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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Miller Park Doubles Down on Smoked Meats

New at the ballpark: hard root beer floats and bratwurst mac and cheese

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Though it’s unlikely to replace the traditional bratwurst anytime soon, brisket has been a hot item at Miller Park since the stadium’s kitchen operations introduced a smoker in 2011. Served in sandwiches and sliders, as well as under mashed potatoes and gravy in an odd parfait that looks like an ice-cream sundae, brisket proved so popular that the stadium added a second smoker last year, when it sold nearly 30,000 pounds of the smoked beef. Given that success, it’s not surprising that the ballpark has continued to expand its smoked-meat lineup this year.

This season, in addition to smoked brisket and turkey, the stadium’s meat stands will offer a rotating selection of two other smoked entrées, which so far have included smoked pork chop on the bone and slow-roasted beer-can chicken. The stands will soon debut a smoked shaved prime rib sandwich, which will be topped with mushrooms and onions and served on a crusty roll with flavored ketchup, according to Miller Park’s executive chef John DiMartini.

Meanwhile, the stadium’s Loge level will continue to experiment with unique, limited-time entrées that will rotate depending on which opponent the Brewers are playing. Last year these concessions were served at a stand called the Chef’s Table; this year, that stand has been re-imagined as a food truck called the Double Clutch. For the Crew’s opening series against the Colorado Rockies, the truck was serving a giant, spaghetti-stuffed meatball of pork, veal and ground beef, topped with spaghetti sauce and provolone.

For a similarly hearty meal, the Food Network cart has begun offering a trio of mac and cheeses, including a buffalo chicken mac and cheese, a jalapeno mac and cheese and, most uniquely, a Wisconsin mac and cheese made with cheddar, chunks of bratwurst and just a splash of Guinness.

After searching for two years, this year the stadium hired a new pastry chef, whose sweets are being gradually introduced throughout the stadium and should be widely available by the All-Star break. DiMartini says soon all of Miller Park’s pastries will be made in-house, something very few stadiums can claim. Some of the new chef’s treats are already available at a stand on the stadium’s Club level, which sells bags of toffee and root beer floats, as well as a hard root beer float for adults. Made with Sprecher Hard Root Beer, these floats are expensive—booze in a stadium always is—but DiMartini notes the $25 price tag includes a souvenir glass that retails for $20 on its own.

Some of the stadium’s new menu items may seem needlessly elaborate for baseball fans who for decades have been perfectly content with hotdogs and peanuts, but DiMartini says the stadium takes great pride in offering an unexpected variety of food. “We really want to knock people’s socks off,” he says. “I want to hear, ‘Wow, you can’t get this anywhere else,’ or ‘I’ve never seen this in any stadium,’ so we’re going to keep continually refreshing our menu.”

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