Saturday, August 21, 2010
Near Sacramento, there's a small town called Lodi.... right off the 5 Freeway on State Highway 12. It's a little bit away from the major metropolitan centers, involves driving through some farmland, and seems isolated, but once you get into the urban areas it's really a city like any other.
One colleague liked to tell me that if you've seen one city, you've seen them all. It doesn't matter where in the world (or country) you are. You find shopping centers, religious institutions, municipal buildings, eating holes, sewage systems, government offices. Names and spatial configurations might vary. But... a city is a city. A place where people gather to live and work, produce and consume. If only he told me that before I hit the road.
Lodi has those rows of businesses, much the same way you would find them in Hanford, Carson, or San Luis Obispo. I was there to visit a burger restaurant I had read about on EatFeats. Called Andre's Cafe and Catering, this place boasted a huge hamburger meal that would be completely free to any diner who could consume it in 30 minutes.
This behemoth of a cheeseburger is called the Madd Dogg Burger.... I guess you gotta be a little mad to order it, or mad to believe you're actually going to get it for free. It's 2 lbs of beef stacked high with double helpings of all the usual hamburger condiments.... tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, and mayonnaise. You are also required to finish the side order of french fries.
The interesting element of the challenge is the fact that you can order any variation of french fries they serve - the garlic parmesan certainly sounded tasty, but I know that it's never a good idea to eat more on a challenge than you have to! Less is more, in this case. It's just a very basic strategy when it comes to restaurant eating challenges. I'm sure they wouldn't have minded if I asked for the chili fries, because I would have been the damn fool trying to cram down an extra pound of food.
As a side note, I vastly prefer hamburger challenges that feature multiple meat patties as opposed to one huge slab of beef. The patties are cooked separately, come out juicier and tastier, are easier to chew and swallow, and require far less liquid to get through. Giant slabs of beef, by contrast, tend to be baked until the point of dry blandness. They're hell to get down. They also don't really remind me of true hamburgers.
This combo costs $12.99, but it's free if you can do it in 30 minutes. I didn't take any snapshots during the challenge, because I was so taxed by the task at hand. I had never done a burger challenge before, and I really didn't know how to go about it. I began by eating the patties separately with ketchup, mixing in the veggies as I went along. The bun was no trouble at all, but I hated the cup of mayo that came with this burger. Ugh.
I finished the last french fry exactly at the 30 minute mark. I didn't think I was really going to make it! I was certainly glad I did, though. No point in eating such a ridiculous amount of food on a dare, and then having to pay $14 for a handful of french fries. I would have been just as satisfied with a smaller serving of food, and a smaller bill.
It's all in the thrill of competition, and I climbed the mountain yet again.
I agree with this statement! Life's also too short to eat bad food. Andre's Cafe puts out some excellent American-style grub... I'll be sure to sample those parmesan fries the next time I'm in Lodi.
Let's just say that won't be for awhile....
Sunday, August 15, 2010
In November 2009, I took a drive up North and made a 20-mile detour off the Highway 99 to the city of Hanford. It's slightly off the main drag - I remember a long drive on a state highway with a depressing speed limit of 55 mph - but it is a beautiful, charming little town. I really liked the downtown area. They have all those little shops lined up alongside one other, and those predictable lamposts up and down both sides of the street. I was refreshed when I saw this place. It was a nice change of pace after 200 miles of freeway.
While walking around the city, I sampled some pizza from Fatte Albert's Pizza Company. It was definitely good stuff. They claim that their 28" round pie is the largest pizza available in the city of Hanford. I ordered a small cheese pizza, and I must say it was one of the tastiest pizzas I'd ever eaten.... even if it was on the pricier side.
After the pizza, I continued on to Superior Dairy. I found out about this place from the EatFeats website. They were supposed to have a huge ice cream sundae on the menu, and I decided I needed to eat it. Life is simple sometimes.
The place looked nice enough from the outside. I was delighted to find that it was open for business. You never know with some of these places.
On the inside, it was clean and reminded me of those old time diners. The only problem I had was the speed of service - I sat in one of the booths quite awhile before the servers paid any attention to me. I was forewarned though: several reviews off Yelp told the same story. I sure hoped the food would make up for the waiting times.
And there it was on the menu: The Superior Oversize Sundae, or the S-O-S, billed as a 7-scoop sundae with the works. I didn't think I'd need any help finishing this one - no matter what the menu said. I confidently placed my order and asked for a Chocolate Coke to go along with it.
My drink arrived several minutes before the dessert. I thought it had an interesting taste. I'd never exeprienced the mix of Coca Cola with chocolate ice cream, but I think the tastes went well together. It was certainly incredibly sweet and sugary. It was good prep for what was coming out of the kitchen.
SOS! This thing was big! At that point, this was the biggest ice cream dish I'd ever ordered. The most intimidating part of it is the mountain of whipped cream that really prevents you from digging into the sundae. And yes, that is a paper umbrella atop the whole monstrosity. I saved it for awhile, but I haven't been able to find it. I assumed it fell apart and I threw it away.
The ice cream tasted delicious.... vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and a bunch of sherbet flavors decked out with flavor sauces and a banana. Unfortunately the tastes became muddled together quickly, but it was really high quality stuff.
I enjoyed every bite of it. I just wish the flavors didn't get so mixed up. Ice cream is one of my favorite foods to eat en masse, and it's a better experience when you can savor the differences in taste. I'm going to blame the whipped cream - it was hard to attack the ice cream with so much cream in the way, and by the time I cleared through the whipped cream a significant portion of the sundae had melted over the goblet. I guess I needed to eat more quickly.
I acheived the all-clear in roughly 8-9 minutes. This wasn't a challenge or anything, but I definitely enjoyed my experience at Superior Dairy. If I'm ever in Hanford, I'll make sure to stop by and sample another SOS. Maybe I'll eat two.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Last Wednesday, I decided I needed to go back to the OC Fair in Costa Mesa.
You can get it all deep-fried: frog legs, bacon, chocolate candy bars, turkey drumsticks, ice cream, avocado, and, oh yes.... butter. Thats right, deep-fried butter. I guess you can never take in too much saturated fat!
So if this place made me feel so.... out-of-place, why was I here?
Revenge. That's right. Sweet, sweet revenge.
Last year, at the OC Fair 2009, the Mexican Funnel Cake Stand offered up an incredible eating challenge: if you could devour a huge plate of their funnel cake in 20 minutes or less, they would give you your money back. It was a unique challenge, given the fact that most of the time I'm attempting mammoth burgers, oversized burritos, or exaggerated sushi rolls.
Unfortunately, I couldn't do pull it off.... That didn't really sit well with me, especially since I rarely fail an eating challenge. I decided I needed redemption.
I thought things were looking easy when I strolled to the Fair last week. The time limit for the challenge had been raised to thirty minutes, and I was told that no one had yet completed the challenge during the Fair's stay in Orange County. This could be a moment of glory!
Things didn't look so rosy when the massive dessert plate emerged from the concession stand. Designed to feed six, this Jumbo Mexican Funnel Cake (estimated at 5 lbs) looked even bigger than last year's! It looked like it was stacked much higher, with more whipped cream and strawberries than before. The carnival attendant told me that there's really no set size, it's just up to the creativity of the preparers in the back.
This was not going to be a cakewalk after all.
Challengers must stand at a separate table before the passersby, who might see the festivities and decide to cheer, wretch in disgust, or try the challenge themselves.
I started with aggression, determined to get through the sugary pile before me. Mexican funnel cake is really just churros, and as my experience reminds me, it's not the easiest food to eat quickly. It was crunchy on the outside, doughy on the inside, incredibly sweet, and greasy as heck.
I relied upon a three-plate strategy, unpacking the churro mountain into workable chunks among the three plates. I used the whipped cream and strawberries to create a varied experience, but for the most part the taste of cinnamon and flour was overpowering.
Lots of chewing, lots of water to help get it down.... I actually found a decent strategy of squeezing the grease out of the dough (they held a lot - I could see large puddles forming on the bottom of one plate), then soaking the dried churro paste with water. It was like eating cereal.
At the 26 minute mark, the attendant called a victory and told me to stop eating.... she said she didn't want to see me physically finish the entire plate. I guess it's kind of gross to see someone eat all that grease and sugar. I felt incredibly wired from the 20 minute mark, but I kept pressing because I had to get this thing.
I achieved a small measure of glory, becoming the first person at the 2010 Orange County Fair to successfully devour the 5 lb Jumbo Mexican Funnel Cake.
Having $19.50 back in my pocket wasn't so bad either!