The Fort Wayne TinCaps want to know: How do you like them apples?
No, really, how do you like them? The Midwest League club is named after Johnny Appleseed's iconic headwear, after all, so it's only fitting that they offer an "Apple Cart" concession stand on the concourse. Apple pie and apple crisps are both available, but perhaps the highlight is the apple dumpling -- paired with ice cream and covered with caramel.
The apple dumpling, dessert though it may be, was only the first course of a stomach-stuffing meal that I enjoyed at Fort Wayne's Parkview Field on Wednesday evening. As the TinCaps eked out a quick 1-0 win over visiting Dayton, TinCaps culinary director Scott Kammerer gave me a concourse-spanning, 360-degree tour of what his team has to offer.
And apples are evident throughout, from the aforementioned Apple Cart to apple butter-based barbeque sauce at the Bases Loaded Barbeque stand to Manzana's Mexican Grill ("manzana" is Spanish for apple, of course).
Such creativity comes easy for the TinCaps, who take pride in running their own concessions (as opposed to contracting out to a third-party operation).
"The thing I love is that if one of our carts isn't doing well, then we can switch it out," said Kammerer. "We make as many items as we can in-house, because we like to call things our own and know exactly what went into it. We don't want to offer things that people think they can get somewhere else."
And the Apple Dumplings were just the start. Some other highlights of Wednesday's culinary journey:
Brisket sandwich: Chicken and pulled pork were also on offer at Bases Loaded Barbeque, but I opted for the brisket. Thinly sliced and slathered with the team's tangy and tart apple butter-based barbeque sauce, this is one of the best sandwiches one is liable to find at a professional baseball stadium.
Smoked turkey leg: The Center Field Grill is situated in a part of the stadium that gets far less foot traffic than the areas located in close proximity to home plate. Nonetheless, it's worth the trek if you're a fan of the primal caveman-like thrill that accompanies the consumption of a turkey leg. Get a good grip and start gnawing.
Cincinnati chili dog: It's not quite Skyline Chili, but Kemmerer and his staff tried their hardest to emulate the taste of Cincinnati's most popular dish. The sweet, finely ground chili is slathered on a hot dog bun and topped with diced onions and shredded cheese.
Philly cheesesteak: At the Hot Corner Grill, the TinCaps do their best to re-create yet another famous regional specialty -- the Philly Cheesesteak. While the club lacks Amoroso's rolls and Cheese Whiz (many Philadelphians swear by both), they do a commendable job of combining chopped meat, onions, peppers and three cheeses (American, Swiss and Provolone) into a cohesive and addictively tasty sandwich.
The items detailed above still represent just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to what was on offer, but my stomach just couldn't take anymore. Clearly, the days of ballpark food consisting of a boiled hot dog and stale popcorn have long since passed.
"What it all comes down to is making the fans happy," said TinCaps food and beverage director Bill Lehn. "It sounds corny, but it's true."