Counter Intelligence: Hits and misses of Target Field food

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 4, 2013 - 9:29 AM
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The burger at AZ Canteen is worth its $13 price tag.

Photo: Rick Nelson • Star Tribune ,

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The opening-day temperature at Target Field was decidedly chilly, but the reception given to hungry Twins fans was warm on Monday, perfect for scoping out new foods available on the ballpark’s concourses.

The smartest partnership since the Twins signed Kramarczuk’s is definitely the ballpark rendition of AZ Canteen (Section 120), the spirited food truck run by “Bizarre Foods” talking head Andrew Zimmern.

Twins fans can indulge in Zimmern’s outstanding burger, a rich, super-savory 75-25 goat-lamb grind. It’s carefully grilled to pink medium-rare juiciness, tarragon- and chive-infused butter melts into the toasted bun, the patty is garnished with roasted tomatoes and charred onions and it’s served in a paper boat with crisp and generously seasoned house-fried potato chips.

Bottom line: It’s fantastic, and unlike most overpriced Target Field food-and-drink items, it’s actually worth its $13 price tag.

The stand’s other item is a beet-red hibiscus punch ($4.50), its ginger notes tamping down what could be an insipid floral overtone. It’ll be a refreshingly not-sweet thirst-quencher when the weather turns balmy.

The Twins have tapped St. Paul’s Mac’s Fish and Chips for its fried walleye formula (Section 133, $11.50), and the results are crisp and salty on the outside, tender and piping hot on the inside. Great skin-on fries, too, although the pre-packaged tartar sauce? Awful.

Two major improvements for products sold throughout the ballpark: the well-seasoned brats and Italian sausages (by Midwestern producer Sheboygan Meats, $5.50) and the creamy Kemp’s soft-serve ice cream ($4.50 and $5.50).

As for SnoBlitz, Kemp’s unfortunate ice-cream-in-a-cup product ($6.50, widely available), skip it. Both the chocolate chip cookie dough and cookies-and-cream versions had the consistency and flavor of frozen Crisco.

Carb-loaders have several new options. The Food Network-branded counter (Section 114) has supplemented its Buffalo chicken mac-and-cheese with two variations: andouille sausage, and jalapeño with a bacon-panko topping (each $12, a sampler trio is also $12). All are best described as generously cheesy, semi-spicy and overpriced.

Imported from Panino’s in North Oaks, calzone-like baked sandwiches (Sections 122 and 319, $10.50) are wrapped in a sort-of tortilla, sort-of thin crust pizza dough and filled with either spaghetti and meatballs or chicken doused in a spicy Buffalo sauce (what is it with Buffalo sauce and sports stadiums?). They’re filling, and straight-from-the-oven hot.

Finally, there must be reasons behind tag-teaming with Papa John’s, but it can’t be flavor. Or quality. Or value. The pizza conglomerate is supplying single-serving cheese, sausage and pepperoni pies ($9, Sections 122 and 319), but the doughy, bland, underbaked results are easily bested by a half-dozen brands currently available in most supermarket frozen-foods sections.

Come on, Twins, you operate one of the most gorgeous ballparks in the country. You can do better.

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