Well it’s the start of baseball season.  A sure sign that spring has arrived.  Sadly, a winning baseball team probably isn’t in that equation for 2011, but one can hope as everybody is in 1st place.

So why feature PNC Park you ask?  It’s been around for a decade now.  You may know the place like the back of your hand and have your favorite stands to chow down at, but the folks who run the place asked members of the ‘wretched’ media to join them for the annual tour that included new food items being served. 

A tour of baseball’s best park and a free lunch…Where do I sign up?

I joined The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi and Jim Colony for the day and our 1st stop was to the suite level along the 3rd base line where inside the fine people from Levy Restaurants had a full menu of items people can get when purchasing tickets to one of the World Series Suites or the PBC Club level. 

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According to Executive Chef Adam Holt, there will be no less than 10 items for fans to sample when visiting the Club level, including a foot-long meatball sub.  “We worked with Silver Star meats locally to produce a high-quality meatball that fans should enjoy.” said Holt, who also told me “I’m a big red meat guy, I like big meals and big flavors.”

Now I’ve got to tell you that I’ve had my share of ‘processed’ meatballs.  They have a certain taste to them that leaves me unsatisfied.  Well I’m here to say you won’t be disappointed with this.  The meatball really had good flavor and wasn’t packed with ‘filler’ like bread.  The sauce was very flavorful and fans should enjoy this very much.  You can also get a Philly Cheese Steak, so if meatballs don’t do it for you, that sandwich should do the trick. 

The next item I tried might top the meatball grinder in terms of taste and flavor.

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This chicken bruschetta grilled flatbread with lettuce, tomato, red onion and a basil aioli  might have been the best new item featured by the folks at Levy.  It was rocking!  The char on the bread was great.  The chicken was moist and the dressing wasn’t too much.  It complimented the bread and didn’t overwhelm the sandwich.  It should be a hit with fans for sure.  Sticking with the chicken theme…

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Levy is featuring two new sandwiches, one grilled and the other a buffalo version with a neat topping that mixes a celery and blue cheese cole slaw on top of the tenders that are covered in a hot sauce.  It really popped with taste and the blue cheese/slaw combo was a good contrast to the zing offered up by the hot sauce flavor. 

Another item Chef Holt was excited about included this…

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The Big Cheese Rip & Dip is an item Holt described as one that should grab people’s attention.  “When people see it being carried around the park,’  he offered, ‘they are going to say ‘I’ve gotta have that.”  It’s a focaccia bread covered with a tasty cheese spread, served with ranch and a marinara sauce.  It was very cheesy and had at least two different types on the spread, along with plenty of garlic and herbs.  The bread was soft and chewy and will fill anybody eating alone, or sharing with friends. 

Now if you are somebody who likes to eat healthy, Holt assures us that there are some additional items that will surprise people looking to keep the calories down while watching the Pirates.

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Behold, a chopped vegetable salad with lots of fresh veggies, crumbled blue cheese, kalamata olives and an in-house basalmic vinaigrette that I found to be very good. 

Want more low cal choices, well then how about veggies and hummus!

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Being tabbed as a ‘Veg out cup,” you get your share of freshly julienne celery, carrots and zucchini, all served with an in-house hummus that had good flavor. 

If fruit is your thing…

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Served with a chile lime salt packet, the ‘Fruit-a-Cup’ will give another option to somebody wanting to eat healthy.  There will also be a gluten-free snack basket option for those coming to games.  “We think it’s important to offer up these choices,’ remarked Holt.  ‘One out of every 133 Americans have Ciliac disorder, we wanted to make sure these people have as many options to them. ”  From Dark Chocolate candy bars to trail mix and pumpkin seeds, there is something for everybody sitting in the club level. 

Another advantage Levy has is the fact they operate in a variety of stadiums and arenas across the US.  “We get a lot of our new items from our corporate office,’ Levy said.  “What’s great is that we can localize from region to region and give fans new items with a local twist.”

Not only will fans who sit in the Club seats have new food options to sample, those who visit the Hall of Fame club will get some new offerings.  Taking a cue from the folks at Consol Energy Center, they have gone the smoked meats route…

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Now if this doesn’t scream Pittsburgh, I don’t know what will.  Behold a smoked, pulled pork sandwich covered with, pierogis.  Topped with a house-made BBQ sauce, it’s a sandwich that will fill you up fast.  If you are a ribs man like me, then this next item will make you smile…

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A smoked ribs and pork plate with pierogis and onions should do the trick.  Using St. Louis style ribs, the platter should give fans plenty to sink their teeth into.  There is also a wing platter featuring four new flavors to try.  With all this wonderful food, what about dessert?

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Behold a very decadent peanut butter pie.  Yes, it taste’s that good. 

Now fans are not the only ones coming to PNC this year that get new eats.  According to team President Frank Coonelly, the club spent over $250,000 to build a brand new kitchen inside the team clubhouse to feed the players.

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Being dubbed the ‘Performance Kitchen,’ players will be treated to pre-game meals and a dinner after each game.  The kitchen is being run by a small staff, led by Tony Palatucci, Executive Chef at Ches Anthony’s in Brentwood.

One can only hope the play on the field can mirror the taste of the new eats being offered at PNC Park in 2011. 

John Phillips is the author of this article and the mind behind ‘Food & Games,’ a site dedicated to uncovering the world of sports & food.  Visit www.foodandgamestv.ning.com to see more of his planned travels this spring.  You can also follow JP on Twitter www.twitter.com/japboy69 

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