Toronto FC fans will have to figure out a way to cheer with their mouths full this summer at BMO Field, as the stadium concessions staff will be debuting a number of tasty new options for the upcoming season.
These new dishes, as well as some old favorites, were prepared at a media taste-test held Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre's Platinum Club Restaurant. A total of 11 varied delicacies were served to the hungry assemblage, and though the menu was prepared by the ACC's kitchen staff, the menu itself was in part shaped by Toronto FC fans themselves.
"A couple of weeks ago we met with our supporters' group and got their opinion on the products," said Michael Doyle, senior director of food and beverage for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. "We had 20 items for them to try, and [these] are the items we've selected for the upcoming season."
Robert Bartley, the MLSE executive chef and director of culinary, said that the intent behind the menu was to create a truly international flavor that would satisfy the varied tastes of Toronto's multi-cultural community.
"We've done our research when it comes to classic fare that's served in different arenas throughout the world," Bartley said. "We've also tried to take our own interpretation of our fan base and try to give them something new and different at the stadium.
"We're representing some of the fan base that we see at the Toronto FC games. Toronto has a lot of cultural diversity and the menu really reflects that."
Without further ado, here's the BMO Field concessions' starting XI:
Ye Olde Chip Butty: Over 2,500 butties were sold last year at BMO Field, as fans can't seem to get enough of the popular french fry sandwich. The butty will be seasoned with a garlic lemon butter topping, but otherwise it's the same treat that has been a staple of the menu since the very first TFC game.
Peameal Bacon Sandwich: This unsmoked back bacon treat is a personal favorite of Bartley's that he also feels is one of the city's signature items.
"I go down to the St. Lawrence Market almost every weekend to take a look at what's coming in on the farmers' trucks, and almost every Saturday I stop off and have my favourite peameal bacon sandwich on a kaiser," Bartley said. "So to be able to offer that at the stadium is a unique touch for Toronto. We sell quite a few of these already and it's going to be another stellar year for the peameal bacon sandwich.
"For you and I it's something that's old hat ... but for people who come to Toronto it's a unique sandwich and they can't believe how good it is."
Scotch Egg with Branston Pickle: Another long-time BMO Field fixture, this tennis ball-sized breaded dish is stuffed with sausage meat, ground beef and Branston pickle, with a peeled hard-boiled egg in the middle.
Mac n' Cheese Fritters: "How are you going to serve macaroni and cheese in a stadium?" Bartley queried. "Well, why don't we create it into a fritter or a macaroni and cheese ball? It's made with Bechamel sauce and has tomatoes, smoked bacon and cheddar cheese in it."
Angus Meatball Sandwich: This offering reduced more than a few media members to a state of Homer Simpson-esque drooling. The sandwich consists of freshly-made and seasoned meatballs in a crusty Italian bun, topped with a healthy coat of provolone cheese, tomato sauce and sauteed mushrooms.
Grilled Italian Vegetable Ciabatta: For those who like their food to be on the greener side. "Not everyone wants a big piece of sausage or a hot dog. People are requesting some vegetarian items," Bartley said. "This is going to be served on the sideline barbecues. It's some Italian-style vegetables, eggplant, zucchini peppers that have been seasoned with a lot of herbs and a little bit of garlic. We make a fresh tomato jam, melted provolone cheese and it's all served on a baked Ciabatta bun. So it's kind of like a version of a vegetable panini."
Crispy Chicken Curry Rolls: A nod to Toronto's Indian community, this new dish combines chicken, curry sauce and Basmati rice into a roti wrap for easier eatability while sitting in the BMO Field stands. The rolls are served along with a mango chutney.
Curry Fries: Another bit of Indian flavor that has become a popular dish at many English soccer pitches. A serving of french fries under a coating of vegetarian mango curry sauce.
Meat Pies: Or, as Bartley specified, "good, old-fashioned English meat pies." The pies have been on sale at the Air Canada Centre since the start of hockey season, and are available in three varieties of filling: steak and mushroom, chicken, and vegetarian.
Nathan's Hot Dog: One of the most popular hot dog brands in the United States is coming to Toronto FC games. Bartley said that since over 14,000 hot dogs are sold per season at BMO Field, the MLSE food staff went to great lengths to find the new brand that would be sold at both BMO and the ACC.
"We did a big tasting here in the summertime," Bartley said. "We must've tasted over 100 different kinds of hot dogs. I'm a connisseur of hot dogs now, and I know what brand is best."
Chicken and Shiitake Mushroom Sausage: This offering is made of ground chicken and shiitake mushrooms, yet is still on the same taste level as the traditional beef sausage. The sausage is served with caramelized onions.
Breaded Lamb's Tongue: Bartley said that this dish is still a maybe for the menu, and used the tasting as an opportunity to gauge reaction to the unusual dish.
"The Toronto FC fanbase, we know how passionate and crazy that they are, we thought they might like something equally like that on the menu," Bartley said.
So, what does breaded lamb's tongue taste like? It may be a cliche, but it tasted somewhat like chicken. It will surely be the best tongue that TFC supporters taste at BMO Field --- barring an emotional kiss with the fan in the next seat following a match-winning Reds goal.
Mark Polishuk is a contributor to MLSnet.com.