CINCINNATI – The Queen City sits along the banks of the Ohio River and much like Pittsburgh, is the home to its sports stadiums. Today’s stop is Paul Brown Stadium, the home of the Bengals. My normal MO is to walk around a stadium and see what’s good to eat. Well, it didn’t take me long to find something to fit that criteria and I never had to even leave the press box.
For this trip I was a member of the ‘wretched’ media, covering the Steelers-Bengals fray. So I did what media types do and headed straight to the press box. Now if there is anything I’ve learned over the years is that people in the press never turn down a free meal. Generally speaking, the type of food you get in pro sports press boxes ranges from popcorn and hot dogs to something slightly more refined. What I came across when I walked through the doors nearly floored me.
Stretching nearly 30 feet was by far the most amazing buffet of food laid out for the media that I’ve ever seen in any press box. I mean, you have no idea how mind-blowing this was to me. I’ve covered sports in quite a few cities outside of Pittsburgh and I have to say that in this day of penny-pinching, this was anything but cheap.
ARAMARK Food services runs the catering and vending operations at the stadium and had no less than a dozen different choices ranging from several types of salad to beef BBQ tips below.
Served in a light gravy with steamed vegetables, they were tender and had plenty of flavor. I watched the food service people replace several trays in just a few minutes time. Like many midwestern cities, Cincinnati prides itself on its BBQ and this dish does well in holding up a good reputation for serving quality beef. As much as I enjoyed this, the next dish turned out to be my favorite.
Being half Italian, pasta has always been my favorite dish to not only eat, but prepare. Served with grilled chicken, this pasta dish consisted of sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke and onion with a light red ragu. It was savory and sweet. The pasta was cooked just right. I’m used to overcooked pasta, but this held up well. The chicken was a bit dry, but still had good flavor.
There were several pasta dishes on the buffet, including an alfredo dish with sausage that I didn’t try. It was a strange combination, but several people did tell me it was tasty and had good flavor. In addition to the pasta selections, there was another dish that featured chicken.
Grilled with some lemon and served with black beans and rice, this dish also moved fast onto dishes. As I walked around, I spotted Steelers color analyst Tunch Ilkin and asked him for his opinion on the delicious eats. “It’s one of the two best in the NFL,’ said the former lineman with a smile. ‘I’ve been in many press boxes and they really do it up nice here. I’d say Heinz Field is slightly better, but they do serve great food here in Cincinnati.”
There were several fish dishes to choose from, in addition to the beef, pasta and chicken offerings. And of course what meal would be complete without dessert.
A hot cherry cobbler with raisins hit the spot and served as the capper to what was an amazing meal. Not that the meal beat my seat in the press box for the night.
Much to my surprise as the end of the 1st half approached, there was a halftime spread offered up that drew a huge line of working press.
I had to inquire as to what was so popular. As it turned out, the buffet was filled with another Cincinnati staple known as Skyline.
It’s a pretty simple concept. Take a hotdog, add shredded cheddar, diced onion and chili and you get Skyline. Pasta was also served and the natives around here dress the noodles much like they do the dogs. The only problem is that they put cinnamon in their chili and the taste is almost unbearable. Channel 4 Sports Anchor Guy Junker agreed. ‘It’s was a bit too much,” said Junker. “I would have much rather had some red sauce with the pasta.”
Spoken like a true member of the wretched media who finds fault in a free meal.
John Phillips is the author of this article and a weekend talk-show host and sports anchor at The Fan. He also finds enjoyment in sports & food. When you mix the two, you get Food & Games. Learn more at www.foodandgamestv.ning.com