Football without food: It’s like a country song without a cheater, a politician without a lobbyist, a Kardashian without bling.
Football and food are inextricably linked. Industry wonks keep track of how many million pounds of guacamole are consumed at sports bars and house parties on Super Bowl Sunday, and anyone who’s ever known a tailgater has known somebody willing to barbecue to the death. As for stadium food, it’s made huge strides in recent years as the collective American palate has evolved, with the traditional hot dog and peanut standards at concourse food outlets appearing cheek by jowl with sushi and charcuterie.
With the NFL season kicking off Thursday, it’s time to think about football in Las Vegas. Right now we have UNLV and local high school games, but in a few years the Raiders will make their move and we’ll have our very own NFL team. Much attention is being paid to the future stadium, the tickets, the parking, the traffic, the makeup of the team itself. But football fans love their food, so we asked readers and chefs to weigh in with some ideas for what they’d like to see served in the new stadium. Mark Davis, we hope you’re listening.
Michael Demers, executive chef at M Resort, is a man who’s spent some time in stadiums, having followed the New York Jets since he was in seventh grade in 1981. Demers concedes that “core items,” like hot dogs, nachos and popcorn, will always be around, but adds, “stadium food is trending to flavor-focused and beyond the basics.” Accordingly, Demers has come up with a long list of ideas.
The Long Bomb, which Demers said is a twist on an Oakland Coliseum favorite: It would be a 16-inch cheddar-beer bratwurst on a toasted artisan pretzel baguette with bacon-tomato jam and hazelnut ale mustard sauce. If that’s not fancy enough for you, Demers suggests the 10-ounce Ultimate Bacon Burger, made with lean Black Angus beef blended with ground pork belly and topped with crispy chicharron-dusted onion rings and aged white cheddar on a toasted bacon-cheddar roll.
Demers didn’t forget hot-dog lovers, suggesting a Sonoran dog, a variation gaining ground with tubesteak fans. This one would be a foot-long all-beef hot dog wrapped in bacon, topped with beans, avocado, cheese, onions, tomatoes and guacatillo (tomatillo guacamole) and drizzled with mayonnaise on a fresh bolillo.
And corn: Demers suggests elote (also known as Mexican street corn), fire-roasted ears rubbed with chili-lime mayo and rolled in crumbled cotija cheese.
Matt Piekarski, executive chef at Beer Park at Paris Las Vegas, likes the idea of roasted corn, too. Piekarski also would serve barbecue — not a cook with a hibachi but an “on-site, large interactive barbecue station with an open pit and smoker” that would even be capable of smoking whole animals, presumably including pigs.
William DeMarco, chef at La Cave Wine and Food Hideaway at Wynn Las Vegas and La Comida, also favors barbecue.
“Not barbecue mixed in with a burger and hot dog stand,” he said, “I’m talking about real good barbecue — burnt ends, pulled pork, sliced brisket, baby back ribs.”
Jaret Blinn, chef/owner of Craftkitchen in Henderson and a self-described “big sports fan” who promises to switch “some” loyalty from the 49ers to the Raiders when the bad boys hit town, also likes the idea of pork, but would do it with a porchetta sandwich with broccoli rabe and melted cheese on semolina bread. Or beef on weck, that Buffalo standard of beef au jus on a caraway-sprinkled “weck” roll with horseradish cream.
Jamie Tran, chef/partner of The Black Sheep, also has pork and beef suggestions, but with an Asian twist, such as a mini Japanese kurobuta sausage corn dog with spicy tonkatsu ketchup, or beef belly chili nachos with house-pickled jalapenos, sharp white cheddar and a fried crispy egg.
DeMarco also suggests tacos such as sea bass, shrimp and pork, ceviche and “real pizza, not that pre-cooked pizza that is finished on a conveyor belt.”
“Milkshakes would be awesome,” he added. “I don’t think I have ever seen those at a game.”
Chef James Richards of Table 10 at the Palazzo favors kobe beef corn dogs with black-truffle emulsion.
“Las Vegas may be upscale, but there’s still no better way to eat while standing than food on a stick,” he said.
Which may be the same reason Demers suggested Waffle Pops — specifically 1964 World’s Fair waffle batter on a large stick — and s’mores pops.
A couple of readers weighed in, too, with themed suggestions. Ann Brown suggested Vegas Vic Spicy Nuts, shrimp-cocktail dip and prime rib sliders. Mitch LaFortune suggested nachos served in a Raiders souvenir helmet, and a Las Vegas-style buffet.
And Bryan Forgione, executive chef of Buddy V’s Ristorante at the Grand Canal Shoppes, had a strong opinion.
“I’m a homegrown Giants fan, and when I go to see them here in my backyard there better be some damn good sausage and pepper heroes,” he said. “I looked forward to them every game I went to, and it’s one of the best beer/food combos.”
Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.