Home plates: Camden Yards' 'bring your own' policy appeals to foodies, thrifty fans

For The Baltimore Sun

On a recent Sunday, the Young family was prepared with everything they needed to enjoy an afternoon ballgame at Camden Yards: tickets to the game, layers of clothing and several grocery bags stuffed with Utz potato chips and other snacks.

Like many other Orioles fans entering the park that day, the Youngs were taking advantage of Camden Yard's liberal "bring your own food" policy, allowing fans to carry in just about any meal they can cook up — with a few container limitations and a ban on outside alcohol.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards has one of the least restrictive food policies in Major League Baseball. Visitors to the Washington Nationals' ballpark cannot pack their food in most metal, plastic or glass containers. At Yankee Stadium, foods like apples and oranges must be sliced or sectioned. Pittsburgh Pirates fans heading to certain club- and suite-level seats are not permitted to bring their own food at all.

But at Camden Yards, most foods and drinks (other than alcohol) are allowed, except in glass containers and cans, according to Greg Bader, Orioles vice president of communications and marketing. Drink containers must be sealed and not previously opened.

"As far as food, as long as you bring a container that fits in a 16 by 16 by 8 [inch] box, you can bring it in," said Bader. That includes food stored in soft-sided coolers and bags. (Hard-sided coolers are not allowed.)

For families like the Youngs, the decision to bring their own food is driven by a few factors. First on the list is economics.

"For a family, it's very expensive," said Jeannette Young, who attends Orioles games with her husband, Jason, her son Jeremy and his wife, Ngozi. "You pay for tickets and parking — it's costly, especially if you're a season ticketholder or going more than once."

The cost differential between food purchased outside and inside the park can be significant. Inside the park, a 1.5-ounce bag of Utz chips costs $2.50; at a local Giant Food store, a three-ounce bag — emblazoned with the Oriole bird — costs $1.59. On the Utz website, savvy shoppers can find a six-pack of three-ounce bags of chips for $8.94, or $1.49 per bag.

Keeping O's games accessible is one of the motivations behind the loose policy, said Bader.

"We are driven by the concept that we want Orioles baseball to be affordable to everyone," he said. "As part of that experience, we keep ticket prices as low as possible and concession prices as low as possible, but we also feel that allowing fans to bring their own food and drink help larger groups and families."

It also allows O's fans the flexibility to choose different foods for each game — or foods not sold at ballpark concession stands.

"We get to bring in what we want. And it varies," said Jeanette's daughter-in-law, Ngozi Young, 30. "Today, it's just snacks — chips, fruit snacks and trail mix."

"But once we brought cheesesteaks," added her husband, Jeremy, also 30.

Chef Raymond Lee, owner of Truffle Butta Bistro in Towson and soon-to-open Truffle Butta Express in Woodlawn, sees value — economic and otherwise — in making food at home to carry into the park.

"You can save a lot of money and get a better quality of food," he said. "It's better for your wallet and you made it yourself, so you can share with your friends and family."

The best foods to bring in will share a few characteristics, he said. "It should be something easy and something you can hold. You may have a cooler, but you want it ... to be something that can be eaten cold or at room temperature."

Lee also recommends dishes that aren't too heavy, like interesting salads.

"Salads can fill you up and also be good for the outdoors. They're light as well," he said. "You don't want to go to the game and be uncomfortable."

For diehard fans, there's another reason to bring your own, Lee said: "You don't have to leave your seats!"

Those who don't want to cook at home also have the option of picking up food and carrying it into the park.

Hersh's Pizza & Drinks chef and owner Josh Hershkovitz uses O's games as an opportunity to try items from different local restaurants. For games, Hershkovitz recommends the Old World Italian sub from DiPasquale's, which opened a location in Harborview, not far from Camden Yards, last week.

"On Sundays at the farmer's market, I love going to Blacksauce and getting a biscuit sandwich," Hershkovitz said of another favorite ballpark meal. "It's easy to carry."

On Opening Day this year, Hershkovitz stopped by BRD at R. House food hall in Remington before the game and picked up a B'more Bird sandwich to carry in.

Alex Janian, the owner of BRD, notes that the B'more Bird sandwich captures the essence of ballgame food.

"Growing up in Baltimore, I went to a lot of O's games. We had the typical hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers. As you get older, maybe you want to try new things but stay in the realm of comfort food," he said. "You can still get that nostalgic comfort food experience with 'real' food."

When Myth & Moonshine Chef Kevin Cauthorne was a kid, he loved going to Orioles games with his grandfather and chowing down on stadium food.

"There's just something about the pizza, the hot dogs, the popcorn," he said. "It's part of the stadium experience."

Today, those foods bring back good memories. As a chef, he suggests bringing in your own condiments — like Old Bay-tinged buffalo sauce or Cajun remoulade (see recipes) — to dress up food purchased in the stadium.

But even proponents of bringing in outside food say that when it comes to stadium fare, Camden Yards has some of the best.

Clarksville resident Lori Szeliga and her husband, David, have carried in foods like peanuts and subs this season. But they count themselves lucky, as Orioles fans, to have Camden Yards food vendors available.

"They've got the best food here," said Lori Szeliga. "We've been to Cleveland, Philly, Boston. We are biased, but this is the best."

"We have crab cakes," added David Szeliga. "Crab cakes!"

Camden Yards condiment kit

B'more buffalo sauce

Yields 2 cups

2 cups hot sauce

1 clove fresh garlic, diced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

4 tablespoons malt vinegar

3 tablespoons Old Bay

½ tablespoon dried thyme

½ tablespoon dried oregano

1 ½ tablespoons honey

Combine all ingredients and let them sit for at least one day, to let the flavors meld.

Cajun remoulade

Yields 2 cups

2 cups mayonnaise

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon blackening seasoning

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ tablespoon capers, diced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ clove fresh garlic, diced

1 tablespoon cumin

½ tablespoon coriander

½ tablespoon granulated onion

¼ tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon cilantro, diced

Combine all ingredients except for mayonnaise, then fold into mayonnaise until completely combined.

Honey mustard

Yields 1 ½ cups

1 cup Dijon mustard

½ cup honey

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ tablespoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Recipes courtesy of Myth & Moonshine Chef Kevin Cauthorne

Brussels slaw with grilled chicken

Yield 4 servings

3 4-ounce chicken breasts

1 pound Brussels sprouts

2 carrots, peeled and shredded

4 ounces honey

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare and light grill. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then grill over medium heat until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes per side. Set cooked chicken aside to cool.

De-core Brussels sprouts and julienne so they are sliced very thin.

In a separate bowl, mix honey, mayonnaise and yellow mustard. Set aside.

When chicken is fully cooked, chop into half-inch cubes and set aside.

Place Brussels sprouts in a bowl and add wet mixture of honey, mayonnaise and mustard, tossing until the sprouts are completely covered.

Add the chicken, toss to coat and evenly distribute. Season with salt and pepper then serve.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Raymond Lee, Truffle Butta Bistro

Farro with roasted Brussels sprouts and mushrooms

Yields 4 servings

1 cup farro

2 cups chicken broth

4 ounces Brussels sprouts

2 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 ounce olive oil

Juice of one small lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a medium sauce pan over high heat.

Add farro and cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Cover and lower heat to a simmer, simmering until tender, about 25-30 minutes. When tender, remove from heat and allow farro to cool.

Quarter and de-core Brussels sprouts.

In a mixing bowl, combine sprouts, mushrooms and olive oil and toss to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the mushroom and Brussels sprouts mixture on a sheet pan and roast in the oven until the vegetables start to brown, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow vegetables to cool to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, combine farro and vegetables, dress with lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Raymond Lee, Truffle Butta Bistro

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