Ethan Stowell takes foodies out to the ballgame
By Sarah Wyatt
Popcorn, peanuts and beer: the aroma of traditional baseball stadium food signals the beginning of spring. Mariners fans have enjoyed these staples for decades, but times change and so do the tastes of baseball fans. Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners announced their new concessions lineup, a progressive array of comfort foods crafted by a team of chefs including Ballard resident and chef Ethan Stowell. Along with new spins of the classics, several new offerings are bound to take fans out to the ball game.
Safeco Field’s Bullpen Market, previously a dank, cramped space, had a complete overhaul during the offseason. Located in left and center field adjacent to the home and visitor’s bullpens, “The ‘Pen” is now a spacious, open area with a fire pit, cocktail bar, and four food concession stands, including Stowell’s Hamburg + Frites and La Crêperie. Centerplate Stir, the Mariners foodservice partner, worked with Stowell to develop a culinary experience that melded with traditional baseball culture.
"Our mission was to create a restaurant-style hospitality experience --the anti-fast food --in a concession environment," said John Sergi, Chief Design Officer of Centerplate Stir. "We approached it the way a restaurateur would by bringing in Ethan as our consulting chef for the building in order to help us make the food ‘restaurant-real’.”
Ethan Stowell is the executive chef and owner of Staple & Fancy Mercantile on Ballard Avenue, and has been honored with multiple James Beard Award nominations for "Best Chef Northwest." His food philosophy--“all about keeping it simple, using fresh ingredients and allowing the food to do the talking”—attracted him to the ballpark project.
"I've been a Mariners fan as long as I can remember-since I was a kid," said Stowell. "Seattle customers are highly educated about food. I'm looking forward to bringing my own knowledge on seasonality and local product sources into the ballpark. We're looking to raise the level of quality of the food at Safeco Field, making it honest and healthier than it has been and with more of a local flavor and taste."
Hamburg + Frites offers an upscale version of the traditional ballpark burgers, hot dogs and fries. Its restaurant-quality burger features a six-and-a-half-ounce, grass-fed beef patty topped with Tillamook cheddar cheese. Beef is locally sourced by Northwest Grass Fed Beef Company.
“Grass-fed beef tastes cleaner,” Stowell explained. “It just tastes better and has a pleasant aftertaste.”
The restaurant’s frites are served with the skin on and accompanied by a very flavorful garlic dipping sauce. Stowell’s “Pen Dogs” are marinated in beer.
La Crêperie features Parisian-style crêpes with sweet and savory fillings including locally sourced products from Zoe’s Meats, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and locally grown onions and strawberries. Stowell predicts that his Nutella-banana dessert crêpe will be a favorite. Ever mindful that his customers want to enjoy handheld food that won’t interfere with their enjoyment of the game, the crispy crepes are served in triangular paper sleeves.
Fans can enjoy Stowell’s creations along with the newly unobstructed views of the playing field from The ‘Pen. The area opens a half-hour earlier than other entrances, giving hungry fans a chance to eat while watching batting practice. The Mariners’ home season begins Friday.