Well, here we are again.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 6th edition of The Nacho Report!
Last year was a disaster, in both tasting and reporting. But it's a brand new season and we're ready to get back on the horse? plane? zamboni? to dish to you the dirt on the nachos of various arenas around the NHL, and sometimes AHL.
This year will be a little different in that there will be no new arenas reviewed. With the Devils staying in the East this shortened season, we're only tripping to buildings we've visited previously. Only Philadelphia and Tampa Bay have yet to feel our presence, and the schedule did not fall favorable for either city (not that we're itching to go to Philly or anything, but Tampa in the winter would have been nice). So unless the playoffs take us out West or we hit a new minor league town (ain't nobody got time for that!), this will be a Report of redos.
We're looking to cram a whole season's worth of travel and tasting into 3.5 shorts months! So with just a little bit more ado, let's get the puck dropped on this thang!
Originally this was to be a short off-season as the Devils made their heart-pounding run in the quest for the Stanley Cup, unfortunately succumbing in mid-June. But that wasn't the case and the summer stretched on and on and on until finally, a miraculous day in January brought the end to a greedy, unnecessary lockout.
While we were waiting for intelligence to prevail, Ashok and I did manage to get our hockey on a little bit. We went to the Albany Devils home opener and then journeyed back to the Knick in early December for a 2nd game. We also went to the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction in Toronto in November, and while it was most irksome that the Devils were not there playing the Maple Leafs like they were supposed to be, we did get to take in the Legends Classic where ex-Devils like Doug Gilmour and Joe Nieuwendyk took to the ice. We passed on nachos at all games, regrettably forgetting until we were headed out that Air Canada Centre puts the cheese in bags. That would have been fun to try again. But alas.
Now normally after such a long hiatus we'd be anxious to get The Nacho Report started as soon as possible. But as it turned out, Ashok was unable to attend the Devils home opener. I ended up driving down- for the very first time!- with my Mom, who I believed should get to see the great Martin Brodeur before he called it a career. And what a game for her very first! It couldn't have been better. We had such an amazing time, and Mom actually has tickets to attend 2 more games this year! But I digress. With Ashok back in Keene, I didn't want to start the Report without him. I've done it with guest judges before when he was MIA, but this was the very first one of the season and I didn't feel it prudent. And so now, without further ado, The Nacho Report officially gets underway!
The contestant: Boston, TD Garden
Eaten on: January 29 @ Devils vs. Bruins
TD Garden has to be one of the most oft-reviewed arenas for The Nacho Report; it's what you might call our home rink away from home. While once a dominant dish, lately their nachos have left a lot to be desired. So we have stripped them of their pedestal and they are now merely mortal like the rest.
After getting our tickets scanned, we were each handed coupons for 3 free concessions. What a great way to welcome and thanks fans for coming back after a 3.5 month delay of game. Nachos, bummeringly, were not one of the freebies, but that was OK because we had yet to have dinner so we were able to eat chicken fingers, pretzels, a hot dog (Ashok wasn't the one who threw it to the ice during Seguin's shootout attempt), and drink for free. Bravo, TD Garden! Even though we were full, we didn't want to start our hockey season together by skipping an arena, so before the 3rd period we ordered our first plate of nachos since the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals, also in this building.
Moments later our server brought us a giant tray, secured with a lid to keep the heat and freshness in. When sitting in Club seats in any arena that has in-game service, you can never be too sure what you're going to receive, as some servers aren't willing to take special requests like, "just cheese". But the Garden is generous and we were given a giant mound of chips, 4 cheese cups, and a cup each of salsa, sour cream, and jalapenos. While I only care about the orange stuff, Ashok was excited to have the multitude of dipping choices.
With sweet anticipation, we each chose a triangle and a cup of cheese and dipped. It was… odd. Something was definitely amiss with the chips, but we couldn't decide on what exactly. Ashok thought maybe they were a little stale, but neither one of us was really sure. They were crispy and easy to break, but at the same time, had an almost chewy consistency. Despite this peculiarity, they weren't awful. And the fact that they weren't nearly as salty as the chips last year was a welcome relief. The cheese was pretty decent. It would have been excellent if it were hot enough, but the heat from the spiciness of it made up for the lack of actual temperature.
We weren't able to finish them, but we can't knock the Garden for that. We just weren't all that hungry, but aside from that, there was an actual fuck-ton of chips. So with little discussion, we concluded that the first nachos of the season were deserving of a B, with pros being sheer volume and spiciness, and cons being warmth and stupifying chips. And so with that, the 6th season of The Nacho Report officially has the first review in the books.
There was little time to digest before we were off on a new adventure. It's a short season; you gotta get them in while you can! We decided a trip to Pittsburgh was in order, because there was no more appropriate place to spend Groundhog's Day than Pennsylvania.
The contestant: Pittsburgh, Consol Energy Center
Eaten on: February 2 @ Devils vs. Penguins
Once again, upon entering the building we were handed coupons good for free food and drink at any concession stand. Kudos to you too, Pittsburgh; that's what every arena should be doing. This time we were pleased to see that- unlike in Boston- nachos were eligible for freeness.
It was a matinee game so for the second game in a row, I really wasn't looking forward to the tasting. I normally am awake for 5-6 hours before I have anything other than water and coffee, so the early game time wasn't working in the Report's favor. But I am a trooper and I suffer for my craft, so Ashok hit the food line after the first period (before the game got really, really ugly).
We were aware from seeing other people's nachos that Pittsburgh had made some changes from last season. I'm guessing it's because they're just giving it away for nothing, but what was once a large plastic tray of chips with 2 pools of cheese had become a small paper boat of cheese drizzled onto chips. Ashok asked if the two could be kept separated, but his request fell of deaf ears. Well, you can't argue too much with free, I guess.
With nachos such as these, you have to be strategic and start from the bottom and eat your way up. You have to dig for the naked chips hiding underneath and rub them into the cheese that has overcome the chips on the top. You still end up needing a ton of napkins, but at least this way you aren't left with naked chips. And the chips that were drowning are suddenly resuscitated before they find their way to a soggy grave.
Now because these chips were smothered in the cheese, and there did seem to be a fairly good amount of it, I was unable to eat the nachos the way I prefer: I either eat the broken pieces or take a whole chip and snap it in half to make it manageable. So I resorted to sort of a "muppet mouth" method, in that all I could really do was take a whole chip, open wide, and start chewing. It's not the sexiest way to eat, especially because it's more food than my mouth can really handle, but it was OK. Well, at first. But then something awful happened. As the seconds rolled off the intermission and the skaters started circling at center ice, I apparently bit off more than I could chew and swallowed a shard that I shouldn't have. And holy hell did it hurt! It was like having a sea urchin camping out somewhere in my throat, slashing me with little Freddy Krueger gloves at its leisure. The chip wasn't stuck and I could breathe and sip water just fine, but everything just kind of ground to a halt. **cue needle being dragged off a record**
I may have been down, but I was not out. Eventually the pain subsided and I was able to forge ahead. And oddly enough, I kinda liked them. Despite them being a sloppy mess, and despite the cheese not being hot enough, and despite the fact that they injured me, I could have really enjoyed them if they had been the chip and dip variety and not the nacho sundae-type. The round chips were the perfect density to handle the amount of cheese and the overall taste was better than what we had eaten in Boston, even if they weren't as spicy. Ashok felt that the cheese was inconsistent, but when you're unable to periodically give it a stir I think that's to be expected.
We didn't have to think long before deciding on a C+. The non-dipping factor is always a big deduction, as is lack of heat. We were also unable to finish them because the remaining few had bonded with the sides of the boat in a kind of wallpaper effect. We thought of giving them bonus points because they were free, but they also tried to injure me. And when the Official Rule Book was consulted, "injury negates freeness". So that was that.
Overall, it hasn't been too bad of a start for The Nacho Report. We haven't been blown away but the food was always edible. Small favors.
A short break in the action is to be followed up by some continuous action, with guest judges and 3 more arena visits coming up quickly. So stay tuned!