[Resolution] #9 Attempt an Eating Challenge

Has anyone heard of the Dos Equis ‘Feast of the Brave’ challenge?

I was fully prepared to try to eat 25 mouth searing hot wings, or go head-to-head with someone to see who could eat the most pancakes, but this challenge (again brought to my attention by an amazing friend) was just strange enough, gross enough, and all around perfect for this resolution.

It’s been a good week for food, I’d say.  First the donut burger, then the eating challenge within days of each other.

The Feast of the Brave is a nation-wide eating challenge perpetuated by the one and only Dos Equis beer company.  In Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Dallas and my own beloved Austin there are taco trucks sitting on street corners shelling out some street food that you wouldn’t really expect here in the states.  Maybe on one of Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods adventures, but certainly not at 6th and Lamar downtown.

Depending on the city, you can walk up and receive a taco filled with things like hog ears, beef intestines, corn fungus, crickets, shark and bird gizzards. They’re even FREE.  No payment required if you are brave enough to actually consume them.

On top of that, each taco earns your city a certain number of points, and each city is competing head-to-head to see who’s the bravest of them all.

My beloved foodie friend Jake was the one who found out about it in the first place and insisted we track down the truck. Without hesitation, and determined to uphold Austin’s fearless foodie reputation, we headed out to catch the truck at an office building up north.  In the fifteen minutes we were there we consumed (collectively):

  • A shark taco (with habanero apple relish) 20 PTS
  • A beef intestine taco (with grilled onions and salsa) 30 PTS
  • 2 Hog Ear Tacos (with shredded wild boar, onions and salsa) 10 PTS EA. = 20 POINTS
  • 2 Mystery Tacos (we still don’t know what was in them, but in included an entire jalapeño) 100 PTS EA. = 200 PTS

Grand total earned for Austin, TX: 275 POINTS

Even though I was eating a bunch of exotic foods I couldn’t help but feel afterward that it wasn’t too much of a challenge.  Every single one was delicious.  The mystery taco had us both tearing up from the spice, but I felt a little cheated that I didn’t have to pick insect legs out of my teeth or fight back my gag reflex.  Is that masochistic?  In fact, I left with plans to go back the next day to have some more beef intestine. (Tastes like jerky.)

Hog Ear Taco - See, looks delicious right?

Mystery Taco - Can anyone identify? Jalapeno and possibly a serrano? Still not sure.

But, I feel that justice came the next day when we realized that we played a part in helping Austin jump from #4 to the proud Top 3.

I may have to repent with some atomic buffalo wings later this year, but for now I’m very proud to have competed in the Dos Equis Feast of the Brave!

Has anyone else in the other cities tried the tacos there?  I’d love to hear how those cricket tacos are.

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[Resolution] #46 Revisit a Childhood Memory

I’m not really able to say that I “grew up” in Belgium, since I moved back to the US when I was still so young, but childhood memories are more about perception than time spent exposed to them.  If someone were to ask me my fondest childhood memory I would say “sitting on the curb in the middle of Brussels eating liege waffles.”  That’s not a curb up there, but that’s my sister and I eating them in a mall in Belgium, unable to smile, evidently, because we’re too busy stuffing our faces with waffle 🙂 I’m still halted in my tracks by the smell of cooking waffle cones at ice cream parlors because it’s so similar and brings back the same wave of nostalgia.

Until–well today–I thought that this was the one childhood memory I’d have to go overseas to re-live.  I don’t know WHY no one thought of it before, but there was not a single place in the United States where people were cooking waffles the way they do on the streets of Belgium.

Liege waffles aren’t the Belgian waffles that you can pick up in the freezer section of the grocery store.  In fact, not even close.  While those are technically Belgian (Brussels) waffles, the waffles of my childhood are much different.

According to The Belgian Waffle Co. (who I will commence singing the praises of in a moment):

The Waffle de Liége is made from a richer, more sweet dough, who’s key ingredient is Belgian pearl sugar. During preparation, the waffle irons are carefully set to the perfect temperature in order to melt and caramelize the pearl sugar. This produces a crispy and cakey texture throughout the entire waffle, with a soft and warm center.

Sounds heavenly?  That’s because it is.

It looks a little something like this:

See that crispy caramelized sugar around the edges?  That’s where the magic is, right there.  This is the first ever moment that I really wished taste-o-vision existed.  You’ll also notice that there chocolate oozing from the dough.  That’s not a tradition liege waffle quality, but it was one I couldn’t resist and gladly paid the extra dollar for.

And, speaking of paying, let me mention the brilliant business minds that are responsible for finally bringing liege waffles to my backyard.

The Belgian Waffle Co. is the newest and hands-down greatest new food truck in Austin.  I’ve said many times that you don’t have to walk through a door to get the best food in Austin.  The best food is ordered through the window of an airstream trailer, or in the case a small bus?

Again, from their website, “We came here, to Austin, directly from Belgium. When we visited Austin last year, we loved everything this great city had to offer, and knew this was where we wanted HAD to be!”

YES.  THANK YOU. WELCOME. PLEASE STAY FOREVER.

Their menu also has a whole list of toppings that you can add on to your waffle.  Everything from fresh fruits and syrups to savory toppings like sausage or BBQ sauce.  Wouldn’t be a food truck without a little Austin flair, would it?  I had to go traditional today, just to see if it was the real deal (it was), and Nick went american-traditional with maple syrup and powdered sugar (a real no-no by the way if you’re actually in Belgium).  Both of us devoured those things like they might not be available tomorrow.  But since they will be, we might just go get another.

Thanks BWC.  For existing.

[Resolution] #29 Enter and Win a Sweepstakes

So, someone with knowledge and wisdom help me out here.  I’m getting all sorts of mixed responses on the legitimacy of this resolution, because…. well, here’s the story.

You know these?

The car sitting in the middle of the shopping mall luring in to try your luck by dropping your name into a box and hoping you get to take it home?

Well, sometime around December I think, in the midst of all of my last minute holiday shopping, I decided “why the heck not” and threw my entry into that little box.  I don’t even remember what car it was anymore, a Mercedes I think.

Well, just a couple of weeks ago I get a letter in the mail addressed to me–in my own handwriting.  I ripped it open, curious to find out when I had possibly addressed a letter to myself.  I honestly thought it was one of those “to my future self” letters that we wrote back in the 5th grade.  Not so secretly, that would have been just as exciting to me as what I actually got.  But, I digress.

It was actually the entry that I had filled out 3 months ago in the middle of that shopping mall.  Attached was a typewritten letter, no letter head, that said something to effect of “Congratulations!  You won!”  …then something about being guaranteed a prize of either $500 cash, an island getaway vacation, a $1500 shopping spree–or that car that I really wanted in the first place.

Then, I had to call to redeem it.  This is where it starts to sound like a very familiar Family Guy episode.

“You’re already guaranteed to win one of the 4 prizes, but if you stay for a 90 minute presentation you can also win…”

Oooh, I know what this is.  The mother of all scams that mothers warn their children about as soon as they’re able to even say the words “timeshare.”

But you know what, a vacation sounded pretty good.  And so did a chance at a new car.  So off I went, to spend 90 minutes in San Antonio in order to walk away with at the very least, a free vacation.  Luckily I had friends to warn me of what lay ahead, because here’s the bulleted list version of how it went.

  • Receive phone call saying that a representative will be waiting for me at the resort.  Makes me feel like I’m the only one showing up.
  • Actually arrive, I am NOT the only one.  Probably 50 other people with the same appt slot. Representative is NOT waiting.  Arrive at 2:25 for 2:30 appointment, representative arrives at 3:10.
  • Woman seems nice enough, thanks me for waiting.  Sits me down and starts the stereotypical “I’m not gonna hard sell ya, but can you at least tell me that you can say ‘yes’ to a good deal” speech.
  • I say yes.  Commence to learn all about Silver Leaf Resorts and all of the great things they can offer me, how much money they can save me, and how much better my life will be if I become an owner today.
  • Interrupted 4 times by other salesmen loudly announcing the people that just bought from them. They call it a ‘tradition.’
  • Go on a tour of the facilities, nice enough, but not stunning.  I can see how it would be good for lots of kids.  Or old people.
  • Come back, the big finale is that you can use your ownership to stay at hundreds of resorts around the world for a ridiculously low price.  Pretty cool, until you find out that total it will cost you $15,000, with almost $4,000 down.
  • I am not buying a new car’s worth of vacations today.
  • Call in financials guy, “We can work with you.” “You can afford this.”
  • I say no.
  • Representative suddenly not so nice.  Talks about the huge mistake I’m making.  Walks away and leaves me alone to wait for someone else.
  • Final boss man comes in, says he’s from corporate.  “We’re not gonna beat you over the head with it, but what if…” and makes me another deal.
  • I say no.
  • Alright, head to the other building for your prizes.

15 more minutes of waiting in a DMV-esque room with screaming children (who no doubt had to wait through the same BS I did for way more than 90 minutes), and here’s what I walked away with:

1) A cruise to Cozumel

2) A lovely island getaway to either Hawaii, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico or Aruba (airfare not included)

I can’t prove it but I’m pretty confident that everyone who’s gullible enough to put their name in those boxes “wins.” It may not technically be winning a sweepstakes in that case, I guess.  But…in my own defense, I THOUGHT I was entering a legitimate sweepstakes, the letter in the mail DID say that I “won,” and I did walk away with a cruise and a free island vacation. …So…I’d call that a win. Check!

But, seriously, if anyone knows for sure, let me know?

Would I recommend that other people do it?  Sure, if you’re good at saying no, I’d say the two and half hours were worth a free cruise later.  Then again, I haven’t gone on it yet, nor gone through the process of booking it, so I’ll let you know.

[Resolution] #47 Eat an Exotic Food

First of all, wow, it’s been a while.  It’s just been a whirlwind of action and adventure for the past couple of weeks. The infamous SXSW blew through Austin over the last couple of weeks and for the first time in a couple of years I was actually right in the middle of it with a badge for SXSW Interactive from my company, and braved the crowds to check out the music festival over the weekend.   By the way, Anthony Bourdain is just as badass in real life as he is on TV, and the singer for Counting Crows does not age…really.  Also, in the spirit of the insane meal I’m about to describe, I got to see my food-idols (this may erase my rapport as a foodie), the cast of Epic Meal Time.

The best thing that has come out of this ‘resolution’ adventure is how supportive my friends have been.  They make recommendations and send me groupons, and then the lovely Jake and Jenn (whom you may remember from the themed party post) went all out and offered to treat me to an exotic dinner, the likes of which I’ve never seen.

So, rather than eating one exotic food, in one meal I consumed:

  • Elk
  • Wild Boar
  • Rattlesnake
  • Alligator
  • Frog

Hudson’s on the Bend is a gorgeous upscale restaurant…in the middle of nowhere.  Okay, not quite in the middle of nowhere, but way out in the hill country in a tiny converted house.

Like so.  Would you know this was a restaurant?  Nope, me neither.  But it’s a nationally acclaimed Austin gem, and for good reason.

By the way, in case we’ve fooled you with how much expensive food we’ve been eating in the first few months of the year.  We really aren’t snobby rich kids.  See?

We’re budget foodies, who like to add things to canned soup and pretend its fancy, and will sometimes shop the grocery store for ONLY things we can find with in-store coupons attached.  But, this resolution list somehow makes us okay with blowing up our credit card debt to eat food like this:

How was it?  Well, I do believe Nick’s previous hypothesis about anything tasting good if you have to break the bank to eat it might very well be correct.  I’m not sure if elk and alligator would taste quite this good if caught and cooked over a campfire or something, but at Hudson’s on the Bend even something named “The Swamp Platter” had our eyes rolling in the back of our heads.

I’ve always been told that frog legs taste like chicken.  That is now a confirmed fact.  Same taste, texture, everything. The only thing that convinced us we were eating amphibian was the slightly more translucent color and the big blue veins throughout.

Rattlesnake, somehow, tasted just like rattlesnake. (You know I’m really starting to admire Andrew Zimmerman for being able to describe food on television.) I don’t know how to describe it other than when I ate it I thought “Yep, I can tell that’s snake.”  It was probably one of the items that felt the most exotic.

Alligator is a tough cut of meat, and a little chewy, with a slightly fishy taste. Elk is full of flavor, and as you can see a very dark red meat (we weren’t fully convince it was cooked, but it was). It’s tender, melt in your mouth, delicious. And, wild boar is actually a lot lighter than I thought, light cut, light flavor, light meat, but went wonderfully on a cracker with some pate.

Overall, I’m now a believer in wild game meats, amphibian, and reptile as the new ‘white meat’. I am also left wishing that going back wouldn’t cost half a week’s pay!

Thanks again Jake and Jenn for this amazing and way-too-generous gift, it was an experience I won’t forget.

[Resolution] #50 & #73 Eat a Multi-Course Dinner and Throw a Themed Party

Well this post is about a week late, but things have been just non-stop for almost 2 weeks now!  But, better late than never.

For my birthday this year I got to accomplish 2 resolutions: Eating a Multi-Course Dinner and Throwing a Themed Party. Let me take a moment to thank my friends for being so amazing.  I really was worried for a moment than despite setting a theme, that no one would actually follow suit.  But oh, did they. Continue reading