April 1, 2009
The Mets first official game at their new ballpark, Citi Field, is just two weeks away and what better way to heighten the excitement than with a preview of the unprecedented culinary revolution taking place in Flushing? The Mets opened the doors to Citi Field Tuesday to introduce the three Culinary All-Stars behind all the magic: Danny Meyer, Drew Nieporent & Dave Pasternack.
After the All-Stars received honorary Mets jerseys, a massive tasting began: tacos, pulled pork, frites with dipping sauce, Italian heroes, pizza, sushi, porchetta, mac and cheese with pancetta, skirt steak, burgers, sausage and peppers, fried fish sandwiches, cannolis, and chocolate mousse.
After all that, Shake Shack’s burger, the grandma pie from The Original Cascarino’s of College Point, the Box Frites and the white cheddar mac and cheese with pancetta were my favorite bites.
Stay tuned to NYCFoodGuy.com for a video preview of Citi Field food starring yours truly and Ted Berg of SNY.tv.
The Original Cascarino’s Pizza of College Point
Availability: “Taste of the City” centerfield concourse, Delta Sky360 Club and Caesar’s Club
Anyone who remembers the pizza at Shea Stadium will rejoice at the inclusion of The Original Cascarino’s of College Point in Citi Field. The specialty Grandma slice was delicious. The crisp and airy crust supported a balanced amount of fresh mozzarella, sweet tomato sauce, diced basil, and olive oil.
The path to a new pizza frontier at Mets games will be the use of gas-fired brick ovens for all pizza-cooking. Gone are the days of conveyor belts slowly heating sub-par DiGiorno mini pies. What you can expect is pizza that actually tastes like pizza you’d get at your local slice joint.
I didn’t get a chance to taste the Sicilian with pepperoni but it certainly looks delicious.
The regular slices are tasty and like the Grandma, feature sweet sauce and thin yet bland crust. The slice itself is light and a little on the small side so don’t expect one slice to fill you up.
The small slices could be an issue, however, if you look at the prices below. $5.75 for one plain slice is a little steep. We didn’t get a chance to experience any of the heroes or pasta dishes, but those could turn out to be the best bang for your buck.
The Original Cascarino’s Pizzeria & Ristorante of College Point is located at 14-60 College Point Blvd at 15th Ave, Queens 718-445-9755.
Leo’s Latticini/Mama’s of Corona
Availability: World’s Fare Market, Field Level
Beginning their 8th year in a Mets ballpark, Mama’s offers hefty and authentic Italian subs along with a variety of salads including an antipasto, a grilled chicken salad and a bocconcini (small pieces of fresh mozzarella). We tried the “Mama’s Special”, the signature hero, which features peppered ham, salami, fresh mozzarella, red peppers and mushrooms on a semolina hero (below).
The initial impression of the hero is “fresh.” All the ingredients worked together to create a nice spicy flavor tempered every so often by the homemade fresh mozzarella.
There will be other sandwich options available at Mets games:
- Hot Turkey with gravy and fresh mozzarella
- Grilled vegetables with fresh mozzarella
Dessert was a simple yet effective affair. Cannolis! And not just any cannolis, Mets sprinkle cannolis.
I didn’t taste the Mets decorated cannoli but the unadorned mini versions were fresh and surprisingly light.
The real Leo’s Latticini/Mama’s of Corona is located at 46-02 104th Street, Corona, NY 11368. 718-898-6069
El Verano Taqueria
Availability: “Taste of the City” centerfield concourse
Floyd Cardoz, master of trendy Indian food at Tabla, went on a serious hunt before finalizing his taco recipes for El Verano.
The finalists (2 tacos per order):
- Chicken Mole Pipian ($7.25) Grilled chicken in a green, ground pumpkin seed sauce. At Tuesday’s press conference, Danny Meyer said “I’ve never put anything like this in my mouth.”
- Carnitas ($7.25) Slow cooked pork with tomatillo-chipotle salsa
- Chili Marinated Skirt Steak ($7.25) with roasted tomato
Only the chili marinated skirt steak was available at Tuesday’s press conference. Unfortunately, as tasty as the char-broiled, rare skirt steak was, especially with the roasted tomato salsa, I was very unimpressed by the generic steamed double corn tortillas.
There will also be “elote” corn on the cob ($3.50), which is steamed corn on the cob brushed with mayo and sprinkled with coteja cheese and cayenne pepper. Delicious Mexican street food. If you like booze with your Mexican food, Brooklyn Brewery has created a special beer called “Sabroso Ale” with hints of cinnamon and orange ($7.50).
VALUE BUY: Each individual taco is $7.25, but you can get a three taco combo featuring each of the three finalists for just $9.75.
Blue Smoke’s Pulled Pork Sandwich
Availability: “Taste of the City” centerfield concourse
When the regular season rolls around, the pulled pork sandwich on a brioche bun ($9.00) will be joined by $10 Kansas City Ribs & $8 Chipotle Chicken Wings. Strands of fatty, tender pork hung from the sides of the sandwich I ate, the pink hue a sure sign of proper smokage. The slightly sweet brioche bun was a good complement to the pork.
Blue Smoke (website) is located at 116 East 27th Street b/t Park Ave. & Lexington Ave. New York, NY 10016 212 447-7733
Location: Excelsior Level in left field
Drew Nieporent’s Myriad Restaurant Group will be offering a seasonal three course $48 prix fixe menu at this “next generation Diamond Club.” While this is a great deal for the quality of the food you’ll be eating, you may wonder who would spend that kind of cash on food at a baseball game.? Well, access to the Acela Club is limited to premium ticket holders who will only be able to dine there by reservation (call 718-565-4333).
I tried two of the Acela Club’s three dishes offered at Tuesday’s press conference, starting with the white cheddar macaroni and cheese with pancetta. This was one of the tastiest dishes at the event, combining textures, with the crunchy bread crumbs and creamy cheddar, and flavors, with the slightly spicy pancetta and the sharp cheese.
The heritage pork porchetta, a spit roasted, marinated pork loin, wasn’t as tasty or tender as the East Village version. Like some of the other dishes, the porchetta suffered from cooling down.
Daruma of Tokyo Sushi
Availability: World’s Fare Market, Field Level in right field
Since 1998, Daruma has provided their delicately crafted sushi to the Mets. NYC Food Guy is already not a big sushi eater, and I’m even less inclined to eat it at a baseball game. Regardless, credit should be given to Daruma for their newest creation: The Citi Field All Star Shimp Dog (not pictured), 100 percent pure shrimp in natural casing served on a roll topped with a special sauce.
The original Daruma of Tokyo is located at 95 Middle Neck Road Great Neck, NY 11021 516-466-4180
Availability: “Taste of New York” centerfield concourse
When all was said and done, the Shake Shack’s burger combining brisket with chuck and short rib, was the tastiest bite of the day. The perfectly charred salt and pepper crust revealed a juicy center which blended with the fresh romaine lettuce, tomato and famous mayo-based Shack sauce. Sandwich it all between a buttered and grilled potato roll, creating an almost croissant like flavor, and you’re in burger heaven.
You’ll have the option of ordering a single Shack burger ($5.75) or a double ($8.75), each priced ony $1 higher than at the actual Shake Shack. The Shack-ago dog ($5.75), the New York Dog ($5.00) and the Bird Dog ($6.00) will also be served along with Shake Shack’s fries ($4.75) and cheese fries ($5.75). The popular frozen custard offered at the real Shake Shack will also be served but only in chocolate and vanilla. Danny Meyer offered an intriguing modification, suggesting the addition of a shot of espresso to a vanilla frozen custard. This guy really knows what he’s doing.
Ballpark Eats – “Drive-In” Burger
Availability: All levels of Citi Field
If all this fancy food is too much for you to handle at a ball game, fear not, “Ballpark Eats” offers Nathan’s Hot Dogs, fries and onion rings, two types of Brooklyn Burgers, chicken fingers, corn dogs, peanuts, and cracker jacks.
Tuesday, The “Drive-In” Burger was the most intriguing option amidst the hot dogs and chicken fingers. It features a Brooklyn Burger, grilled well done, covered in American cheese, Russian dressing and dill pickle slices. Great in concept, not as tasty in execution. The Russian dressing and dill pickles saved the overcooked and flavorless burger.
Other Noteworthy Edibles
Catch of the Day – Dave Pasternack, Executive Chef at Esca, is behind this seafood shack in the “Taste of the City” centerfield concourse. A fried flounder sandwich offered at Tuesday’s event featured a crispy piece of flounder on a potato bun. It was a little dried out from the heat lamps but tasty nonetheless.
The fish shack will also serve a blackened shrimp po’ boy ($12.75), which Mr. Pasternack guaranteed will “shoot on your shirt.” The $17 Lobster roll is the highest priced item followed by the $14.75 Shrimp cocktail salad. Mr. Pasternack continued to cause controversy by claiming that his “Bayside Fries”, topped with smoked sea salt, Old Bay seasoning and accompanied by sharp cheddar dipping sauce, “will become legendary.” I’m willing to investigate that claim.
Box Frites – Robb Garceau is behind this frites factory located in the “Taste of the City” centerfield concourse. The fries are a little thicker than diner style and were delicious when fresh out of the fryer. Serious Eats.com’s Ed Levine posed a great question to Danny Meyer about the challenge of serving fresh, hot frites to all customers. Mr. Meyer responded curiously, noting how Mr. Garceau had previously thrown away fries that sat for more than 2 minutes. Interesting. Also of note were the sauces which will accompany the fries. I’m a ketchup man through and through and the creamy bacon sauce underwhelmed me enough to uphold that principle.
Culinary All-Star Responsibilities
Let’s take a moment to review which Culinary All-Stars are responsible for each concept.
- Catch of the Day – Dave Pasternack (Executive Chef, Esca)
- The Acela Club – Drew Nieporent (Owner, Myriad Restaurant Group, renowned for Nobu & Tribeca Grill). Michael Sobelman, formerly chef de cuisine at Tribeca Grill, will take over Executive Chef duties at the Acela Club.
- Shake Shack, Blue Smoke, El Verano Taqueria, Box Frites & the Delta Sky360 Club – Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG). Blue Smoke’s pitmaster Ken Callaghan’s recipes will be utilized at Blue Smoke, Tabla Executive Chef Floyd Cardoz is responsible for the taco recipes at El Verano and Robb Garceau, executive chef of USHG’s catering wing Hudson Yards, created Box Frites. Executive Chef Craig Schantz will oversee the Delta Sky360 Club.