Across the U.S., concessions chefs for major sports teams are faced with a daunting task: outdo peers in terms of creativity while producing a menu that won't frighten fans.
While some teams -- like the Washington Nationals with their $59 Strasburger in 2012, or the Pittsburgh Penguins with their garbage plate-esque waffle bowl [see tweet at bottom] -- are aggressively innovative, the Buffalo Sabres have debuted a few edgy items mixed with comfort food staples for the 2014-15 hockey season.
On Tuesday at the First Niagara Center, Delaware North and the Buffalo Sabres unveiled new menu items for regular concessions, the Lexus Club, the Harbour Club and the suites at a press event. Delaware North executive chef at the First Niagara Center Scott Green spoke briefly about the new foods before inviting the media to sample the fare.
The headliner, of course, was a saucy snack that buzzed around local social media when it was announced in a separate press release on Monday: Original Pizza Logs.
A product of Niagara Falls-based Finger Food Products, the logs affiliated first with the Buffalo Bills before latching on with the Sabres this fall.
And good news, hockey fans: while the Original Pizza Logs sell for $7.50 for three at Ralph Wilson Stadium, they're $6 for the same amount at the First Niagara Center.
Concessions chef Rose Radecki, back for her seventh year, spoke highly of the logs, which are unlike the tiny, greasy mounds you may have inhaled as a college student. Crispy wonton wrappers, whole-milk mozzarella and Margherita pepperoni are the major players, who all dive into a bath of marinara sauce if you're into that kind of thing.
The logs are served Buffalo-style, too, which means they're brushed with hot sauce and served with ranch (wouldn't Buffalo-style imply bleu cheese?), for the same price.
(Yes, these treats are initially frozen and deep-fried, but if you're expecting the farm-to-table movement and a bevy of healthy choices available for 19,070 people, maybe you should chomp on a hormone-free salad before the hockey game.)
While the pizza logs nicely complement the smattering of beer options -- the usual domestic, plus new local and regional options like Hamburg Brewing, Ellicottville Brewing and Southern Tier -- the dessert menu has received an overhaul as well.
Hot ice cream sandwiches ($6) join the pizza logs in the "eat them quick!" department, as Perry's Ice Cream -- I opted for the cookie dough flavor -- is hot-sealed between two sweet Costanzo's rolls. There's chocolate sauce for dipping, but don't get too distracted when fuming over a Tyler Myers turnover (not a new dessert option, unfortunately), or else you'll have a sugary mess on your hands.
Dessert chips (price to be determined), which Radecki anticipates being popular, combine freshly fried potato chips, hot fudge and salted caramel before toppings of whipped cream and maraschino cherry bits. The salty-and-sweet combo will never go out of style, and I found this dessert to get better as I munched away. You'll eventually reach those slightly soaked-through chips in the bottom, clinging dearly to a slight crunchiness but chock-full of chocolate-and-caramel flavor. Yum.
After a little bit of prying, we stumbled across some insider info in regard to the Sabres' winter concessions offerings. A portable macaroni and cheese stand -- with varieties including Buffalo chicken, smoked gouda and lobster -- may make its way from the suites to the regular concessions, lending a warm, familiar comfort food for bitterly cold January evenings.
Instead of highlighting everything on the Sabres' menus, we selected one item each off of the Harbour Club, Lexus Club and suites offerings:
HARBOUR CLUB 200
Maple Bacon on a Stick ($5)
Description: For $5, you get a 5-ounce piece of bacon that's roughly 11 inches long, flavored -- but not overwhelmingly so -- with New York maple syrup. Plus, you'll get to hold a piece of bacon on a stick, which is cool by itself. Sabres president Ted Black used the term "fantasy" when describing this newcomer, which is equal parts accurate and creepy. The concept for this snack was unabashedly stolen from the Baltimore Orioles' chef, Green explained. Honorable mention: The Reuben Burger (below).
THE LEXUS CLUB
Pistachio-crusted Salmon ($29)
Description: If you're sitting in the Lexus Club, you're clearly no stranger to luxury (or you gloriously stumbled upon a friend's unused seat). There's no shortage of care in preparing this dish, as the salmon has a nice nutty crunch and flavor on the outside, and the combination of marinated tomatoes, crispy fennel, tomato butter and Kalamata olives provide a slew of textures and flavors.
Seafood Spoons ($80)
Description: Seafood spoons are exactly what they sound like -- bite-sized portions of fresh seafood with added flavors: spicy tuna ponzu, salmon wasabi, mango shrimp and lump crab avocado mascarpone. Since the suites offer primarily sampler plates for groups, eight spoons of each of the four different choices -- that's 32 spoons altogether -- run for $80 and typically serve six people (that's five apiece with a battle over the last two). Honorable mention: Street Food -- Bacon on a Stick, Pork Belly "Steamer" Buns and Mexican Sweet Corn [below].
Here's Darren Rovell's tweet and photo of the Pittsburgh Penguins' waffle bowl. If you're still hungry, you can read an article about the Best NFL Stadium Foods from the Tasting Table.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) October 6, 2014