That's a Wrap! Liberty Creates a Hobby's Deli Masterpiece
New York Liberty wrap debuts at historic Newark deli
From the hardwood court of the Prudential Center minutes earlier, Plenette Pierson tied on an apron behind the counter of Newark's famed Hobby's Delicatessen and channeled her inner Emeril.
Normally known for her peach cobbler and red velvet cake, the New York Liberty star forward prepped a salad that would become part of the aptly named "New York Liberty Wrap," adding some fresh vegetables to the bowl nearby before turning to the cameras following her.
"And BAM!" Pierson said, roars of laughter echoing around her inside the Branford Place deli.
Minutes later, the "New York Liberty Wrap" officially became a part of Hobby's menu. To celebrate the WNBA team's 15th anniversary, the new creation contains 15 ingredients: a white or whole-wheat wrap, grilled chicken and a colorful melange of five grilled veggies (carrots, mushrooms, onions, peppers and zucchini) paired with a side salad of baby greens, grape tomatoes, grated pecorino romano cheese, red onions, roasted peppers and balsamic dressing.
The 15th ingredient is herb mayonnaise, although it was listed as "A Whole Lotta Love" - which is what the Liberty have experienced in the new home city after playing their first 14 seasons across the Hudson River. Extensive renovations to Madison Square Garden over the next three summers, however, mean that Pierson and her teammates will play their home games nearby through 2013.
"It's a great opportunity for us to come out and do something like this," said Pierson. "To have a restaurant like Hobby's Deli name a sandwich after us. ... We're a little bit away from home, but we're trying to make this our home away from home."
"I think it's great that they want to be a part of this and how Newark has just embraced us," added guard Sidney Spencer. "Just like we have teamwork on the court, it's total teamwork in the kitchen. Watching them go back and forth – who works on the grill, who does the prep work, who broils the vegetables – it's the same concept as we are on the court."
Other than Pierson's baking abilities, none of the other Liberty players on hand Thursday – a contingent including Sydney Colson, Quanitra Hollingsworth and Leilani Mitchell – admitted that their kitchen talents matched their on-court skills.
Fortunately, owners Marc and Michael Brummer and their kitchen staff counseled the Liberty on everything from grilling chicken breasts to using only a "shmear" of herb mayo on the wraps. Although Spencer is a big fan of The Food Network and is trying to incorporate the herb garden she is growing into "simple" recipes, she admitted, "I'm trying to learn how to grill. I'm not too good at it. Tyrone the chef was teaching me back there."
In addition to the new "New York Liberty Wrap," Hobby's has special pre-game menus for the New Jersey Devils and New Jersey Nets. Devils' executives often dine at the delicatessen – which also serves its delicacies at the "Taste of Newark" stand in Prudential Center – and broadcaster Glenn "Chico" Resch has often featured the eatery on his in-game food segment "Chico Eats."
During one of Resch's first segments in Newark, he brought his sister into Hobby's and worked with the Brummer's to create the Chico Reuben – featuring pastrami, pepper jack cheese and hot sauce – as a way to pull a prank on his sibling. As it turns out, it has become one of their best-sellers on game nights.
"He makes this creation, brings it to the table," said Marc Brummer, who lives in Livingston. "The MSG cameras are following. She cuts into the sandwich, takes a bite – with the big close-up – and she's trying to be polite. All of a sudden, her eyeballs fall out."
Meanwhile, Devils' star goaltender Martin Brodeur enjoys the deli's poutine – a rarely made dish south of Canada that is similar to disco fries, but topped with cheese curds.
However, the latest creation from Hobby's is a healthier option that the Brummers think will stick long term.
"I truly believe this will be on the menu," said Mike Brummer. "People are really eating chicken these days."