Covering all the bases: Coors Field is the first ballpark to feature its own in-house microbrewery, the Coors-owned Sandlot, but it won't be the last. How many sports arenas across the country plan to put one in? "All of them," says Richard Hesse, food-and-beverage director for Aramark Corporation, which runs everything food-related at the ballpark. "I just saw a story in a Minneapolis newspaper that was talking about the concept and how it's the hot thing to do right now," Hesse adds. "We picked the right time and place to put this in, but it's gonna catch on everywhere. It's the next big thing."
The big thing before that was chair-side service, which is also offered at Coors Field to anyone who pays $26 for a club-level ticket and then forks over another $4 to $5 for a buffet of freshly made pasta sauces and just-carved meats. Servers take the order and runners zoom it out--"Our goal is one minute from the order to the food being on its way," Hesse says--but I didn't check it out during my visit (see Cafe, previous page) because it was outside the range of both my appetite and my budget. So, too, was the Mountain Ranch Club, the tony retreat known to have the best seats in the house and food allegedly of the caliber you'd find at a regular restaurant. "We're comparable to the Rattlesnake Club and Strings," Hesse says. Too bad I didn't have the $2,500 a year to become a member and find out if his assertion was true.
I was able to get into the Sandlot's restaurant, Rounders, along with all the other beer-guzzling schlubs--sardines have nothing on the packed conditions I encountered at the restaurant during the game. (If you really want to try the food, you're better off stopping in on a nongame day: Rounders is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and until midnight on weekends, but it stops serving food at 9 p.m. every night--game or no game.) Despite the crowds, I managed to down a few brews (each $3.50 for sixteen ounces). The wheat was a bit tame--I wasn't surprised to learn that it's their bestseller--and the stout too mild for my Guinness-loving tastes, but the bitter had a wonderful smoothness and sharp bite that stood up to an impressive heap of Buffalo wings ($5). The wings came slathered in a thick sauce with the fiery strength of a Dante Bichette homer and covered with scallion confetti; the accompanying blue-cheese sauce was absolutely fresh and effectively turned down the heat.
The chili of sirloin and black beans ($3.50) was another deal. The meat was tender and the beans had been cooked almost to a paste; melty pools of cheddar and Jack cheeses and big blobs of sour cream made the bowl look like a topographical map. Not that it was necessary, but a piece of jalapeno-studded cheese bread came with the chile. And Rounders dished out yet another hit with its beer-and-brat ($5), a huge bratwurst redolent of fresh brew and nearly smothered by a heap of steamy sauerkraut.
The man ultimately responsible for this winning fare--in fact, the executive chef not only at Rounders but also at the club level and in the private club--is Ken Krampert, who worked for the Sheraton in Pittsburgh for twenty years. It shows.
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You can keep your peanuts and Cracker Jack...