Sunday, June 8, 2003

Judges relish choosing mustard for ball park


Cliff Radel's Cincinnati

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The judges have spoken.

Hoarsely. But happily. Sampling six spicy-hot mustards Saturday torched their throats.

Still, they delivered a definitive ruling:

The Great American Ball Park is going to have a signature great American mustard.

Just as Crosley Field did eons ago. But that was a hometown mustard made right here in river city by the Frank Tea and Spice Co.

The mustard the judges picked, in a taste test held outdoors in the beer garden of the ballpark's Machine Room Restaurant in left field, has a distinctly Milwaukee Brewers flavor.

The winning condiment in the hotly contested mustard taste-off before the Reds-Blue Jays game is made in Berlin, Wis.

The newest addition to the Great American Ball Park's condiment lineup goes by the name Uncle Phil's Dusseldorf Mustard.

Uncle Phil's defeated five worthy opponents: Findlay Market Zydeco; Woeber's Spicy Brown; Findlay Market Jalapeno; Uncle Phil's Spicy Duesseldorf; and Zatarain's Creole.

The hometown candidates were the two Findlay Market varieties.

During the judging, the mustards remained anonymous. Each concoction was only identified by a number.

Judges were permitted to taste each mustard by using plastic utensils, slathering it on hot dogs or licking their fingers. All three methods were employed.

With relish.

The panel of judges were:

• Jim Hilb, a self-proclaimed "mustard nut" with dozens of mustards on a shelf at his Wyoming home.

• Tom Allen, Skyline Chili's vice president for marketing.

• Chris Angne, purchasing manager for Sportservice, the ballpark's concessionaire.

• Two fans from the stands, Mark Hilburn from Ashland, Ky., and Jennifer Hall of Loveland.

• Yours truly, who instigated the search for a great American mustard for the Great America Ball Park in a series of columns starting in September 2001.

The judges spoke freely during their deliberations. Allen liked the taste of one mustard but could not bring himself to vote for it.

"That looks like one of the face creams my wife uses," he declared.

Hilb hoped to find something that brought back memories to his taste buds of Crosley Field's mustard.

"My mouth still waters thinking about that spicy brown stuff," he said.

The judge's tabulations were close. I cast the tie breaker, picking Uncle Phil's over Woeber's Spicy Brown. Bottom line: Uncle Phil's rekindled the most reminders of Crosley Field's mustard.

Joe Sims, Sportservice's general manager, plans to start serving the ballpark's mustard "right after the All-Star game break."

He hopes to have it at concession stands in time for the July 17 game against the Houston Astros.

"Depending on the fans' demand for it," he said, "we could start selling it at the stands and in the Reds' gift shops."

For that to happen the mustard needs a more distinctive Cincinnati-style name. "That'll take another contest," Sims said.

He knows where he can find six judges.

Cliff Radel, a Cincinnati native, writes about the people, places and traditions defining his hometown. E-mail: cradel@enquirer.com.




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