By Barry Janoff
March 16, 2017: Sy Berger was a major influence at Topps for more than 50 years before his passing in 2014, so it makes sense that the trading card and memorabilia company would join with Aramark to create a set of cards based on food menus at MLB stadiums.
Entering the 2017 season, Philadelphia-based Aramark said it would work with ten MLB teams and their stadiums for food and beverage, retail and/or facilities services.
Topps, the exclusive trading card partner for MLB, is on the food bandwagon, creating a special 18-card "Incredible Eats" trading card insert series. The cards have "immortalized some of the most popular and iconic ballpark fare."
Seven of the cards feature fare from Aramark. The other cards have menu items from various MLB stadiums shot by Getty Images.
"As sports' food and beverage expert, creating a menu complete with unique and distinctive options has always been a hallmark of ours," Carl Mittleman, president for Aramark's Sports and Entertainment division, said in a statement. "Our culinary teams work tirelessly to create menus that are on-trend and full of variety and complementary flavors and this year's offerings, once again, set the standard for ballpark dining."
Although players are not part of this insert set — they also do not come with bubble gum — some MLBers who might be particularly interested in "Incredible Eats" are Coco Crisp, Chili Davis, Mike Trout, Jake Lamb, Dusty Baker, Josh Smoker, Adam Eaton, Brett Gardner, Roughed Odor and Alex Cobb.
Aramark this season will provide food and beverage, retail and/or facilities services to the Baltimore Orioles (Camden Yards), Boston Red Sox (Fenway Park), Colorado Rockies (Coors Field), Houston Astros (Minute Maid Park), Kansas City Royals, New York Mets (Citi Field), Philadelphia Phillies (Citizens Bank Park), Pittsburgh Pirates (PNC Park), San Diego Padres (Petco Park) and Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre).
The seven Aramark signature dishes in the Topps set include: the Cracker Jack & Mac Dog (Pittsburgh Pirates), Chicken and Waffle Cone (Houston Astros), Classic Pastrami Sandwich (New York Mets), Kayem Fenway Frank (Boston Red Sox), Buffalo Cauliflower Poutine (Toronto Blue Jays), South Philly Dog (Philadelphia Phillies) and the Cheesy Corn Brisket-Acho (Kansas City Royals).
The set mimics player cards, with a photo, name of the item and stadium location on the front; and a description of the food on the back.
For the Buffalo Cauliflower Poutine at Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays), the description: "Buffalo Cauliflower Poutinis a Rogers Centre twist on a Canadian classic. Blue Jays fans have been going wild for the lightly-breaded cauliflower, tossed in classic buffalo hot sauce, topped with cheese curds, ‘Cheesey’ gravy and fresh, topped scallions."
"Some MLBers who might be interested in 'Incredible Eats': Coco Crisp, Mike Trout, Jake Lamb, Dusty Baker, Josh Smoker, Adam Eaton, Roughed Odor, Alex Cobb."
For the Cheesy Corn Brisket-Acho at Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City Royals): "The Cheesy Corn Brisket-Acho at Kauffman Stadium has quickly become as much of a fan favorite as the Kansas City Royals players themselves. A modern-day take on the traditional nacho, this must-have combines the famous tastes of Kanas City pilled high on a bed of crisp tortilla chips."
More than hamburgers and hot dogs, the creative Aramark menu items that fans will see this year include the Lobster Melt (Fenway Park), LaFrieda Black Angus Steak Frites (Citi Field), Braised Kielbasa Reuben (PNC Park), Short Rib Cheese Curds (Kauffman Stadium) and Apple Pie Nachos (Coors Field).
Of course, there are basic foods that have also been given a special twist by Aramark, such as Harry The K's Pastrami Sausage and Jersey Shore Dog (Citizens Bank Park) and the Spam Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Minute Maid Park).
There are other food, beverage and/or stadium facility service companies working with MLB teams and venues.
Delaware North's pacts include the Atlanta Braves (SunTrust Park), Baltimore Orioles (Camden Yards), Chicago White Sox (Guaranteed Rate Field), Cincinnati Reds (Great American Ball Park), Cleveland Indians (Progressive Field), Detroit Tigers (Comerica Park), Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park), Minnesota Twins (Target Field), San Diego Padres (Petco Park), St. Louis Cardinals (Busch Stadium) and the Texas Rangers (Globe Life Park in Arlington).
Levy Restaurants alliances include the Arizona Diamondbacks (Chase Field), Chicago Cubs (Wrigley Field), Los Angeles Dodgers (Dodger Stadium), Miami Marlins (Marlins Park), Pittsburgh Pirates (PNC Park) and Washington Nationals (Nationals Park).
Some of the deals are non-exclusive or exclusive for specific categories, so different food and facilities service firms may work for the same teams and stadiums.
Despite appearances, there are options for fans and customers looking for healthy options.
According to Aramark, as part of its Healthy for Life 20 By 20 initiative and "ongoing commitment to providing fans with greater variety, choice and access to healthier menu options, Aramark continues to expand 'better-for-you' options throughout the ballparks it serves.
Among these menu items: Caribbean Grilled Chicken Salad and Rainbow Kale Caesar Salad (Rogers Centre), Ultimate Vegan Burger and Toasted Tofu (PNC Park) and Farmer's Market Grain Bowl (Citizens Bank Park).
In addition, Fenway Farms, a 5,000-square-foot rooftop farm opened in 2015 in Fenway Park on the roof of the Front Office (located on the third base side of the EMC Level). It provides fresh produce throughout the ballpark, upward of 7,500 pounds of organic produce a season, with different seasonal offerings to concessions and the EMC Club. It is presented by Stop & Shop, Dole, Sage Fruit and Aramark.
Topps Opening Day packs with the "Incredible Eats" inserts can be found at mass retailers and local hobby shops.
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