Photo by n0wak from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
Stadium food, generally, sucks. Not only is it uninspired—nachos, cheese, and society-sanctioned violence, together at last—but it’s so bloody expensive that we wouldn’t be surprised if they started taking internal organs as payment.
What a welcome development, then, when BMO Field and Toronto FC decided to mix it up and commit to bringing a variety of stadium edibles that “incorporate food from countries where soccer is part of the culture and reflect Toronto’s multicultural makeup.” We decided to give them a year to work out the kinks, wrapped our necks in team-appropriate scarves, and followed the throngs to see if the hottest new team in Toronto also serves up the hottest new food.
- Curry Fries. Take some french fries, take some yellow curry sauce, and combine. Pubby!
- Chip Butty. Take a loaf of white bread—size of your choosing—cut it open, and slather with butter. Fill opening with chips. It should be noted that you could use the same deep-fried potato chunks you’d use for the Curry Fries, but then you wouldn’t be using the British appellation, and would therefore lose out on the pretense factor.
- Jamaican Patty. Obtain neon yellow pastry, and fill with meat and/or vegetative miscellany. Make sure the filling is both smooth and mysterious.
- Pulled Pork Sandwich. Cook pork for an extended period of time, break apart, add your preferred sauce, and throw it on a bun. As an aside, the pork does not have to actually be thrown; it can also be slapped or, for the more faint-hearted, gently placed.
- Portability. Is it easy to eat? Sufficiently wrapped and/or contained? Does it work well within the context of “stadium”?
- Flavour. Is it tasty?
- Ethnic Veracity. Is it an authentic experience? Does it taste the way it should, if you had, let’s say, actually gotten it from a restaurant that specializes in this particular foodstuff?
- Value. A good portion for a fair price? High quality?
For stadium food, we were pretty impressed with the prices. Then again, we didn’t try the 12-dollar boiled hot dog.
Jamaican Patty ($2.50); Chip Butty ($3.50); Curry Fries ($4.20); Pulled Pork Sandwich ($7.50).
- Portability. Jamaican Patty—9/10. The handy envelope prevents any spill-o-fill.
- Flavour. TIE: Jamaican Patty and Pulled Pork Sandwich—8.5/10. Super meaty joy and brightly-encased Jamaican flavours reign supreme.
- Ethnic Veracity. Jamaican Patty—10/10. It was actually served to us by a nice lady who possessed not only a Jamaica lapel pin, but also a distinct West Indian accent. Logic then follows—authentic.
- Value. Jamaican Patty—9/10. The change you get when breaking bills for beer is sufficient.
We need to preface our concluding remarks by stating the following: some of the culinary delights ingested during this challenge were unfamiliar to us and to our own cultural heritage. Also, while only one of the contestants won, we would accept any of these as gifts, as they were all, in their own unique way, yums.
The lowest scoring contestants of our challenge were a tie—the chip butty and the curry fries. For the sake of alphabetization, we’ll start with the chip butty. Of all our contestants, this one was the most foreign. Individually, we are friendly with all the ingredients—chips, white bread, and butter all have a place in our foodie repertoire. We just didn’t know how to react to all these pieces put together, or, really, why they would be put together. Some quick background research has revealed that this is a traditional North British pub food, and that apparently there is even a song devoted to its delightful greasiness. The chip butty originally up on offer at BMO Field caused some fans to be disconcerted—it included a garlic aioli—and so they changed it to the more classic format. The portion at BMO field is generous—you get two individual butties per serving—and it scored high on the ethno-veracity scale. Still, perhaps our lack of British blood failed us, because we didn’t really get the hype. Sure, it’s pretty tasty, but it’s seriously sauce-dependent and was a wee bit dry. At the end of day, it is what it is. If it’s your thing, you’re probably going to love it.
The curry fries at BMO field have a lot going for them. They’re a fair size at 4ish dollars, with a big dollop o’ curry on top, and though we’re pretty sure that most people in India aren’t eating this, it certainly seemed pubbish, and the sauce, with its hint of spice, was tasty. While the hand-to-cup delivery system seemed at first near flawless, once we got towards the bottom things got messy, as the sauce distribution system isn’t quite perfected. Add to this that the sauce itself looks remarkably like vomit, and you’ve got a potential “situation” on your hands. We did, and would again, suffer through multiple napkins for this contestant, but it would be a whole lot easier to just serve it in a more practical container. As it stands, either hope your napkins don’t blow away, a fate we endured, or just grab a fork.
The South shall rise again! We know. This is supposed to be “Cubano,” but we can’t take the South out of the pork. So while soccer may not be huge, per se, in Tennessee, we still got pretty excited about finding our second-place contestant, a pulled pork sandwich, at a stadium. At over seven dollars, our expectations were high, and on the whole we were impressed. This sandwich is quite large and chockers with meat, making the price tag pretty forgivable. While for some members of our judging panel, which isn’t fully carnivorous, found the meatiness to almost be too much, many fans will be delighted at this BBQ’d carnage. This is well pulled meat, the sauce was spot on, and though it was pretty messy, “disastrously so” in the words of one judge, on a whole it was agreed to be worth the serviette sacrifice. This sandwich is not for you if you aren’t a serious meat eater, and it’s also not, in our opinion, very culturally relevant for soccer, but if you like the idea of seven dollars worth of saucy pork on a kaiser, then friends, we have found the sandwich for you.
How could we go wrong with our winner, the Jamaican patty, when we could have gotten three of them for the price of one of the pulled pork sandwiches? Torontoist has, in its gourmandian history, eaten many a Jamaican patty, and while we have enjoyed them, as a sort of half-nasty guilty pleasure, we had never had one as tasty as we did at BMO Field. Served in a handy paper pocket on which “Ja Patty” was emblazoned in red, making it the easiest of our contestants to consume, this contestant looked, upon initial inspection, to be no different than many other patties we’d met in our travels. A little on the thin side, the shape was the standard half-moon and the colour was as jaundiced as they get. We took a bite and were overwhelmed by the taste—like a patty epiphany! Released from their flaky prison, the mystery innards were sensational. We were overjoyed to note not only meat and vegetative miscellany, but also some distinct hobo-spiciness not yet encountered in patty form. We have no idea what was in this contestant, but it was delicious and, so, we trust that it was only the most top quality cuts of, well, whatever it was. And, as we’ve already stated in the results section, you only need the leftover coinage from your king can of Carlsberg to purchase one of these Jamaican delights. With food like this on offer, who needs popcorn? Holla!
Photos of our contestants by Julie Reitsma.