the free soft serve machine MLB brought in as a surprise. That soft serve was provided in black MLB Food Fest cap cups, like the ones from Dairy Queen.
Best Dish: Los Angeles Dodgers – Cheeto-Lote
I don’t do spicy well, which is why I normally avoid Flaming Hot Cheetos. But the Cheeto-Lote was the equivalent of conducting an Olds and Milner’s “reward centers” experiment on me. My first bite of the Cheeto-Lote made me regret that I didn’t have a bottle of water on hand; the spices of the chipotle mayo and Flaming Hot Cheetos slowed down my chewing. But once the spicy stuff was consumed, I was rewarded with the delightful taste of sweet corn. So the rest of my journey with the Cheeto-Lote was to chomp away at the Flaming Hot Cheetos—God, I still regret not having water on hand—so I can savor that sweet, sweet corn at the end of each bite. I love LA.
Runner-up: Milwaukee Brewers – Cheddar Beer Bratwurst
A soft bun and a brat flavored with cheese and beer made me a happy person.
Cheddar Beer Bratwurst by the Milwaukee Brewers
Here are the rest of the items I had at the food fest.
Flamethrower by the Cleveland Indians
Crab Grilled Cheese from the Washington Nationals
Pork Katsu by the Los Angeles Angels
Jerk Chicken Nachos by the Toronto Blue Jays