Thursday, October 29, 2009 Eat N Tweet Challenge...

This Is Why You're Fat is a weird little website. It posts pictures of the most ridiculous and most fattening foods. Here's an example...

This monstrosity is the Banana Peanut Butter Cup And Marshmallow Grilled Sandwich. Looks scrumptious.

Well, for the next two weeks, I've got little to do since I'm waiting for the new job to begin. When I saw the Eat N Tweet challenge, I knew I wanted in. In essence, it was a food scavenger hunt with 6 mobile food cart vendors participating. Each vendor cooked up their own TIWYF inspired item. The mission was to keep your eye on twitter, starting at 11AM, every 20 minutes and wait for a location to be announced and the first person to tweet pictures eating each item would win a free party for 25 people catered by the food cart of your choice. I wasn't sure how many people would participate and what mode of transportation would they be using. You could bike, go by car, take a taxi. None of which I had or could afford to do. My method of transportation would be hoofing it on foot and, if needed, using the subway.

I figured the best way to get an edge on the competition was to do some prep before the contest. I test tweeted pictures to make sure I properly imputed the information they needed. I followed each vendor on twitter and went to each website, looking at their schedule. I mapped out each probable location and wrote their phone numbers down if needed. I then had to make the best guess on where to start since I would be starting blind. I tweeted to one of the vendors and asked if they were going to be the start point and they tweeted back and that they would be the second stop. This was a good clue, but still had no idea where to start. When I looked at the list of vendors, they were second on the list so naturally my first instinct was that the first place would be the first vendor, which would be located on 38th St & 5th Ave., so I went there and was going to wait for the start time. I got there at about 10:30 but there was no cart in sight. I looked at their schedule and also called their number and they both said they wouldn't be there til 12PM. I thought that perhaps they would arrive at 11 for the contestants and then open for the public at lunch time. Then I looked at the listing and noticed one was a waffle stand and thought that perhaps they would be the first place since they were the first to open (8AM) and they were a breakfast type food. So I took a chance and walked really fast over to their location at 45th St. & 6th Ave. Turns out I was right. At that point I met the contest organizers Kiwa And Susan. Two lovely young ladies that were meeting us at each point to take pictures and make sure everything went smoothly. But also there was my first indication of a challenger. A man and woman team that were biking.

The vendor at this location was Wafels And Dinges.

Their item : Double Liege Wafel Ice Cream Sandwich with smashed speculoos cookies & whipped cream.

I figured that the couple had the edge with bikes and I felt the possibility of defeat but I took a bite of the waffle, threw out the rest and trudged on. I figured that I knew the second location already and could try to figure out the next one and stay one step ahead of them.

So I hit the R train to get to Cupcake Stop located on 23rd St. & 5th Ave.

Their item : Cinnamon Roll Cupcake - Hands Down, one of the best cupcakes I've ever had.

When I got there, there was a camera crew waiting and doing interviews for a project for Columbia University. Naturally, they loved the competitive eating angle and wanted to interview me. I asked for help from the vendor but they didn't have any ideal of the next location. I also asked them if the bike couple had hit the spot yet. Not only did they already get there, but they said they came an hour ago. which would have meant they were there around 10:30. I was furious. Not only did they already have an edge over me with the bikes, but they were getting it done way in advance?

I looked at my list and the next closest location was right up the block on 17th St. & 5th Ave. I figured that it was right there and if I was right then I scored and if not, it's not like I journeyed far away from the previous spot. It turned out I was right. I asked them if they were next and they said they were but wouldn't serve until 11:40 which was the tweet time, but they cooked it up for me.

Bistro Truck

Their item : Big Mouth Bistro Burger - Fried Onions, Fried Sunny Side Up Egg, Garlic Mushrooms, Fried Mortadell, 2 Cheese Burgers, Lettuce, Tomatoes And Bistro Sauce

This one was my runaway favorite. Which is interesting since I'm more of a sweets guy. The combination of onions, perfectly cooked burger, runny eggs and everything else was overpoweringly good. This was the one I wished I would have finished out of all them but didn't want to consume all the calories. I was actually using this as exercise, so the least I had to eat, the better.
The good news about this location was that I beat the bike couple. The vendor told me they had already tried to get the burger but the truck denied them. The bad news that more competition was starting to come. A kid named Nick stepped into play.

I got my burger first and high tailed it out of there, pondering which location to hit next. It was about to be 12pm, so I took a chance and hopped back on the N train and went back to my starting location. I checked my phone and I was wrong. The next location was tweeted. At this point, I said "screw it". If the bike couple was not only going to start earlier than they were supposed to but also go out of order, so would I.

I hit Treats Truck next on 38th St & 5th Ave

Their item : Super Duper Dessert Nacho's

This was my least favorite. Which, again, is odd because of my love of sweets. I think at this point I was suffering from flavor overload. The bike couple was just leaving as I got there. 2 other guys were ordering them but were nice enough to let me have their order instead of waiting. I took my bite and walked east toward 53rd St. & Park Ave.
I took the 6 train 1 stop and got to Cravings Truck

Their item : Deep Fried Dumplings and Pork with White Rice

The line was long. I became crestfallen. I went to the back of the truck and told them I was there for the challenge and asked if I had to wait on line and the guy said yes and I got on line. I waited for about 5 minutes or so and the guy was nice enough to come out the side of the truck and hand me the bag. I took my bite and walked as fast as I possibly could to get to the train station on 49th St. & 7th Ave.

At this point, I figured that I had lost. The bike couple had to have gotten to the last location, my only hope was that the extra staff at the last vendor, Van Leeuwen Artisan , had not arrived yet. This was the wild card. The last vendor had several trucks and the girl at the truck, which was located within very close proximity to the cupcake and bistro trucks, had no clue about the challenge. My only hope was that this threw off bike couple but turned out to be the right place. They also had tweeted previously that they would be at the 23rd St. location even though their website said differently.

I got to the train station and JUST MISSED the R train, which would have taken me back to 23rd St. & 5th Ave. About 5 minutes later, the W train came.

I arrived at the last truck Van Leeuwen Artisan

Their item : Decadent Michel Cluizel Brownie Sundae

I didn't have any of this so I don't know how good it was. A girl that was just starting was nice enough to let me take a picture with hers.

I didn't see bike couple when I got there. What I did see was Nick, sitting on his Vespa and the two organizers. Nick had beaten us all. I had he wouldn't be a factor because I assumed that he was on foot as well. What was most disheartening was that I asked him how long he had been there, he said about 10 minutes. I had just missed out on winning. I inquired about bike couple and no one knew what happened to them.
Nick left and I spoke to Susan and Kiwa for a bit and we left.
If anything, I was happy that if I didn't win, at least bike couple didn't win either. I took second place as a badge of honor that I not only beat people on bikes but came > < this close to beating a someone on a motor scooter.

The bike couple are bitching on twitter that they were robbed and actually telling TIWYF about how they hit everything early, lol. Sorry guys, but you got beat by a fat guy on foot :)

Lastly, here's a nice write up by Kiwa and Susan that made me smile with a few more pictures...

Fierce competition today in the TIWYF Eat N’ Tweet Food Truck Challenge! Nick McGlynn won after coming armed with a Vespa, GPS and of course, Twitter. Another motivated couple were biking their way from truck to truck, not even waiting for the @tiwyf Twitter feed to announce the special or location! But we were probably MOST blown away by competitive eater Will Millender (a.k.a. @bigwillthechamp) who came in SECOND while doing the contest on foot! WOW! Now that’s the competitive spirit. Thanks to everyone who participated in the challenge — and remember, even though the winner has been announced, the TIWYF Specials are available all day long until selling out!

Thanks again to the six incredible food trucks who rocked it today with their heartstoppingly delicious delights! Also, a big shout out to Kayoko of UMAMIMART and Zach of Midtown Lunch for their awesome coverage and support!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meltdown At Roosevelt Park...

Traditionally, as August rears it's head, the Dragon Boat Festival comes to Queens, as does the Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest, which takes place at the festival. This is the contest, for independent eaters, which starts the winding down of the "season", as competitive eating is more often a summer event. I was informed by Kevin Li, who works at Chef One and helps organize the contest that the it would not be held in August, but instead, moved to October. Also, since it did not coincide with the Dragon Boat Festival, it would be held in Manhattan and they would host their own Dumpling Festival. I was pretty excited to hear that and waited for the sign up date to arrive. And waited...

Last year, as I was completing my first "full season" which included traveling to other states and briefly joining an organization, I entered the Dumpling contest for the first time. I did 55 dumplings in 2 minutes in the first heat, which came awfully close to last years record of 60 Dumplings set by my CE arch nemesis "Gentleman" Joe Manchetti. He took the stage for the second heat, after not expecting me to put up that good of a number, and stepped up his game hitting the 66 dumpling mark. I took second place and the $500 prize which included beating a highly ranked competitor, awesome eater and heck of a nice guy, Ian "The Invader Hickman".

Finally I did a search and found the sign up info for The Dumpling contest which would take place in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. I signed up immediately before it was even announced on Coming into this contest, I was confident. Expected to arrive was Manchetti, Furious Pete Czerwinski who was currently the only undefeated competitive eater in sanctioned contests and Dale Boone who has been talked about previously on this blog and was a no show. These guys were my biggest competition.

Also at the contest and whom could have easily been dark horses were Gabe "The Big Jewish Guy" Kassel who won a pickle eating title with All Pro Eating. Phil "The Fury" Fiore who also upset Ian in a 15 minute cheese steak eating contest in Maryland. A guy known only by the name of Sunshine (once again I forgot to ask for his name) who got an upset win over me at the Choo Choo's Hamburger Eating contest (A restaurant which has since been sold and may not hold the contest anymore) and Paul Porkslap Acaria who finally got another win under his belt by nabbing a Taco eating title. A few repeat competitors from previous Dumpling contests showed up including Chris "Infinity" Yee.

The women's division standouts included Floria Lee who was coming to defend her title, Jill Stoller who was 3rd last year and a close friend who had to be convinced to join (because the dumplings were chicken and she is a vegetarian) since they had only 4 contestants at the time and were desperate for women and Elise Rosenberg who placed 2nd in the Coney Island Atomic Wings contest and who I met at the hot dog/pigs in a blanket eating contest at the Village Pourhouse.

There were 2 women's heats. The winner of the first women's heat was a nice woman who really wanted to win. I believe she did 17. The second round heat featured all the aforementioned ladies. Jill took the same spot of 3rd that she did last year. In a stunning upset, Floria Lee took second place with 33 Dumplings while an unknown named Olia, who was competing for her first time ever and killed 40.

There were also 4 men's heats. A large group of men had signed up and so they expanded the division. I was set to be in the final heat, while Furious Pete took the stage for the first heat. Pete recently made a practice run with what he though would be equivalent sized tortellinis. They looked like they were more about the size of between a third and half the size of the contest dumplings. In that run he ate 89 in 1 minute. If they were half the size, then we knew he'd probably be good for at least 40 in the first minute which would have given him 80 for the contest. While we waited, Manchetti told me about a practice run he had using the contest dumplings and was able to eat about 40 in the first minute. Although he microwaved them which meant they were not necessarily going to be contest ready. He said at one point they became tough to eat. This became an omen because Pete came off the stage and while he was the winner of the heat, he only ate 52, which was shocking at that point. Well short of last years numbers. As he and Paul came off the stage, they told us that they were tough to eat this year because they were whole wheat. I tried a bite of one to get a preview for my heat, but to me, they tasted about the same. Manchetti and myself were delighted at Pete's performance thinking that this contest was either for him or me to lose. The next heat's winner turned out to be one of those dark horses in "Sunshine" who ate 49.

The last round was the grudge match. Myself vs. Manchetti. For me, this was going to be redemption for all my loses to Manchetti and pull off another upset by beating Pete in the same contest. Side by side we stood on stage both feeling good about the fight we were about to go through, filled with energy and fortitude. The introductions were done and finally the countdown. The horn went off and away we went. I grabbed my dumplings at a fierce pace while I noticed that Manchetti stumbled and dropped a dumpling out of the gate. Upon seeing the video I was doing about 1 per second. I had 14 dumplings down in 15 seconds. And then it happened. I found out, in the hardest way possible, what Pete and Paul and Manchetti told me about. Since I had eaten all 14 so fast, they waded up in my throat. I couldn't swallow anything because it was like I had a giant ball of paste in my mouth and throat. I had soaked them in water but that didn't matter. I desperately grabbed a bottle of water trying to moisten the glob and help it go down, but it did nothing but float atop the dumpling mass that was now lodged in my throat. I began to not be able to breath and got nervous because I felt the dumpling heading toward the tube that leads to the lungs and I began to hyperventilate. It only took me a moment to realize that I had to get this out and there was no way that I was going to be able to swallow. I accepted my defeat, to the chagrin of the crowd, and released the wad of dumplings from my mouth. I was livid. I could not believe it because the previous year they were so easy to eat, sliding down the throat with little effort. Later I found that several people choked but since there weren't 14 dumplings in their mouths at one time, they were able to fight through, lol.

In the end Manchetti struggled too, at one point turning beet red because of the difficulty of swallowing these things and was only able to pull out just enough to give Pete his first official loss with 53, falling well short of the record. We can all only hope that next year will go back to regular style dumplings and I can only wonder what my number would have been had I not choked.

Afterward, myself, my girlfriend, Pete, Paul and Jill went for drinks and lunch and drowned our sorrows. Hopefully next year, as the economy improves, there will be more contests happening as this year's season was a lot more anemic than previous years.

Speaking of economy, I am glad to announce that as my stint with 3-1-1 ends, I have accepted a full time position and will be employed within the next month. I've got decent pay, good benefits and great perks including no weekend and holiday work and lots of days off throughout the year. I had waited over a month to hear about the job and my patience paid off as this was really the only interview that I had where I REALLY wanted the job. I had a few jobs show interest including another company which offered me a job on the same day, but I was holding out hope that this company would be the one because of how well the interview went, the work environment and people which seems to be exactly what I was looking for in a place of employment.

Additionally, I will be featured on shows on The National Geographic Channel and MTV soon, which I'm really excited about as well. Things are finally going to be ok. Today's loss was disappointing but I settled down quickly because the future is finally becoming everything I hoped it'd be.