Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: Notre Dame Yankee Stadium (page 1 of 2)

Notre Dame vs Army – Yankee Stadium

The Notre Dame versus Army game in Yankee Stadium had been circled on my calendar for the better part of a year. It’s arguably the most historic matchup in College Football history, and in 1924 served as inspiration for some of the most famous and elegant sports words ever penned.

 

“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.”

 

If you’ve never read the entire article by Grantland Rice, I would encourage you to visit the link below. The entire piece is absolute breathtaking prose.

 

http://archives.nd.edu/research/texts/rice.htm

 

Yankee Stadium is certainly one of the most unique neutral site venues that one could witness a College Football game, and I relished the opportunity to share it with some of my closest friends who call New York home. If nothing else, it’s probably one of only a handful of College Football games accessed by a subway ride. For all the appeal, however, I had some initial reservations about Notre Dames’ chosen barnstorming matchup.

 

New York is place that knows absolutely nothing about College Football. The nearest school of any football merit is probably Rutgers, and that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. It’s a baseball town first and foremost, and on the list of sports priorities, CFB is considerably far down the ladder. Additionally, part of me couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a replica game being played in a replica stadium.

 

The games between Notre Dame and Army in the 40’s are silvery legends, and stand to this day as some of the most vaunted games in College Football history. During this heyday, both Army and Notre Dame were the national powerhouses in the game. Today, however, Army is largely irrelevant in the College Football landscape and Notre Dame struggles to maintain some semblance of its former legacy. As such it’s a replica game attempting to dredge up the history between two former greats.

 

Furthermore, the “new” Yankee Stadium is basically a replica of the Old Yankee Stadium. It was designed and built to look exactly like the old one, but lacks the tradition, grit and history of the old ballpark. The Hard Rock Café was proof enough that things are a bit too shiny and commercial inside for my taste. Is this a ballpark or a casino? It’s essentially a full sized Disneyfied model of the old venue. Game announcers and video vignettes kept annoyingly referring to it as “The House That Ruth Built”, which was both egregiously misinformed and enraging because Babe Ruth never played there. Neither did Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle nor Mattingly for that matter.

When I stepped inside Yankee Stadium, however, my mood changed. Despite my staunch opposition to all things Yankee, the field itself actually looked pretty good. Cozily tucked within the confines of a baseball field, it was disorienting to look at without the diamond to serve as a reference point. Furthermore, I saw a mix fans from all walks of life draped in Irish gear, many of whom I could tell may never be able to make the pilgrimage to South Bend to watch their beloved Irish play in person. At that point the magnitude of the game dawned on me. This wasn’t just about playing a football game, this was about bringing the legend and spirit of Notre Dame to one of the biggest stages and brightest spotlights in the world. While the luster of the Gold helmets may not be shining as brightly of late, Notre Dame is still the only program in the country with the status to christen the gridiron of a place like Yankee Stadium.

Under that context, the game on the field was almost secondary to the significance of the venue and spotlight. Army scored first following an endzone interception, and their option rushing attack carved up the Irish defense on the initial drive. That would be the last of the threat from the Black Knights on the day, however, as the Irish defense stiffened up and shut out Army for the rest of the game. After the initial interception, the Notre Dame offense put together a handful of clean, well executed drives with a precision that has been all to rare this year. Led by bulldozer senior running back Robert Hughes, the Irish showed remarkable offensive balance and a formidable running game, the likes of which had been sorely lacking all season. In the end, they cruised to a 27-3 victory in front of a crowd of 54,251.

Despite my initial reservations, I was actually quite captivated by the Notre Dame visit to Yankee Stadium. It’s an environment that transcends a mere football game, and puts the Irish under the spotlights of one of the biggest stages in the world. Now if only we could get Fenway Park on the docket, I’d really have something to cheer about…

Thanks to my friends Isabelle and Kevin for setting up some great pre-game “tailgating” at their local bar. It was an excellent spot, and great to catch up.

 

Thanks again to Dylan for the hospitality and joining me in our seats up in the stratosphere.

Thanks again to Bryce and Kate for setting up yet another amazing College Football weekend, securing tickets to the game, and laying down the foundation for some amazing weekends next year!

 

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Fette Sau Barbecue – BBQ Brooklyn Style

The second place that emerged on my barbecue research in New York was a place called Fette Sau BBQ, and came courtesy of Daniel again from Full Custom Gospel.Evidently his BBQ knowledge extends well beyond the confines of the Red River, because Fette Sau holds quite a reputation among Brooklynites.To verify its repute, I conferred with one of my closest friends and now Brooklyn resident Demetrios.No stranger to gut busting intestinal challenges, Demetrios and I share epic tales of dining hall conquests in our wild and intemperate youths, and I knew I could count on his final opinion.

 

“Dood, that place is awesome” he boomed into the phone, I needed little more confirmation and Sunday’s lunch was quickly decided.

After being greeted by an encouraging wood pile at the entrance, I crept inside Fette Sau and was relieved to find it nearly empty on an early Sunday.Apparently the place can be a bit of a logjam, but I strolled effortlessly up to the glass case and peered eagerly at the plethora of smoked meats tucked delicately beneath.I ordered up the usual three wiseman (brisket, sausage and ribs) and for good measure added a slab of beef rib onto the scale that had also caught my eye.

The sausage was not your typical BBQ fare, it was a much coarser grind with heavy Italian seasoning. Though untraditional, it was still tasty. The ribs were perfectly cooked with a deep pinkish smoke ring and well developed lightly seasoned crust. They were probably my favorite dish on the day. The brisket was smoky and tender with a thick charred crust to it, but had dried out a bit from sitting in the warming tray. The beef rib was similarly dry, and was served sliced off the bone (rather than bone in), though it too shared a wonderfully deep charred crust and robust smoke profile.

As if the meat weren’t enough, we stayed for a couple of hours chatting and working our way down the extensive row of beer taps lining the wall. Featuring an impressive selection of Brooklyn Ales, the bartender was cautious to pull on the wooden handles of the imposing cleavers perched on the taps. This was a clever detail for a barbecue joint, and I almost considered pulling up a tractor seat for a couple of hours to finish off the selection of well crafted brews.

In the end there isn’t much else to say about Fette Sau. They have excellent barbecue, an equally impressive array of beer taps, and I shared an increasingly rare couple of hours with a close friend. Fette Sau is well worth a trip across the bridge for that, and don’t let the Brooklyn part scare you.

 

http://www.fettesaubbq.com/
Thanks to my friend Demetrios for joining me, it’s always great to catch up and we need to do it more often. Now let’s get you down to Texas for the real thing, and bring your girlish appetite with you.

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The Meatball Shop

If you follow the blog closely, you’d know that I am a rather ardent fan of a classic meatball sub.A seemingly simple affair, there is a subtle art to the perfection of a meatball sandwich, and I dedicated an entire blog post singing the praises of Polito’s in South Bend last year.

 

http://www.pigskinpursuit.com/2009/10/cloudy-with-chance-of-meatballs.html

 

Respectable meatball sandwiches, however, seem to elude the entire country West of the Mississippi and I have yet to find one suitable to the palette in Texas. A trip to New York came with a handful of culinary certainties, and a proper meatball sub was at the top of that list.

 

Now you can find a meatball sub on just about any street corner in Manhattan, and though certainly delicious, they are hardly distinguishable. But in the lower east side, a mere two blocks from Katz Deli, lies a place that specializes in these spherical delights. The Meatball Shop on Stanton Street is appropriately named because they serve nothing but meatballs and I salute the laser focus of their business plan. Given my energetic zeal for the dish, I decided to put these experts to the test.

There is some variety to be found at The Meatball Shop, and literally dozens of different combinations to choose from.It’s like the Baskin Robbins of meatballs.They have about five different kinds of meatballs ranging from traditional beef to lamb, as well as a half dozen different kinds of sauce.Furthermore, you can order them “naked”, on a bed of pasta, on a slider or in a standard hero type sandwich.

 

Being a staunch traditionalist, and wanting an apt comparison to other meatball purveyors, I ordered a typical beef meatball sub with classic tomato sauce.Out of sheer curiosity I also tossed in an order for a spicy pork meatball slider.The traditional sub was a classic delight with tender meatballs filling the crunchy baguette and oozing with reams of sauce and cheese.While I wished they had stuffed a few more of those house made meatballs into the roll, it was still pure gooey delight.The spicy pork slider lived up to its reputation, as the heavy red pepper notes came blazing to life and sent me reaching for the water glass with each bite to quell the flames.

Finishing off the meal, we talked ourselves into one of their enticing ice cream sandwiches.Similar to the robust meatball menu, The Meatball Shop offers a handful of different homemade cookies that can be paired with various ice creams for a scrumptious ice cream sandwich dessert.After considerable deliberation, some lively debate and extensive polling of the table next to us, we settled on this little peanut butter and chocolate delight that was quickly descended upon like a pack of rabid hyenas.

In the end the Meatball Shop was a worthy stop for my meatball sub fix in New York. I like the simplicity of their idea, and solute their dedication to the subtle craft of the perfect meatball. Now if they could only move to a roomier location, I wouldn’t have to rub elbows after each bite with the other patrons crammed in next to me. The lady next to me was rather fortunate I didn’t harpoon a few meatballs off her plate while she chattered away distractedly. Husky fellows like myself need our space to eat, and contact only slows me down…

 

http://www.themeatballshop.com/
http://www.themeatballshop.com/menu.html

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Katz’s Deli – The Pinnacle of Pastrami

While New York is arguably the epicenter for cuisine in North America, and one can quite literally find every kind of food in the world there, no type of eatery is more iconically New York than the deli (with the lone exception of the deliciously dangerous dirty water street corner hot dog). As such, a massive sandwich at an authentic NY Deli trip was placed on our itinerary, per Kate’s exacting demands.

 

During my research, two names came to the top of the list: Stage Deli and Katz Deli.Torn between the two pillars of pastrami, I decided to confer with my friend and resident massive sandwich connoisseur Bill (made famous for last years recommendation of Fat Willy’s Rib Shack in Chicago).His response was prompt and to the point: “don’t go to Stage – that’s what tourists from Nebraska do”.Katz, he assured me, was the real deal and Friday’s lunch was settled.

Upon walking into Katz, you are handed a meal ticket and greeted with a rather ominous sign. “Guard that ticket with your life” Bryce sternly warned me pointing to the sign, and it was evident that the security guard at the door meant business. I still can’t deduce the true advantage for these meal tickets as opposed to regular “checks”, but I would posit they are a throwback to several generations ago. I certainly don’t remember seeing these irritating scraps of paper during the Katz Deli scenes in “When Harry Met Sally” or “Donny Brasco”.

The pastrami sandwich at Katz proved worthy of its lofty reputation. Blindingly simple in its construction, the sandwich consisted of a mere three components: pastrami, bread and a touch of deli mustard. But as you often read on this blog, perfection of the simple things are often the best. The pastrami here is carved off in luxuriously thick slabs of warm cured beef (brisket cut by the way), and piled generously high onto soft deli bread. Served warm, the meat is incredibly moist and flavorful, requiring only the slightest touch of mustard to offset the smoky saltiness. Forget about the crap you find in grocery store delis, this is what pastrami was meant to be.

Also adorning my meal were some potato Latkes, which is basically a Yiddish word for potato pancakes. Delicately fried to a golden brown the latkes were a crispy treat with a hint of onion that paired extremely well with the sour cream on the side.

I left Katz topped off for the afternoon, and reinvigorated by just how satisfying the simplest of sandwiches can really be. The only downside on the visit was a sobering reminder of the exorbitant cost of living in New York, when my “ticket” heftily punched out at over twenty five bucks for a sandwich, potatoes and iced tea.

 

http://www.katzdeli.com/

 

Thanks to Bryce and Kate for joining me at Katz’s, and waiting patiently while I hoofed it over there after a Subway miscalculation.

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