The last time I went to Florida, my aunt brought along recordings of the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”. For those who have never seen the show, the host, Adam (?), journeys around the country a la “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”. Distinguishing itself from mere culinary tourism, at least one restaurant per show poses some sort of dining challenge, be it an outrageous portion, insanely spicy concoction, or offbeat creation (such as the french toast burger at Atlanta’s Vortex).
One of these first episodes I saw featured the host carousing around Boston, making stops at the Barking Crab, East (Coast? Bay?) Grill’s Hell Night (ghost chile pasta for the spice test), and finally, BC Eagles’ Deli for the Eagles’ Challenge- a five pound cheeseburger, five pounds of fries, and something like forty slices each of cheese and bacon.
Although the burger the host fought was frightening (it was held together by three barbeque squewers), the more pedestrian offerings looked great on TV, such as the King Kong (half pound meat, half pound fries), and what I ordered, the Godzilla (pound of meat and pound of fries, respectively). The temperature scales were dialed back a step – medium-well I always understood to be no pink- but with a Mug root beer, it was fantastic. Yes, I finished it. My compatriot did not finish his King Kong.
Afterwards, my friend who lives in Allston suggested we head to a nearby pastry shop and/or bookstore he knew of. Since neither of us could eat more, we headed to the bookstore.
I entered with the intent of adding to my growing collection of John Steinbeck’s work. Searching for a copy of “From the Log of the Sea of Cortez”, I failed to notice on the far side of the store a line of people filling two aisles, and none other than the host of “Iron Chef” and “Good Eats!”, Alton Brown, conducting a book signing.
My friend and I could overhear people saying that they had been waiting roughly two hours in line for a signature and brief conversation. We decided to make the best use of our time and explore the rest of the store’s two levels and wait for the line to thin out.
Around 9:45, the line finally dwindled to three people. I have found Alton’s book “Gear for Your Kitchen” quite useful (which I salvaged from the closing of my former employer, Linens N Things), and I figured that if he had another instructional book for a novice like myself, I might as well, right? Plus, you get a signed copy.
I waited until quarter to ten. My friend and I had to hurry, as we saw him put his jacket on. The fellow in front of us was trying to impress Alton by, in Alton’s own words, “name-dropping without knowing the actual names”. This random guy was saying things along the lines that he knew Bill Gates’ personal assistant, and that during lunch they passed something like twelve patents daily.
I didn’t see what precipitated it, but Alton got spooked, which my friend later told me that the guy had tried to touch or successfully touched Alton’s arm. It would make me tell a stranger to back up a step or so, too.
Alton was very nice though, telling me that he was sorry I had to see him deal with a guy who was acting rather strange, and was very conversational. I made it quite clear that I did not wish to keep him and that his show was both highly entertaining and educational, and found his guide to outfitting a kitchen extremely useful.
He was very courteous and I can only say good things about him. Watch his show!