The book: “The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs to Haute Cusine”
The author: Bennett Jacobstein
The vital statistics: Ballpark Food Publications/Createspace, 147 pages, $27.50
Find it: On amazon.com, and ballparkfood.org
The pitch: Monday’s Opening day at Dodger Stadium doesn’t necessarily mean heading for the seats to see the new players on the roster.
The first stop is often at the concession stands to see what’s new on the menu.
(No, please, not another Carl’s Jr. …)
And, for some, a quick check to see if the Dodger Dog has gone up in price.
A weenie move, sure. But it’s all about the investment as much on the field as in what we’re fed.
If you’re heading out to the park for today’s final game of the Dodgers-Angels exhibition series for a sneak peek, you may have already heard of the changes that the Dodgers have made with their concessions: New items at Tommy Lasorda’s Italian Trattoria include meatball marinara fries and a meatball marinara cone, the La Taqueria on the field and reserve levels have carne asada fries. The Extreme Loaded Dogs on the field level (aisle 48) now has “fried Dodger Dogs.”
Healthy choices? Ballpark food for the soul is always healthy. But then there are the options of veggie burgers, veggie dogs, wraps and pizza. Even vegan versions of the loaded nacho helmets.
All of which may cause Jacobstein, a retired librarian who lives in the Bay Area and works during the baseball season at the San Jose Giants’ concession stand, to make a U-turn for an updated version of this self-published book.
Jacobstein goes the foodie route himself in trying to point out just what’s going to give us the most gastronomical pleasure.
But first, a history lesson, because you don’t know where you’re going if you haven’t learned from your past. Starting with: If you believe the story that Harry M. Stevens is the creator of the ballpark hot dog at the Polo Grounds, you probably also are going with the Abner Doubleday Cartwright-invented-baseball yarn, too. Somewhere in there is truth. But, with any hot dog, we probably shouldn’t see how it’s created.
(By the way: What differentiates a hot dog from a sausage? Four pages are dedicated to that discussion and the consensus is like what constitutes pornography: You know it when you see it.)
The other helpful information included here is a breakdown of what companies – the big six, as it goes – cater to which ballpark (Dodgers use Levy, Angels use Legends), why peanuts and cracker jacks may have been replaced by nachos and garlic fries in today’s world, and there’s a nice shout out in the “colorful vendors” chapter to the Dodgers’ own Roger Owens.
Still, what differentiates this from just another fan blog about what tastes best is Jacobstein takes the time, with his wife taking the photographs, to visit all 30 MLB stadiums and taste test this “new food era” all himself. With his own money. Hopefully, there’s a tax break involved if he kept his receipts.
At Dodger Stadium, the Jacobstein Experience involving the Dodger Dog notes that it can’t be called a “foot-long” since it’s only 10 inches, but he’s also leaning toward the other “loaded” dogs that have been offered the last few years. He makes note of the Mexican-style ear of corn called the elote at the Think Blue BBQ stand. Thanks, too, for the mention of the return of the Cool-A-Coo.
At Angel Stadium, Oggis’ Pizza and Chronic Tacos are most hyped here – two local companies that produce some of the best in their field. Also given some run is the new Tom+Chee combo – grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup – that fans of ABC’s “Shark Tank” would recognize.
The critical thing here is not to read this on an empty stomach. Because if we were to pick a top five foods we’d like to try on our own ballpark cuisine, based on the book’s recommendation (and photos), count us in on:
a) Rocky Mountain Oysters at Coors Field in Denver (real bull calf testicles, left),
b) Cheeseburger Poppers at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland,
c) the Schmitter sandwich at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philly,
d) the El Toro Tri-Tip Sandwich from Phil’s BBQ at Petco Park in San Diego and
e) the Seaweed Salada from Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in … wait for it … Pittsburgh.
We tend to be a little experimental with our ballpark foods, suspending most of reality in the process.
So go ahead. What’s the worst that could happen?
More to know:
== If the only reason you end up buying this independently published book is because all royalties will be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, you’ve done well.
== Jacobstein talks about his book on the RonKaplanBaseballBookshelf podcast.
== Our 2013 story about the Dodger Stadium food additions for playoff time.
== ESPN’s Keith Olbermann goes off on another rant about ballpark food: