Postseason practice stood Aramark in good stead when feeding the crowds at the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Jan. 2. The Aramark team at the park started planning the menu three months ago and was there to warm fans up with hot food options on Monday.
“We frequently have postseason games at Citizens Bank Park, so our staff is familiar with hosting an event of this magnitude,” said Brian Hastings, Aramark regional operations director. Hastings explained that the cold weather required the Aramark team to adjust the menu to add some hot food items for the Winter Classic.
Aramark Senior Executive Chef Glenn Richmond said the food options were mostly inspired by the winter season and the city of Philadelphia.
“You know it’s going to be cold so you want to feature things that are going to complement the weather,” said Richmond. Examples were two soups and two panini available at five stands on the main concourse and premium areas. The soup options were $6 each and included tomato bisque, chicken, cannellini bean and Tuscan kale. The panini options were $10 each and included maple-roasted turkey or whole grain mustard marinated petit filet and Vermont cheddar grilled cheese.
The game, originally scheduled to start at 1 p.m., was delayed until 3 p.m. due to weather. “Thanks in part to the later start times and cool temperatures, we nearly doubled our hot chocolate sales projections,” said Jeremy Campbell, Aramark director of Concessions at Citizens Bank Park.
Hot chocolate was available on the main concourse for $4.50. Flyers-inspired hot chocolate was $5, which was topped with whipped cream and orange sprinkles and drizzled with chocolate syrup. Hot apple pies ($3.50), s’mores ($3.50), coffee and tea were sold at select hot chocolate stands as well. Gina’s Cupcakes provided three different kinds of cupcakes for the event: red velvet, a cannoli cupcake with cannoli cream, chocolate chips and broken cannoli shells, and a Flyers-inspired vanilla cupcake with orange and black sprinkles. There were 275 points of sale throughout the park, including the Hall of Fame Club.
Richmond developed a comfort food menu for guests dining in the Hall of Fame Club and the suites. While the menu was influenced by local flavors, obtaining local ingredients is sometimes a challenge in cold weather. “We try to buy as much produce as we can locally. Winter is a little bit tough,” said Richmond. One of the new specialty items on the menu was the Broad Street Bullies breakfast sandwich, which used applewood smoked slab bacon, cage-free eggs and melted cheddar. Also available in the premium areas was a lobster salad BLT, which Richmond described as lobster on a grilled roll with oil-cured tomatoes and bacon and micro celery greens.
Other items on the comfort food menu were slow roasted pork sandwiches, skirt steak sandwiches, and a Victory Lager braised beef brisket.
“You think of winter time, you think of braised meats,” said Richmond. “Beer is a nice combination when you’re braising meat, especially beef. We make a veal stock and we slow cook that brisket for a couple of hours.” The brisket was served with a horseradish mustard. “We also added a couple things that are inspired by New York since we’re playing the Rangers,” said Richmond. These items included pastrami and corned beef, “things you’d find in a New York deli.”
Premium-area diners were able to choose from butterscotch bread pudding with a bourbon crème anglaise provided by a local company, Tastykake; cupcakes, cookies stuffed with chocolate ganache, hazelnut or spiced butter cream; or gourmet hot chocolate made with steamed whole milk, Belgian chocolate and mini marshmallows for dessert.
Even fans without tickets were welcome to Spectator Plaza outside the park, where food options included Bassett’s Original Memphis BBQ, Chef Jose Garces’ taco truck, Guapos Tacos, and Nomad Pizza Company’s pizza truck. Aramark projected that fans would purchase about 12,000 cups of hot chocolate, and nearly doubled that number on Monday. The panini and cupcakes were also popular, surpassing Aramark’s sales estimates.
Interviewed for this article: Glenn Richmond, (215) 409-7403; Brian Hastings, (267) 570-2300; Jeremy Campbell, (267) 570-2300