Posted by Jaye Beeler
The Fifth Third burger, a monstrosity of five beef patties weighing five-thirds of a pound, dressed with sliced Spam, sausage gravy, fried eggs and a gigantic pickle, looked like a cartoonist's dish in a Dr. Seuss book.
At the West Michigan Whitecaps' private food fair Tuesday at Gordon Food Service headquarters, 333 50th Street SW, the outlandish and preposterous mingled with the fun and fantastic. Bite-size pretzel poppers, miniature chicken sliders on a pretzel bun, funnel cake fries, chocolate-dipped frozen bananas and walking chicken teriyaki jostled for attention, looking to find their way into the concession stands at Fifth Third Ballpark.
It all depends on whether it hit a home run with the taste buds of the front-office workers from the Whitecaps and GFS, which provided a panoply of treats by a number of vendors hoping to introduce items to the concession menus. The sports folks sampled the tidbits, took notes and kept score. Back at their home base, the staff, under the direction of Matt Timon, the Whitecaps' director of food and beverages will revamp the menu, keeping the vast majority of favorites from past seasons and deciding which new items to introduce.
"We're trying to figure out what's out there and can it fit into the ballpark," Timon said. "We're always looking for things people can't get everywhere and want to go out to the ballpark to get that giant burger and funnel cake fries."
The ballpark dishes up more than 100 food items, including the swimming pig sandwich (barbecue, boneless pork loin). The park will discontinue low earners, adding a dozen new choices for the April 9 season opener.
The delicious options sprawled all about the GFS main office. Kevin VanderMeer, executive chef at Michaels and Associates, a food-service brokerage in Kentwood, showed off a Chicago dog cart loaded with mustard, "nuclear relish," chopped onions, sliced cucumbers, chopped tomatoes and pickled sport peppers.
"Chicago dogs -- all-beef hot dog on a poppyseed bun -- never has ketchup. It's taboo," VanderMeer said. "We're also offering Italian sausage, smoked hot dogs with smoked mustard and a meatball grinder. Everything on this cart is stuff you can find in Chicago. Oh, you have to top it off with a dash of celery salt. It's the Chicago way."
Nearby Gordy Mouw, GFS center of the plate specialist, stood ready to carve a hunk of smoked bologna.
"Actually, I'm calling this my hot dog carving station," Mouw said. "We took a large 6-pound bologna and put it on the smoker. In all seriousness a fried or grilled bologna sandwich is a very '60s, '70s thing. A fried bologna sandwich with some onions is kind of old school. This is still in the conceptual stage but with the economy a little tough, people might like the savings."
Not many could resist the root beer ice cream, corn roasters and deep-fried pineapple dipped in waffle cone batter served with a side of caramel.
"The deep-fried pineapple kind of tastes like a pineapple danish," said GFS chef Jeff Applehof. "It's a big surprise when you taste it. We call those flavor bombs, something that will bring a big smile to your face when you try it."