The nacho has always been a fan favorite at sports venues, and this baseball season Aramark is continuing their signature foods program by introducing an “extreme nacho makeover” at 11 Major League Ballparks. Last year, Aramark challenged its chefs to create signature sandwiches that highlighted local and regional flavors. This past off season, chefs brainstormed and experimented with variations of chips and toppings. Aramark projects it will serve over one million orders of nachos during the 2012 season.
Coors Field in Denver is offering two signature nachos created by Executive Chef Craig Luckmann. The Colorado Queso ($7) is a serving of fresh corn chips with spicy chorizo sausage, Monterey Jack and green chili cheese sauce, topped with pico di gallo and sour cream. For a dessert option, there is the S’more nacho ($7), flour tortilla chips fried and coated in graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon, and topped with marshmallow fluff, chocolate sauce, M&M minis and mini marshmallows.
Al Wolfe, Aramark general manager at Coors Field explained that green chili is a favorite local flavor, while the idea for the S’more nacho was inspired by all of the camping that people do in the area in the summer. “We did a lot of testing with these nachos, and everybody just fell in love with those S’more nachos. It tastes just like a S’more,” said Wolfe. The S’more nachos are offered in the Mountain Ranch Club Restaurant as a special item, and both nacho types are being sold at four concessions locations throughout the park. The park has hosted seven games so far this season, and Wolfe estimates that they have sold almost 900 servings between the two types of nachos.
Angels Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. is also serving up savory nacho options and a dessert nacho. Fans have a choice of chicken or beef barbacoa nachos ($9.25), which include chips topped with charro chili beans, chicken barbocoa or beef barbacoa, queso, pickled jalapeno, black bean relish with habanero, avocado sour cream, and mild salsa. In the stadium’s two restaurants, fans can order the Arctic nacho ($10), flour tortilla chips sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, topped with vanilla bean ice cream, Hershey’s syrup and caramel sauce. “One of the things that Angels Stadium is famous for is that we do a lot of slow cooking here,” said Executive Chef Rick Wineman, creator of the signature nachos.
“We have smokers on the upper deck, and we smoke thousands of pounds of beef, a thousand pounds of pork and a bunch of chicken every day. So we’ve incorporated these smoked meats into these nachos.” The proteins are all-natural, and the staff makes the black bean relish and charro chili beans in-house. The stadium has hosted three regular season games and a preseason game, and they are selling 135 to 175 servings of the signature nachos per game. “[Fans] really love the innovation. We’re getting some really good feedback,” said Derek Swartz, Aramark general manager at Angels Stadium. “It’s really all about the nachos this year.”
Riding the popularity of the pastrami sandwich that Aramark introduced in the venue last season, Citi Field in New York has debuted the Pastracho ($11.50). Created by Executive Chef Robert Flowers, the Pastracho is a serving of corn tortilla chips topped with pastrami, Swiss cheese sauce, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and sliced scallions. Chips are cut and fried daily at the park.
Tom Funk, Aramark general manager at Citi Field, explained that the nachos are not only a unique signature item for the park, but also a way to cut down on wasting pastrami when making sandwiches. “We hand cut the pastrami for the guest. As the chef was cutting, if it wasn’t a perfect cut, we’d have product there. So we just cut it a little finer, and put it on top of a bed of tortilla chips,” said Funk. He described the nachos as tasting just like a pastrami sandwich with more crunch. At 1.5 pounds, the Pastracho “is quite a meal in itself,” said Funk.
Funk explained that the signature nacho program is also a way for the park to boost sales while providing a new and interesting menu item. “People are looking for value. And when you build a nacho correctly and you have a lot of components to it, people say, ‘it’s a value,’” said Funk. “So we looked at it as a way to not only give the fan a value but also give them a great product.”
Other parks that will be serving signature nacho dishes this year include Fenway Park in Boston with the kickin’ chicken nacho; Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., with the cheesy corn brisket-acho; Minute Maid Park in Houston with the barbecue brisket nacho; O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., with the Cholua Kalua nacho, PNC Park in Philadelphia with the Bucco nacho, Rogers Centre in Toronto with the big smoke jerk chicken nacho; and Turner Field in Atlanta with the chili cheese pico nacho and sweet and sour BBQ carnita nacho.
Interviewed for this article: Al Wolfe, (303) 292-0200; Rick Wineman, (714) 940-2400; Derek Swartz, (714) 940-2400; Tom Funk, (718) 672-4032