April 09, 2009|By Rob Kasper

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Since it is a new baseball season, and in prior years I had already chomped on all the sausages and pit beef that the stadium has to offer, I ate only new menu items on Opening Day.

I divided my eating adventure into two parts: sampling items available to the multitudes, and tasting fare sold to eaters dining on the exclusive club level. I tested temperatures of the food with an instant-read thermometer.

For the hoi polloi, the most promising newcomers were at Noah's Pretzel stand. This Gaithersburg-based operation is named after the autistic son of one of the owners. Part of the proceeds go to autism centers in the Baltimore-Washington area. It is a good cause, and, more to the point, the stand serves good pretzels.

I had the $4.25 plain, dotted with salt and shaped into the letter "O." The stand also sells a gluten- and casein-free pretzel. I went back in the second inning to get a $4.75 pretzeldog, a small hot dog wrapped in salty pretzel dough. It was worth the return trip. This morsel is not giant (it's about the size of a cigar), but the combination of a hot dog (110 degrees) and crisp dough was winning.

The pretzeldog edged out the $8 chicken mole burrito (114 degrees), sold in Big Mario's Pizzeria stands on the ground floor and behind home plate in the upper deck, as my favorite new fare for the masses. The stands also sell a $7 chicken soft taco, which was too salty. The burrito beat the taco.

The club-level patrons were quiet and orderly, unlike the long lines and boisterous crowds elsewhere in the ballpark. At the Diamond Bistro, I found the $12 prime rib panini. Slices of hand-carved prime rib (130 degrees) were matched with smoked provolone, arugula, smoked onions and a dollop of sweet sauce on pressed ciabatta bread. I loved the steak and the cheese. I suggest getting the sauce, which was too sweet for me, on the side.

I also sampled the $10 crab fries. These are hand-cut french fries topped with a crab-flavored cream cheese sauce. This dish is very rich, and depending on your arteries, either heaven or a possible heart attack on a plate. I had a few bites and said, "Take me now, Lord."

best bites

General Admission: : pretzeldog, $4.75 hot dog wrapped in a pretzel at Noah's Pretzel stand on the ground floor down the first-base field line

Club Level: : panini, $12 sliced prime rib sandwich with smoked provolone on crusty Italian bread at Diamond Bistro

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