Back in February, before the coronavirus pandemic took hold and the Blue Wahoos baseball season was cancelled, team chef Travis Wilson had planned a homestand schedule of specially crafted items.
Six months later, he’s continued to use his culinary creative mind to adapt in a challenging time.
In another first-time event, which formed from a brainstorm session with Eric Kroll, the Blue Wahoos’ food and beverage manager, they will present “Taps on the Diamond Dinner” on Aug. 21 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
This will be a five-course meal, complete with serving five varieties of craft beer from Oyster City Brewing Company in Apalachicola.
Yes, the beer will be poured from taps on the infield. The tables will be set between first base and third base.
“It should be a lot of fun,” said Wilson. “I’ve never done anything quite like this before and my hope is to do one of these a month. Maybe focus, too, on some of our local breweries.
“Without us playing baseball, we figured why not use the field for something like this. You can showcase a local brewery, good food and all in a safe way.”
The $90 per-person event will include a first course of oysters, of course, then ceviche, a sushi dish prepared by Wilson’s assistant chef, followed by a pretzel flatbread, spicy Thai chicken main course and peach cobbler for desert. Each will be pared with a different flavored craft beer.
Each person will get their own individual cooler, filled with ice and will able to store the cans to take home.
“The personal coolers will be a nice touch,” Wilson said. “This way, people who may just want to take a couple sips from each beer then can bring it home to put in the refrigerator.”
The event morphed from an idea that Wilson and Kroll had for utilizing the stadium concourse area for this kind of event. But with physical distancing now such an important issue, the plan switched to utilizing the expanse of the field to keep tables far enough apart on the infield area.
“We first envisioned it as a way of utilizing Bubba’s Sand Trap, which sells 10 to 12 different kinds of craft beer and making it a brewery feel,” Wilson said. “And then, as things have changed, it turned into the idea of let’s space some tables out, reach out to a local brewery and see if they want to work with us.
“Oyster City came through and said they wanted to be part of it and sent us some cool, flavored beers and we made a unique menu from that. I am very excited about it.
“I like paring food with beer, because there is so much more flavor than people realize. There are so many different flavors with beer now and you can get very creative.”
Being creative has proven essential with Wilson this season. Normally, there would have been 14 homestands with five games each in the Blue Wahoos schedule. Each one would have offered Wilson the chance to create a specialty item to sell at one of the concession storefronts.
Instead, with no games and an empty stadium, Wilson and Kroll have together produced curbside dining, take-home, and family meal kits that have served more than 17,000 meals, a Mother’s Day and Father’s Day brunch, dining experiences inside the stadium pared with Trivia Night, Bingo Night, along with gourmet food “Diamond Dinners” for takeout.
“It’s been crazy and it’s been tough at times, because I have wanted to unveil some of the items I planned for the season during a stadium dining experience, but you never know if it’s worth preparing all that food and not selling,” Wilson said. “This (Taps on Diamond) is something that piqued my interest because it’s a little more higher end and unique.”
In Wilson’s world, there is an added importance of “staying fresh” with ideas and creative food preparation. He figures his specialty of peach cobbler will be a good way to bring a lasting impression.
“I think after all the other great dishes, it will be a way to end with a bang,” he said, smiling.
Bill Vilona is a retired Pensacola News Journal sports columnist and current senior writer for Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Studer55. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Taps On The Diamond
WHEN: Friday, Aug. 21, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Blue Wahoos Stadium on the infield.
WHAT: Sit down dinner, five course meal, five specialty craft beers from Oyster City Brewing Company in Apalachicola.
COST: $90 per person.
EXTRAS: All guests will be able to play catch on the field or enjoy other activities after the meal.
RAIN POLICY: In event of inclement weather, the dinner will be served at the covered Hancock-Whitney Club level.