The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.
Most Recent Entries
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It’s The End Of The World As Mayans Know It [And I’ll Eat Fine]
Posted Dec 20, 2012 by Jeff Houck
Updated Dec 20, 2012 at 10:29 AM
There is some dispute as to whether the Mayan calendar (which, I’m told, did not have cute kittens on it) actually predicted that the world will end Dec. 21 or merely forecast the end of one time period and the beginning of the next.
For the sake of argument, let’s agree that the Earth waves bye-bye this week. It’s more fun that way. Because doing so begs the question: What would you eat if you knew there were no tomorrows?
Few epic events stoke the appetite like an end-of-the-world prophecy.
Think about it. No calories to fret. No fat intake to monitor. You could let that Lipitor prescription run out with no refills. You could use your sleeve as a napkin with no laundry repercussions. You are, in a sense, Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.” Only there’s no waking up the next day to “I Got You Babe.”
A natural reaction to hurtling into the void would be to bust out the passport in order to chow down on Nordic delicacies at Noma in Copenhagen, widely acknowledged as the best restaurant in the world.
It would be a natural reaction and a stupid one. Why spend your last hours on travel when you could gorge right away here in Tampa? Options abound for end-times mouth pampering.
You could cash out what’s left of your 401K and march over to Bern’s Steak House to demand a $30,000 double magnum of 1947 Chateau Latour. Of course, the ultimate adult beverage would be a shallow, meaningless sip without an accompanying porterhouse steak big enough to feed six. That Flintstones-size meal will set you back another $256. Be sure to tip your servers.
All of that sounds delicious, but forgive me if I take another path. One that leads me to the Monster Cheeseburger at Frank’s Fast & Best Sandwich Shop on East Seventh Avenue in Tampa (pictured at top).
Nestled between two parachute-size buns is 1.5 pounds of delicious ground beef, along with a phalanx of cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. It’s a burger as big as your head (depending on your relative skull size, of course). It is expertly cooked. It does not come with fries. And it is the perfect entrée for dignity’s last supper.
Girth alone is not its own reward, although there is something attractive about planting a fork atop the Mount Everest of food challenges before meeting your maker. Throwing down a 6-pound steak, baked potato and salad at the Frontier Cattle Co. on Sligh Avenue would be worthy of bragging to the angels. So would making the 12-pound Hercules Gyro disappear at Gyro King in Palm Harbor.
There also is merit in going out with guns a-blazing—if by “guns” you mean spicy food and by “a-blazing” you mean catastrophic gastric distress. I am the ultimate wuss when it comes to hot foods, but I’ll admit to being intrigued enough to dip a toe into the 48-ounce bowl of hell known as the Inferno Soup at Nitally’s Thai Mexican Cuisine in St. Petersburg.
I can envision the triumphant moments after conquering the ghost pepper-smothered XXX Atomic Wing challenge at Quaker Steak and Lube on 49th Street in Clearwater. Those moments usually include a defibrillator, a diaper and an ambulance, but glory rarely comes without pain.
My other instinct is to go smaller and sweeter for that one perfect bite. I could shuffle off the mortal coil if a PB&J chocolate morsel from William Dean Chocolates coated my lips. I gladly would lie down for a dirt nap with one last M&M Twister in my belly from Campbell’s Dairyland in Brandon. Pushing up daisies would be a delicious affair with an Ybor Espresso milkshake from Burger 21 as my last taste. I would happily be immortality challenged if there was a slice of peanut butter pie at Yoder’s Amish Restaurant in Sarasota involved ahead of time.
When the Mayan reaper comes for me, I want my shirt stained with the remnants of the rib dog at Carter’s BBQ in Mulberry, besmirched by the perfectly smoked sausage sandwich from Smokin’ Joe’s in Lithia and splattered from the stone crab platter at Frenchy’s in Clearwater. I want to reek of smoked mullet from Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish in Pasadena. I want Dr. Pepper Ribs stuck in my teeth from Z Grille in St. Pete. I want to wash it all down with a Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing in one hand and a glass of pear grappa from Pelagia Trattoria in Tampa in the other.
I could assume room temperature like that. Full and lip-smackingly happy. We all should be so lucky.
Then again, if Dec. 22 comes and a centuries-old pre-Columbian Mesoamerican stone calculator is somehow determined to be inaccurate, I’ll wipe my mouth, turn the page on my own calendar and start all over again.
It’s a wonderful, delicious life.