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New 2019 Wild foods: Highlights (and hallucinations) from the Xcel Center

The Wildest charcuterie board yet.

The Wildest charcuterie board yet. Sarah Brumble

Why did three writers step into the Xcel’s RBC Wealth Management Club’s “Bud Light Top Shelf Lounge” at noon on a Tuesday? To preview all of the Minnesota Wild’s new concessions before 2019's NHL season kicks into full swing, of course! 

Since none of us technically qualify as “hockey fans,” nor are we “flush with cash,” our imaginations went into overdrive pretty quickly. 

We began by envisioning if everything were hot off the grill (rather than prepped and waiting beneath heat lamps), and what it'd be like if we were kinda drunk while inhaling everything in front of us (instead of having to return to the office immediately). 

While navigating spreads of charcuterie the size of Aunt Karen's dining room table, buckets of popcorn, a "cocktail cart," bowls of apple crisp, some healthy salads, a build-your-own-taco bar, and similar spreads destined to fill private sky boxes we'd never afford, before us stretched a pristine ice rink with nary an athlete to be found.

It will never be this quiet again.

It will never be this quiet again. Sarah Brumble

Yet soon the stands before us would teem with fans who’d froth at the sight of taut hunks balanced on their doom blades throwing punches, ceasing only when the lesser man fell under the force of that pummeling. If we listened closely enough, we could just make out the sweet sounds of Queen rising in the rafters…

Or maybe the secret to  “imagination” is nothing more than going into a full-on sampling frenzy; meat sweats aren’t real, but Taste of the Wild 2019 showed us rib hallucinations are! Find below our standout items from this year’s new food roster, and where to find them at Wild games this season. 

A literal pile of Revival's heavenly Butter Ribs

A literal pile of Revival's heavenly Butter Ribs Sarah Brumble

Revival Butter Ribs (serves 12) - $225, Bremer Bank Suite Level

Fall-off-the-bone is an overplayed descriptor when it comes to barbecue, but it’s the honest-to-god truth with these meat-candy marvels. Tender, fatty, expertly rubbed, soaked in clarified butter, and exploding with smoky flavor, the ribs from this Twin Cities chicken institution will be in my dreams for some time. On a gut-busting day when a disciplined food critic will restrict their intake to mere bites, I housed five rods of pure umami euphoria. If your bank exec buddy scores Wild suite tickets, advocate loudly for Revival’s Butter Ribs and watch the puck with a sweaty meat high—you won’t regret it. 

Market House Meats Sausages - $13, General Concessions

Tim McKee’s Market House Meats set out last year to bring higher quality meat to a broader range of carnivores, and peddling its pork tubes to hockey fans is a logical extension of that mission. The sausage is a cut (or four) above your average brat, the jalapeño has a real kick, and the cheese goos in all the right ways.

Korean Cheesesteak - $12, General Concessions

Tender, tasty, and easily swallowable, this meaty treat nudges you a little outside the realm of predictable game-time fare without being unduly adventurous. Let your buddies chow down on burgers and fries—you’re not afraid of a little “gochujang aioli” and “bulgogi,” because you know they’re just fancied up mayo and BBQ beef.

A trio of quesadilla roll-ups (pulled chicken, a spinach-y concoction, and cheddar with steak) from Pajarito dunked in a variety of salsas and fresh guac will be the best drunk food ever.

A trio of quesadilla roll-ups (pulled chicken, a spinach-y concoction, and cheddar with steak) from Pajarito dunked in a variety of salsas and fresh guac will be the best drunk food ever. Sarah Brumble

Viva MN Package - $55 pp, Bremer Bank Suite Level

Sauce helps everything. This is gospel. Accompanying the world's best drunk food—a trio of rolled-up quesadillas (one for each period!)—were not only a quite good chunky guacamole, but also a flame salsa that could bury any crimes those quesadillas might be committing. Similarly, Pajarito’s street tacos are fine! Again: Add sauce. As for why there’s a Caesar salad on this south-of-the-border style platter? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  That fresh Parm and dressing are well matched to each other, if nothing else.

J&R’s Cookie Dough - $6, General Concessions

As the State Fair demonstrated, a lot can go wrong when serving cookie dough, but these are stellar examples of what can go right. J&R’s two new flavors (Brownie Batter Blast and Salted Caramel Pretzel Dough) are nearly fluffy in texture, not too sweet, perfectly temp-ed, and (in the case of the latter) packed with a perfect punch of crunch. We went back for seconds when we didn’t know there was room left.

Spiked Shake - $20, General Concessions

A super fun and boozy treat that could probably be split as a night cap. We’re talking rich, whipped salted caramel ice cream, a sizeable wedge of delightful cheese cake, and the ideal amount of oomph of from Baileys Irish Cream. The buffet of toppingssprinkles, cookies, a whole lot morewill make you feel like a (slightly buzzed) kid. 

These are for you, Edina.

These are for you, Edina. Sarah Brumble

Lemon Meringue Cake (serves 10) - $100, Bremer Bank Suite Level

The press materials promise “layers of light, buttery lemon cake,” though this moist, dense treat is more remonstrant of a tart pudding. This is not a bad thing. Topped by whipped meringue and loaded with lemon curd, the dessert is a textural and flavorful winner, busting with tartness and sweetness. Edina-based hockey fans, and we know there are many, will be in heaven.

Crispy Chicken Sandwich - $9.95 pp, Bremer Bank Suite Level

My goodness, as a certified cluck-head, I truly wanted to love this gargantuan fried-chicken sandwich. The patties are as big as small plates; the pretzel bun is the size of a softball. Hockey’s burliest goon would struggle to down this visual beauty on his lonesome. But, once you’ve gnawed through the substantial bread, you encounter multi-millimeter-thick breading with surplus crunch. That’s a whole lotta dryness to get through before arriving at… a fairly lifeless and thin core of white-meat bird. The tangy sauce and vibrant slaw help, though this king-sized badboy suffers from a lack of juiciness.  

Italian Pizzette Package - $55 pp, Bremer Bank Suite Level

It would be unfair to claim that the entirety of this package is out-of-this-world (that calzonnetto was calzonnempty!), but those looking to graze from their friends’ plates in the sky boxes should definitely pilfer most of the salad options from this platter. The Sicilian Olive Salad was brightly acidic despite the anomalous inclusion of mandolined celery(?), just as the crisp wisps present in the Baby Fennel offering were refreshing (though if you come to a hockey game and seek out fennel, we’d like to speak with you…). Meanwhile their take on a caprese was squeaky, aptly sparing in the basil-pesto department, and fresh.