April 6, 2011
Walkin' Taco is new at Raley Field, but don't forget the tri-tip

"You should be walking when you eat that," somebody said.
"Hey, you're right," I said, and walked away.

The guy was referring to the Walkin' Taco, which I was delightedly devouring. It's one of several new menu items that the vendor Ovations will offer fans this minor-league baseball season at Raley Field.

The Sacramento River Cats' home opener will be 7:05 p.m. Thursday, when they go against the Tacoma Rainiers. But I was on site Tuesday night for an exhibition game (there's another one at 6:35 tonight) and a sampling of those new dishes, which included the Walkin' Taco. On March 30, my colleague Chris Macias blogged on "Appetizers" about his own experience at a previous Ovations tasting; scroll down to read it.

The secret to the Walkin' Taco's background flavor, revealed Ovations general manager Mark Stone, is the taco seasoning mixed in the batter before the waffle cone is cooked and stuffed with slaw, special sauce and a choice of tri-tip, chicken or chayote squash and other veggies.

"We're really excited about the Walkin' Taco," Stone said. "Nobody else in the country is doing it. The waffle cone has a little bend to it, so it's not too brittle."

The Walkin' Taco was the hit of the evening, followed by the salmon taco with lime-cilantro aioli, and slices of fresh mango dusted with chile powder and shot with squeezes of lime juice, then skewered on wooden sticks.

One reason the Walkin' Taco was so tasty was because of the juicy grilled tri-tip inside, and let's talk about that California cut for a minute.

The tri-tip sandwich has long been a favorite at Raley Field. Until the 2009 season - when the leaner ball tip was substituted - it was a top-seller for nine years. Last season, said Ovations executive chef Ryan Curry, the ball tip was dropped and the tri-tip was reinstated. "That made a lot of people happy," said Curry, who has cooked at some of the top country clubs and resorts between here and Alaska.

Though the hot dog is the No. 1 seller at Raley Field - as it is at most ballparks - tri-tip is No. 2.

"Conservatively speaking, last year our tri-tip sales surpassed the ball tip by 25 percent," Stone said. "We sold more than 22,000 pounds of it. We'll have tri-tip sandwiches this season, certainly, but we're putting tri-tip in a couple of our new offerings - the Walkin' Taco and the barbecued beef nachos. We're predicting tri-tip sales this year at around 26,000 pounds."

The a la carte tri-tip sandwich will be $7.75, as will the Walkin' Taco. Both are home runs.


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