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Hits and misses: Rating the new food at Target Field

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Restaurant news Updated: April 8, 2014 - 3:57 PM

A new baseball season means a handful of food debuts at Target Field. Here’s a rundown.

Although Andrew Zimmern has dropped the sensational goat burger out of the rotation at his ballpark AZ Canteen stand (section 119), he makes up for the loss with a trio of gotta-try newcomers. Why fool around with a mere hot dog when a ridiculously outsized slab of pork belly ($10) awaits? (Seriously, on the portions front, it probably exceeds the Surgeon General’s monthly bacon-consumption guideline).

As it hits the grill, the celery juice-cured meat (from Lorentz Meats in Cannon Falls, Minn.) bastes in its own shimmering fat until it reaches a optimum crispy-chewy stature. The bun gets a swipe of boisterous jalapeño jelly, and the crowning touch is a vinegar-ey cabbage-carrot slaw, its bright acidity elbowing a dent in the pork’s richness. It is, in a word, phenomenal.

Another winner is the Canteen’s smoked beef sandwich ($12). Think tender, slightly pink brisket and shoulder (twin cuts, get it?) that’s cured for 10 days, smoked and then shaved thin and generously piled on a buttered, toasted bun. There’s more of that excellent coleslaw, and a sauce of garlic and mellow dried Hatch chiles sweetened with maple syrup. Really nice, as are the crispy, super-seasoned cottage fries.

The stand — overseen with a watchful eye by chef Asher Miller — is also serving up what’s easily Target Field’s most refreshing nonalcoholic beverage, a not-too-sweet lemonade ($5) splashed with cool juice from muddled cucumbers and brimming with freshly chopped mint (vodka is available for an additional $3), a concoction that will no doubt prove its thirst-quenching bonafides when temperatures start to soar.

The smoked barbecued beef sandwich ($12.50) at the Carvery (section 126) is no match for the AZ Canteen version. Still, the super-juicy (and super-fatty) meat has a pleasantly smoky aura. It’s sliced to order and stacked to near-absurd heights on what turns out to be an unfortunately forgettable bun.

Meanwhile, the State Fair Classics stand (section 133) continues its novelty noshes theme with a pair of Iron Range delicacies inspired by Valentini’s Supper Club in Chisholm, Minn. The first stuffs peppery shredded porketta into a pair of crispy and, yes, oversized egg rolls ($8), serving them with a decent marinara sauce. The second flattens a generously seasoned meatball, sears it to a deep char, slips it into a drab potato bun and tops it, pizza burger-style ($10), with pepperoni, provolone and that same marinara.

It’s difficult to muster much enthusiasm for either (or for the $9 basket of so-so meatballs at the various Frankie V's stands), particularly when your nose gets a tickle of the tantalizing smoke that heralds the proximity of the Butcher & the Boar stand (section 140).

On Monday’s home opener, chef Peter Botcher — enveloped by that fragrant nimbus and the sounds of juices spattering against the grill’s hot coals — was painting hefty slabs of beef ribs ($12.50) with broad strokes from a wide, sauce-clogged brush. Talk about showmanship: Botcher totally upstaged the action down on the field, although the Twins’ 8-3 takedown by the Oakland A’s wasn’t much competition.

The meat, glazed in a sticky-sweet-spicy barbecue sauce and chopped into manageable pieces, barely hangs on the bone, and nearly each bite offers a bit of blackened crispiness chased by next-to mouth-melting tenderness. A few sweet pickle chips are tossed in to act as a kind of palate cleanser. A fork is provided, but this is definitely an eat-with-your-fingers delicacy. And a Target Field don’t-miss experience.

After several seasons of enduring dreadful ice cream, Target Field ticket holders will be thrilled to encounter a modest Izzy’s Ice Cream scoop stand (section 114), stocked with eight made-in-the-Twin Cities flavors of lusciously chilly goodness.

The good news is that co-owners Jeff Sommers and Lara Hammel are featuring their sublime salted caramel and divine (literally) “Church Elder Berry,” a rose-colored, five-berry (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and elderberry) treat, originally formulated for Methodist dining hall at the Minnesota State Fair.

The not-so-great news is the price. A single scoop — capped with the shop’s signature “Izzy scoop,” a second, more diminutive dollop — goes for $7, served in a cone or a cup. Then again, sticker shock has been an integral part of the beer-buying economics at the House of Joe Mauer from the get-go, so paying a premium for premium ice cream is a relatively easy justification.

Memo to the Twins executive suite: More vendors along the lines of AZ Canteen, Butcher & the Boar and Izzy’s, please.

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Miami 7
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Houston 16
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Chicago 7
Cleveland 3 3rd Qtr
Carolina 10
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Georgia State 32
Western Carolina 12 1st Half 7:56
UNC-Asheville 23
Creighton 12 1st Half 5:25
North Texas 22
Maryland 17 1st Half 6:48
Oklahoma State 18
Cornell 25 1st Half 7:30
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Vermont 13 1st Half 7:20
Saint Louis 14
Loyola-Maryland 17 1st Half 6:12
Stony Brook 14
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Winthrop 24
Ark-Little Rock 25 1st Half 4:29
Green Bay 27
TX-Pan American 28 1st Half 6:00
Nebraska Omaha 25
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NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
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Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
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(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
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Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
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Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 38 2nd Half 6:05
(1) South Carolina 76
Fairleigh Dickinson 49 2nd Half 7:20
Brown 55
Buffalo 58 2nd Half 8:05
Long Island 57
Bucknell 52 2nd Half 7:48
Mount St Marys 38
Stony Brook 59 2nd Half 6:32
Wagner 65
FIU 62 2nd Half 7:36
Wofford 56
Duquesne 29 2nd Half 11:21
Providence 38
Maine 45 2nd Half 4:05
William & Mary 45
Alabama State 32 2nd Half 8:53
Samford 41
TX-Pan American 35 2nd Half 7:21
VA Commonwealth 53
South Dakota St 57 2nd Half 5:41
Marist 68
Saint Josephs 50 2nd Half 0:28
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 41 2nd Half 9:13
Virginia Tech 51
(3) Texas 31 2nd Half
(4) Texas A&M 32
Rhode Island 36 2nd Half 16:47
Bryant 31
South Florida 12 1st Half 11:44
Penn State 10
Sam Houston St 18 1st Half 6:15
TCU 30
Evansville 9 1st Half 8:12
IUPUI 21
(14) Maryland 35 1st Half 7:32
Coppin State 14
Mercer 22 1st Half 6:24
Coll of Charleston 23
NC A&T 6 1st Half 12:40
Chattanooga 10
Princeton 29 1st Half 7:50
Monmouth 9
Eastern Illinois 30 1st Half 2:40
Lehigh 35
Rider 21 1st Half 5:27
Binghamton 22
SC State 8 1st Half 6:29
Clemson 18
Fairfield 20 1st Half 6:54
Iowa State 26
Richmond 39 1st Half 3:50
Eastern Kentucky 20
Cleveland State 33 1st Half 3:57
Morehead St 32
Kent State 18 1st Half 5:02
Colgate 23
South Alabama 5 1st Half 4:09
UAB 38
Saint Peters 10 1st Half 6:13
Navy 22
Youngstown St 21 1st Half 3:28
Pittsburgh 36
NJIT 14 1st Half 7:42
Lafayette 14
Davidson 6 1st Half 8:39
Charlotte 24
Indiana State 1:30 PM
St Johns
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Florida
Wright State 0 1st Half 20:00
Purdue 0
(19) Oklahoma St 2:00 PM
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Houston 2:00 PM
Texas Tech
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Portland 3:00 PM
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Cal Poly 3:00 PM
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No Dakota State 3:00 PM
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Idaho State 3:00 PM
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(18) Michigan State 3:00 PM
(19) Syracuse
Northwestern 3:30 PM
Arizona State
TX-Arlington 3:30 PM
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Fresno State 4:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 4:00 PM
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UNLV 4:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
UCLA 4:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
(10) Louisville 4:00 PM
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Howard 5:00 PM
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Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
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