Sports and food go together like, well, baseball and hot dogs.
But in recent years sports venue menus have started dishing up the next wave of gourmet fan fare: sushi, lobster rolls, prime ribs and peel-and-eat shrimp cocktail, to name a few.
The MLS All-Stars game offered the most recent options for Kansas City sports fans to nosh, including fried macaroni and cheese balls, bacon topped with blue cheese, Italian sausage kebabs and a beef brisket sandwich with tequila blackberry sauce.
Here’s a soccer fan/restaurant critic’s thumbs up/down take on the new menu items.
Smoked Tequila Blackberry Smoked Brisket Sandwich ($8): Thumbs Down
I started looking for that brisket sandwich as soon as the gates opened. It seemed logical the sandwich would be available at the Smokehouse but the counter attendant was caught unaware: “If you find it, let me know. You’re the second person who has asked.”
I made the rounds, scanning menus and even stopping a Sporting employee who dutifully checked her cheat sheet only to came up empty. “You think they’d want to promote it if it’s a new item,” she said.
After completing the circle, I was ready to give up when I noticed a chef wearing a tall toque and carrying a cardboard box, no doubt making a beeline for one of the private party setups. He was out-of-town help, but he graciously made three calls searching for the elusive brisket. No one answered. To be fair, I’m sure it was hard to hear their phones ring above the din of the crowd.
Then a man in a suit was standing next to us, asking if he could help me. Harry Smith, the food and beverage manager, pointed me back to the Smokehouse, and said he would make a call to tell them I was coming. The signage made no mention of the sauce (or the tequila blackberry brine). I made an effort to order my sandwich from the same counter attendant, so I could fill him in on my quest. I ordered and soon received a cardboard box and a what looked like a condiment cup. Unfortunately, it contained beans, not the secret sauce.
“Doesn’t this come with a tequila blackberry sauce?” I asked.
Shrugs. The attendents suggested I try the condiment station where I found squirt bottles and an unlabeled white bowl with a spoon in it. (Probably not the most food-safe way to serve it, but the flavors were nicely balanced.)
Sadly, the brisket was tough with large ribbons of fat.
Italian Kebabs ($8): Thumbs Way Up
By far the best item I sampled from the Sporting Grill kiosk, although at one point the wait was 10 minutes. (I’d wait that long for a food truck, I reminded mystelf.) Nicely spiced sausage are cut into pieces and threaded with red and green peppers. It is close to the only vegetable to be found, save the aspargus/mushroom quesadillas griddled at the Food Network stand. You also get two kebabs with crema for the $8 price tag making it one of the best deals in the stadium.
Mac and Cheese Balls ($5): Thumbs Up
Lobster Mac and Cheese ($7): Thumbs Down
The lobster mac and cheese was a very uncheesy mass of elbow noodles with an overly shaggy topping of breadcrumbs. There were tiny specs of orange, but I could not detect real pieces of lobster or a pronounced lobster flavor.
The deep-fried version looks like a croquette and served four to an order. The interior is creamy and comes with a superfluous ranch dressing. The early press said this was an snack designed for kids, but I’d say it was a very nice bite when washed down by a cold Boulevard wheat.
Sporting Blue Cheese Bacon ($4.25): Neutral
Absolutely nothing wrong with bacon in my book, but this is an odd venue to be asked if you prefer the nuances of applewood-smoked or jalapeno-smoked strips. The crispy slices must sit under heat lamps, which, over time tend to turn them a bit leathery, so purchase this one during the first half. Back in the stands, it’s not that easy to balance the blue cheese crumbles and scallions on top of the skinny platform. Still, bacon does make a decent beer snack and the price point seems reasonable when compared with other less interesting fare, such as nachos and soft pretzels.
Soft Tacos ($7.75): Thumbs Up
Not new, but vaguely gourmet. By the time I got back from my hour-long circle of the park in search of brisket, my hungry teenage son had understandably forged ahead. He reported the tacos to be adequate though not a spectacular rendition. No doubt he’s comparing them to one of his favorite haunts, Chipotle.
Food Network Asparagus and Mushroom Quesadilla ($8.50), optional Roasted Corn Guacamole ($1): Thumbs Up
Not new, but always a line. The Food Network stand sells several flavors of quesdilla. I vacillated between the pineapple-glazed al pastor and the asparagus and mushroom. A white-coated chef presses the flour tortillas on a griddle until the tortillas are mottled brown then slices them into triangles. The quesadillas are accompanied by a lime crema. For another $1 you can add a small condiment container of roasted corn guacamole which is an unappetizing brownish color but which offers a nice zing of spice. For the premium price, my quesadilla could have contained a bit more filling; the asparagus, mushroom and cheese was concentrated in the center rather than being evenly distributed throughout.