BATTER UP! EAT UP!

Houston Astros roll out a powerhouse lineup of new ballpark grub for 2019

Smoked Pork Burnt End Tots. Photo courtesy of Aramark

Originally appeared on CultureMap.

Good luck sticking to your regular baseball diet — hot dogs and beer — at Minute Maid Park this season. The Houston Astros unveiled their lineup of new menu items this week, and you may want to skip lunch on game night. And maybe even breakfast the next morning. And drop by Jenny Craig for a pep talk on your way home from work.

Among the more fanciful selections for 2019: Smoked Pork Burnt End Topped Tots, Prime Rib Steak Sandwich, Lamb Gyro, and Calabrese Shrimp Sandwich. How does a dish of Kahlua Tiramisu sound for dessert? (Remember, pinkies out.)

"We try to keep our food focused on the regional tastes of Houston and finding a way to put a ballpark spin on things. We do a lot of research and consultation with our fans, and assortment of food and beverages is the thing that matters most to them," says Mat Drain, His Exalted Highness of Habanero for Aramark, which runs the food concessions at Minute Maid Park.

Aramark held its annual press event in the ballpark's Diamond Club. Inviting the media to sample free food, buffet-style, makes the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona look like a waltz contest. Joey Chestnut has nothing on sports writers.

A beefed-up lineup
My favorite was the Prime Rib Sandwich, which is serious business even by steakhouse standards. It's a thick slab of trimmed prime rib, topped by caramelized onions and horseradish sauce. It's over-the-top, amazing and not cheap. Your favorite president, Andrew Jackson, will pick up the bill.

I taste-tested the 713 Prime Burger, an 8-ounce Nolan Ryan patty — actual prime beef — with American cheese on a toasted bun. Elegant in simplicity, divine in quality, smooth as butter. I dug into a Fried Shrimp Po'boy, with real Gulf shrimp. Nice touch staying local.

I also snuck in a Ken Hoffman Dog, topped with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard. Yes, for the first time, my dog will available throughout the stadium this season, total respect.

Better food for all fans
Drain, if nothing else a man of the people, says he's addressed a complaint heard often in years past: that all the good stuff is limited to certain stadium levels, particularly the suites and club level.

"Our biggest focus has been making sure we have variety on all levels of the ballpark. We've added specialty concepts that have been successful on the main concourse to the upper concourse, such as our HTX Mex portables selling tacos," he notes.

One table at the food rollout was dedicated to an array of new salads and healthier options, available at the Marketplace on the main concourse. (I pretended that I didn't see it.)

Executive Chef Jimmy Coatsworth explained how he prepares Smoked Smoked Pork Burnt End Topped Tots. It was like listening to Beethoven describe how he composed his Fifth Symphony. What kind of devious mind thinks up a Frito Pie Corn Dog? If only Coatsworth used his powers for good instead of evil.

Dollar Dog Nights will be held on Tuesdays this year. There are lucky 13 Tuesday night games on tap this year, start looking for loose change in the couch. Big ups for Minute Maid Park. While other stadiums sell smaller franks on their discount dog nights, the Astros offer the same size frank as other games.

To see the complete batting order of new food items, locations, and prices coming to Minute Maid Park, read the rest of the story on CultureMap.


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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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