Though my love for the Giants knows no bounds, I grimaced at the notion of eating anything remotely healthy at a baseball game.
Professionally obligated, I unenthusiastically slogged my way down to the garden area at a recent game (we beat Arizona 4-1) and mumbled my order of a gluten-free flatbread with house-made (two more words that don’t belong in baseball) fennel sausage, caramelized leeks, roasted eggplant and goat cheese.
Maybe it was the glow from the ring ceremony that night, but it was delicious. Really delicious. I watched a person who even appeared to have had some culinary training pull my order straight from a fancy-looking oven. The dough had a cracker-like crunch, probably the result of rice flour, and the aforementioned sausage was coarse with the slightest hit of fresh fennel. It actually tasted, gulp, house-made – and that was a good thing.
Outside of the healthy zone (both literally and figuratively) but still behind centerfield, I found the new Tony's Slice House, from local pizza emperor Tony Gemignani. OK, $7.75 may seem steep for a slice, but mine was cut so generously, I had to cry uncle and terminate my ballpark binge after scarfing it. More important, it was up to par with Gemignani's North Beach flagship (what's the secret to his sauce?) – no small feat considering the mass production going on.
A few nights earlier, my buddy Iwan and I hit the upper deck and suffered through a 4-1 loss to the Rockies. Fans in section 310 were still entertained, though, because they got to watch two grown men share a gargantuan order of nachos stuffed into a full-size plastic batting helmet. The nachos themselves were pretty standard issue: brittle tortilla chips, cold hunks of chicken, liquidy guacamole and a pale, mild salsa all delightfully drenched in that dayglo of the machine-nacho “cheese” sauce that you know you love as much as I do. But let's face it, anything eaten out of a Giants batting helmet is going to be awesome, and I've got the orange stains on my pants to prove these were just that.
A cone of crunchy, greaseless chicharones had me wondering why they haven't been a stadium staple for years. Though I begged Iwan to make me stop eating, I found myself tilting the cone to my mouth to get the last bits of the pork rinds down.
Only the latest dessert offering struck out. (Hey, I'm allowed one bad baseball play on words!) Freshly tossed caramel corn, long a popular staple in the exclusive club level, is now offered to the masses. Our tub was pulled from a warmer that somehow rendered the corn wet and cold, tasting like an indescribable chemical.
Mushy caramel corn aside, kudos to the Giants for producing a high quality product not just on the field, but also in the kitchen. We don’t need no stinking churro dogs!
Location: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, S.F.
Contact: (415) 973-2000, www.sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com
Price range: $5.50 to $18
Recommended dishes: Helmet nachos ($18), fennel sausage flatbread ($10.75), Tony's pizza slice ($7.75), chicharones ($5.50)
Credit cards: All major