The 2009 U.S. Open tennis tournament kicked off yesterday in Flushing with fireworks, Heidi Klum, an unseasonable chill, and a hotly contested match between Venus Williams and Vera Dushevina, a 22-year-old Russian who, despite being ranked 47th, gave the number 3 ranked Williams a serious run for her money. After narrowly losing the first set to Dushevina, Williams came from behind to squeak out a second set win, then pounded the white Russian 6 games to 3 to win the match—a victory she credited to all the fans shouting "Go Venus!" throughout the long two-and-a-half hour contest.
The U.S. Open continues through September 13th, with matches all day and long into the night (yesterday the final match between Andy Roddick and Bjorn Phau didn't even start until after 11 p.m.; Roddick won in straight sets). So if you're planning on joining the 50,000 hungry fans pouring through Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, you've got a dizzying array of food and beverage options to choose from, including stands selling Indian (from Curry in a Hurry), Crepes, sandwiches from Carnegie Deli, Philly cheesesteaks ($9), ice cream from Brooklyn's Blue Marble Organic, sushi, burgers, and Cold Maine Lobster Rolls ($17).
There have been complaints in the past about exorbitant prices, but we were able to find some reasonably priced and satisfying options in the outdoor "Food Village." The spinach, mushroom and mozzarella crepe was a fresh, filling meal at $10.50; and for dessert, the banana and Nutella crepe ($8.50) was bested only by the absolutely outstanding raisin ice cream with Pedro Ximenez Sherry. That's available only in the Wine Bar Food stand outside Arthur Ashe, which serves a menu by award-winning Chicago chef Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia). The not-to-be-missed limited-edition sherry ice cream, specially made by Blue Marble, clocks in at $10, but since it also doubles as an alcoholic beverage, you'll get your money's worth. The Wine Bar Food stand also makes a stellar Flaming Ouzo Shrimp ($13) on a bed of potatoes, plated on bamboo with bamboo utensils.
Besides the massive Food Village, more upscale menus are served at the center's five restaurants, which range from high end (the elegant Aces) to clubby steakhouse (Champions Bar & Grill) to Latin hotspot (Mojito Restaurant and Bar, where the mojitos can be bought by the pitcher). Each restaurant has its own specialty cocktail, such as the crisp and cool Ty-Breaker cocktail, made with the sake liqueur Ty Ku, cointreau, mint leaves and lime ($12). Also recommended is the Honey Deuce, the signature drink of the U.S. Open, made with Grey Goose, raspberry-flavored liqueur, lemonade, and garnished with honeydew melon "tennis" balls. That's $13, but it's served in a souvenir glass that's yours to keep.
This year all the food waste from the center's two main kitchens is being composted, and executive chef Michael Lockard is committing to locally sourcing at least 10 percent of the produce. The cooking oil is being recycled, and all the cups, napkins, plates, etc. are either recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable. Considering the U.S. Open is the highest-attended sporting event in the world, it's good to see them taking a step in the right direction toward reducing the masses' impact.