Sunday, July 25, 2010

TBG Eats: Aaron vs. the Giant Apple Pancake from the Original Pancake House -- Round III

Current Weight: 172.0 lbs.

Original Pancake House Website

Round I: In February 2004, I visited the Original Pancake House for the first time and took on the restaurant's enormous Apple Pancake. I was woefully unprepared and overconfident; finishing just 1/4 of my meal. This four-minute clip is a rough real-time equivalent that only slightly overdramatizes my experience.

Round II: This past January, the Apple Pancake and I had our rematch. In the six years since our first encounter, my unhealthy and irresponsible appetite had taken on a life of its own within the confines of this lightly-read blog. As a result, I fervently believed in my ability to clean my plate and take no prisoners. I brought everything I had to the breakfast table that morning, but sometimes 100% isn't enough. (Fun Fact: In the immediate aftermath of this latest defeat, I reacted in the same over-the-top style as the loser in this clip, before graciously draping the belt my knife, fork and napkin over my server's shoulder.)

Since then, I've spent the past several months languishing in the mid-card of their menu. My current program with the Original Pancake House's bacon pancakes has been a satisfying bit of
blog fodder, but it lacks the main event drama and anticipation of a meal that's defeated me in the two times I've challenged it.

Last Friday, I took my third crack at the Giant Apple Pancake.

It would be breakfast-for-lunch as m'man Thai and I drove over to the Original Pancake House in Poway around 11:00 AM. Thai -- whose appetite rivals mine -- was down from Long Beach and eager for his first three-way with bacon and pancakes. In the 25 years I've known him, Thai has achieved "THAT guy" status in three specific areas among those of us who know and love him.

(1) He's the friend who is NEVER on time. Is everyone meeting at 6:00 PM? You'd better tell Thai we're meeting at 5:30 PM if you have any hope of seeing him before 6:30 PM. (2) He's chivalrous with the ladies and the most pleasant, non-threatening flirt of anyone I know. Consequently, every other male in his presence looks like a sack of crap by comparison. (3) He's the slowest g*ddam eater on planet earth.

I was counting on that last trait to inspire me to set a modest pace with the Apple Pancake. Thai has posted the crock pot-sized portions of meals he's mauled to his Facebook wall. This is the same man who takes 45 minutes to finish a French dip and fries. Thankfully, I was off from work and without the cumbersome corporate boundaries of my usual two-hour, end-of-the-week lunch hour.

After a short wait, we were seated on the patio and placed our orders. For round three, I made a point of ordering two additional items. The first was extra butter. I'd never before added butter to this already anti-arterial meal, but I was planning for the last few bites that become cold, doughy and in need of something to alter the texture and taste. The second accompaniment was a side order of bacon. I ordered it mostly as a goof to go alongside Thai's bacon pancakes.

Our server placed the Apple Pancake in front of me, which elicited a few curious whispers from the table next to ours. (" that the...? Yeah, that's the Apple Pancake.") Cockily, I called my shot to pretty much anyone within earshot, grabbed my knife and fork and...let the Apple Pancake cool off. Oh, yeah. I'm already a step ahead of you, scalding hot plate of food.

Once again, I carved a path straight through the heart of the Apple Pancake -- small, manageable bites...not too fast and not too slow. I noticed that this pancake seemed thicker than the first two I failed to finish. I'm already starting to labor as I finish off just the first third. The pancake has cooled off, but remains somewhere between "steaming hot" and "volcanic rock". Combine this with the 80-degree outdoor setting, along with my enormous solar-panel forehead and I'm beginning to glisten with the kind of perspiration usually seen in those who foolishly order a "9" or "10" on the spice content of an Indian food menu.

The ice water I order is excruciatingly slow to arrive as our server had completely screwed up the order of the table next to ours. As a result, she becomes overly-attentive to their needs at the expense of everyone else in the area. When it finally shows up, I gulp down the glass in a single swallow.

I begin work on the first of two outer edges that remain and comment to Thai that I'm already slowing down. The cinnamon and sugar flavors continue to meld with the tartness of the Granny Smith apples, creating a gooey, spiced, sweet-but-not-too-sweet topping that could easily be eaten by itself. The heavy pancake underneath, however, is the more challenging component of my personal food pugilism. I finished the first outer edge -- approximately 2/3 of the way to victory -- and stared sideways at the deliciously sticky section that remained.

This was when I stumbled back in January. I had waited too long to resume my meal and the cold Apple Pancake had the consistency of a cheap street pretzel. The only way to win was to jump right in. I cut the last section in half and then cut each half into four identical
quasi-diamond shapes.

I slather the first of the eight remaining pieces in butter. To my astonishment, I realize that butter seems to make the decadent dessert-like topping even richer and heavier! Who knew?! And, why did none of y'all tell me this before?! The first piece goes down like a freshly-baked brick and the second -- sans butter -- does, too.

There were six pieces left on my plate when the epiphany occurred. Three strips from my side order of bacon were sitting undisturbed to the left of my pancake plate. I tore each one in half and covered each piece of pancake shrapnel with a bacon blanket. This helped me knock out -- albeit glacially -- the next four pieces with relative ease. I had to cut the last two pieces into smaller halves, but finally...six years after my first...

"Nah, Aaron. You've got bacon and pancake crumbs all over your plate."

Dammit, Thai! Fine. I scrape my plate clean and THEN...six years after my first attempt...the Giant Apple Pancake had been vanquished.

And, since this
perfectly good theme music is lying around unused...I think I'll claim it for my own.


CrazyCanuck said...

I applaud your unbridled gluttony in disposing of the pancake which had stalked the woods, terrorizing your fellow citizenry of the San Diego region.

Yet I retain even greater regard and admiration for your willingness to use a consistent theme for the write-up of this collossal encounter. Your triumphant musical choice to conclude this heart-warming tale was a true stroke of brilliance.

Well done, sir. (Slow, steady clap)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic work, you're an inspiration to everyone. Alot of people would have just laid down after being defeated twice.

Aaron C. said...

CC: My only regret is that I didn't have my new theme music cued up on my phone after the last bite. (Don't think I hadn't already mapped this out.)

Anon: I don't know if this is sarcasm or spam, but I don't care! Glad I could be YOUR breakfast Olympic hero!

CrazyCanuck said...

Gotta make a slight admendum to my earlier post, because I didn't click on one particular link last night.

You post a link for the "quasi-diamond shape", but then no Diamond Cutter or DDP reference? And after that wonderfully consistent thematic approach all the way through the tale?

Oh, Cam.

Aaron C. said...

HA~! I really did have a DDP pic in mind, but I shifted to Jay-Z at the last second.

Hard to believe the above sentence would have any relevance after 1998, but here we are :)

Mark Smo said...

Did you give an overly dramatized fake news conference afterwords for your Black Man vs. Food challenge?

Elena said...

You are a legend in your own time, sir.

Aaron C. said...

Right down to the wooden, pre-recorded questions from the "audience", Mark!

Other Joe said...

Black Man vs Food? I would SOOO watch that show. Seriously if Adam Richman ever needs a day off I know who the Travel Channel should call.

I've only been to the Pancake House one time down in Miami before we took a cruise with some friends. I told my fiancee that when we got off the boat I was going to tear up one of those Apple Pancakes, but thanks to some suspect food in Cozumel, I wasn't eating anything except bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

I'll get it one day.

Aaron C. said...

Careful, Other Joe. That last line sounded an awful lot like something I read about called "hubris" -- a concept that was immortalized in the Nintendo Entertainment System fable "Kid Icarus".