At ballpark, varying tastes, temperatures

April 08, 2001|By Rob Kasper

LIKE A LOT of folks, I wasn't expecting the Orioles to beat the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day. Since I didn't think I was going to taste victory, I spent the early innings filling myself with comfort foods. Later I got daring, threw off the bonds of familiar ritual, and -- are you ready for this? -- put mustard on my fries.

Right off the bat, I went to Boog's for a pit-beef sandwich. Boog's setup has the best location in the ballpark, on Eutaw Street behind the flag court just beyond the right field scoreboard. It features thick sandwiches and the winsome personality of Boog Powell, former Oriole all-star first baseman, who regularly greets customers. The line was long an hour before the game, but it moved quickly if you got in the part of the queue that was headed for a sandwich, not a handshake from the big first sacker.

I got in the slower-moving, say-hello-to-Boog column. In addition to a friendly season-opener greeting from Boog, I got a tidbit of news. Boog is opening another eatery, Boog's Barbecue, in Ocean City near the inlet. He and his son, J.W., will run the restaurant this summer. It took me eight minutes to get a hot pit-beef sandwich, which tallied 94 degrees when I stuck my instant-read thermometer into it. The sandwich cost $6.75. All ballpark food is expensive. I simply ask that it be hot, quickly delivered and flavorful, standards that my Camden Yards fare regularly meets.

This is the 10th year that I have begun the baseball season by walking around the ballpark timing how long I waited in line and sticking an instant-read thermometer in my food. This year I was overcome by the urge to shake things up, to alter the normal lineup. For example, instead of putting the usual onions and horseradish on my pit beef, I lathered it up with the sweet red barbecue sauce. The sauce was pretty standard stuff, but it did wonders for the sandwich, perking up the beef, giving it a slight sweet tang, and outlining my mouth with bright red sauce. When you have sauce on your face, it feels like baseball season.

I walked right up to the french-fry stand and continued to tweak my eating routine. Rather than relying on the same-old vinegar and salt seasonings, I switched to Old Bay and mustard. Already hot, 143 degrees according to my thermometer, the fries took to the mustard and seafood seasoning, delivering warm pleasure on a cold afternoon.

For a moment, I considered drinking bottled water instead of beer. That thought quickly perished. Even in my experimental mood, I did not want to stray too far away from ballpark favorites like cold beer. I am a craft-beer kind of guy. Call me a daredevil, but I tried a new microbrew, shelling out $5.50 for a crisp, golden, 44-degree Helles brewed by Fordham in Annapolis. With mustard on my hot fries and a cold Helles in my hand, I was living large.

In the late innings, the cool afternoon got even colder, and I went in search of sunny spots and warm foods. I got a $2.25 hot chocolate that, at 166 degrees, lived up to its name, even though I thought I might freeze as I waited 11 minutes in line at a concession stand behind home plate to get the hot drink.

I finished off the day with a $5.25 solo pizza. As the name implies, it is designed to feed one person but could satisfy two. It was warm, 102 degrees, had a crisp crust, and was topped with crunchy sweet peppers.

As a longtime fan of sausage pizza, I was expecting the vegetable-laden pizza to be a loser. But, like the Birds on opening day, the vegetable pizza delivered a lot more than I expected. Maybe the vegetable pizza is a harbinger of good times ahead, maybe not. But once you have put mustard on your fries, sweet sauce on your barbecue, and allowed crunchy vegetables on your pizza, it is a whole new ballgame.

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