CINCINNATI - With this first offering, we welcome Julie Niesen Gosdin as a contributor to WCPO. Julie Niesen Gosdin is the voice behind the food blog Wine me, Dine me. Look for Julie's regular columns starting the first week of April.
Gone are the days when hot dogs, peanuts, and popcorn are the only choices at a baseball game. Now, across the country, ballparks offer everything from local favorites, to sushi, to craft beer, to desserts. The Reds are no exception: The team becoming known around the league as a leader in incorporating new, local brands into their food lineup.
Every year, the Reds present a spread like no other just before Opening Day: A preview of the new eats, treats and beverages fans can expect to find at Great American Ballpark.
Every year, the food gets better.
New in 2014
Waffles. The biggest announcement from the Reds event was the addition of Taste of Belgium, which is now the "Official Waffle of the Reds." Over seven years, Jean-Francois Flechet has taken his waffles from one iron at Findlay Market to locations in the Gateway Quarter, Findlay Market, Friendly Market, North Market in Columbus and now Great American Ballpark.
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The waffles will be available near first base, and will range in price from $5-$10, depending on whether you like your waffle plain, with fruit or chocolate, or with chicken. You can also get Taste of Belgium's Belgian-style frites at that stand for $7.
The Reds are also adding to their beer lineup. In addition to the standard Budweiser products, the Reds have partnered with local breweries for a Reds Brewery District and Moerlein Lager House Craft Beer concession stands. The Brewery District will feature 60 taps, including 23 local and craft beers, as well as Budweiser products (including Goose Island and Stella Artois).
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The Reds have tapped into the bacon craze with--wait for it--The Bacon. It's sandwich loaded with a pound (!) of bacon, as well as lettuce, tomato and black pepper mayonnaise. If you eat four of them in an inning, you get them for free. Oof. I'm wondering when Adam Richman (of Travel Channel's "Man v. Food") will be back to try that one.
Sushi is also coming to the ballpark--a trend that's crossed the country--and it's good here: hand-rolled (no nigiri) and very fresh. A variety of rolls will be available around the ballpark. Isn't it funny how sushi is now a comfort food or a favorite snack for many of us, when just a few years ago it was still considered so exotic?
My favorite new bites from the Reds are the pickle chips (available in the Machine Room), which are perfectly crispy pickle chips served with a creamy cilantro dipping sauce. Available around the ballpark is The Chipper (pictured above): Saratoga chips covered with cheese, pulled pork and fresh pickled jalapeno slices. It's salty, crispy, creamy and tangy: a really great balance, and really easy to eat while you're taking in a few innings.
Back for seconds
Many of your favorites will be back: Frisch's Big Boy, introduced last year, will still have a stand, and local favorites Skyline, La Rosa's, Montgomery Inn and Penn Station will continue to represent local favorites. And, of course, you can still get a hot dog, some helmet nachos, and a gigantic, cold beer to enjoy in your seats.
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(Photos by J. Gosdin Niesen)
Connect with WCPO Contributor Julie Niesen Gosdin on Twitter: @winemedineme