Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Deep Fried & Smothered In Cheese

If there's one thing I love about American food, it's how often that it's deep fried. And if there's a second thing I love about American food, it's how often that it's smothered in cheese. Now if you're lucky, you can have both in the same meal. Maybe with a bit of bacon for good measure. In my recent eating exploits, I had the pleasure of consuming both deep fried and cheese smothered food. 

The first of my recent deep fried and cheese smothered eating adventures was at Bar Louie in Anaheim, Ca. On April 21, 2011 Bar Louies across the country held their annual "Rock The Tot" tater tot eating contest. Contestants would have six minutes to consume as many 1 pound baskets of tater tots as they could. The winner receives a $250 Bar Louie gift card and tater tots for a year.

Aaron Ybarra would once again provide me with some solid competition as well 10 other bar goers. One guy even guaranteed victory as he had not eaten since breakfast. I really hoped he could eat as well as he boasted.

The contest was very organized, we started on time with three pounds of cooled down tater tots at our places on the table. They had cups of water ready, a decent emcee to announce the contestants and we even received t-shirts! I thoroughly enjoy when challenges or competitions provide fuel for my recent obsession of collecting eating t-shirts.

Tasting a couple tots before the contest, I found that it's pretty much what you'd expect. I can't remember the last time I've actually eaten a tater tot but it was probably in elementary school. It felt strangely nostalgic eating them and they even had sloppy Joe's available on their menu to complete the grade school cafeteria experience.

As the contest started, I quickly adhered to my technique, mashing handfuls of tater tots in one hand and drinking water with the other. They went down fairly quickly as there were no weird flavors to throw me off this time. I really appreciated how they let the first three baskets cool before the contest, everything went down smoothly.

Unfortunately, the fourth and fifth baskets were fresh from the fryer. Normally, that would be pleasant but not when you're about to cram the scalding hot potato nuggets into your mouth. I considered stealing my neighbors cooled down basket but didn't want to risk disqualification because of some arbitrary "anti-tot-stealing" clause in the contest rules.

I made due with what I had, eating the 4th basket with plenty of water to cool down the tater tots as much as possible. With time running out, I did the same with the fifth basket, ignoring the mouth burns and stuffed as many tater tots into my mouth as I could. I'm notorious for "chipmunking", cramming as much food in my mouth as the timer runs out. And that I did at this contest. As long as it's not against the rules, I figure this really gives me an edge in competition since I can fit so much into my mouth. There's a lot of room there, surely enough to house a couple hamsters or perhaps a chinchilla.

After six minutes of intense tater tot stuffing madness, they brought out the scales and weighed everyone's left overs. I sort of forgot about the other contestants and looked over to see how Aaron did, it seemed like he was my closest competition in this spread. It turned out that he had consumed nearly four pounds of tater tots. After weighing, my official total was 4 pounds, 11.5 ounces. I had secured the victory, a $250 gift card, a year supply of tater tots and perhaps the best surprise of the evening, an awesome golden Mr. Potato Head trophy. A solid gold potato.

Okay, it's spray painted plastic but at least I could play with it after. Looking back, I wish that my fourth and fifth baskets weren't scalding hot. That's the real draw back with eating deep fried foods. I felt like I could have easily gone into my sixth basket of tater tots if they were a bit cooler. But a win is a win, I'll come back next year and defend my title.

Here's the information for the Bar Louie near me:

Bar Louie Anaheim
321 W Katella Ave # 212
Anaheim, CA 92802-3618
(714) 495-4170

Go entertain your nostalgia for cafeteria foods but this time with alcohol!

The second stop on my artery clogging adventure was McGonagle's in National City, Ca. This Philly Cheese Steak shop recently introduced a cheese steak challenge that pays money to the victor. Free cheese steaks? Money? Yup, I'm there.

They give you half an hour to consume three of their 1.5lb double meat cheese steak sandwiches to win $50. You have to pay $30 up front, which they keep if you fail the challenge.  A nice surprise was that they double the prize money if you can complete the challenge in under 15 minutes. Since I was no stranger to eating Philly cheese steaks, I'd be going for the $100 prize.

The cheese steaks came out piping hot, with plenty of sliced steak and grilled onions smothered in cheese sauce. This was the Philadelphia standard with no fancy gimmicks or alterations to the classic recipe. Well except for the enormous amount of meat stuffed into the sandwich. It smelled great, I was ready to dive in the moment it came out. But since I was going for time, I let them cool down a bit and stuck to technique to help win that money.

Eating challenges seem to taste better when there's money involved and these sandwiches were no exception. It's amazing how balanced four ingredients can be. As I was chomping through the first sandwich, everything seemed to just go down in a nice, harmonious taste. The only thing that seemed excessive was the cheese but that's mainly because I was trying to eat neatly. That lofty goal died quickly after finishing the first sandwich.

These sandwiches were literally overflowing with meat and cheese, and much of it ended up on the tray as I went through the sandwiches. I was making good time with the first sandwich done in a minute and a half and the second finished in about four minutes. The hard part would be cleaning up the sloppy mess of meat and cheese that fell out of the sandwiches.

After finishing the third sandwich about 7 minutes in, I still had a small mound of meat and cheese to clean up. Though it was a pleasurable mess to clean since it was still nice and warm, but I really don't do well eating food in messy pile form. I ended up finishing in 10 minutes, 33 seconds and I felt that I wanted more. It was over too fast, they were really that good.

Here's video of the challenge:

If you're in the San Diego area and want to try eating some cheese steaks for money, here's their information:

1231 Highland Ave
National City, CA 91950
(619) 259-2777

All in all, it's been a decent couple weeks of competitive eating. Procuring a near infinite amount of deep fried tater goodness and some cash was nice. It's incredible how satisfying one's hunger for deep fried and cheese smothered deliciousness can be. Perhaps I need to give it a go with combining the two and adding bacon into the mix. I certainly enjoyed eating them separately.

Though afterwards, my heart pretty much exploded. But I'm feeling much better now.

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