In Praise of Giardinera (obligatory baseball post)
Tonight being baseball's Opening Night (ignoring that event in Japan last week), I'm compelled as a Baseball Fanatic to write a few hundred words on the topic.
In June 2008, I was in Chicago on a business trip. One of my co-workers could tell I wanted to take in a ballgame, and he set things up. We got there early enough that I was able to take in some of the legendary Wrigley Field ambiance. Then we headed into the stadium.
In the food court behind our seats, Mike stopped for food and a beer. Envision one of those guys from Saturday Night Live doing the "Da Bears/Da Bulls" skit. That was Mike, big guy, thick accent, and a total sports nut. Even though he was in his late 20's, he drove a Cadillac. I liked him.
"You gotta have a beef samwich. And put summa this jardonera on it." I grabbed my sandwich and a $9 Budweiser in a commemorative cup and we headed to our seats.
Talk about a view…
While the visiting Orioles were taking infield (yeah, Interleague Game), I ate my sandwich. That's when it hit me. The sandwich was amazing. It wasn't the beef, it wasn't the bread, it was the spread. It made that Budweiser taste like Pilsner Urquell.
The night ended and (of course) the Cubs lost. I kept asking Mike what that amazing spread was, but the difference in Upper Midwestern English and Lower Southwestern kept me from getting it. It took a couple of email exchanges to get that what he was saying was "GIARDINERA".
I looked for giardinera for years. I looked for bottles of the stuff in my local market, in Oklahoma City, Dallas, and Sunnyvale. No luck. I looked for recipes on the Internet, but none of them worked. They were all just pickle relish or olive tapanade.
Last fall, Oklahoma City got a Whole Foods Market. It seems so trite–first we get an NBA team and now a Whole Foods. What's next? A stop in the Police Reunion Tour? Anyway, we were walking about the store when I spotted a lone jar of something claiming to be giardinera.
Could it be? Could it finally be the one that brings back those memories of a sultry summer evening in the most venerated shrine of baseball?
In a word, "HELL, YES". I've gone through 2 bottles of the stuff in 4 months. It's too easy to just put it on hotdogs. Mix it with cheese plates, veggies, and bread. It's all good.
The bottle I have is by That Pickle Guy. It's the hot stuff, not the mild. Their address is listed in Chicago. I hope that's authentic enough for you. I can tell you that it serves my memory of the finely chopped hot relish from the stadium. Maybe it's not the same vendor, but it's close enough for me and it tastes great. If you're a fan of hot stuff, get a jar and enjoy.
Because Cubs fans have got to have something to look forward to.