Freelancer Feasts on Allianz Field Food for Football Fans

For those not familiar, I have previously for levity reviewed food offered by Deleware North in Allianz Field’s premium seating areas. I love food, all kinds of food. So when Northland Soccer’s Bridget McDowell said I could go the 2024 Media Tasting at Allianz Field this year, I almost ran into the kitchen and made my carnitas recipe to celebrate — almost.

“That’s something that Bill McGuire has … given us as as a directive: to be able to connect to the community around us and in particular, some of the food offerings that we have. It’s a super diverse community around Allianz Field. We’ve been happy to be able to bring some of those businesses that may not otherwise have opportunities to get into another stadiums … and remove some barriers to entry for them. [We] get an opportunity to showcase not only their food, but their culture and to connect with community members.” — Eric Durkee, MNUFC Senior Director of PR

Barry McCabe has worked for Delaware North for 14 years. In July 2022 he became the general manager for Delaware North’s food and beverage service at Allianz Field. He started the event by introducing some global and local partners. I’ll get to the details on the food partners, but he also mentioned the beverage partners: Pepsi, new-this-year Wild State Cider (Duluth), Castle Danger (Two Harbors), Lupulin (Big Lake), Molson Coors, and Jose Cuervo.

You Can Never Make It Alone

Chef Adam Rietsma discusses the 2024 food offerings at the Media Tasting event on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

McCabe then introduced Allianz Field’s new executive chef, Adam Reitsma. Reitsma grew up in Mankato and worked in bars and restaurants there before attending the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. His experience out east included working for a catering company and as a chocolatier.  In 2016 he became the sous chef at US Bank Stadium. Reitsma said, “I learned so much from that: the volume, the food, the quality, the ups, the downs, everything.” With the COVID pandemic limiting sports and entertainment venues, Reitsma’s next stop was  Sioux Falls, SD, where Michelin Star chef Bryan Moscatello was opening Harvester Kitchen. However, Reitsma was able to return to large-volume sports venues when he went to Churchill Downs. Reitsma said, “We did 271,000 people on just [Kentucky] Derby day.”

As the new head chef at Allianz Field, Reitsma described his role as an “avatar in a way of that representation for people to enjoy a lot of the food the partners are creating, and I replicate for them … because they can’t all be touching all 19,000 fans, right? But it’s my job to touch 19,000 fans.”

I have to admit my ignorance here. It never occurred to me that at a sporting venue, the local vendors do not make hundreds of their food items themselves. That said, all the food was tasty to varying degrees. While I cannot comment on everything offered, I want highlight my favorites and one disappointment.

Capped Teeth and Non-Caesar Salad

What: Jalapeño Popper Power Salad
From: Roots for the Home Team
Where: Roots Concession Cart, Section 29
Grade: A
Improvement: Serve some herb garlic dressing on the side too.

Roots for the Home Team jalapeño popper power salad at the Media Tasting event on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

This salad has red onion, zucchini, carrot, tomato, and jalapeño all diced and tossed with quinoa, corn, and chopped cilantro. The Herb Garlic Dressing brings it all together and is vegan. This creamy mixture is not overdressed and added to some fresh greens. Like this salad, Roots for the Home Team is a unique organization that brings a lot great things together. Read more about them here.

When Children Rule The World

What: Red Baron Pizza
From: Red Baron from Schwan’s Company
Where: Nice Slice World Fares, Sections 12 & 29
Grade: B

Red Baron Pizza at the Media Tasting event on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

It’s Red Baron pizza. Schwan’s started the Red Baron pizza line in the 1970s. Our media tasting menu says, “with Special toppings each match.” For the testing we were given Pepperoni, Cheese, and Philly Cheesesteak Pizzas. The pepperoni was bit spicier than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The Cheesesteak Pizza feature thinly sliced beef, bell pepper, and onion, and was delicious.

You Must Love Me

What: Beef Empanada and Vegetable Empanada
From: Quebracho
Where: Street Fare, Section 10
Grade: A
Improvement: salsa or chimichurri or dipping sauce would elevate these

Quebracho empanada at the Media Tasting event on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

If you have not tried empanadas, imagine a half-moon shaped dumpling filled with delicious warmth. They come from the Andean region of South America. Belén Rodríguez moved from Argentina to St. Paul and originally worked as a Spanish translator in the health and science fields. She grew her empanada business from selling at a farmers market to closing contracts with co-ops, Kowalski’s, and Cub Foods around the Twin Cities.

The beef empanada has green olives, hard-boiled egg, cumin, and paprika. The vegetable version is stuffed with spinach, ricotta cheese, garlic, nutmeg, and black pepper. Both have multiple textures and flavor profiles to make my mouth happy.

Time To Play

What: Cubano Sandwich
From: Chef Adam Reitsma
Where: Street Fare, Section 36
Grade: B+
Improvement: pickled banana peppers

With all the other vendors’ recipes Chef Adam Reitsma must make in volume, it’s nice to see him have some fun.

“I take whole oranges, lemons limes. We put it in a pan, and we roast the whole thing the whole pork shoulder for about four and a half hours and get it nice and golden. So we’ve developed a lot of those carmelized notes.” — Adam Reitsma

Add ham, Swiss, pickles, and Dijon Mustard on a Ciabatta Roll, and you have a tasty Cubano.

Off Ramp Exit to Paradise

What: Cranberry Wild Rice Bratwurst with Jalapeño Jam
From: Grand Casino
Where: Grand Casino Brew Hall
Grade: A-
Improvement: stone-ground mustard

Grand Casino cranberry wild rice bratwurst with jalapeño jam at the Media Tasting event on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

You don’t have to drive all the way to Hinckley to get a taste of Grand Casino, unless you’re wanting to play slot machines. For those midwesterners who think cranberry or wild rice in bratwurst is too much, you might not taste those aspects if they weren’t in the name. The Jalapeño jam was the perfect compliment: think pickle relish texture but tastier. Oh, it’s not that spicy either.

The Moments of Happiness

What: United Bowl
From: Union Hmong Kitchen
Where: Street Fare, Section 16
Grade: A+
Improvement: fresh sliced jalapeño option

Union Hmong Kitchen’s United Bowl — photo by Matthew Johnson

They marinade a chicken thigh in a coconut ginger vinaigrette for two and half hours, then grill off the marinade to create some caramelization on the outside. They also pickle vegetables in-house which provided that acid flavor profile I like so much. With some rice noodles, fresh cucumber slices, shredded cabbage, and cilantro, this is one refreshing, healthy noodle bowl for the hot months. This hit all the textures: crunchy vegetables, soft noodles, The extra coconut ginger vinaigrette dressing brings the poultry, noodles, and vegetables together for delicious flavors.


Matthew Johnson tries the Roots for the Home Team salad at the Media Tasting event on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

Union Hmong Kitchen chef Yia Vang got his first taste of Allianz Field being a featured chef in the premium Field Club area.

“Then throughout every year, we just kind of build the relationship, build the relationship, and then literally got an email a few months ago that says, ‘Hey, we’d love to see what this would look like.’ And so the first thing we thought about was like, man, if I’m here at peak soccer season in the summer, what do you want? … A nice chill bowl of noodles., right, with some chicken on it and a lot of herbs and great fresh vegetables with a good ginger coconut vinaigrette.” — Chef Yia Vang

Chef Adam Reitsma called this his “favorite dish right now,” and I agree.

What’s the Buzz/Strange Thing, Mystifying

What: Turkey Sub
From: The Herbivorous Butcher
Where: Global Street Grill, Section 16
Grade: A-
Improvement: pickle the red onions

If no one told you that the cheese and meat on this sandwich are plant-based, you probably couldn’t tell. I talked with The Herbivorous Butcher‘s district manager Erinn Mueller and kitchen manager Collin Sandoe. When I asked how the sandwich was chosen, Sandoe replied, “We gave them multiple options of different sandwiches to try, and this is the one that most of the [kitcfhen] team at Allianz liked. Mueller added, “Last year it was a steak sandwich that was Tofu based. So this year they wanted to we wanted to give them the option of having one of our [vegan] meats.”

“80% of our meats kind of start as a dough. It’s made with high protein wheat flour. And then we make it into a dough, and we process it in various ways. So for the turkey, we roll them into balls, and then we boil them in water. And then we drizzle soy sauce and olive oil on and bake them to get a nice like, salty outer golden crust on the turkeys. And then we slice them the next day when they’re cool, as thinly as possible: it’s nice to have really thin turkey.” — Collin Sandoe

The garlic mayo was creamy but not overpowering and the fresh arugula and red onion balance the warm and heavy turkey-cheddar-roll with cool and light vegetables.

All I Ask Of You

What: Korean-style Crunch Chicken with Sweet and Spicy Sauce
From: Bibigo from Schwan’s Company
Where: Global Street Grill, Section 16
Grade: C
Improvements: ugh, read below

Bibigo (Korean-style crunchy chicken on a bed of fried rice) at the Media Tasting event on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

Last year, Minnesota United helped to promote Schwan’s Bibigo Korean line with Sang Bin Jeong, Bongokuhle Hlongwane, and Dayne St. Clair. They made some of their mini wontons (dumplings) with a gochujang (Korean sweet and spicy) sauce. As a Korean American, this was a fun intersection of Korean culture and soccer.

I understand the challenge of trying to make complex Korean flavors marketable to upper-midwest palates, but Korean fried chicken shouldn’t need that much help. While the sweet and spicy sauce for this dish may have used some gochujang, the end product comes off as a Chinese sweet-n-sour to me. Without belaboring my issues with Chinesifying Korean anything, there are other directions Chef Adam Reitsma could have gone. If a more traditional gochujang sauce or bulgolgi (Korean barbecue) seemed too unfamiliar for the masses, a fusion with southern barbecue would have been a nice twist. Imagine a Kentucky Bourbon Bulgolgi Barbecue Chicken. I am right now and wish that was this dish.

The Fried Rice was a nice compliment, but if you making something Korean more like Chinese food, go further with the fried rice. Sauceless rice with vegetables came off very dry and bland. Mix some soysauce, cornstarch, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil — maybe add some scrambled egg ribbons before you pass it off as “fried rice.”

All this said, the chicken and sauce were tasty — albeit too sweet for me. I think most will like it and not care about the naming. If you try it, please let me know what you think.

Sadly, I did not get to try the Cry Baby Craig’s Hot Honey Kicken Chicken Sandwich (Fry Club, Section 24) or El Sazón Quesabirria (like a quesadilla, Grill, Section 36). However, others that did really liked both.

The Summer Game

The home opener is hours away. With several injuries, will Minnesota United pull together a potent lineup? Regardless, I like the food lineup this year. Like the soccer team, the food comes from diverse backgrounds with different strengths and weaknesses. And like some players, some of the Allianz Field food offerings need a little more seasoning, but most are ready for prime time.


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