Are you ready for the first preseason home game for the San Francisco 49ers this Saturday (against the Denver Broncos no less)?
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara sure is. This year, it’s added more food options. At a special media event yesterday, I had a chance to sample some of the new eats.
I also had the opportunity to tour the rooftop farm, the first of its kind in the NFL. Danielle York, wife of 49ers CEO Jed York, came up with the idea. It was such a success from the start that its original 4,000 square feet has swelled to 7,000 square feet. In the past year, the garden has provided nearly 2 tons of produce that was featured in dishes for private events crafted by stadium concessionaire Centerplate.
What will fans have a chance to nosh on this season?
Hefty fried chicken sandwiches from the Organic Coup, Red Rooster Tacos, saucy chicken tikka masala and lamb curry from Shalimar, and everything from Centerplate’s Dungeness crab sandwiches on toasted sourdough garlic bread to its hot Italian beef sandwiches.
Also new to the stadium will be Starbird Chicken’s fried chicken sandwiches and fried chicken tenders. Look for the Sunnyvale company to add a second location soon in San Jose, too.
Oren’s Hummus will be selling its beyond creamy hummus bowls mounded with a choice of Moroccan spiced ground beef or sauteed mushrooms. The Peninsula/South Bay mini chain also shared some big news: It will be opening its first San Francisco location by the end of the year at 3rd and Mission streets. It will have the same look and be about the same size as its Main Street Cupertino locale.
In the stadium’s tail-gating parking area, Off the Grid will roll out a rotating selection of food trucks.
Higher up on the stadium’s roof, is a view not many get to see. But landscaper Lara Hermanson, principal owner of Oakland’s Farmscape Gardens, was happy to show yesterday’s visitors around her domain — the year-round, organic garden.
Because the garden wasn’t in the original plans for the stadium, but added on after the fact, Hermanson, who also oversees the San Francisco Giants’ produce garden at AT&T Park, has to deal with some big challenges. Most notably, the depth of the soil ranges from 9 inches to a mere 4 inches. It’s only through a lot of trial and error that she’s able to determine what grows best where.
“The press box is right below, so I can’t make mistakes,” she says with a chortle.
While zucchini seem to grow like weeds in any home gardener’s yard, for some reason it does not do well here. Yet surprisingly, tomatoes and even watermelons of all things, flourish in the shallow soil.
The garden grows about 150 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs annually. Among the more unusual items are Peruvian Aji Amarillo peppers; Japanese Trifele tomatoes; teeny orange eggplants that are common to the west coast of Africa; and something called Buzz Buttons, tiny bright yellow buds that have a numbing effect on the palate akin to Szechuan peppercorns.
Fans may be starving for a Niners’ victory this year. But no matter how the team fares, it’s a good bet their appetite will be satiated — at least when it comes to the food.