"It is possible to die from eating. But I think to be professional means you don't die." (Takeru Kobayashi)

Monday, April 30, 2007


I spent this past weekend camping at Pine Grove Furnace State Park (about an hour southwest of Harrisburg). It was my first two-nighter campout since I was Boy Scout a long, long time ago. I bought a pack of cheese dogs to skewer with a stick and cook over the fire late at night. Why is it the only time I eat cheese dogs is when I'm camping?

Speaking of hot dogs, big congratulations to fellow UEPa eater Carey "The Powerhouse" Poehlmann for damn near winning his Windmill hot dog qualifing match and his FIRST EVER eating contest this past Sunday in New Jersey. That's him at right. He placed third with 6.67 hot dogs eaten in 5 minutes (they're much bigger than Nathan's dogs), only a quarter of a dog behind the winner. His showing earns him a spot at the Windmill championships on August 11.
The results were reported on the AICE website and via Eat Feats.

One thing about AICE that you have to respect is that they get the results of their contests out there pretty quickly. That's important not only to fans but to eaters. Let's hope MLE can find the resources (i.e. paper, pencil and a cellphone) to do the same with this year's contests.

As a fan and an eater, I think I speak for everyone when I say it's not too much to ask that full results -- one through 10 finishers WITH totals -- be online by the end of the day on the Monday following the contest (aren't they supposed to be tracking 1-10 with totals anyhow for the new points system?). Or why wait till Monday? Just e-mail the results to OJ over at Eat Feats and he/she will get them up THAT DAY. It's really not that hard.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Ever notice how things never look in real life the way they do in advertisements? Mainly fast food. Perfect buns, perfect grill marks, every condiment showing. Little beads of water on the lettuce and tomatoes. It's all the hard work of food stylists. Yeah, people actually get paid to do that for a living.

Liz sent me a link to a page that shows fast food items from advertisements and compares them to the real deal. Whoppers, McMuffins, Big Macs. Below is the Arby's Beef n Cheddar sandwich. Pretty sad looking, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Below are a few more pictures from our trip to Philly and a link at the bottom to the entire set. By the way, while we were canvassing Philly for cheesesteaks, one of the honorary members of the UEPa, Andrew "Skinnyboy" Lane, was taking his own tour in Colorado. He's an honorary UEPa member because, like many of us, he can't pass up a good restaurant challenge. Check out part one and part two of his tour. Carey will be happy to know that Amoroso rolls are used (and appreciated) even in Denver.

As we approached this dog near Geno's he was lying down, soaking up the sun. When I knelt down to take his picture he sprung to his feet and I found myself face-to-face with an unfamiliar pit bull. He seemed cool, but just in case he wasn't happy about me disturbing his nap, I snapped this picture and got on my way.

This is a shot of the grill at Pat's. The lip around the edge keep about an inch of boiling water on the grill which is used to cook the steaks. I wonder what if it also saps most of the flavor along with it? Maybe. It might also infuse the meat with flavor. Who knows. The steaks sort of float around in there and the raw ones on the left are actually several layers deep.

Honestly, the whole thing about Pat's and Geno's being the worst steaks on the tour is really disheartening for me. It's sort of like finding out that Santa doesn't exist or that Velveeta isn't really cheese. I don't like to criticize cultural institutions, but I if I have to, I will. I don't know why my Pat's steaks came out so poorly. Maybe that just happened to be one of the worst looking steaks that guy made all day. Maybe at the moment he was making my steak (all 1.3 seconds of that moment), he was distracted by something. Could be true, right?

Somewhat controversially, Geno's is known for their policy of requiring customers to order in english (signs at the ordering window make that very clear...assuming you can read english). Geno's has a shop with some motorcycles in it located across the street from their cheesesteak place. This shirt was displayed in the window. That's Carey in the reflection. It's ironic that Frankenstein is wearing the shirt because he's not American (although parts of him might be) and he definitely doesn't speak English.

A full set of pics can be seen here, including one of Carey in a demonstration of what happens when you consume massive quantities of beef and cheese whiz.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


The Ultimate South Philly Cheesesteak tour is in the books and despite not wanting another cheesesteak any time soon, it was a great day and a good time overall. The weather was perfect (mid 70's and sunny) which was nice as Carey, Pete and I parked and walked to many of our tour stops. John's Roast Pork was scheduled to be our sixth of seven tour stops but was closed by the time we got to it. With that, here's how I ranked the six steaks. The first four are all very good. The last two, not so much:

1. Campo's
2. Jim's
3. Tony Luke's
4. Steaks on South
5. Pat's
6. Geno's

Below are photos of each steak, along with my opinions of each. The last criteria we'll judge these steaks by is their "Food Porn" score, which is the measure of how mouthwatering they look based solely on visual appearance. That's where you come in. Take a look at each and let me know in a comment what you think. Rate them on a scale of one to five or just let me know which ones are the best and worst.

JIM'S STEAKS (S. 4th & South Street)
SHOWN HERE: Steak with onions and whiz
THOUGHTS: Jim's got us off to a great start. Then again, I was starving when we started our tour, so you could have shredded up the insoles of my shoes, slathered on some whiz and it would have tasted good at that point. But even in retospect, Jim's was one of the best on the tour. They offered the most beef of any of the steakeries and even though Carey swore by the Amorosa brand of buns they used (baked at the Amorosa Bakery in Philly), I found the bun to be a bit too soft for my taste. Definitely not the prettiest steak, but easily one of the tastiest.

STEAKS ON SOUTH (308 South Street)
SHOWN HERE: Steak with onions and whiz
THOUGHTS: Steaks on South was the second stop of six on our tour and only about 300 feet from Jim's. Unlike the other old timey "institutions" on our tour, SOS is a relatively new shop that sprang up to tempt the tastebuds of South Street's tourist traffic. They tried to pretend like they've been around a while by adopting a 50's style inside complete with semi-annoying and too loud 50's music. Doo wop overkill aside, I liked this steak, even though Carey and Pete didn't as much. Good meat, really juicy (as you can see) and a nice, crispy/chewy bun. Two things that I love about this picture: the juice that has visibly soaked into the bun at the joint between the two halves and the big dollop of whiz in the bottom right.

CAMPO'S (214 Market Street)
SHOWN HERE: Steak with onions, mushrooms and provolone
THOUGHTS: We kept the car parked on South Street and walked up to Campos (about 15 minutes) to burn off the first two steaks. The walk included a pit stop in the St. Peter's Church cemetary where Carey swore he once saw a tombstone for the legendary "Phil McCracken" (Phil was no where to be found). Once at Campo's, we discovered yet another great steak. Overall, it was a good balance of beef in a crispy bun. The atmosphere was clean and family-friendly, with outdoor seating overlooking the Penn's Landing entrance at the end of Market Street. After three good stops, I was beginning to wonder if the second half of the tour could possibly get any better.

PAT'S KING OF STEAKS (9th & Passyunk Ave.)
SHOWN HERE: Steak with onions and whiz
THOUGHTS: Located across the street from each other in the heart of South Philly, stops four (Pat's) and five (Geno's) on our tour are largely considered the center of the cheesesteak universe. Accompanying us on this leg of the tour was a co-worker friend of Carey's who lives two blocks from Pat's/Geno's (lucky?) and whose house we just happened to park directly in front of. So which one is best, Pat's or Geno's? It's a question that has plagued cheesesteak aficionados for decades. My answer (and the consensus from the group) is NEITHER. Although both steakeries would be the most disappointing tour stops, Pat's is marginally better, but not by much. The ends of my bun were meatless and even the middle didn't offer much in terms of steak. The pieces were also larger than most which means less juice and grease (the good stuff).

GENO'S STEAKS (9th & Passyunk Ave.)
SHOWN HERE: Steak with onions and provolone
THOUGHTS: The neon lights and autographed photos of celebrities had little effect on the quality of the steak. Much like Pat's, Geno's offered not enough steak and nowhere near enough flavor. See how that piece of steak looks like the tongue of shoe? That's what it tasted like. This was the worst steak on the tour.

Paradoxically, even though their cheesesteaks left us feeling cheated, the lines at both Pat's and Geno's were BY FAR the longest all day (Pat's was slightly longer). That's mainly because both steakeries attract a steady flow of tourists who sadly leave Philadelphia thinking that they've just had the best steak the city has to offer. Despite the long lines, the wait time was minimal thanks to a quick and efficient staff. Even before the person in front of you has moved out of the way, you're greeted with a "Next!" Pause more than half a second and you'll get another "NEXT!" (NOTE: Speed and politeness are inversely proportionate, but that's part of the charm.)

With five steaks in our bellies, we were in dire need of a break so we headed back to Carey's friend's house where we sort of sat there, melting into her leather couch and feeling bloated. Carey sacked out on a bean bag chair in the corner and managed to catch a few Z's while Pete and I played with her dachshunds (and by "dachshunds" I mean "dachshunds").

SHOWN HERE: Steak with onions and whiz
THOUGHTS: After our scheduled stop at John's Roast Pork was cancelled because it was closed, Tony Luke's became our sixth and last stop on the tour. It was an ideal last stop too because they were the only steakery that also served beer. At least they did in the Tony's Lukes restaurant, which was across the street from the more traditional Tony Lukes steak shop. Sames steaks, different atmospheres. This place also included big screen TV's, which allowed me to catch a few innings of the Yankees/Red Sox game. Tony Luke's is actually known more for its pork sandwiches and giant Big Daddy Luke's burger but the steaks weren't bad either. The homemade buns were nice and crispy and the steak had good taste to it.

Next up for the UEPa: A NORTH Philly Cheesesteak tour. Or a trip back to Tony Luke's to put away the Big Daddy Luke's burger (three pounds of beef on a thin looking bun). Or a trip back to South Street where we saw a pizza shop with thin crust pizzas that were easily 30 inches wide. I'll leave you with a picture of the three of us at Geno's.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


The Old Coot (a former Navy friend) brought this story to my attention. A team of Russian fisherman pulled up their nets after a storm and caught a squeeling, freaky looking alien creature. After taking a few pictures and capturing some video on their cell phone, the fishercomrades did what any of us would have done when faced with a strange, unidentifiable alien being -- they ate it. I wonder what aliens taste like? Whatever its flavor, I'll bet nothing prepares the palate like several shots of vodka.

Seriously, I know I was an X Files addict back in the 90's, but I'm not making this up. The story and photo are from some Russian website. YouTube video here. (CAUTION: It's freaky.)


Village residents from the Rostov region of Russia caught a weird creature two weeks ago after a strong storm in the Sea of Azov. The shark-looking creature was producing strange squeaky sounds. The fishermen originally believed that they had caught an alien and decided to film the monster with the help of a cell phone camera. The footage clearly shows the creatures’ head, body and long tail. The bizarre catch was weighing almost 100 kilograms, the Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.

However, ufologists and scientists were greatly disappointed when they found out that the fishermen had eaten the monster. They said that they were not scared of the creature so they decided to use it as food. One of the men said that it was the most delicious dish he had ever eaten.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


There are no words to describe how unbelievably hungry this picture makes me. I feel an uncontrollable urge to grab this cheesesteak, bury my face in it and make strange animal-like sounds while I eat it. Hopefully we'll see some cheesesteaks like this on Saturday. (Thanks to Billy at Super Sized Meals for this pic.)

I plan to keep score during this weekend's tour, rating the quality of each cheesesteak and each restaurant. I'll print extra scorecards in case anyone else wants to do the same, but here's the criteria I'll be using (inspired by a similar effort from the Hungover Gourmet):

Quality of beef
Quality of bun
Overall quality of cheesesteak
Overall restaurant atmosphere/service

I feel like there should be more criteria, but I'm drawing a blank. Any suggestions?

Monday, April 16, 2007


I'd prefer not to use this site as a tool for communicating with specific people (that's what e-mail is for, right?), but I suck at collecting and saving e-mail addresses, so I'm going to use this post to take care of some routine stuff. Three things actually.

1. PHILLY CHEESESTEAK TOUR - We're meeting at Jim's Steaks at 11 a.m. THIS SATURDAY. There are several Jim's steakeries, but we're meeting at the Center City location at South Street and 4th. From there, we'll pile into one car for the rest of the tour. Wild Bill and Philly Guy, leave a comment to confirm that you're still going (of course you are!), but also email me your cell numbers so we can be in touch on the day of the tour, just in case you're running late or something. My email is shoffner1974@yahoo.com. Is there an all day parking lot near Jim's?

2. CUSTOMIZED UEPa SHIRTS - Unfortunately, the Cafe Press account I have is a basic one (that means free), which also means I can't create multiple designs of the same shirt. In other words, I have to upgrade to a premium account in order to create the UEPa uniform shirts with the personalized info on the back. Premium upgrades are $6.95 a month after a 15 day free trial, so I'm going to have to mark up the customized shirts to offset the cost. Stay tuned for more info.

3. PICKLED EGGS - I tried two hardboiled this morning just to test different techniques. Looks like eating them regular style (two big bites, yolk and all) is the best. The yolk was pretty much a non-issue as long as I didn't chew too much and allowed the egg white to remain largely intact and carry everything downward. Now the only question is, can I keep a dozen eggs down long enough to seal the win?

Saturday, April 14, 2007


A co-worker who's really good at making pickled eggs challenged another co-worker who really likes eating pickled eggs to round up a few people for our next eating competition: cupcakes. I wish. No, of course it's pickled eggs. First to finish a dozen wins. The inner-office throw down will take place on Wednesday April 18.

To be honest, I've never even had a pickled eggs...at least not that I know of. From what I've been told, some are sour (like pickles) and some are sweet. These will be sweet. I'm debating whether to buy some pickled eggs to practice with or not practice at all. I've always wanted to do that -- to try a food for the very first time in an eating contest. Or I might just practice with four or five regular hard boiled eggs.

The tough part will be choking down the pasty yolks. If it were just the whites, I could chew those a few times and swallow them with no problem. They'd slip right down. I think that's what I'll do. Separate the whites and yolks, eat the whites real fast and then try to swallow the yolk whole. I'm laughing out loud at that strategy. When it's all over, I'll either be called a genius or an idiot. For some reason I'm leaning toward the latter.

Friday, April 13, 2007


It looks like everyone likes the new UEPa uniform so, over the last few nights, I created an entire Cafe Press store chock full of official UEPa gear! There's a link below the UEPa logo in right hand column of this page and if you ever want to access the store directly, the URL is www.cafepress.com/uepa.

The official men's, women's AND dog's uniforms are all there. Sleeve colors on the uni's are up to you. If you want to put your name and/or a number of anything else on the back of the shirt, just let me know and I'll create it and put it in the store for you.

Don't forget to check out the UEPa logo and photo magnets. Also, by popuar demand, the UEPa thong is up for grabs (nothing like a little flossing while you're eating). All prices have no mark-up on them, so I'm not making a dime on any of this. I thought about trying to, just to support my growing wing habit, but it just didn't feel right. Actually, if I made any money off this stuff, I'd have to split it with Wing Tut (the founder of UEPa) and Steakbellie (the designer of our logo). Thanks guys...for giving my competitive eating life new meaning. Now go buy some crap!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I was messing around on Cafe Press and, through no real artistic effort, created a UEPa shirt. The design below costs $16.99. In true baseball shirt style, I'm messing around with different ways to put eater nicknames on the back. Maybe even a number of some significance. I also made a UEPa thong (you really can put a design on anything on Cafe Press), but I don't think that one will sell very well.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Thanks to Wild Bill, I've discovered the trip-planning convenience of Google maps and its ability to link multiple stops in case you're planning something like an Ultimate Philly Cheesesteak Tour. Using Bill's originally plotted map and some additional research into the best cheesesteaks in Philly, I'm beginning to think we may have enough sandwich joints to make TWO tours. One featuring stops scattered relatively far apart in north Philly and another featuring steakeries clustered in south Philly.

In other words, I'm recommending that we rename our April 21st glutfest the Ultimate SOUTH Philly Cheesesteak Tour and take another tour later this year to hit up the other places. That'll mean less time in the car and more time eating (or waiting in lines). It also gives people who can't make it to this tour a chance to meet us for the next one (fall?). Here's how I see the South Philly Tour shaking out (7 stops, listed in order):

1. Campo's (214 Market St.)
2. Jim's (4th & South St.)
3. Steaks on South (308 South St.) (380 feet from Jim's)
4. Pat's (9th & Passyunk)
5. Geno's (9th & Passyunk)
6. John's Roast Pork (14 Snyder Ave)
7. Tony Luke's (39 West Oregon Ave)

That leaves Chubby's, Dallesandro's, Steve's Prince of Steaks and Chinks on the north end for another day. More stops would be added, of course. Below is the Google map of the South Philly stops. Here's a link to the map including the North Philly stops.

So far it looks like Wild Bill, Pete, Carey and myself are in. Beau (taco champ and Denny's participant) might also be there. Who else? Wing Tut? Wing Kong? Steakbellie? I'll be making scorecards to help us rate and remember each stop on the tour. More on that next week.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Last week Liz sent me a link to an article that ran in FHM magazine in which The Food Network's George Duran deep fries various morsels and reports the mixed results. He tried deep fried White Castle burgers, deed fried pizza, deep fried hard boiled eggs, deep fried gummy worms and deep fried chocolate chip cookie dough ("like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, only 10 times better").

Only problem is, now I really want a deep fryer so I can deep fry all sorts of stuff and feed it to people to see what they think. I'd also take picturse and publish the results here. Most decent friers start around $50 on Amazon. I'd get the Cuisinart 1.1 liter model. The stainless steel exterior might be a pain to keep clean, but who cares. The Rival black and silver one is cool too, but seems a little too big (3 liters) for my needs. Seriously, how many deep fried Oreos do I need to make? It's smaller cousin might work though. That's it on the right, looking like a little robot.

Heather is hesitant to get one because she's afraid we'd use it all the time. I told her we could avoid that dilemma by not keeping oil in the house (I'd only buy some when I wanted to do my "lab work"). Or maybe we can use it to deep fry healthy things like vegetables and cheese. I think she's coming around.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


My co-workers and I have been talking about holding a bacon eating contest since the end of last year's taco eating challenge and it's finally moving closer to becoming a reality. That's right, bacon. Capable of topping both burgers and salads (oh, the irony). Pairs well with eggs and pancakes. Creates a delicious grease by-product that goes great in coffee. In short, it's the best tasting by-itself food on the planet. And now we'll be eating it by the piled-high plateful.

The only thing we need to determine is when we'll have the contest and at whose house are we going to spend half a day cooking the stuff to crispy, delicious perfection. HINT: Not mine. As much as I love the stuff, I don't want my apartment smelling like charred pig for two weeks. I'll gladly donate the beer though.

Something tells me we're in trouble with this one. Digestively that is. Also, with every contest, I always worry about "ruining" my love for my favorite foods by eating massive quantities of them. Of course, that didn't happen with shoofly pie, hot dogs, wings (in fact, I developed a love for wings based on that contest), pizza, tacos, burgers or Wendy's food, so I don't think it'll happen here. Actually it sort of did with Wendy's food.

Here's a video of a bunch of college pansies taking their sweet ass time during a bacon eating contest. Wow, that one person ate almost nine slices! I'll bet if instead of "bacon" it were "beer" and instead of "eating" it were "drinking" and instead of a "restaurant" it were a "damp, moldy frat house basement" they'd be a lot better at it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


April is here. If I have to tell you what that means, then you should probably go back go Russia you commie bastard. Or it might mean you're a woman. For the latter, April means the start of baseball season and the start of the baseball season means warmer weather, hot dogs, barbeques and beer and cigars on the porch. Sometimes I do all of those things at the same time. I call those days "Sunday." Sometimes also "Saturday."

Tonight my Mets are playing the Cardinals (8pm start time on ESPN2). I've already warned Heather that dinner--at least my dinner--will consist of two dozen wings and two or three beers. And some celery sticks (am I the only wing eater that eats those things?). The wings will come from Kokomos, because I'm the Kokomo Wing Eating Champion of Harrisburg.

Here's a story from Thursday's USA Today about some of the best ballpark food in the Major Leagues. Philly's most notable fare isn't even cheesesteaks. Those better be some damn good wings and ribs.