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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Traveling Food Champion 8.25.12

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I don’t know about you, but you are well aware how I like to travel for food. I’m also a big fan of the show Man Vs. Food with Adam Richman, even though I really detest food eating competitions. Yes, I am a conundrum, but that’s what makes me so awesome, right? I figure since someone is just trying to beat the clock – or their own tolerance for painful amounts of food or heat – rather than competing against 6 other sweaty guys to see who can stuff the most chicken wings in their face, it is much more socially acceptable…plus, I have that whole thing where I can’t stand to see people with grease dripping from their chin or making the vomit face while they are still shoveling food in their mouth. I can’t be alone in that!

The Wall of Flame
Now, that you’ve probably been grossed out and clicked over to Ebay or something equally tame, I will get to my point. Adam Richman – and probably Andrew Zimmern in his unique way – has created a new mission in traveling. As much fun as eating on vacation is, wouldn’t it be even MORE fun to leave your mark as you go? There are dining establishments all over this great country, and possibly the world, where you can stop and try their ultimate food challenge! The objective: eat something huge or eat something crazy hot within a specified amount of time, though sometimes they think it is so hard that you don’t actually need a time limit, just finish it without getting up from the table.

I have a friend who looks for these when they travel and then I have friends who decided that conquering those challenges in their own hometown would be good enough. For now. In Portland alone, I can think of three food challenges just off the top of my head:

  • Eat the giant doughnut, equal to 6 doughnuts, at Voodoo Doughnuts in 80 seconds and get it for free and a commemorative pin. If you fail, as most do, you are stuck with the bill (a whopping $4.20) and probably cramps. Of course, that parting gift is bestowed upon you even if you DO finish it.
  • Salvador Molly’s Great Balls of Fire challenge where they dare you to eat 5 flaming hot cheese fritters made with the hottest peppers they can find (100,000 - 350,000 Scoville units. For reference, a jalepeño pepper is 3,500-8,000 Scoville units) and then set in some equally burning hot pepper sauce that you also must eat. You don’t have a time limit and you have to pay for them either way. You must sign a waiver before you start and if you win, you only get the joy of having your sweaty red face pinned to the Wall of Flame and you “may” be used in future advertising.
  • Pancakes the size of a baby await you at Stepping Stone Café. They call it “The Stack” and you can get them plain or add blueberries or bananas for an additional $1.50 on top of your $8.50. Stepping Stone’s motto is “You Eat Here Because We Let You” and if you can eat 3 massive pancakes – or mancakes – then you get your photo on the Wall of Shame/Fame, depending on how you feel about yourself afterward. Many have tried, most have failed. These things are like eating 3 pizzas. They are 13” in diameter, don’t even fit on the plate and are at least an inch thick.
Harmless looking, right?
Last weekend we headed over to Salavador Molly’s to support a friend who wanted to do the challenge and also get dinner while we were there. A good crowd turned up and we ordered three servings: two for the guys ready to take on the Great Balls of Fire and one for the rest of the table to see just how impressed we should be with their achievement. Let me tell you, these crispy little fritters look sneakily identical to hushpuppies, which I LOVE. I bit into mine with little regard for the waivers the two guys just signed and started chewing on half of it. The heat hits you instantly and just gets worse the longer you sit. My gums were still burning on Day 2.

This was MY challenge :)
So, I would have failed this challenge miserably, since I like to taste my food and find that shoveling everything down as quickly as possible is not something I can justify doing, but that’s exactly what this challenge required you to do. Eat the fritters and the sauce before your brain told you it was a bad idea. Both guys got this and were CHAMPS, as you can see from the photos. They were barely sweating at all and acted like it was something they do every day.

Many of these challenges will leave you so full you can’t even think about eating more for, like, 3 days. So, besides being fun, you might also find it budget-friendly, especially since much of the time the meal is free if you are successful in completing it. Your vacation will also be much more memorable and, if you win, you’ll leave your mark on each place you visit. If you don’t think you can do a challenge, feel free to order it anyway and split it with your travel companions.

Have you ever done a food challenge at home or on your travels? If you have, did you finish?

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